Bengal Classical Music Festival 2016, Bangladesh
Organised by Bengal Foundation and presented by Square
Dedicated to the memory of Syed Shamsul Haq
Monday October 24, 2016
Westin Hotel, Dhaka
Bengal Foundation is proud to present the fifth edition of the Bengal Classical Music Festival, commencing on November 24, 2016. Over the last four years, the festival has become globally recognised as the greatest of its kind in terms of quality and magnitude. The five-day long festival this year is dedicated to the memory of versatile author and our dear friend Syed Shamsul Haq (1935-2016).
In light of recent events, there was some uncertainty whether it would be feasible to organise a festival of such proportions at this time. However, recognising the significance and prestige of a national classical music event, the Government organised an inter-ministerial meeting last month where different government bodies expressed keen interest and guaranteed their support for our effort. Our ultimate source of encouragement is of course the general public, whose active encouragement finally emboldened us to launch the fifth Bengal Classical Music Festival.
The festival will take place from November 24 through November 28 from 7 PM to 5 AM at the Dhaka Army Stadium. As always, different genres of sub-continental classical music and dance will be presented to the public on these nights.
Bengal Foundation: Our Story
Bengal Foundation aims to uphold the cultural heritage of Bangladesh and to introduce a new dimension to the contemporary cultural dynamics of our nation. We cultivate and support practices and efforts aligned with this goal. We aspire to enrich popular taste, lifestyle and mind-sets through diverse forms of creative expression.
We began our journey with the arts back in 1987, culminating in the introduction of the first Classical Music Festival in 2012. It all began with an idea. Abul Khair, the Chair of Bengal Foundation wondered whether something as complex as classical music could reach the hearts of the average audience through the right presentation. He envisioned an event where classical music would be presented in a large-scale festive ambience open for all, dispelling its elitist image.
Many of the maestros of classical music in the sub-continent who were seminal in enriching the tradition locally and reaching the hearts and minds of people globally — Allauddin Khan, Ali Akbar Khan, Uday Shankar, Ravi Shankar, Ayet Ali Khan, Vilayat Khan — are all connected to Bengal through family ties. In 2012, we launched the festival with the conviction that a regular classical music event would revive our heritage and enrich popular taste in music.
Exposure to the unfathomable depth and vast expanse of classical music is a humbling, yet enriching experience. Immersion into its acute sensibility awakens our spirit, fostering humane values and compassion. It is with the solemn pledge to embrace our humanity that we have embarked on our journey to bring you the Bengal Classical Music Festival for the fifth time.
Our experience in the last five years tells us that popular interest in classical music has been rising steadily. Our audience has not only stood out in numbers, their capacity to appreciate and concentrate in the subtleties of classical music has also broadened. We must confess that back in 2012, we never expected that this kind of music would attract such crowds. Perhaps it was a lack of tasteful entertainment in the city, or the desire to sight musical celebrities and to experience live performances, or even plain old curiosity that brought such numbers to the festival grounds. No matter what the initial motivation was, it is undeniable that the desire to explore the vastness and grandeur of classical music has taken seed in the hearts our people.
Bengal Classical Music Festival in Retrospect
– In 2011, we decided to collaborate with ITC Sangeet Research Academy (SRA) to organise classical music events. In February, performances by SRA’s Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty and Vidushi Girija Devi were staged in Dhaka and by Pandit Arun Bhaduri in Mymensingh.
– In 2012, the Bengal-ITC SRA Classical Music festival was organised for the very first time. It was a pioneering event of its kind, spanning four days and featuring numerous classical music luminaries. The festival introduced free online registration for access. Attended by 70,000 people, it featured a special exhibition showcasing the heritage of classical music in Bangladesh.
The Bengal Parampara Sangeetalay to educate musicians in the Gurukul tradition was announced at the festival. Plans were made to organise large-scale events in India featuring Bangladeshi musicians and a grand music festival on a yearly basis.
– In February 2013, a nine-day long celebration of Bangla music featuring 52 Bangladeshi musicians took place in Kolkata, jointly organised by Bengal Foundation and ITC SRA.
– In 2013, Square Group presented the second Bengal Classical Music Festival. Almost 100,000 people attended the event in spite of political volatility.
– In 2014, the festival was extended to five days with the sponsorship of BRAC Bank. This time, more than 150,000 people participated and guidelines for the collection of news were introduced. The Bengal Parampara Sangeetalay began its journey and Bengal Foundation participated in WOMAX (World Music Expo), courtesy of Blues Communications.
