Arshi Nagar: A platform for folk singers
Arshi Nagar Bangladesh, a platform for promoting folk songs and folk singers, is located at LGED Road in Lalmonirhat town. The organisation's network extends to villages in Lalmonirhat and Kurigram districts where it runs 17 folk song training centres called “Guru Griho” and four training centres for practising traditional music instruments named “Guru Griho Music Instrument Training Centre”.
Around 1200 students at school and college levels have learnt to play folk songs and musical instruments at these centres. Many have been enlisted as folk singers at the local radio and television stations. Some of them have received national awards, while local awards are common.
Folk singer and dotara player Ovisek Sarker, 13, said that he won two national awards in 2014 and 2016. “Arshi Nagar runs Guru Griho and teaches me to embellish my skills on the dotara,” he said. Sharifa Akhter, 18, a folk singer said, “We get support from Arshi Nagar for education, health, food and even attires.”
Folksong artiste Rehana Khatun, 19, said, that in the absence of Arshi Nagar they would never have become folk artistes as they would have lived in penury. “Now we are known as folk singers, and many of us are brilliant in our line,” she added.
Most of the folk artistes at these Guru Griho centres belong to under privileged families. The donor is a senior Norwegian citizen, Werather, addressed as mother by all artistes at Guru Griho. Werather visits Arshi Nagar Bangladesh's Guru Griho centres and exchanges perspectives with artistes once a year.
Arshi Nagar Bangladesh has archived about 100 archaic music instruments from elderly folk singers at remote villages, and the organisation still collects these instruments. This organisation has already archived over 3,000 extinct folksongs to keep them alive for the next generation.
Founder and the executive director of Arshi Nagar Bangladesh, Badsha Alam said, “If the present generation gets engaged, they will hand it over to the next generation.” He added that he has invested personally to promote folk songs and artistes.
Alam is however concerned that some extremist elements are bent on throwing hurdles in the way of Arshi Nagar Bangladesh as they don't want a platform that researches and preserves folksongs. “I was under the direct threat several times in the last few years, but that didn't derail me from my dream of nurturing folk songs and folk song artistes,” he said. “I want to build an institution that will keep alive the folk songs and produce future artistes but due to the lack of financial support, I face hurdles and don't know how to fulfil this dream,” he said.