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You abuse, you lose

'Dope never helped anybody sing better or play music better or do anything better. All dope can do for you is kill you - and kill you the long, slow, hard way.'
- Billie Holiday

Last month at a concert, it was surprising to see just how much of Bangladesh's youth, who are into music, experiment with 'recreational' drugs. Drugs and substance abuse have, now and then, become synonymous with being a musician, an artist, with being given the gift to create a work of talent for the world. Even well respected musicians in Bangladesh often indulge in 'recreational' drugs.

Here's an example, at the show it was shocking to see M, (initials will be used for the writers own privacy) who was considered pretty darn good-looking once upon a time, but now closely resembled the long lost twin brother of the science laboratory skeleton at school we fondly called Munir. He was absolutely emaciated! And lets not forget the red-rimmed eyes. Have you seen that part in the 'Disaster Movie' where they make fun of Alvin and the Chipmunks? Yeah he sort of looked like an anorexic chipmunk with rabies, sans the foam from the mouth.

It's sad really when you think about all the amazing talents that the world has lost due to drugs.

In 1980, Minor Threat wrote this song:

"I'm a person just like you
But I've got better things to do
Than sit around and mess with my head
Hang out with the living dead
Snort white stuff up my nose
Pass out at the shows
I don't even think about speed
That's something I just don't need
I've got the straight edge"

And Straight Edge was born.

Janis Joplin: died of a heroin overdose.
Jimi Hendrix: choked while throwing up due to consumption of too many sleeping pills and alcohol.

Kurt Cobain: a long time addict who put a bullet through his mouth and OD'd on heroin-valium. (But it was the bullet that pretty much killed him)

Jim Morrison: heart failure due to overdose of cocaine and alcohol.
See the common element?
The world lost many of its music gods and goddesses to drugs.

Recently, an 'X' tattooed on a friend's hand caught everyone's attention. When asked what it represented, he said it was to symbolize his becoming 'Straight Edge'.

Straight Edge, otherwise known as sXe, is a lifestyle centered on hardcore music. People who are straight edge do not smoke, do not do drugs or consume alcohol.

The roots of sXe was sown circa the late 1970's and 1980's with groups of bands and teens who were devoted to their music but found the concept of doing drugs and 'destroying oneself' unappealing. They didn't have any plans for sXe to grow into what it is today, after all they were just considered 'kids', but they knew they couldn't be a part of what was going on around them which was the self destruction, the self hatred, the pain and suffering caused by the punk/hardcore mentality.

To them, drugs and alcohol had no connection whatsoever to their love, appreciation and passion for music.

There symbol 'X' was adopted from the rule of bars and clubs of marking a minor's hand with an 'X' to warn staff from serving them alcoholic beverages. Straight Edge followers often choose to tattoo this symbol on their arms, backs and other body parts as an emblem of their support for this lifestyle.

Straight Edge is not something that's caught on in Bangladesh yet. The mentality here is still mostly (for all you people who might get ticked off at this, please note the emphasis on mostly) focused on the myth 'drugs make you perform better'. A fan once asked a friend X, who plays sensational guitar, what drugs he took to aid him in performing his 'kick ass' solo's onstage.

If someone has talent, and they foster that talent through sheer hard work and practice, then obviously that someone will be able to perform 'kick ass' solos onstage without being intoxicated. Drugs aren't magic, its not like they bestow instant talent upon the druggie. What it does is, it makes you euphoric, heightens your senses and gives you the instant confidence you might be lacking to go up onstage because you were too jacked up on coke to practice. Sometimes it even gives you crazy hallucinations and you end up humiliating yourself, and your band mates, by doing something really embarrassing.

This writer's father, a musician himself, always says that Music is his drug. And that's how it should be. The gift of music is something that comes from within and you should be real thankful that you were blessed with such a talent. Some of us only wish we had that kind of talent so that when we sing in the shower, the neighbours don't call the police on us thinking it is someone being tortured and in physical pain. Destroying yourself, and ultimately destroying your talent, is not the best way to make the most of your ability. Who knows, maybe you're the next Kurt Cobain or Janis Joplin, talent-wise. So please, do the world, and music lovers everywhere, a favour and don't self-destruct. We desperately need good musicians!

By Musarrat Rahman
Shout-outs to: Jarifa Purna who's always high on life and nagged until I wrote this. David Thames for introducing me to Straight Edge.

Want to be a leader?

It is quite common to hear people complain about the lack of young leaders in Bangladesh. And no, leading a party of people to burn a private car is not the type of leadership we are talking about. We are talking about people who want to, and are capable of, making changes.

It is to fulfill that need, that Bangladesh Youth Leadership Center (BYLC) started the Building Bridges through Leadership Training (BBLT) program. The objective is “to train young people and equip them with the necessary communication and leadership skills to bring about positive change in society.” BYLC brings together students from diverse backgrounds and trains them to work together. Last year, this course took place in Chittagong. This year, the course is taking place at Dhaka.

The enrolment process for BYLC is competitive. They will only take 30 students. There was supposed to be a Tk. 10,500 fee, but a full scholarship has been provided by BYLC and the American Center. The month long course will require commitment in terms of time. There will be field trips around the city to participate in community service. So the course is only for people who have completed their HSC, A'levels or Alim exams, but not yet enrolled in a university. BYLC will also provide career counseling for students applying for universities at home and abroad.

BYLC is a non-profit organization, the concept of which was developed in 2008 by Ejaj Ahmed, a Harvard graduate student, and Shammi Shawkat Quddus, an MIT student. It has won the 2008 Kathryn Davis Projects for Peace Prize and was a finalist in the 2008 YSEI Social Entrepreneurship Competition. They received financial and technical support from MIT Public Service Center for their first project in Bangladesh last year.

The deadline for application is June 4, 2009. You can apply online at www.bylc.org.

By Kazim Ibn Sadique

Did you know

The exact origin of the word Bangla or Bengal is unknown, though it is believed to be derived from the Dravidian-speaking tribe Bang/Banga that settled in the area around the year 1000 BCE.

Other accounts speculate that the name is derived from Vanga (bôngo), which came from the Austric word "Bonga" meaning the Sun god. According to Mahabharata, Purana, Harivamsha Vanga was one of the adopted sons of king Vali who founded the Vanga kingdom. The Muslim Accounts refer that "Bong", a son of Hind (son of Hâm who was a son of Prophet Noah/Nooh) colonized the area for the first time. The earliest reference to "Vangala" (bôngal) has been traced in the Nesari plates (805 AD) of Rashtrakuta Govinda III which speak of Dharmapala as the king of Vangala. Shams-ud-din Ilyas Shah took the title "Shah-e-Bangla" and united the whole region under one government.

By Shams Al Farabi
Sources: Wikipedia



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