– In 2015, the festival was rebranded with a redesigned logo. Although the festival went on through the night, restrictions were imposed on registration, entry and exit due to heightened security standards.
– 2016 saw the launch of a pre-festival experimental workshop led by an expert instructor for musicians from outside Dhaka city. This year the workshop venue will be Khulna. In August, an emerging musician from Bangladesh was nominated by Bengal to participate in the fifteen-day long South Asian Music Residency, at the bidding of the Goethe Institut.
On November 22-23, Bengal Foundation and Goethe Institut will jointly organise a meeting to investigate the development of a multi-media platform to document the diverse history of Bengali music and its current state, including important recordings, texts, field-recordings, teaching materials and other relevant documents. The goal of the meeting is to outline a framework in order to complete the work by mid-2017. Global experts have been invited to discuss the value of music, especially Bangladeshi music as intangible cultural wealth.
Starting this year, all of the music from the Bengal Foundation label will be digitally marketed in 25 countries across the globe through Orchard online sales platform.
Bengal Foundation has compiled a collection of lectures and demonstrations on classical music appreciation for the benefit of music aficionados, general audience and students alike. These will be available to festival attendees in DVD form.
The Bengal Classical Music Festival website www.bengalclassicalmusicfest.com will be inaugurated this year. We hope that the information and media from the past four events and detailed information about this year’s festival featured on this site will appeal to researchers and new audiences.
– In the second half of February 2017, a ten-day long Bengali Cultural Festival will be staged in Sylhet.
The Significance of the Festival
1. The sustained success of the well-organised festival and its world-class presentation has enhanced the image of Bangladesh in the global arena. The festival has received rave reviews from international print and online media and effusive praise from audiences home and abroad. For the last couple of years, the festival has firmly established itself as one of the leading global events of classical music in terms of the length and breadth of the program as well as the quality and quantity of attendees.
2. Over the years, the festival has emerged as an eagerly awaited national event with a distinctive character. It has captured popular imagination with its unique offering of diverse classical music. Artists, apprentices and masters of classical music also consider the festival to be an unparalleled effort.
3. The festival has been graced by the participation of many established as well as emerging classical musicians and their foray into diverse horizons of the genre. The quality and sophistication of their presentation has sparked interest in classical music among our youth.
4. Young people form the majority of the festival audience. We take immense pride in the fact that performers have acknowledged our crowds as the best in the sub-continent for the appreciation of classical music. Every year, we have witnessed the number of attendees going up, reaching the height of 150,000 at the last edition.
5. We have also experienced a rise in the number of Bangladeshi performers. More than 200 Bangladeshi artists have presented their performance side by side with global musical luminaries on our grand stage. In 2012, 10 Bangladeshi artists performed, 30 in 2013, 50 in 2014, 84 in 2015, and finally 165 are poised to shine at this year’s festival.
6. Over the past four years, our audience has had the privilege of experiencing first-hand the performance of legendary artists like Girija Devi, Amjad Ali Khan, Birju Maharaj, Dr. Balamurali Krishna, Kishori Amonkar, Hariprasad Chaurasia, Shivkumar Sharma, Ali Ahmed Hussain, Parveen Sultana, Swapan Choudhuri, Radha and Raja Reddy, Shahid Parvez Khan, Ulhas Kashalkar, Rais Khan, Ajoy Chakrabarty, Dr. N Rajam, Rashid Khan, Zakir Hussain, Rajan and Sajan Misra, Alarmel Valli, Malavika Sarukkai, Bombay Jayashri, Karaikudi Mani, Shubha Mudgal, and Shujaat Khan, among others.
Bengal Classical Music Festival Bangladesh, 2016
The fifth Bengal Classical Music Festival will bring you a stellar selection of classical performances. The festival will feature the illustrious Vidushi Girija Devi. In her musical career of almost seventy years, this artist of the Banaras gharana has crafted her unique creative expression of khayal, thumri and tappa infused with the ‘Poorab’ flare. She has been decorated with the Padma Vibushan award in 2016, the highest accolade of the Indian government.
Ustad Allauddin Khan, the founder of the Senia Maihar gharana and a legendary figure in Indian raga music, was born in Shibpur, Brahmanbaria in Bangladesh. His son, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan is a globally acclaimed sarodist. His son and Ustad Allauddin Khan’s grandson, Ustad Aashish Khan will be performing in Bangladesh for the first time ever at the festival. He has trained with his grandfather, father and aunt Annapurna Devi. He will be on stage on the first day of the festival, accompanied by the renowned tabla artist, Pandit Bickram Ghosh.
