Parapar comes to town
After taking Kolkata by storm, London-based music group Parapar is here in Dhaka. Between yesterday and today, the group is performing at the British Council auditorium. The team of four, Moushumi Bhowmik (vocal), Oliver Weeks (guitar), Rosalind Acton (cello) and Ben Hillyard (bass) seek to create music that stresses continuity between diverse musical traditions -- kirtan, Bhatiyali, adhunik, the blues and both Indian and Western classical music. Audience response is evident in the brisk ticket sales.
"Two thirds of the material that we are performing are Moushumi's own compositions. These works fuse Bangla folk music: palagan, Bhatiyali, jhumur among others. Moushumi's songs will remain intact and we will find a way to shape and complement her. She is the focal point of our music," maintains Oliver. He has gathered knowledge about the music of Bengal, having carried out fieldwork in 1999 on Baul gaan in the Birbhum district of West Bengal. He has also written a number of works which experiment with developing Bangla language texts and musical styles within a western classical framework.
Moushumi Bhowmik, the central performer, is a singer, lyricist and a music researcher. She is not new to the country; visiting Dhaka over the last 10 years, she has staged performances, met friends, and undertaken research. She has co-edited a book, titled Zenana Mehfil, with Shaheen Akhter of Ain o Salish Kendra. This work covers Bangalee Muslim women's writing over the first 40 years since they began publishing. In Moushumi's words, "I had to come here to do research for the project and also get to know more and more people, make friends, perform and collect songs."
Among the milestones in her musical career are two projects with the renowned filmmaker Tareque Masud. She wrote the song for Muktir Kotha and composed the background music for Matir Moina. In her words, "Tareque and Catherine are very close and long time friends. It is a learning experience for me to share ideas and inspiration with them." Talking about her experience in the course of shooting Matir Moina, she says, "This was the first time I was doing the music for a feature film. It was a challenge."
Moushumi also has to her credit three albums of songs, written, composed and sung by her: There's Tumio cheel hao (HMV 1994), Ekhono galpo lekho (Times Music 2000) and Ami ghar bahir kori.
What is her usual theme? In Moushumi's words, "There is a certain political consciousness woven into the songs."
Another member of the group, Ben Hillyard, is visiting Dhaka for the first time. "It will be interesting to see how the audience reacts to our performance," he says. His credentials are good: he is a London-based composer, musician and teaching artiste, specialising in electric and acoustic bass.
Rosalind Acton is also positive about the group and its performance. "I am classically trained. Usually we just read music and interpret it rather than actively create. Here all of us are creating," says Rosalind.