Swaying to the symphonies

For the last four years, the final Thursday of November has marked a special occasion. The festival that began in 2012 with anticipation and cynicism — of whether the Bangladeshi audience was ready for the highest form of classical music, in a stadium setting, spanning all night — has dispelled all doubts to become the biggest event of classical music in the world.

The fifth edition of the Bengal Classical Music Festival opened in the capital last night, as Dhaka braced itself for unforgettable performances by the world’s biggest stars of Indian Classical Music.

The festival opened with a vibrant dance presentation by noted Bangladeshi dancer-choreographer Sharmila Banerjee’s troupe, Nritya Nandan.


The iconic Vidushi Girija Devi delivers a memorable performance at the Bengal Classical Music Festival in the capital’s Army Stadium last night. Photo: Sheikh Mehedi Morshed

The 60-member group presented a set of dance pieces demonstrating various classical dance forms — Manipuri, Odissi, Kathak and Bharatnatyam — in a set titled “Robi Karokajjol Nrityomalika”.

A flute and violin jugalbandi performance followed, by two festival debutants — accomplished flautist Pravin Godkhindi and violinist Ratish Tagde. Their performance of the melancholic Maru Bihag and the melodious, uplifting Hansadhwani set the mood for the audience.

The opening ceremony followed, with Finance Minister AMA Muhith formally inaugurating the festival. Also present at the ceremony were Cultural Affairs Minister Asaduzzaman Noor, Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Harsh Vardhan Shringla, Square Pharmaceuticals MD Tapan Chowdhury, BRAC Bank Ltd MD and CEO Selim RF Hossain and Bengal Foundation Chairman Abul Khair.

“Some 80% of the audience at this festival comprises the youth, and that is a bright sign for Bangladesh’s future,” Muhith said in his address.

The festival’s senior-most artiste this year, the iconic 87-year old Vidushi Girija Devi then performed a khyal in Raga Jogkauns, followed by a romantic thumri on Mishra Khamaj, and a tappa from Punjab, in her signature style.

Ustad Aashish Khan, the son of the legendary Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, gave his first performance at his ancestral homeland on the sarod.

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