Collaborative presentations by new artists will certainly be a new attraction this year. Jasrangi is a novel form of jugalbandi, developed by Pandit Jasraj where a male and a female vocalist sing different ragas simultaneously. Vidushi Ashwini Bhide of Jaipur-Atrauli gharana and Pandit Sanjeev Abhyankar of Mewati gharana will be performing Jasrangi at the festival.
Padma Bhushan Dr. L Subramaniam is a virtuoso violinist equally dexterous in both western classical and Carnatic styles. He has a nomination for the prestigious Grammy awards, and has performed with the crème de la crème of global composers and conductors. This year, Dr. Subramaniam is the final performer of the first night.
The illustrious Vidushi Madhavi Mudgal will take the stage with her disciple Arushi Mudgal with their outstanding presentation of Odissi dance.
Many of the phenomenal performers from previous years will be reappearing at this year’s festival, namely Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, Pandit Shivkumar Sharma and his son Rahul Sharma (of Wah Taj! fame), Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty, Pandit Ulhas Kashalkar, Ustad Rashid Khan, Pandit Kushal Das, Pandit Tejendra Narayan Majumdar and Pandit Uday Bhawalkar.
We will also have the privilege of witnessing the performances of Padma Bhushan Dr. Prabha Atre, an illustrious vocalist of the Kirana gharana, Tabalia Pandit Anindo Chatterjee of the Farukhabad gharana and his son Anubrata Chatterjee, as well as sitarist Pandit Sanjoy Bandopadhyay. Pravin Godkhindi and Ratish Tagde will present a flute/violin duet while Pandit Yogesh Shamsi and Pandit Shubhankar Banerjee will present their duet on tabla.
Mandolin will be on the menu for the first time. A flute and mandolin duet will be brought to us by Grammy nominee Pandit Ronu Majumdar and U Rajesh, brother of eminent mandolin-artist, the late U Srinivas.
Purbayan Chatterjee will be mesmerising the audience with his sitar. We will also see Carnatic vocalists, sisters Ranjini and Gayatri, flautist Shashank Subramanyam, khayalia Arati Ankalikar, as well as vocalists Jayateerth Mevundi and Kumar Mardur.
The most seasoned performer at the festival is 87 year old Vidushi Girija Devi and the youngest is Ishrat Phuljhuri Khan at just seven years old. She is the granddaughter of esraj artist Ustad Yaar Rasul Khan (aka Phulkhuri Khan), who was born in Nabinagar, Comilla in 1912. He learned to play the tabla from Baba Allauddin Khan and then the esraj from Ustad Ayet Ali Khan. He was adorned by the epithet ‘phuljhuri’ after his magical tabla performance at the Maihar royal court where he accompanied Ustad Allauddin Khan on the sarod. He also visited Santiniketan for a while. Rabindranath Tagore developed a fondness for his accompaniment on the esraj. In 1951, Phuljhuri Khan joined Dhaka Radio. Ishrat’s uncle Yousuf Khan is an eminent sarod artist of Bangladesh.
Bengal Parampara Sangeetalay
An essential aspiration underlying the Bengal Classical Music Festival is the enrichment of Bangla musical tradition as the mainstay of Bengali culture. It is imperative that vocalists and accompanists are classically trained for the enrichment of Bangla music.
In 2012, Bengal Foundation announced the Bengal Parampara Sangeetalay for classical training. It opened its doors in 2014, providing classical training to talented musicians in the gurukul style free of cost. Among the faculty, we are proud to have Pandit Ulhas Kashalkar in khayal, Pandit Suresh Talwalkar in tabla, Pandit Tejendra Narayan Majumdar in sarod, Pandit Kushal Das in sitar and Pandit Uday Bhawalkar in dhrupad. Government Music College faculty Professor Shamima Parvin, Yousuf Khan, Ustad Shahadat Hossain Khan and Feroz Khan have been acting as advisors, as have been Dr. Asit Roy from Rajshahi University, Rezwan Ali from Jagannath University, and Priyanka Gope from Dhaka University. The Sangeetalay started out with khayal, dhrupad and tabla with the addition of sitar and sarod last year. This year, 21 students have earned certificates from the Sangeetalay in different disciplines.
The intense concentration necessary for the mastery of classical music does not come easily in today’s chaotic and fast paced world. However, it is undeniable that young musicians in Bangladesh possess the awareness and talent that are preconditions for excellence in classical music; there is perhaps room for improvement in practice and perseverance. We hope that with sustained effort, world-class young performers will emerge from Bangladesh in a few years. After the Sangeetalay was founded, only one student presented khayal in the 2014 festival. In 2015, there was another khayal and a dhrupad presentation. Eight tabla students also delivered an impressive performance that year. This year, we are proud to present five tabla students, seven sitar and twelve sarod players from our school on different days of the festival. It is a testament to the talent and hard work of instructors and students alike that the school has multiplied the number of students qualified to take on the festival stage.
