Tuesday, March 21, 2006

from bangla-beat to afro-beat

Idris Rahman

“From Bangla-Beat to Afro Beat” was the title of a concert held at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London’s South bank Centre last Monday week to celebrate the musical heritage of Bangladesh. The concert was presented by Asia House, and the programme contained a message from the Bangladesh High Commissioner to the UK, Sabihuddin Ahmed, saying he hoped it would achieve its aim of “placing Bangladeshi music on the roster of mainstream performances in the UK.”

Runi Khan, who had the initial idea for the concert, said in her message in the programme that Bangladeshis, who comprise a significant portion of Britain’s Asian population, “are still best known for their curry houses and their rich musical heritage has had little sustainable exposure.” She hoped the concert would start to redress this situation.

The evening got off to an inspiring start with a pre-concert jazz recital, in the Queen Elizabeth Hall foyer, by the gifted jazz pianist Zoe Rahman and her clarinettist brother Idris who are of mixed Bangladeshi-English parentage. They gave wonderfully expressive and engaging performances in which they were accompanied by the lively Brazilian percussionist Anselmo Netto.

Award-winning Zoe’s second album, “Melting Pot” was released recently. Soothsayers, the band Idris leads, released its album “Tangled Roots” a few months ago. As a prelude to the “Bangla-Beat” concert, the recital included some Bengali material based on four songs by the singer and composer Hemant Mukherjee.

The “Bangla-Beat” concert was designed to cover a wide range of music, from traditional folk music and the music of the new generation in Bangladesh to collaborations between Bangladeshi, Asian and world musicians.

The first half of the concert featured Baul culture, declared last November by UNESCO as a national treasure. The Bauls are a mystical group of wandering faqirs who perform devotional songs accompanied by traditional string and percussive instruments.

The Baul performers were Abdur Rob Fakir and Shahjahan Munshi. Also on stage were members of the Ektaar All Stars. The young singer-songwriter Shayan Choudhury, known as Arnob, who is also an instrumentalist, composer, painter and music video maker, sang an appealing selection of songs. His debut solo album “Chaina Bhabish” was released last year.

The Ektaar line up also included Ektaar’s managing director Faisal Siddiqi (Bogey), as bass player and vocalist. He is the guitarist and vocalist of Renaissance, one of Bangladesh’s most established bands. On lead guitar was Al Fahmi Kazi Bashar, known as Kaartik, who plays lead guitar for the group Bangla. On vocals and percussion was Sahana Bajpaie, whose first solo album of songs by Tagore is due out soon.

The second half of the concert was given over to Bangladesh-born Kishon Khan, who grew up in London, and his new world fusion assembly of musicians called Lokkhi Terra. Khan played the piano and Rhodes electric piano. His line-up included more than a dozen performers, among them special guest Fazal Qureshi (second son of the late Ustadh Allarakha) on tabla, Pandit Dinesh on Indian percussion, and the young Pakistani flautist Haider Rahman. Other instruments included trombone, trumpet, cello, bass, guitar, drums and congas. Lokkhi Terra included two singers from Bangladesh, Armeen Musa and Aneire Khan.

Susannah Tarbush
Saudi Gazette March 21 2006

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