A Beautiful Portrait of Bangladesh
By C. Naseer Ahmad
Washington-based Embassy Series – a program aimed at uniting humanity through musical diplomacy – brought another memorable program to its list of achievements. His Excellency Ambassador Akramul Qader welcomed the enthusiastic audience in the magnificent auditorium of the Bangladesh Embassy – situated across the street from Pakistan Embassy. He spoke eloquently with love and peace for all humanity welcoming guests of different backgrounds whom love of music was the main attraction.
In its published program, Embassy Series described the evening as a “melodic portrait of Bangladesh”. A wonderful acoustic presentation of the culture, the folk songs and the people of Bangladesh was ably delivered by exceptional artists. And, Dr. Loius J. Reith’s concise words in the program, helped facilitate both a deeper understanding as well as enjoyment of spiritually uplifting music. “The Sitar .. is credited to Amir Khasrow, a great scholar and composer in the court of Allaudin Khilji in the 13 th century in North India,” he wrote. “The Tabla was created by Amir Khasrow in the 13 th century by dividing the older Indian drum the pakhwaj, in half,” Dr Reith added. About the music he wrote, “Very simply, the raag is a musical framework within which the performer composes and improvises.”
There was plenty of improvisation in the melodious raags. Every note of the sitar strings by renowned performer Alif Laila and the beat of the Tabla by Monir Hossain was heavenly for music lovers. Alif Laila described the historical background of each song by poet/composer Nazarul Islam before delivering it skillfully. With each song, both Alif Laila and Monir Hossain appeared to be immersed in the song’s spirituality.
“Alif Laila is one of the few internationally performing artists of today,” informed the Embassy Series program. She has performed in places like The Purcell Room, South Bank, London, The Smithsonian in Washington, Rubin Museum in New York, the Detroit Museum of Arts, the Clarence Smith Performing Arts Center, Maryland and the Harness Hall, Yale, New Haven. Alif Laila taught sitar at the University of Maryland and has received an “Award of Excellence” from Asha, a Washington-based women’s rehabilitation organization for her cultural contribution to the society. Her work has been featured on television in the US, the UK and other countries.
Monir Hossain hails from a family with rich musical traditions and was influenced at an early age by his father. Monir has established himself as a notable tabla performer in many settings – both solo as well as accompanying artists like Alif Laila. He taught tabla at the University of Pennsylvania as a guest lecturer and has performed in US as well as Canada. Besides his accomplishments as a musician, Monir has a successful career in engineering.
Warm feelings of kinship were expressed for Pakistan by the artists as well as embassy staff during the conversations over a sumptuous Bangladeshi buffet. “I have probably seen more of Pakistan, than many Pakistanis themselves,” said Brigadier General Moeen – the Defense Attaché. He spoke fondly of his training visit to various parts of Pakistan during 2004.
“My friend came to me With sadness in his eyes He told me that he wanted help Before his country dies,” sang Beattles singer George Harrison in the popular song Bangla Dhun. But long after his death, music and culture in Bangladesh is alive with every vibration of the sitar strings and the tabla drums.