We got the beat | Sunday Observer

We got the beat

“Everything seems to be driven by greed and power,” says Mirshad Buckman, and this revelation did not catch me off guard. I was expecting him to say it sooner or later, especially because his art reflects preoccupation with breaking free from what holds us to the ‘system’.

Are you angry with what is happening around you, I ask.

“Hell yeah,” he says. But he is not angry with the anger he has towards the carnage of the present day society, because it nourishes their music. The anger is transformed into heart-throbbing, stomach fluttering and adrenaline fueled music, which some would hate and others love with nothing in-between.

We are sitting in Mirshad’s house, a humble lodging he rents in Malabe. Sometime ago I was sitting outside, on a chair that is barely standing, accompanied by a cane table that is falling into bits. A gentle evening breeze blew past as I waited. It is hard for me to imagine how Mirshad and his fellow band mates would rehearse that evening, creating an imbalance to the almost serene atmosphere. After all that is what they do.

“My neighbours are really great people. They let us do our thing,” Mirshad later tells me.

He is one of the founding members of Paranoid Earthling. The fêted 17-year-old rock band, its music is a fusion of experimental rock, grunge, stoner rock and psychedelic with a punk vibe, originated in Kandy, and gradually made its way to Colombo then took India by storm on multiple occasions. Let’s get to that later.

When the lead lyricist, vocalist and guitarist walk in through the gate with a fellow band member - Freedom Fira from Malé, he had a big and genuine smile. Shaking my hand he apologized for keeping me waiting. “Had to step out to buy some drinks,” he said.

Now sitting on the floor across me Mirshad meditates on the notion that greed and power is eating into humanity. I sit on the long couch as Freedom Fira made himself comfortable lying sideways on the chair next to me, seemingly to have drifted into his own world, while Asela Bandara and Harshan Gallage managed to find themselves other seating options.

Fira is a rhythm guitarist in the band, the position once held by Dhanushka Samarasinghe, and Harshan is on the drums that was once where Shanka Samarasinghe reigned. The Samarasinghe brothers and fellow Trinitians who aided Mirshad to create the band in 2001 when he was 16-years-old are no more with them. However, bassist Asela stuck through.

Asela is also the one who came up with their band’s unique name. He was ‘playing with words’ and settled for these two. This, however, was even before the band was formed. When Mirshad came up with the idea of incepting a rock band, Asela lent the name and ever since Paranoid Earthling has rocked, gig after gig.

Looking around the room, the paintings on the wall catch my eye. “Those are my mother’s work. She is a great artist,” Mirshad says. One of the paintings is a depiction of him playing the guitar, his long hair falling across his face. His mother was a rock fan, and she is the one we have to thank for introducing 13-year-old or so Mirshad to the genre, who would later form one of the supreme bands of its nature in the island.

But the young musicians tell me that rock music does not yield sufficient income to help them sustain. That is why they do side jobs. Mirshad is a professional graphic designer and live sound technician, Asela is a web-designer and IT expert, Harshan teaches music and Fira is an electronic music producer. But one thing stands true to all four of them - music is their life and everything else settles in after.

Through their music they aspire to make a change in society. “With our music what we are trying to do is educate the people. Make a change in the world as much as we can. Impact it positively. Art and music can do this,” Asela says. He also tells me that the rock music scene has changed from what it was in the early 2000s. The sounds are better, he says, this draws more crowds and with that they have a significant crowd that will absorb the message they deliver through their music.

“I like to call our music anarchy music,” Fira chimes in.

If that is the case what do they really write about?

“About everything that is wrong in this world. It is the same story around the world,” Mirshad says.

I remembered a part of their song Bringing Down the Sun:

Lost in the dirt

Was mom and dad

In this nation turned to sand

Reality is not what we see

It’s just a story on TV

Authorities stand free

Majority will bleed

This song they released for World Peace Day in 2008 written by Mirshad, rings true even today.

Everyone agreed that Mirshad is the main song writer in the group. “Everything is in my head. Sometimes, suddenly, I wake up in the morning with a song in my head and write it down in my book.”

This book has everything Mirshad thinks about including lyrics, tunes and whole songs. When he works on something he would show it to the ‘guys’ and jam, add parts and produce a song usually with an opaque message, and sometimes with the message just right out there. One is about the police which the title I will have to refrain from disclosing here in the name of swearing.

“So, can we expect a song about the Sri Lankan Parliament,” I ask and the guys laugh.

“Oh! That’ll be a funny song,” Mirshad says.

No, he wants to write about much more serious issues. Like food wastage, where main food chains would throw away really good food as people who are starving stand right outside their doors. “Man, its crazy. Where is the logic in that? We have to do something,” Mirshad passionately declares, and immediately follows with “Ok, I should stop now.”

After a pregnant silence I turn to Harshan, does he have anything to say about the music industry? He believes that the commercial media is slowly killing honest music. “Those musicians go after money and fame. There is no authentic art there. It is very fake,” he says.

Fira tells me that all of this fuels their artistic ability. “We are driven by them to make great music. Sitting and being sad does not get you anywhere.”

What they like the most about what they do is travelling and getting to meet new fans. Their music has taken them to Afganistan and India. In 2009 they performed in New Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai, and later the same year performed at the South Asian Band Festival held in Purana Qila. In 2016 they performed at Nations for Peace in DLF Cyber Hub in Gurgaon, India.

You can catch them next at Wacken Metal Battle, December 15, at IdeaHell, Colombo, where they will share the stage with Mass Damnation, ABYSS, Stigmata and NEUROCRACY.

Also, 2019 is going to be a remarkable year for the Earthlings as the band will launch its début album.

“We are planning to go on tour too. Probably India,” Mirshad says. Another plan is to go out of Colombo, take the music to the people who are not exposed to it. “It will be great. They will be an unbiased audience, and appreciate the music. We are going to make the tribe bigger,” an optimistic Mirshad adds.

Through the jack fruit tree that stands tall in Mirshad’s garden I can see the sun gradually setting, my cue to return back to office. With that I bid adieu to the young musicians. Mirshad follows to lock the gate behind me.

“To avoid unnecessary disturbances,” he says.

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