Rezwan Ashraf, When The Guitar Chooses You

I’ve been in the music industry for over 13 years and yet, life always surprises me and gives me lessons through the artists I interview. Today we’re talking about Rezwan Ashraf, a guitar player who’s originally from Bangladesh and currently living in New Zealand, where he moved to pursue his music career in 2015.

photo by Arafat Rahman during the photoshoot for Oceans Apart

I see in Rezwan what lingers in every artist who changes countries: a humble soul, an innocent curiosity and a deep gratitude. For that alone, I would have wanted to know him better as an artist, but just so happens, he is innately talented in playing the electric guitar. From the get-go, I want to know WHY this instrument, why not… the piano for example? To which Rezwan says ”My family always had musicians, not professionals, just hobbyists. One of my cousins used to play for a local underground band and one day he was playing his Fender Stratocaster. I went to visit him and by chance heard the electric guitar sound for the first time in my life… In that moment I just knew that was it! I was blown away by the sound of the overdriven electric guitar. I have heard rock music on the radio before that, but never really understood that the electric guitar defined its sound, and from then on, it never even crossed my mind to second guess my choice of instrument.
The way he’s telling me about his connection with the guitar, I’m getting one thing crystal clear out of this: The choice of the instrument is often a calling, a mission you were given in this lifetime. Rezwan Ashraf was smart enough to follow his calling, and it has rewarded him big time: ”I got very serious about it when I had won the National Music Contest back in 2012 in my country and I had actually tasted what it feels like to be a rockstar! I became the brand ambassador for a major multi-national sponsor, Nescafe, and they paid me to do music and represent that huge brand. That one year, 2012, changed my life. I had conquered a major obstacle, from a country of over 170 million people. And I was the one who actually won this major contest. I knew then, anything is possible.” 

What struck me about Rezwan was his music video ‘Oceans Apart’. It’s just him and his beautiful guitar. And no vocals. No lie. NO VOCALS. This is UNHEARD OF in our days! So I was extremely eager to see if Rezwan can grab my attention for a whole 5 minutes of just instrumental music. And he did. I got to taste modern fancy jazz with infused rock elements coming out of Rezwan’s guitar. I wasn’t around in the 1920s to experience the Golden Age of Jazz music, but if I had to describe it, I would point to Oceans Apart. Because from 1920 and 2020 we got exactly 100 years. A CENTURY! And yet, there’s people like Rezwan Ashraf who continue the legacy of jazz music by adapting it to our times. If you give a listen to the song, you will hear 4 other instruments being exceptionally well played. Turns out they’re all being played ORGANICALLY! holy smokes! people stopped doing that as soon as they figured out how to use a single keyboard to then convert the midi notes to different instruments of choice. Not Rezwan though. He actually went the whole 9 yards and gifted us, the listeners, with what I like calling, a timeless masterpiece: ”When I moved to New Zealand, I was finally making enough money to study at a proper music school and have access to a real mentor, thus I was able to compose my very first instrumental. I hadn’t decided the name yet and I was aware that I didn’t know the musicians I needed in NZ who could play in my project… At the end of the day, I was a nobody here. To my luck, I soon realized that the world is now based online. So why bother pursuing musicians just in NZ and Bangladesh when I can find like-minded musicians all over the world and get them together? I gambled on it and the instrumental came out just beautiful. From there, one of my very close friends who’s a video editor, got together with another friend and we shot the Oceans Apart music video on a very cold winter morning in New Zealand.

photo by Farid Ahmed at the Gaan Live, Raye Friedman Arts Center

Rezwan, it takes guts to admit you’re a nobody in a new country, and that makes you a noble human being and a hard-working musician. I’m just in awe of how much someone can be dedicated to his craft. Rezwan got together a very impressive group of artists to work for the Oceans Apart project: Saxophone played by John Doe (Germany), Piano played by Diego Zapatero (Spain), Drums played by Silvio Centamore (Italy), Bass played by Grammy Winning Bassist- Scott Cannady (USA), and the leading guitar by our Rezwan Ashraf (New Zealand). To get 5 different artists, from 5 different countries, to work all in a musical symbiosis under ONE SONG? That’s MANAGER-level type of skills. We artists, have issues getting along on a 2-person collaboration and Rezwan did it with 5. Also, very important to note: ON HIS OWN DIME AND TIME. Do you know what that translates to? Will to sacrifice commodities and future savings for a passion you truly believe in.

Photo by Rezwan Bion at the NLA

One must wonder, when noticing the wedding band on Rezwan’s finger in the music video, what does the wife have to say about it? ”I met my wife when she came to my studio with a friend, and my wife has always been supportive of my music. Sometimes she does inspire me to write music. However, it has its downsides as well, as an artist, when I am writing music, I get so immersed into my music that sometimes I ignore everyone around me. My wife hates when that happens, I can be very obsessive as an artist and therefore it does affect my marriage. So far so good, keeping my fingers crossed!
I very much admire that Rezwan was able to find a way to compromise the two: keep pursuing music and keep the married life too. It is very hard for highly driven individuals to take home as much love for their family members as they carry for their art. And yet, he seems to be doing it with finesse.
I’m leaving you with Rezwan Ashraf’s social media links, YouTube, Facebook, Spotify, and a CALL TO ACTION: Support independent artists MORE than you support the top 100. These people will actually know you, tell you thank you, and remember you forever. Your devotion and support will be equally rewarded and you can go tell your friends that you just got off facebook with your favorite artist. How many of us can say that? NO ONE. Think about it…

Interview conducted by Mariana Berdianu
Blue Rhymez Entertainment © 2020

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