Correction: Anwarul Abedin’s name was incorrectly spelled in the article. The Mercury regrets this error.
Bangladeshi band, pingpong among prof’s passions
In his spare time, he likes playing pingpong. He is also the bass guitarist for a Bangladeshi band, playing music in a language he can’t speak – Bengali.
Hynek Boril has been enjoying all UTD can offer since August 2007, throwing himself wholeheartedly into a variety of new experiences that have broadened his horizons beyond his own Czech background.
Born and raised in the Czech Republic, Boril came to UTD to work with John Hansen, associate dean for research in the Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science, as a research associate after completing his Ph.D. in electrical engineering and information technology at Czech Technical University in Prague.
Boril has served as a mentor and friend to a variety of students in his lab and in the extracurricular activities he participates in including his involvement in a couple different bands.
His first experience with a band began with a group of peers in his lab group. He said he has liked the guitar since he was 16, so after he got settled at UTD, he was eager to find opportunities to play. When he realized several members in his lab also played instruments, they formed a band together.
Though that band eventually disbanded, he had another opportunity to play in a Bangledeshi band named Dhumketu where he continued to hone his musical skills and form friendships.
“(Boril) was my best friend during the period of time when I was in my Ph.D. program,” said Taufiq Hasan an alumnus from Boril’s lab and fellow band member.
Hasan bonded with Boril over their mutual love of music, and Hasan said this was unique because in the past, it was hard for him to find friends who were interested in music but also understood the importance of studying and academia.
“There were people I talked to about music and friends I talked to about research and other stuff, but he was the only person I could talk with about both research and music — the perfect overlap,” Hasan said.
He also said Boril has a genuine passion for music. He recalled the time when he and a few other people had the idea to start a Bangledeshi band to play at on-campus Bangledeshi events. They needed a bass guitarist, and when Boril heard this, although he had no experience playing the bass guitar, and it was not his instrument of choice, he immediately went out, bought one and learned to play it.
“I was hesitant because I had never played it before,” Boril said. “The techniques are similar but the feeling is different.”
His band mates viewed his willingness to pick up the bass guitar as instrumental towards getting the band together.
Picking up the bass guitar isn’t the only challenge Boril has faced when playing with the band, though.
“All of the songs we play are in our language Bengali and Hynek doesn’t speak it, so it was amazing he was able to pick up the songs and remember what to play and when,” said accounting junior Anwarul Abedine, another band member. “He’s a very good musician. He’s an awesome guitar player. I’m very privileged to play with him.”
Hasan said his willingness to adapt to whatever band he is in was admirable.
“We won’t always play songs he likes or has heard of,” Hasan said. “We didn’t play a lot of English songs. Once we played a Czech song and he really liked that, but in general it was hard to continue to be in the band because it was not in his language. He could have lost enthusiasm, but he didn’t.”
Abedine said Boril brings the sheet music to practices and takes detailed and technical notes so that he can understand when to play. The band said Boril is a perfectionist when it comes to the band.
His perfectionism has also overlapped into another one of his hobbies: pingpong.
“I have liked pingpong since I was a little kid,” Boril said. “I went to some summer camps. I got really excited about it, but I was really unfortunate with it. When I was in Czech, I couldn’t find a place to play or someone to play with me.”
He said his first real experience playing pingpong was at UTD. He joked that it was a terrible experience because he was destroyed as a result of his lack of experience, but he said it was exciting to have somewhere he could play.
Boril’s first pingpong practice teammate was Duc Hoang Le, a former computer science student who is a doctoral student at the University of Michigan.
Le said Boril was very similar to him in their desire to continue to improve and become better.
“We started playing at the same time, and our levels went up together, so we were practice partners my whole time at UTD,” Le said. “We would practice two to three hours a day. We would also go to tournaments.”
In between pingpong and guitar, Boril seeks out avenues to experience other cultures, especially Asian cultures.
“In Czech, we weren’t exposed to much Asian culture,” Boril said. “So the real exposure started when I came to UTD, and I had friends that were Chinese and other people from Japan or Korea or a lot of other countries. That was really exciting for me.”
He said he has learned about Bengali culture and food from Hasan and Abedine, Vietnamese culture and food from Le and Chinese culture and food from Qian Zhang, a graduate student in the Center for Robust Speech Systems. Zhang said the first time she met Boril, he surprised her by speaking Chinese.
“I remembered the first thing he told me,” Zhang said. “He tried to use Chinese to explain some technical questions to me. He didn’t look Chinese at all.”
She said they later became coworkers when she joined his research group. Many of his other friends recounted similar experiences teaching him about their languages over a meal at a local restaurant.
“After table tennis, we usually went out to eat, and we ate at Bistro B most often,” Le said. “We’d play from 7-9 (p.m.), and we’d go out to eat. I taught him some Vietnamese sentences so he could order.”
Boril said he has a hunger to learn about other cultures such as American or Indian culture.
“It’s exciting to see how other cultures think and do things,” he said.