Coke Studio Bangla Concert: The night music won against pessimism
Let us address the elephant in the room first: Coke Studio Bangla is obviously an elaborate advert for Coca Cola. It does not take a genius to come to that conclusion, the enormous Coca Cola logo on top of the stage at Army Stadium yesterday should be enough of a 'hint'.
That being said, what the platform has done to re-ignite interest in our local scene is admirable, only exemplified by thousands of people showing up in droves in Bangladesh Army Stadium yesterday, despite an entire day of incessant rain.
The wait was tense for a variety of reasons: a virtual battlefield spawned on social media during the time that the concert's fate was left to the Almighty, with many taking to social media to laugh at the misery of people like us, who had waited in adverse weather despite rumours of cancellation. Others made memes while some protested, and bizarre 'counter-protests' ensued, where the "anything can be made fun of" philosophy was preached by people claiming to be flag-bearers of humour.
I mentally exited the social media clown-show the moment I entered the venue, where a wonderful effort was made to re-construct the stage after it was partially ruined by the storm. The bedazzlement was pieced together when Arnob & Co got up on stage to sing their original promo for this season of Coke Studio Bangla: a mashup of Rabindranath Tagore's "Ekla Cholo Re", Gagan Harkara's "Ami Kothaye Paabo Tare" and Shironamhin's "Abar Hashimukh".
From that moment onwards, the crowd ate it all up. Logistically, it was not unlike any other concert – sound engineers failing to give proper references to the musicians on their monitors, artistes repeatedly asking to adjust volumes, or having to haggle about where the spotlight should be. It took a few performances until the various outputs could balance each other.
The people who dealt with sound dealt with highly altered circumstances, having to accomodate the original 40-channel output in 32 channels. Considering that, they truly did the best that they could.
None of that seemed to matter to the crowd because emotionally, they were all invested in having a great time, singing along not only with Arnob, Animes Roy, Boga Taleb, Ritu Raj, Nandita, Momotaz Begum and Mizan, but also vibing with Jalali Set's verses and even singing along to flute maestro Jalal Ahmed's rendition of "Nithua Pathare".
This is when you knew that if something positive came out of the rain, it was the fact that only the most dedicated of music lovers made it a point to stay till the very end, in this case surpassing midnight.
All of the performances were cut short. Tahsan took the crowd through a brief detour through memory lane with "Irsha" and "Alo," the crowd joyously took over "Kobe" from Nemesis, Band Lalon did two versions of "Pagol Chara Duniya Chole Na", first the Coke Studio version with Sumi and Jalali Set, the latter one being their original hit. Warfaze and Nagar Baul's performances proved that the legends, after decades of performances, still haven't lost an inch.
The tragedy of the event, in my opinion, is when up-and-coming bands Arekta Rock Band and Introit did not get to perform. My heart goes out to the band-members, who I am sure will bounce back like the champions that they are.
When it is all said and done, many won't remember the myriad of technical difficulties over the fact that the organisers, after a lot of back and forth, decided to move ahead with the show. The immense number of workarounds and plan changes was understandably visible in execution, immediately overlooked by a generous and passionate crowd. Coke Studio Concert will be remembered as the time that an entire day of pessimism and online trolling lost to a bunch of stubborn musicians.