• Sunday, December 21, 2014

Freedom in the air

ODE TO HOLUD BANDS

Arman R. Khan

Winter: that time of the year in Bangladesh when weddings are as abundant as the recent series of blockades and strikes. Being a festive population, we take matrimony to the next level and make it a week-long affair, if not more, what with the 'holud' (bride), the other 'holud' (groom), wedding ceremony, and finally the 'boubhat' (reception). In some cases, there are separate 'mehendi' nights and 'qawwali' nights too. And these programmes come with their own set of festivities.
Take the holuds for example. More people attend holuds to dance than to actually participate in the holud (turmeric) applying session. I've attended a few weddings where there were multiple segments to entertain the different types of guests: choreographed dances to catchy Bollywood songs at the beginning, band performance for when the bride/groom is actually being gently marinated with turmeric paste, and finally an after-party for the “organisers”, when the DJ drops the beat and all hell breaks loose. Entire essays can be written on the rehearsed dance sessions and the after party. But let's talk about the band performances now.
Unfortunately, our generation's idea of a band does not agree with that of whoever arranges the holud-bands. Neither do these bands resemble those that Hollywood portrays; nor do they wear tux, play violin, saxophone or cello. They are a different breed of musicians altogether, and a much underappreciated one at that.
One thing I've noticed is that these bands arrive fashionably early; not that they want to look overly eager, but because they ARE overly eager to play in front of a crowd and get paid for it. They've practiced many contemporary Bangla and Hindi songs especially for the occasion; you got to give them credit where it's due. And speaking of their songs, have you noticed their fantastic song selection? From all the songs out there, they handpick the catchiest ones. “Krishno” (Habib) and “Nitol Paye” (Fuad) are constants around which all holud programmes must revolve. They do this to keep the crowd entertained. But instead of listening to the music, the guests are rather busy devouring the third plate of kacchi. And so the band plays heartbreaking songs like “Keno Ei Nisshongota?” to irritate those partaking in the happy occasion.
Immediately after you're done eating and you sit down to enjoy some music, the band takes a short break, and it's their turn to devour kacchi. They don't do it on purpose, of course; it's a ritual. That is how it has been and that is how it will be. The band resumes for two or three more songs as the guests start leaving. That means it's time for the DJ to take the stage, so the band bids farewell, but by then, nobody is listening any more. Satisfied with their full stomachs, the band members wrap up and leave in slow-mo, savouring their private concerting experience.
Individually, they are budding musicians, or avid music lovers at the very least. But due to a lack of proper guidance or platform, their talents (or the lack thereof) have to be bound to holud programmes and such, where neither are they appreciated, nor really heard. All they end up becoming in the occasion is a filler with ear-splitting decibel levels. I hope they get their Big Break some day, for after all, these holud-bands are pretty entertaining.


Published: 12:00 am Sunday, January 26, 2014

Last modified: 11:34 pm Sunday, January 26, 2014

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