Anyone following Bristol-based producer Bengal Sound probably shares the opinion that he is the next producer out of Bristol to blow up on the underground.
At just 23 years old, Farhad Ahmed AKA Bengal Sound has already released with White Peach, his tracks have been cut to dubplate by the likes of Kahn and Zha, and he’s played alongside Commodo and Bandulu Gang.
Working primarily within the worlds of grime and dubstep, with obvious influences from hip hop, garage and R&B among others, everything we’ve heard from Bengal Sound so far has shown serious levels of talent and creativity.
it comes as no surprise to learn that Farhad has been at the dials since the tender age of thirteen
While he might still be outwardly new to the scene, it comes as no surprise to learn that Farhad has been at the dials since the tender age of thirteen, after his brother’s friend came over with a copy of Sony Acid.
He has just released his debut album Culture Clash on an extremely limited run of 100 cassette tapes (with individual download links). The 10-track project explores influences from UK dance music and old Bollywood soundtracks, and features artwork from Bristol artist and Bandulu affiliate Joshua Hughes-Games.
The 10-track project explores influences from UK dance music and old Bollywood soundtracks
Pre-orders sold out well before official release and if you didn’t cop a copy, that’s that. The album won’t be released on digital and there won’t be a reissue. Although you can hear album tracks Black Jacket, Black Water and Don’t Go, plus a few more exclusives in Bengal Sound’s exclusive guestmix for Nitelife NOISE.
The album follows his brilliant four-track Wushu Hand EP on White Peach Records, and he’s already got a load more finished material up his sleeve. On Kahn’s request, Farhad played a set at the Bandulu Records takeover at Trinity Centre last month using only his own tracks.
Culture Clash is the culmination of his final year project at dBs Music, where he is currently completing an Electronic Music Production degree. After working together previously, White Peach owner Zha offered Farhad the chance to put the album tracks out on White Peach, but via a series of releases.
‘Usually in 140bmp, things come out as singles, but I wanted to do a longform project,’ says Farhad. He decided to self-release on cassette, with White Peach stepping in as distributor.
Usually in 140bmp, things come out as singles, but I wanted to do a longform project
Farhad explains how this fruitful relationship with Zha first came about: ‘I spoke to him initially through the Facebook page 4TheWax. He had done a mix for them and I thought “This is the kind of music I’m into. This is what I like doing.” I messaged him on his artist page to ask if I could send him some tunes. I sent him two and he told me he was going to get them cut to dubplate.
‘He told me to get a folder ready for him, which I didn’t really think much of at the time. Then three months later he messaged me out of nowhere and asked if I had it ready. I sent it over and we started emailing. He asked for my number and gave me a call within a couple of minutes and said “Let’s work on an EP”.
Being in Bristol, where there’s a big following for White Peach, it did help get me noticed
‘I had to be quiet for a good five months about it, which was really hard. It was really successful and I didn’t expect that – it just happened. Being in Bristol, where there’s a big following for White Peach, it did help get me noticed.’
There’s a level of clout that comes by association with White Peach, so passing up the opportunity to release with them in favour of a self-release, it’s clear that Farhad has a very strong sense of how he wants to go forward with his music.
On why he chose cassette tape, obviously there is a cost associated with physical music, but Bengal Sound is drawn to the punk aesthetic of releasing on tape, a medium long-associated with DIY labels and artists.
Bengal Sound is drawn to the punk aesthetic of releasing on tape, a medium long-associated with DIY labels and artist
‘I feel a piece of music needs to go hand in hand with a physical product. In terms of the way that the aesthetics of the tracks are, I feel like it’s perfect for tape. It has a narrative going through each of the tracks and some of the lo-fi Bollywood samples work well on tape.’
While Culture Clash is in some ways a concept album, it doesn’t differ hugely from his other tracks other than to hone in more closely on an idea that already informs his music. While it’s at its best played from start to finish, you can listen to tracks individually, or move between albums tracks and his previous EP comfortably.
‘Being from an Asian background, my family played a lot of South Asian music. Growing up with it, subconsciously it became ingrained in me. And being brought up in the UK with electronic music, I felt like I needed to merge the influences together to create one thing.
‘I’m just doing tape for now because I want to put my focus on the physical copies. But later on, if I do a part two, maybe I will bring the digitals for it…’
The upward trajectory Farhad looks set to be on is a big one, especially given the fact that his set at the Bandulu Records takeover last month was only his third time playing out as Bengal Sound – his first being a White Peach label night at Cosies late last year. If he’s not yet that well known by audiences, Bengal Sound clearly has an early seal of approval from some industry tastemakers that will inevitably have a trickle down effect.
‘The way that the relationship with Bandulu came about was from me sending Kahn tunes regularly and asking for feedback and what he thinks. Every time I would send him something he would just say “Yep, I’m getting this cut. I’m going to play it out.”
Bengal Sound clearly has an early seal of approval from some industry tastemakers
‘I went to the Sequences Festival warm up party at Carhartt recently, where it was a surprise lineup. Kahn and Neek came through and he played two of my tracks. Obviously when he’s mixing you can hear them bring the tune in slowly. I was looking at my mates, like “this one’s mine”. When one of my tracks plays I always look at the reaction – that’s what I feed off, seeing what people think – and there was a good reaction from it.’
While he hasn’t currently got any more live shows in the diary, Bengal Sound is definitely a name you’re going to be hearing more of, with a string of releases already in the works.
‘There are a few EPs lined up for this year and next year – I can’t say any more than than that yet, but they’re looking good. They’re with labels and possibly another self-release. There is a project with White Peach soon, which is one thing I can say because I’m already affiliated. But there are a few others…’
In the meantime, you can hear Bengal Sound playing on 10Twenty radio every fourth Wednesday alongside his fellow Panum crew, Fellony and Unperson.
There are a few EPs lined up for this year and next year
Words by Rachel Morris
Photos by Dominika Scheibinger