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     Volume 6 Issue 24 | June 22, 2007 |

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Bangla's Voice against Poverty

Elita Karim

Bob Geldolf and Bono, the lead singer of U2

Over the years, Bangla, the rock group, has come to be an icon of culture in Bangladesh. Not only do they showcase the ancient folk traditions of the land, they have also successfully brought the ancient form of music, to the delight of the young music lovers, redefining folk-fusion music in the country.

Bangla represented Bangladesh at the anti poverty concert titled Your Voice against Poverty, where some of the biggest icons of music in the world such as Bono, the lead singer of U2 and Bob Geldolf performed, held earlier this month in Rostock, Germany. Simultaneously, the G8 summit was taking place at nearby Heiligendamm. Mocked as the P8 summit, Bangla did feel a little strange representing Bangladesh as one of the eight poorest nations of the world. The others were Bolivien, Kambodscha, Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba from Mali, Mo' Some Big Noise from Mozambique, Perrozompopo from Nicaragua, Leo Muntu and Menshan from Sambia and Peter Miles and Menshan from Uganda.

Anusheh, from the band Bangla, explains this as one of the show of their lifetime and feels extremely lucky to have been given a chance to voice out along with the thousands of supporters who were expressing their sentiments along with the musicians.

The band's first performance was at Halle, near Leipzig on June 1. “As soon as we landed at the airport, we were greeted by our manager Carmen,” says Anusheh. “She immediately handed each of us an orange sheet filled with our scheduled programmes and was with us throughout the trip.” Other than Anusheh, Buno and Onob, guitarist Kartik joined them, along with Nazrul the dhol player and Ishmail, a British Trinidadian percussionist who played the drums with Bangla. Ishmail is now working regularly with Bangla as well and had even played in their last album.

Bangla performing at one of the concerts.

On June 4, they performed for the Bangladeshi community in Berlin. “I am sorry to say but this show was probably one of the worst experiences ever,” she says. The show was organised for the seven hundred Bangladeshis who live in Berlin under the same banner of Your Voice against Poverty. “They were sending little slips of notes to us on stage, requesting us to do fast dance tracks and Hindi numbers,” she adds. “There were instances during the performance when I would speak about the purpose of our being there and how they could fight poverty staying there in Berlin. However, I was flabbergasted when I realised how these people actually brought the political dirt to Berlin all the way from Bangladesh, grouping themselves as supporters of BNP and Awami League, and that too clearly stated on their visiting/business cards!” However, the audience was very much indifferent to Bangla's pleas about world harmony and alleviating poverty or just could not under-stand what the 'band party' who had come from Dhaka were actually talking about. “They were busy dancing hip-hop to our music,” she says. “During break, little girls were dancing to popular Hindi music. That was basically the last straw. It's disheartening to see how these people are wasting away their talents, skills and culture away, living in Berlin but mixing up the Bollywood customs along with theirs.”

Representatives of the eight poor nations along with Bono and Bob Geldolf at a press conference. Anusheh from Bangla and Dr. Muhammad Yunus represent Bangladesh at the anti poverty concert.

On June 6, Bangla witnessed real-life action when they performed at yet another concert organised by Rostock Attac, an anti G8 and anti capitalist organisation. “It was by the Baltic sea, where protestors were listening to the music,” says Anusheh. “They were protesting against the summit and would not let the world leaders enter Germany. That's when the government launched 16,000 police officers in the city.” The protestors were ready and all equipped with ammunition though. “They had shopping carts filled with stones to throw at the officers and special eye drops to use in case the police would begin to bombard them with tear gas!”

When Bangla stepped inside the park in Rostock where the concert was to be held, a day before the grand finale for sound check, “we couldn't stop giggling and smiling like young school kids!” says Anushesh. “It was huge! The stage was massive, probably as big as my apartment. The back stage was as big as the Abahani field in Dhanmondi.”

