Lalon at the orchestra?
The title is bound to raise some eyebrows. For most of us, the average Bengali orchestra music is strictly "Western", or represented by hallmarks of Beethoven or Mozart.
There is no harm in thinking that this form of music is derived from western culture, and that western composers of the past and present have dominated the orchestral halls. However, that is a gross underestimation of the potential powers of the orchestra. In the 21st century, it has been argued that the orchestra has the power to provide a unique perspective for various types of music from all over the world.
The folk music of our country truly embodies the essence of the spirit and the expression of this land. It depicts the true identity of our roots by virtue of its richness of sound and the lyrics.
We listen to folk music everyday; on our radio and television in the city and on the fields and on the rivers of rural Bengal. However, from a purely musical perspective, very little experimentation has been done with these songs, since they came into being.
The idea to present the folk music of our country in a western orchestra is not only to encourage people to perform the music, but also to attain a wider worldwide audience reach, which this music deserves but rarely enjoys. The Classical Music Academy of Dhaka took up the project of arranging this music in orchestral form and using other western instruments.
The Classical Music Academy of Dhaka, established in January 2010, is an organization dedicated to the learning, performing and teaching of western classical music in Dhaka. It was featured in The Daily Star almost a decade ago in 2012, when it was established as the first chamber orchestra in the country.
Since 2018, the Academy has taken up a project to arrange, improvise and perform the folk music of Bangladesh for orchestra, and solo classical guitar. This has sparked interest among people at home and abroad to come forward to participate in performing these pieces. From the beginning, alongside teaching, the director of CMA has been working on transcription writing and experimentation with various arrangements of traditional songs which are now being played. This project has become one of the key experiments of this Academy and along with its international friends, the Academy aims to bring out new colours from these songs and celebrate the cultural diversity in the interpretation of our folk music.
In the difficult times of the pandemic, they have come together, along with a handful of musicians from all over the world in an online platform to perform and to record several of their arranged pieces. These include many popular well known pieces like "Barir Kacher Arshi Nagar" and "Emon Manob Jonom" by Fakir Lalon Shah. They have also performed and recorded pieces for solo classical guitar, which include National Anthem of Bangladesh, "Amar Shonar Moyna Pakhi" by Osman Khan and "Sua Chan Pakhi" by Rashid Uddin.
They plan to present songs, such as "Amar Haar Kala" by Jasim Uddin, "Amrito Megher Bari" by Lalon, "Shyam Jodi Hoto Mathar kash" by Syed Shahnoor at their orchestra in the near future. This music will be performed by artists from Bangladesh, the United States, Mexico, Brazil, Panama, Germany, England and NorthCyprus.
Today, they are determined more than ever to work together to arrange and add more pieces to their repertoire and present them to a greater audience around the globe. If you are a music lover, listening to their work may give you a new perspective on the music you perform or listen to.
Visit the Classical Music Academy of Dhaka's YouTube page to listen to their work.