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     Volume 6 Issue 44 | November 16, 2007 |

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Unplugged @PM

Sabrina Ahmad

Nemesis: Rocking the house.

The once-familiar PM Lounge with its funky glass partitions and comfy low seating gave way to artistic lighting, carpets and a bandstand on Saturday, November 3, 2007. Stepping into the place at 4pm, one was treated to a view of frenzied activity, as the gears of the Samsung Unplugged Session were set into motion. This was perhaps HOPE's biggest venture yet...

Help Our People Empathize (HOPE) is a community-service network under the Independent University, Bangladesh (IUB). Since its inception in April this year, the steadily growing group of students, teachers and alumni of IUB has devoted itself to trying to make a difference. Starting with baby steps, they have organised small fundraisers like bake sales and painting exhibitions in order to raise funds for, and awareness about their causes. This year, their pet project has been Streetwise, an organisation that provides education to street children. Other than that, they have also raised funds for the Chief Advisor's flood relief program, and showcased artwork by students of the Dhaka Deaf Welfare Association. Having established their base at IUB, they decided to go for something bigger, and that resulted in the Samsung Unplugged Session.

The November 3 concert was actually a culmination of an IUB-based talent-hunt that sought to get the student base more involved with HOPE. The three-day auditions in October resulted in the ultimate selection of the band 'Doctrine', who would then get to play with established bands at the concert, which as the name suggests, was sponsored by Samsung, with Radio Foorti as the media partner.

A jam packed audience.

The show kicked off at 4:30 with Doctrine taking the stand. A few lively covers, including that of U2's 'With or Without You' later, they concluded with an original composition, titled "Shotto kee dosh?" What they lacked in terms of originality of composition and vocals, they made up for in spirit and energy. Doctrine consists of Farhat on vocals, Mahmud on vocals and guitar, Anik on guitar, Sheikh on bass, and Adnan on drums. When we caught up with this band, Farhat, speaking for the others, said "This is our first unplugged concert, and we're really excited to be here."

As the finger-food (a few items of which was provided by BD Foods and Yummy Candy) began to make its circulation through the growing crowd, Shunno took the stage. In a seriously underrated performance, they delivered two solid Maroon 5 covers and a brilliant rendition of Seal's 'Kiss from a Rose' before finishing with one of their own songs 'Notun Sroth'. Emil's quivery high-pitched voice gave the songs a soulful feel, and the drummer Tanim had a good hand with the percussion. A member of the audience was heard to exclaim 'They've out Maroon 5'd Maroon 5!"

The next band to take the stage was Prayer Hall. They alternated upbeat covers of songs like Tracy Chapman's 'Fast Car', Dave Matthews band's 'Crash into You', and Nirvana's 'Smells like Teen Spirit' with their own numbers, of which 'Khoj' and 'Bhabtei Paro' won a lot of accolades from the crowd. The bubbly Punam (vocals) and the intense Saad (guitar) complemented one another very well, and the excitement level within the crowd bumped up a notch or two by the end of the performance.

After a traffic-induced delay that left half their members stranded, Raaga took the stage. This being a comeback performance of sorts for the band lent an emotional touch to their performance. They played mostly Raaga numbers like 'Kahar majhe', 'Kothay', 'Ahoban', 'Ekhono', 'Neel Akash', 'Aasha' and 'Brishty', as well as a cover of Lata Mangeshkar's 'O mor moyna go'. If the band got onto a slightly shaky start, it was more than covered up by Joy's expert hand with the bass, and Elita's charming stage presence.

Nemesis took the stage next with cries of 'Maher! Maher!' running through the audience. True performers through and through, the band entertained with a watertight performance that combined teamwork, talent, and sheer showmanship. Their songlist included covers like 'Message in a Bottle' (Sting), 'King of Pain' (Sting), and 'Pardon me' (Incubus), as well as their own songs 'Joyoddhoni', 'Onneshon', 'Obocheton', 'Dhushor Bhabona', and Na Ghumo'der Gaan.

At this point, the Founder and Chairperson of HOPE, Munsia Naureen Ahmed briefed the audience on the activities of HOPE and noted that part of the proceeds from the concert will be used as a scholarship for a meritorious street child who is studying at StreetWise. The rest of the money will be used for other social causes.

Finally, when the venue was packed to the teeth with a screaming crowd, Ornob took the stage, with Buno (of Bangla fame), and Andrew Morris from Bluenote. Kicking off with the ever-popular 'Hok Kolorob', Ornob pretty much had a comfortable time of it as the crowd not only picked songs for him to sing, but sang along to each number. The requests included 'Tui Gaan ga', 'Tor Jonno', and 'She je boshe ache', which he sang as a duet with Elita. Wife Shahana Bajpai was also invited onstage for a duet. There was this magical moment during their performance when the electricity suddenly went off, and without missing a beat, Ornob and Shahana continued singing through the darkness, and Buno continued playing, and everyone listened in rapt silence until the generators kicked in and a cheer went up through the crowd. As a final number, Ornob and Andrew played/sang a sort of musical duel, which a cheeky Shayan Chowdhury Ornob described as 'ami gaan gabo, o saxophone e pen pen korbe, dekhi kar dom beshikkhon thake' (I'll sing, he'll play the saxophone; let's see who runs out of breath first).

And so this most unforgettable of shows ended on a lively note. HOPE's next venture will be the launch of their first publication "Voices of Hope".


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