B-Quartet’s freedom of expression

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Every first and third Wednesday of the month, Yahoo! MusicScene shines the spotlight on talented, up-and-coming Singaporean bands or musicians. This week, we speak to frontman Bani Haykal of local indie group B-Quartet about expressing themselves and their music through freedom and consciousness.

B-Quartet is unlike most local indie bands you meet these days.

Their eclectic mix of sounds is both artistic and unique and their works, truly original in every sense of the word.

That is why B-Quartet refuse to allow itself to be pigeonholed under any specific music category.

"I'm not interested in genres and classifications. The reason that genres exist is to better sell music," said original founding member Bani Haykal told Yahoo! Singapore.

Formed in December 1999 by brothers, vocalist Bani Haykal, 26, and drummer Bani Hidir, 24, as well as cousins/guitarists Bani Faizal, 28, and Bani Raizan, 27, the tight-knit group strongly influenced by fellow local act The Observatory and started out jamming in a bedroom in their grandmother's house.

"As cousins we grew up playing video games together, and eventually a musical interest developed," Haykal told Yahoo! Singapore.

"My brother, Bani Hidir, and I had no musical background. My cousins already knew how to play guitar so my brother just took up the drums and I took up the bass to cover that role," he added.

Haykal and Hidir (who is, coincidentally, the bassist of another local band 53A) are both full-time musicians, while Faizal, an army officer, is married with one child. Raizan is also married and has a day job as an electrical engineer.

In 2010, however, the band incorporated two previous guitar sessionists, engineer Siraaj Anwar, 26, and full-time musician Luqman Hakim, 28, to become part of the permanent lineup for their latest albumConformity has Replaced Consciousness.

Despite having a six-man lineup, B-Quartet has retained its original name.

The group started from humble beginnings when they took part in their first music competition, Yamaha Band Alert in 2001. Their hard work and impeccable chemistry paid off in 2002 when they emerged champions of Yamaha Asian Beat, which was a revamp of Band Alert.

"Asian Beat was fun as we met a lot of other musicians too. In terms of where we are today, I would attribute it more to a natural progression in our musical journey than to Asian Beat."

The title of the band's latest album, Conformity has Replaced Consciousness, is seemingly a statement against societal norms.

However, Haykal begged to differ. "I don't think it is a statement more than it is an expression.

"At the end of the day, I was interested in what (German social-philosopher) Theodor Adorno put forth in his writing on his philosophy of modern music."

The main lyricist of the band, Haykal is also interested in various forms of experimentation to expand the various forms of music the band can incorporate into their works.

"I will do the main songs, and everyone will then come in and add in their stuff," he said.

He has a flair for narratives, with fiction the preferred choice as "it is more fun that way", according to him.

"For Conformity, it had a lot to do with what I was reading at that point in time — escapism, freedom, free will and consciousness. You could say that it had a very metaphysical quality about it, something I personally have an interest in."

However, are the rest of the band on the same page as their front man?

"There's really a lot of support. They understand what I have to do to stay sane and logical at times, so they will just go along with me.

"Definitely sometimes we disagree as well. In the band, some of us love experimentation, some of us don't. When I start to go crazy, the band pulls me back, and that's how we work," said Haykal.

"At the end of the day, being family helps. We grew up together and understand what each other's like."

A thinker and expressionist, Haykal is constantly seeking to learn new about new forms of music, which could possibly translate into new songs for a next album.

However, for now, the frontman wants to keep things loose as he does not want their new songs to sound like something they did in a previous release.

The quest for experimentation and finding unique ways to express themselves is admirable. Hopefully through their interesting and ever-evolving music style, B-Quartet can capture the interest of local audiences in appreciating music that is truly original.

The band has no gigs planned so far in 2011. However, they will be opening for American post-rock band Tortoise at the 2011 Mosaic Music Festival. Be sure to catch them there!

Find out more about them on Facebook, Bandcamp and MySpace.

This blog post originally appeared on Fit To Post, the blogs section of Yahoo! Singapore News . In early 2011, Yahoo! upgraded our News platform across Southeast Asia. As part of this upgrade, we preserved all historical posts on Fit to Post. Unfortunately, due to technical reasons, we were not able to preserve the comments attached to these posts. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this has caused. If you'd like to find out more about this issue, please click here.