The practice of music in the ancient Indian subcontinent originated from a diverse lineage, deeply rooted in spiritual and ethnic traditions. The ancient forms were passed down from one generation to the next and has been upheld by scores of important musicians throughout history – musicians who were patronised by kings, feudal lords, and spiritual leaders, forming the backbone of eastern classical music.
Contemporary practices of classical music, however, was established in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, and well-ordained traditions formed the basis for the evolution of modern eastern classical forms. Documentation of music using notations is a fairly new practice in the subcontinent. Yet, many aspects of the ancient traditions remained un-affected by the phenomenon. Music from the region remained free-flowing and improvised, rather than becoming scripted, similar to its western counterpart – a culture surviving the test of time. The remnants of the era is still traceable in today’s guru–shishya, parampara, practices. Ustad Alauddin Khan, Sangeetacharya Tarapada Chakrabarty, Pandit Ravi Shankar, Ustad Ayat Ali Khan, Ustad Vilayet Khan and many others were born in East Bengal (presently Bangladesh); and later played a role similar to that of the ancient legendary maestros before them, upholding the practices of eastern classical music during present times.
However, as we approach the era of cultural globalisation, the appreciation of this practice is lost on younger generations.
Bengal Foundation, a public trust which started its journey during the late eighties, has been promoting Bengali culture for decades. The Foundation regularly organises events, workshops, and a number of initiatives, in an attempt to nurture the traditions of music in Bangladesh. Bengal Classical Music Festival, an initiative of Bengal Foundation’s Music Programme, is the world’s largest classical music festival in terms of the number of performers on a single stage, audience capacity and duration. The festival is a free annual public event with the aim of creating, in the long run, a discerning audience with a taste for quality music. Through these events the Foundation hopes to pave the way for better appreciation and understanding of the fundamentals of music, as well as energise, sensitise, influence, and promote the music industry of Bangladesh.