SXSW Music: Chirkutt

Concert for Bangladesh

SXSW lineups at the Russian House every year can’t be beat, always featuring a staggering array of international talent from the farthest-flung locations. The sound at said venue, however, often leaves something to be desired, due to the nature of trying to amplify exotic instruments.

Bangladesh’s Chirkutt (pronounced “cheer coot”), sidestepped technical difficulties by relying on the usual rock tools: guitars, bass, drums, and electric violin, with some mandolin, banjo, and sitar for spice. The folk rocking Dhaka quintet also kept its songs within musical borders most Western ears could easily understand.

Chirkutt (photo by Gary Miller)

The first tune began with a sitar/drone violin intro courtesy of Emon Chowdhury and Pintu Ghosh, but drummer Pavel Areen soon kicked it into high gear, his rumbling 4/4 engine keeping the performance on a first-name basis with driving rock. Sharman Sultana Sumi’s vocals and Chowdhury’s riffing took its pro-Bangladesh sentiment home.

“This song is about friendship,” Sumi informed the audience for the second tune, as Rokon Emon’s slap bass, the band’s three-part harmonies, and Chowdhury’s shred banjo took a melody reminiscent of the Refreshments’ “Banditos” to the mosque. Folk song “Ami Janina” got pushed to devotional heights thanks to Ghosh’s wordless wail, Chowdhury’s sitar-like guitar licks, and a loping beat.

A big rock finish riled up the audience and made friends for life. Its set truncated by a schedule re-alignment, Chirkutt then went for the jugular. The home country hit “Kanamachhi” included fleet-fingered mandolin, kazoo, a crowd sing-along, and a downright danceable groove.

Sumi finished by tossing band merch into the audience, but given their loud response, bribery wasn’t necessary.

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SXSW, Chirkutt, SXSW Music 2016, Emon Chowdhury, Pintu Ghosh, Pavel Areen, Sharman Sultana Sumi, Rokon Emon

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