Home  -  Back Issues  -  The Team  -  Contact Us
     Volume 11 |Issue 48| December 07, 2012 |


 Cover Story
 Special Feature
 One Off
 A Roman Column
 Food for Thought
 Book Review
 Star Diary

   SWM Home

One Off

Connecting with Heritage!

Aly Zaker

Over four decades ago, a few young people led by Mahmuder Rahman, a student of Chhayanaut, formed an association called 'Pakistan Classical' and I happened to be a minnow member of this group. That was the time, in the late 60s, when we were already seeing in our dreams an embryo of a Bengali nation that was to become a reality in '71. That was the time, when inspired by the most volatile cultural movement that made Bangladesh an inevitability that we prepared ourselves to set the emerging nation on the road to finest culture, literature, politics and all those traits that make a nation proud of its glory of a thousand years. That was the time, when we could snatch Nazakat Ali and Salamat Ali, Amanat Ali and Fateh Ali, Abha Alam and many other stalwarts of classical music from the clutches of government festival committees and bring them to a small and cozy auditorium on top of the Bangla Academy's Bardhaman House. That was the time, when surrounded by thirty odd music enthusiasts the duo of Nazakat and Salamat sang their famous Khayal in 'Kalavati' and 'Gorakh Kalyan'. Amanat and Fateh presented 'Madhkosh' and the late Abha Alam gave a scintillating presentation of her famous Khayal in Kedar Raga. Those were the days when we were dreaming of a liberated land with a rich and meaningful culture liberated from the fetters of colonialism.

And then with the turn of the decade our dream was half-achieved through a colossal victory in election of a party that was very close to our hearts. And then the dream was shattered by a wanton aggression let loose by the occupation forces of Pakistan. The rest is history.

Ustad Shahadat Hossain on sarod – one of the enthralling renditions of the four day Bengal-ITC SRA Classical Musical Festival at the Army Stadium. Photo: Amirul Rajiv

We have always been a nation driven by a strong cultural uniqueness and subsequent to the independence of the country, the nation tried to live up to its commitment to culture. Therefore, we saw, as is customary in a just liberated land, emergence of such cultural activities that reflected the volatile politics of the time. Whereas, in a free country it would have been most desirable to re-organise ourselves and settle down to practicing a cultural pattern that reflected thousands of years of our glorious cultural past. About 5-10 years down the line from our victory in the war, I had posed a question, “when does politics make way for practice of thoughtful culture?” Obviously the answer was not forthcoming because we perhaps did not think that refined culture could be a weapon of protest and therefore highly political as well. We were fast surrendering to the maze of popular art in the name of politics, many of which could easily be termed useless. We started becoming pretty happy with whatever we were doing.

Satisfied with our stubborn ignorance and pride over the most low-brow taste whipped up by the consideration of quick popularity and, therefore, quick money. We even started becoming apathetic to snobbery. More importantly, selected snobbery. I agree that being snobbish is a negative virtue. But snobbery often opens up the possibility of dabbling with the real thing that we try to be snobbish about. At a point in time we thought that we had let down the nation in cultural terms. That we could not induct our children to even take a serious look at the culture that would make the people of the world wake up and take notice of.

True, we had an occasional date with classical art. But that remained confined within the four walls of the rich and the famous. Suffice it to say that a connect between the people and refined artistic endeavours was still a far cry. There were institutions like Chhayanaut and cultural personalities like Wahidul Huq or Sanjida Khatun, stalwart poets like Shamsur Rahman, Al Mahmud or Syed Shamsul Haq, extra-ordinary painters like Zainul Abedin, Quamrul Hassan or Shafiuddin Ahmed. But these robust personalities were hardly taken notice of by the emerging young population of the country that comprised the majority.

Against this backdrop a fest was organised titled 'Bengal-ITC SRA Classical Music Festival' for four consecutive nights in Dhaka recently. It featured young and senior artists from various performing art field of the subcontinent. Some of whom have received international acclaim. There were names like Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, Vidushi Girijadevi, Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma, Pandit Birju Maharaj, Pandit Ajay Chakrabarty, Ustad Rashid Khan, Pandit Buddhadev Dasgupta, Ustad Mashkoor Ali Khan, Pandit Rajen and Pandit Sajan Mishra, Vidushi Alarmel Valli so on and so forth. A number of artists from Bangladesh as well performed with alacrity. Thousands of eager audiences, mostly young in age, attended the festival each of the four nights starting from 6 in the evening till very early in the morning. Many of the artists were given standing ovations.

Now, this I did not expect. The festival happened at the Army Stadium within a stone's throw from where I live. I have been a witness to a number of youth concerts in the same venue over the last ten years, which were very well attended by the cross-section of the youth of the city but could never imagine that a purely classical fest could draw such an impressive crowd here. I guess I had never even given a thought to the possibility of such a sterling festival in our city. But somebody did.

This somebody was The Bengal Foundation that has emerged now, without a shadow of doubt, as a brave promoter of the quintessential Bengali art and letters in Bangladesh. I do not know if many would have dared to undertake a venture of such magnitude. Kudos to Bengal. We hope they will continue to break all shackles of hesitation in the future years to take Bangladesh towards greater glory. We, on our part, promise to go hand in hand.

Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2012