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Voice Jukebox
Dawud Wharnsby Ali

For most, Dawud Wharnsby Ali probably isn't a popular name. In fact, you've probably never heard of him. It's not surprising, because it's been only 10 months since I've been mesmerized by the soul-searching voice of this man. Coming from Ontario, Canada with English-Scottish roots, Wharnsby Ali has found his niche in the realm of English Nasheed (spiritual songs of a world-rhythm/folk style, drawn from Islamic cultural and musical roots).

Born in 1972, Wharnsby developed a knack for creative theatre productions in his early teens. His quest for artistic freedom taught himself to play for a variety of musical instruments and writing introspective lyrics. Around 1991, he got involved into a diverse array of activities puppeteer, children's educator, traveling troubadour and health care assistant for the physically disabled. In 1993, he released the album 'Off to Reap the Corn' in collaboration with Heather Chappell. The success of the album led to social gatherings, performances and increased expectations. Often frustrated by bouts of extreme stage fright and generally uncomfortable in crowds, Wharnsby was torn between the competitive nature of the music circles he had stumbled into, and his private quest for peace and contentment. The same year, he embraced Islam, changing his name to 'Dawud' the Arabic form of David and adopting 'Ali' as his surname.

In 1994, Chappell and Wharnsby released their second album; following which, Wharnsby started working on his solo recordings. As a world-renowned children's educator, Dawud has released over 10 popular albums of children's music, including A Whisper of Peace and The Prophet's Hands. His songs released through Sound Vision are sung and taught in schools worldwide.

What makes Wharnsby's numbers stand out is the fusion of Celtic/folk beats with the teachings of the Qur'an. He is a powerful vocalist, which enables him to draw his listeners into the intimate storytelling features of his songs. Many of his songs uses very little background music, and is solely dependent on the flow of the words and Wharnsby's voice. It is this unique feature of such numbers that has made Wharnsby a personal favourite to me. His lyrics are strong, and when asked on how he comes up with his recording ideas, Wharnsby says, “Usually I am affected by something that I see or experience. My lyrics often come out all at once, in a sort of burst.” Wharnsby plans to keep on being a discovering traveler, a motivational speaker for children and storytelling musician.

By Sabhanaz Rashid Diya

Baishakh University

Pohela Baishakh is here again, and with it the usual trends of eating 'panta bhaat', wearing red and white sarees and singing 'Esho He Baishakh'. This is probably the only major festival in Bangladesh that has nothing to do with religion, and thus is celebrated by almost everyone in Bangladesh, especially the youngsters. For this reason, anyone going near Charukola can depend on getting their faces painted, can count on joining an 'Anondo Michil' near Chayanot and can generally partake of the festivities in and around Dhaka University. Of course, when we say youngsters celebrate Pohela Baishakh, we do not include those students who are in private universities, because they only celebrate the 'Ingreji' New Year. I mean celebrating the Bengali New Year is totally outdated and like so not cool, right?

Yeah, sure. Whoever still thinks like that should go and flush themselves down the toilet, drown in their own puke or suffer some other equally disgusting fate. Contrary to popular belief, students in private universities are not completely oblivious to the existence of a Bengali New Year and they celebrate Pohela Baishakh with as much enthusiasm as everyone else.

IUB is one such private university, where the Department of Student Affairs organises a celebration each year. A cultural function usually takes place under the supervision of the Art Club, Bangla Club and several other groups, as well as individual students. This function includes songs, dance routines and sometimes even a few parodies to add to the merriment! According to one IUB student, “The festivities are very homely and don't draw a very large crowd, but it's a permanent fixture in the campus life at IUB.”

AIUB also makes plans to have some serious fun on every Noboborsho. Their celebrating usually starts the day before Pohela Baishakh and continues in the form of a Baishakhi Mela, which usually manages to draw quite a large crowd of students. They also arrange cultural programmes on Pohela Baishakh, with traditional songs as well as folk tunes in the morning and more contemporary music in the evening. “Last year we had a concert with 5 popular bands including Souls,” said Anindo, a student of AIUB, “so this year we are looking forward to something just as great.”

