Dhaka: one of the most densely populated, impoverished and tumultuous cities in the world. A city of love.
Though economically developing, the Bangladeshi capital is rich with a culture and people reputed as vibrant and generous as they are humble and wise - Dameer is no exception. His street-smarts fuelled by a strong academic background offer a unique viewpoint to storytelling: his childhood in Dhaka offered a sobering perspective on both the iridescent highs of creative purpose and the dark lows of sacrifice and loss. Although his lyrics address the Sisyphean subject matter of mental health, politics and heartbreak, Dameer’s outlook remains relentlessly positive, his output the reflection of his penchant for romanticising the many nuances and absurdities of life.
“The thought that most adults know just as little about their purpose in life as I do as a high school senior, is one that fascinates me as much as it scares the living shit out of me.” The surprising self-awareness Dameer exudes in his lyrics was exacerbated in 2017 when he was plunged into the relative privilege of corporate expat life in Kuala Lumpur at 16 years old, after a lifetime in Dhaka. “It changed my lyrics as I had become, and still am sometimes, extremely lonely here.” This seismic shift in lifestyle and ensuing disorientation stirred an urgency for new direction and an even stronger yearning, not just for his home but for the meditative sensation of writing music from his bedroom there. With patience, dedication and an evergrowing log of songs, Dameer gradually worked past his initial unrest and inevitable angst amongst the uber-privileged and often ungrounded high school students surrounding him until he eventually found his own hope and inspiration in the Asian metropolis.
“Nothing clicked with me like music production did. It became my main source of catharsis.” The now twenty-year-old plays and produces with pianos, drums, bass, Bashi (traditional Bangladeshi flute), and the signature guitar he first picked up as the eleven-year-old mentee of legendary Bengali guitarist Labu Rahman. As the child of both a family of trained musicians and the internet, it’s no surprise that Dameer is so at ease in his creation, wielding the intimate art of songwriting across a wide breadth of sonic palettes from indie rock to pop and jazz. Dameer cites the early influence of Arnob, Tahsan, and Renaissance - the Bangladeshi heroes his parents immersed him in - on to the global icons like Stevie Wonder, Prince, Tom Misch and Charli XCX who guided and soundtracked his teenage years online. Pairing lo-fi tones with psychedelic guitar riffs and mesmerizing vocals, layering traditional Bangladeshi percussion with 80s drums, Dameer offers an ethereal bridge between the East and the West, what once was and what is to come.
“All I want to do is to dive headfirst into the future. I hope my music invokes just enough nostalgia for listeners to reconcile with their past. And then never look back." Dameer’s connection to Bangladesh is by no means an easy one - it is a long-distance relationship he’s worked hard to maintain since leaving for Malaysia. Summer 2020 saw he and a group of 12 alumni from his primary school Sunbeams (affectionately known as Beamers) lead a series of online concerts with international NGO Friendship to support Bangladeshi families displaced by cyclone Amphan and COVID-19. The week’s virtual event featured performances from national legends like Pilu Khan, Zohad Chowdhury and Arnob alongside both contemporary Bengali talent and 8th grade Beamers in a heart-warming event celebrating the life of late philanthropist, feminist educationalist (and Sunbeams headmistress) Mrs Niloufer Manzour.
“Bangladeshis have a certain charm that is unmistakable, a charm that I never want to lose touch with.” Since his fateful debut music video Easier shone an enamouring international light on Dhaka, Dameer has made appearances on the pages and playlists of Majestic Casual, Complex, CLASH, DIY, Vogue, Kaltblut, gal-dem and i-D while gracing the headlines of national media in both Bangladesh and Malaysia. Now, as he settles into life as a political science student on a scholarship at Montreal’s prestigious McGill University, it’s becoming clearer than ever that Dameer’s mission to give Bangladesh a global voice is truly borderless. Dameer spent 2020 hard at work with a team spread across London, Berlin, Nice, Mexico City, Kuala Lumpur and Dhaka for a debut EP that’s already clocked a million streams before it’s even out: For We Are Distant will hit stores in early 2021 via Majestic Casual.
It is clear to anyone daring to look that beyond Dameer’s uniquely nuanced story of extremes is the start of a tale of global pride. Not just for Bangladesh but for its generations of emigrant artists who, despite their ubiquity in the worlds of filmmaking, photography, music and the arts, are far too often overlooked, systematically underrepresented and cruelly undercelebrated. If the past 2 years are anything to go by, the Bengali diaspora has a lot in store still for the world. Dameer most certainly has.