An Interview with Zeenat Chowdhury

Zeenat Chowdhury is a Director at Bengal Foundation and the Managing Director of Bengal Express Ltd, and is responsible for directing the Bengal Classical Music Festival. After the 6th iteration of this national music celebration, Star Showbiz sits down with Zeenat Chowdhury for her opinions and behind-the-scenes discussion about the annual event.

thumbnail Zeenat Chowdhury

Congratulations on the recent 6th iteration of Bengal Classical Music Festival. Regarding the festival itself and the whole cultural arena of the country, what do you consider the greatest achievements?

According to me, there are two rather prominent achievements; one is that every year, we see more of a younger audience, and the second is how people’s behavior seems to change when they enter the festival grounds. In the first year, we had young volunteers who had no particular interest in or exposure to classical music. But by the fifth day, after having listened to classical music for the 4 nights it seemed to have grown on them. Listening to this music all day must have been tough for them as they never had such exposure to this genre before. And I’m happy to say that every year there is a growing number of a young audience who love either sitting on the bleechers or sitting on the ground and taking in this music. Secondly I love how a sense of discipline seems to dawn on anyone who enters these grounds. People do not litter, they happily and calmly stand in line albeit for coffee or water or the toilet facilities. People seem to make a conscious effort to not only enjoy the music and the ambience of the festival but also contribute themselves by being a positive part of that ambience.

As for the cultural arena of Bangladesh, I truly believe that there has been an actual revival of interest in classical music. Last year we had a promo in which a story of a father and daughter was portrayed where the father had always wanted to learn music but couldn’t, but the classical music festival somehow decided for him that he should encourage his daughter to learn the sarod; and strangely enough this was a story which seemed to echo true in the hearts of many of the audience members.

Yet another notable achievement of this particular festival, which many women have voiced to me is the safe and organized environment built for all those who love to attend the festival. It makes me proud to see and know that single women feel no threat or danger roaming around alone in the festival grounds at any given time through the night. The environment of classical music brings about a certain transformation of attitude in people, which gives us hope.

As a member of Bengal Foundation what do you have to say about this achievement?

The response and love this initiative has gotten from people is in itself an achievement. The intention was always the revival and practice of classical music and to an extent we believe the festival has been able to achieve that. I have always felt a certain sense of pride being associated with an organization which I believe constantly strives to contribute positively towards the country and its people, under the leadership and guidance of both our visionary Chairman Mr Abul Khair and our Director General Ms Luva Nahid Choudhury; and this festival happens to be an added feather in the proverbial cap.

Are there any special plans for the next Bengal Classical Music Festival?

I believe we are always trying to offer an experience slightly different from the previous year’s. It seemed that the people seemed to appreciate the different venue this year as well as what the grounds and set-up had to offer. Needless to say the support that we receive each year, especially from the Army, the Dhaka Metropolitan Police, Traffic Police and all other government agencies and associates, is commendable and something we wholeheartedly appreciate. This year was the same and as always it is this support which goes a long way towards the success of the festival.

Is there anything else you want to share with the readers?

I don’t know if people realize the amount and volume of work that goes into organizing an event of this scale. There are so many people working diligently behind the scenes to deliver this level of meticulous planning and execution. There are many people working really hard towards achieving this success we all enjoy. The experience is humbling and something that makes all of us very proud, and honestly, many ask us about how tiring these five nights are, but I always say that there seems to be this burst of energy that we all get from somewhere and we look forward to working for this festival every year, and we hope we can continue to deliver our best always.


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