The day of the concert, Bangla, as per the routine that is followed in concerts in Dhaka, were going up to tune and check their instruments. “A group of people came and stopped us,” she says. A technician for each instrument took over to check the instruments for Bangla. “We were asked to just go up on stage waving at the audience like stars and voice out against all the evils in the world!” Bangla performed their very popular Namaaz amar hoilo na aday and their version of SD Burman's Bangladesher dhol in front of 85,000 people.

The tour for Bangla was jointly sponsored by Netz Bangladesh, a German NGO in Dhaka who has been working for 25 years in Dhaka and Herbert Gronemeyer, a German rock star. The last two songs at the concert were performed by Gronemeyer and Bono, when the thousands of people sang along. "It was a very emotional moment," says Anusheh. "Gronemeyer is truly a very humble person, checking on us every few minutes to see if we were doing ok. I am still fascinated by his passion for music which he used to voice out for the cause that he believes in."

Nobel Laureate Dr. Mohammad Yunus got up on stage as soon as Bangla got off and literally got the audience to stand up against poverty when they gave him a standing ovation. “His speech was very encouraging and it clearly enthralled the audience,” she says.

The highlight of the concert must have been when Bono performed the Redemption Song with Youssou N'Dour and Bob Geldof, You Never Give Me Your Money / Carry That Weight with Youssou N'Dour, Bob Geldof, and the Toten Hosen's Campino, and Get Up Stand Up with Youssou N'Dour and Bob Geldof.

At one of the concerts, Anusheh spoke against giving aid to poor countries, described it as “AIDS” and emphasised on how “it cripples a country”. “Rather than that, there should be more investments in the country so that our people can earn instead of wait for the cash to flow from unknown sources,” she explains. “I got a call later on, where the authorities asked me not to speak against aid giving, since that was the whole purpose of the P8 concert.”

Did the P8 summit and the Your Voice against Poverty fulfil its purpose and create the impact on the right people? “I have to admit that the whole idea did seem a little utopian,” says Anusheh. “Not everything seemed very realistic to me. But then again we need idealists as well to make the world go round.”

Amid Protests and Music

People all over the world watched earlier this month, as the proceedings of the 33rd G8 summit took place in Germany. The Group of Eight, which includes the governments of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States, the G8 is an international forum representing at least 65% of the world's economy.

This year, the world leaders focused on investment, innovation and sustainability and good governance, sustainable investment, peace and security in Africa, where the summit's motto was “Growth and Responsibility”. As every year, discussions were held regarding transparency of financial markets, intellectual property and energy efficiency.

Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor had mentioned at the end of the 32nd G8 summit held in Russia that the summit in 2007 would focus more on the struggle against poverty across the globe. Criticised vehemently by several movement-groups all over the world, the G8 summits taking place every year have been lambasted for indirectly or directly that promote policies that result in weakening the economies of developing nations thereby exacerbating rather than reducing poverty.

This year, however, a proposal to halve global carbon dioxide emissions by 2050 was announced at the summit. According to a Greenpeace report, it seems there was a clear split between among the G8 member countries regarding this issue. This issue was welcomed by all the members of the summit, except for the US President W. Bush who blocked it until the other major greenhouse gas emitting countries, like India and China make similar commitments.

The report further said that the governments fought publicly over this issue for days. The discussions and the arguments finally ended with the world leaders agreeing to seriously consider the issue. The G8 nations are said to be responsible for over 80 percent of the climate change and still emit over 40 percent of all global emissions.

Protests and criticisms of the G8 summit were as vehement as they had been in the past years. However, this year the protests took a different turn, coming up with an anti-poverty concert staged to send the world leaders of the G8, a musical message. At least 85,000 music lovers got together in a park in the city of Rostock. They listened to the bands from some of the developing nations of the world and made their political demands addressed to the leaders of the world's richest nations meeting in nearby Heiligendam.

Some of the well-known criticisms about the G8 summit are that the member countries are responsible for several global issues such as poverty in Africa and other developing countries because of debt crisis and unfair trade policy, global warming because of carbon dioxide emissions, AIDS problem due to strict medicine patent policy and other problems that are related to globalisation.



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