Some of our most accomplished students from the Bengal Parampara Sangeetalay, namely Mehrin Alam, Ashish Narayan Sharkar, T M Selim Reza, Nishith Dey, Shyama Dey, Jyoti Bannerjee, Proshenjit Mandal, Ahmed Imtiaz Humayun, Khandkar Nazmus Sakib, Rinko Chandra Das, Jahangir Alam Sraban and Mohammad Kawsar will be performing at the press conference announcing the festival. They will be accompanied by Supantho Majumdar and Proshanta Bhoumik on tabla, with guru Pandit Kushal Das as composer and orchestrator.
Participation of Bangladeshi Musicians
This year, 165 musicians from Bangladesh will be participating at the festival. In the inauguration ceremony, Sharmila Banerjee’s troupe Nrityanandan will be performing Manipuri, Bharatnatyam, Odissi and Kathak dances to Tagore songs, composed and directed by her. Munmun Ahmed and her troupe will perform Kathak on the fourth night of the festival. Notable vocalist Priyanka Gope will be delivering a solo khayal performance and directing her students from Dhaka University in a group performance. On the second night, Mohammed Shoeb’s students will be presenting an experimental raga performance. Bengal Parampara Sangeetalay students will be participating on different days of the festival, playing the sitar, sarod and tabla.
The honourable Finance Minister of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh Abul Mal Abdul Muhit, MP, will be inaugurating the festival. Furthermore, the honourable Asaduzzaman Noor, MP, Minister for Cultural Affairs, His Excellency Mr Harsh Vardhan Shringla, the High Commissioner of India, Mr. Anjan Chowdhury, Managing Director of Square Toiletries and Mr. Selim R F Hossain, Managing Director of BRAC Bank will be among special guests. Abul Khair, Chairman of Bengal Foundation will deliver the opening remarks.
Access to the Festival Grounds
1. The fifth Bengal Classical Music Festival will commence on Thursday November 24 and continue for five nights through Monday November 28, 2016 from 7 PM to 5 AM the next day.
2. As always, free entry passes must be collected via online registration. Registration will take place for a limited period of time in early November 2016.
3. The festival is open to all.
4. Those who are unable to access the internet may register in person at the Gyantapas Abdur Razzaq Bidyapeeth located at House 60, Road 7/A, Dhanmondi or at the Bengal Center, Plot 2. Civil Aviation Area, Khilkhet, Airport Road during the registration period.
5. Off-site registration will continue on the first two days of the festival and cease from the third day.
6. There will be no on-site registration on the festival grounds.
7. Every night, the gates will close at 1 AM.
8. There will be shuttle buses running on select routes from the Army Stadium in the morning.
9. Security standards will be heightened and strictly enforced for the benefit of all. We urge you for your kind cooperation in this regard. Additional time may be required for security checks. You are requested to arrive at the grounds well ahead of time to avoid long lines. Bags will not be allowed on the grounds. There will be no facilities to store bags at the grounds. A complete security check will be done at all gates. You are advised to carry photo ID. Professional cameras (with the exception of registered photographers), food, drinks, cigarettes or any other smoking aides will not be permitted.
10. No parking facilities will be available on festival grounds.
11. The Army Stadium authorities have recently renovated the stadium facilities. We hope the renovations will help us provide better service at the festival.
12. Press and media professionals will be able to collect news in accordance with relevant guidelines.
13. There will be wheelchairs available for the elderly and the differently abled, from the main entrance.
14. For updates, please consult:
The Bengal Classical Music Festival is organised by Bengal Foundation and presented by Square Group, and is supported by BRAC Bank Ltd. Maasranga Television is the broadcast partner and ICE Business Times is the media partner. Our hospitality partner is Radisson Hotel, Dhaka, and medical partner is Square Hospitals Ltd. Event management is provided by Blues Communications. The programme is organised in association with Bengal Digital, Mango and Bengal Parampara Sangeetalay. Our strategic partner is Perfect Harmony, Singapore.
A Note to Our Journalist Friends
We believe that the arts allows us to shun chaos and anarchy. We solemnly hope that you will be partners in our endeavour. The Bengal Classical Music Festival will succeed once more, only with your help and support.
Luva Nahid Choudhury
Sarwar Jahan Chowdhury