But the university which tops the list in having a good time on Pohela Baishakh is North South. NSU has a regular programme each year, where they have a cultural event in the evening and large rallies surrounding their campus in Banani, as well as face painting, Mehendi Utshobs and a number of other fun and festive activities on their agenda.

“We decorate the campus, distribute flyers and encourage everyone to wear colourful dresses,” says Sadequl Arefin, general secretary of the NSU Shangskritik Shongothon, “Basically we try to create a fun, jovial atmosphere where everybody can enjoy themselves.”

But he also informed us that there is a plan by BRAC University to organise an intra-private university cultural festival in the Gulshan Field behind BRAC Bank. This sort of festival was organised once last year, where all the universities mentioned above participated.

If this festival occurs, all celebrations planned by NSU will occur there instead of in its own campus. There will be a rally and a Mela where cultural clubs from all the participating universities will open up their stalls. There will also be entertainment events, where different groups from the universities will perform on the same stage, which is something to look forward to. Then there will be art competitions, kite flying and many other events which will be an appealing addition to the festivities already arranged. And the cherry on top of all this delicious, yummy cream will be a concert at the end of the day by Habib!

At the end of the day, it doesn't really matter whether you go to a private university or not, or whether u prefer to eat pizza over 'panta bhaat' and wear shirts instead of panjabis. If you have no problem against having fun and consider yourself to be a Bangladeshi (if you don't, then my advice to you is to die a very slow and painful death), then there is no reason for you to not party on Pohela Baishakh. Besides, Bangladesh's recent win against South Africa should really put you in the mood to celebrate, so go out there, have fun and Shubho Noboborsho!!

By Shuprova Tasneem

Book review

Tender Triumph

She pinned me with a look, and I squirmed under her baleful glare like a kid caught with his hand inside the cookie jar. "You are NOT reviewing another Pratchett this week!" Okay, so it didn't happen that way, but it is thanks to my best friend Tahiat that I found myself heading home with a romance novel - my first one this year, I think.

Tender Triumph takes a different approach to the usual Mcnaught favourites. It opens with the multi-billion dollar company Galverra crashing down after the death of its founder, with the man's son Ramon left floundering in debts. The proud Puerto Rican decides to return home to his little farm, which is pretty much all he has left.

On another side, there's the rich, beautiful and bored Katie Connelly, who's still reeling from a painful marriage, a bad divorce, and an even worse affair with a man who turned out to be married. With her level of trust running low, she's lost her zest for life, even though she's got looks, brains, a successful career, and everything money can buy.

Fate brings the two together at a single's bar, and it's love at first sight...for Ramon. He moves in to sweep Katie off her feet using his Latin charm and sex appeal, and though he manages to get her panting for him, he's still pretty far from winning her heart. Somehow, he manages to convince her to agree to marry him, and takes her to his home in Puerto Rico, never letting on that he's more than an ordinary and destitute farmer.

As the countdown to the wedding begins, Katie struggles with demons from her past, at the same time trying to solve the mystery of how her fiancé seems to wield a lot of authority in his homeland, and has access to fancy clothes and a lot of amenities. She's also trying to come to terms with his innate chauvinism, which chafes against her independent spirit. This being a Judith Mcnaught novel, there's a plot that carries on till the very last page, and makes for an interesting read.

All said and done, whether or not this is my cynicism in full swing, I don't know, but I found the story a little too convenient...and if all these coincidences do happen in real life, I'm drowning myself. Nevertheless, Mcnaught hasn't cemented her position on the best-selling lists for nothing. The narration is easy to follow and seductively draws you into the story. The characterisation is very good, if not a little hard to believe. In short, this is the perfect escapist novel, one that guarantees you a few hours of dreamy fantasising.

By Sabrina F Ahmad


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