Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 5, Issue 50, Tuesday January 20, 2008



Reader's Chit

White snow, blue sky

SO this is what they call snow-white," I told myself, standing by my kitchen window. The foot-deep snow on our building's backyard covered everything underneath it - the walkways, roads and green grasses.

The slanted roof of the apartment building across ours doesn't look brown anymore, a thick layer of ice has given it a new look.

The blue sky above doesn't look blue either, it looks snow-white too. The cotton-like snow floating down makes place for itself on whatever it sees below - cars, bicycles, trees, stone benches, roofs of houses, hard ground... the list goes on. The trees that once displayed the splendour of green now stand crooked. They lost their leaves in Fall and now they are nothing but twigs and boughs. Branches, from where once hung leaves and fruits, now hang nothing but ice. With trunks under a white blanket, they crave for a warmer weather when new leaves will once again dress them in green.

The bright blue sky now wears a melancholy look. It looks so different from the summer sky. "Blue is the colour of pain" seems so true in this season of the year. Whoever associated blue with pain and sadness probably saw the skies of winter.

The wind chill sends shiver to the bones. The three or four layers of clothing are sometimes insufficient in our battle against the cruel winter. We, humans walk on the streets with our ears covered under woollen caps, hands protected in gloves. We try to keep our feet warm; we wear woollen socks and high boots. Alas, more often than not our body shivers in the cold of winter. We lose our balance on the ice and hurt ourselves, but only to stand once again. Nature makes us stronger and more determined, it teaches us to fight the other battles of life. We dare not look at the heaven above; we fear the cold and the shower of snowflakes that heaven releases on us. We tremble, shake and shiver when nature goes against us. We are afraid of Mother Nature when she turns ruthless on her children.

The furry squirrels which frisked all around the city are not seen anymore. They too are staying safe and warm in their nests found in the branches of trees. And like humans, squirrels too are children of Mother Nature and are afraid of her cruel winter. In autumn, they were busy collecting nuts, seeds and grains to survive the long winter. Animals are at times better planners than humans...

The footpaths are under deep snow and one has to be careful not to lose footing. The shelters at the bus stops are covered with snow. The passengers gather inside in the hope to feel a little warm, but the wind chill cannot be escaped. With watery eyes, melting noses and frozen lips, they wait for the buses to come on time. With their eyes on the snow-white city, they probably pray that this time Spring would come sooner than the other years.

White has its own beauty though. The fresh snow gives me a feeling of purity that a very few other things give. It's the colour of the snow that reduces the harshness of winter to its minimum. Ironically enough, it's this bitter season that clothes the world in the colour of peace and pureness…

By Wara Karim


Prof. Koonce lends a hand to Ecole de Musique

PIANO notes have flooded Alliance Francaise's Café Veranda for ages on Saturday afternoons. Recently the visiting American Professor Frank Koonce's master classes for guitar lent more interest to visitors to the cultural hub.

Mehjabeen Rahman, the Director of Ecole de Musique, which has been there for a decade, joined up guitar teachers to form a wider range of classical music instructions, which will include flute in time.

Soft-spoken, gentle but assertive, Professor Koonce, speaking in between his two days of non-stop classes- with his eyes shining with intelligence said," I think that arts, in general, and music is one of the arts, helps bring people together. Music is an international language. While we may have political and economic disputes, music is a way that people can come together and find calm, understanding and enjoyment. Art is an important way of bringing people together."

Professor Koonce's mother played the piano. He was eleven when the Beatles came to the US and he was totally struck by their electric guitar. He too wanted to be popular like them. Later, it was not the popularity that was important for him but the music itself.

Asked if the American contribution to music was a lot, Prof. Koonce said, "Western classical music comes from a European tradition. However, there is a lot to be said about the American contribution to music. A lot of the conservatories are in the US, like the Julliard and Peabody conservatories and the ones at Baltimore and St Francisco."

This was his second visit to Bangladesh. Asked if the local students in Dhaka could eventually have something parallel to the eastern music tradition that is there already in the city, Prof. Koonce said that it could be done- as it has been done in Japan and China where western conservatories have been established. "This adds to more diversity. Likewise, in the US we are offering eastern tradition in the music schools," he said.

Talking about fusion music, he said, "It is useful. The notes aren't necessarily changing. There are intervals in eastern music that we cannot duplicate. We can only blend the traditions. We cannot match them exactly.

Ravi Shankar has been transcribed for guitar. A 'raga' was very successfully arranged which captures the spirit. We've had sitar and 'tabla' performances at the North Carolina School of Arts; and I myself brought musicians from Dhaka to my university four years ago. It had dancers and performers of Tagore songs, and the audience loved it."

Dwelling on the guitar students collected for the Master class, Prof. Koonce says, "I'm impressed. They've reached a good level. They have the same strength and weakness of American students. They need to work on their sight-reading and counting abilities."

Iftekhar Anwar, one of the main teachers, brought guitar playing to Ecole de Musique, studied the guitar in Greece, and later with Prof. Koonce. He was inspired by the programme "Artistic Ambassadors" on TV in 1995. He did his Masters from Arizona University. "Right now we are aiming at a diploma programme equivalent to one found in western schools."

Shikhor, who himself had Iftekhar as his guide earlier on, taught the guitar students at Dhaka, while Iftekhar was away in the US.

Mehjabeen's mission for years has been to create awareness of music among the young prospective musicians in the city. "I've created at least five pianists who can play sonatas in public. I've helped Tabassum Mehjabeen and Adittya Noman Khan to become teachers of young pianists at Ecole de Musique, while I was away studying myself overseas. The two have studied piano for nine and eleven years respectively." She hopes to direct the summer Fete de la Musique concert at Alliance Francaise, as usual.

By Fayza Haq



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