In the Land of Rivers and Songs …


It gives me great joy to note that the largest classical music festival in the world is being held in this land where the sound of music resonates in the air. Bangladesh is the proverbial land of rivers; its canals and streams, and the clayey soil defining the incredible resilience of a people who have for centuries found solace in the gentle rocking of their boats. The uneven cadence of wooden wheels on a bumpy village road, the incessant call of the cuckoo on a scorching, still afternoon, and the paced pull of the scythe through the verdant rice paddies are among a dozen everyday experiences that bring a sense of rhythm to people’s lives. The shattering crescendo of a crashing river bank, the terrifying orchestra of wind, rain and lightning, and the fluid tones of a heavy monsoon are nature’s contribution in attenuating this tonal sense. The familiarity of such aural experiences awakens in the village folk, a natural tunefulness and a great love for stringing notes.


Was it possible for the classical arts, particularly music and dance, to take root in this largely agrarian society, at a great remove from the centres of power and patronage? It is hard to tell, as very few records – save artefacts, memoirs, books and old photographs – survive to this day. It may be safe to say that the patronage in East Bengal was no match for the grandeur of its wealthier neighbours but what is noticeable is the extraordinary number of stalwarts of Indian classical music, dance and the letters, who sprung from this soil. Could it have been the endless bounty of folk tunes, lyrics and tonal structures that influenced this predilection for music in the common man? For centuries, this land of rivers has generously nurtured musical talent and offered it to the rest of the world.

Having dabbled with Bangla music for a long time and with Tagore taking center stage, a personal realisation about the way forward for Bangla gaan began to set in. For good lyrics to find expression, we need good writers, and to sustain good quality writing we need platforms for critical discourse. Hence the emergence of the Bangla literary monthly Kali O Kalam and today, it is a matter of great joy that the magazine is in its tenth year. Then comes the question of good tunes, and singers who would render such tunes appropriately. Good tunes can only be composed and sung by persons who have musical intellect and a firm understanding of the fundamentals of music. The first is in plentiful, that is, musical talent abounds. But given the complex structure of Indian classical music very few have chosen to ground themselves in its fundamentals. This, to my mind, leaves a vacuum that cannot be glossed over by fine voices alone. For Bangla gaan to extricate itself from a weak and an unsure position, and for it to gain strength and character, it must be nourished at the roots. I feel that its foundations must be rebuilt on the rigourous base of classical music. This is a difficult path to traverse, one that requires complete dedication and with virtually no shortcuts. And because of this sense of dedication many have chosen this trail, shunning instant glory and gratification. However, the need for change in approach cannot be limited to a personal realisation, it has to be felt by the majority, and, should be driven by the audience who are at the receiving end. And it is only when the audience will not stand for mediocrity in music, will excellence get the opportunity to set in. It is to this end Bengal Foundation has undertaken this joint venture with ITC Sangeet Research Academy (ITC SRA) of Kolkata. ITC SRA was set up in 1977 for the sole purpose of preserving and promoting Indian classical music. Its system of training is conducted under the principles of Guru- Shishya Parampara and it too wishes to create connoisseurs of music. The meeting of Bengal and ITC SRA was brought about by a chance suggestion of our family friend, sitarist Alif Laila, but it is one for which I am indeed grateful as many of our goals and ideas seem to merge, paving the way for a long term and meaningful working relationship. The Bengal ITC SRA Classical Music Festival 2012 is the biggest event under this joint initiative and it is also the largest classical music festival in terms of the number of performers, the duration as well as the capacity of the audience. It gives me great pleasure to be able to present an event of this caliber and size to the music lovers as well as to students of music in Bangladesh.

Bengal Foundation’s past initiatives include the Shastriya Sangeet Sammelan of 1996 which drew participants from all over Bangladesh and the five year Parampara workshops conducted by Ustad Mashkoor Ali Khan and Vidushi Shanti Sharma. The current goal is to set up a classical music academy, the quality of learning in which will be underwritten by ITC SRA. To augment this effort, it is all important to create an audience base that is sensitised to the nuances of classical music. In order to make it possible for the audience to develop a keen ear, we have started organising bi-monthly concerts since February this year and hope to make the upcoming four day festival a regular annual event. Fortunately other cultural organisations have also started  prioritising classical music and we find a marked effort in this regard. However, our goal will never be achieved if Bangladeshi musicians do not get an opportunity to perform for discerning audiences outside the country. ITC SRA has extended its support in facilitating the participation of selected Bangladeshi musicians on important platforms across India. Bengal Foundation is extending its range of scholarships to include the participation of young talents keen to train in classical music. In February next year we are organising the biggest festival of Bangla gaan in Kolkata to showcase the wealth of Bangladeshi musicians, with the support of ITC SRA.

It is important to be able to dream and dream big. Many visions may never be realised but the capacity to reach out for something big and wonderful for my country never ceases to amaze me.

Abul Khair

Chairman, Bengal Foundation



চট্টগ্রাম মিউজিক কনফারেন্স

তিরিশের দশকের শেষের দিকে আর্যসংগীত বিদ্যাপীঠের উদ্যোগে চট্টগ্রামে প্রথম সংগীত সম্মেলন অনুষ্ঠিত হয়। চিটাগাং মিউজিক কনফারেন্সের কথা সারা উপমহাদেশে ছড়িয়ে পড়েছিল। চট্টগ্রামের বিখ্যাত সংগীতব্যক্তিত্ব সুরেন্দ্রলাল দাস ছিলেন এই সম্মেলনের প্রধান উদ্যোক্তা। উপমহাদেশের নানা প্রদেশ থেকে এই সম্মেলনে সব বিখ্যাত সংগীতজ্ঞ ও ওস্তাদ যোগ দিয়েছিলেন। এই কনফারেন্সে অসাধারণ সংগীত পরিবেশন করে সংগীতাচার্য তারাপদ চক্রবর্তী ভারতে বিখ্যাত হয়েছিলেন। এই মহাসম্মেলনে ওসত্মাদ ফৈয়াজ খাঁও অংশগ্রহণ করেছিলেন।


বাহাদুর হোসেন খাঁ ১৯৩৩-১৯৮৯

বাহাদুর হোসেন খাঁ ছিলেন বিখ্যাত ওসত্মাদ আয়েত আলী খাঁর পুত্র। তাঁর জন্ম ব্রাহ্মণবাড়িয়ার শিবপুরে। উপমহাদেশের অন্যতম শ্রেষ্ঠ সরোদিয়া হিসেবে তিনি সর্বজনস্বীকৃত। ভারতে বহু সংগীত সম্মেলনে সংগীত নিবেদন করে উচ্চ প্রশংসা লাভ করেন। চীনের প্রাক্তন প্রধানমন্ত্রী চৌ এন লাই তাঁর সংগীতের ভূয়সী প্রশংসা করেছিলেন। ওসত্মাদ বাহাদুর হোসেন খাঁ কেবল সরোদিয়াই ছিলেন না, তিনি উচ্চ শ্রেণীর সুরকার হিসেবেও সুনাম অর্জন করেছিলেন। মেঘে ঢাকা তারা, তিতাস একটি নদীর নাম, অযান্ত্রিক, গরম হাওয়া ইত্যাদি চলচ্চিত্রে সুরারোপ করেন।