<%-- Page Title--%> Perspective <%-- End Page Title--%>

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 142 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

February 21, 2004

<%-- Navigation Bar--%>
<%-- Navigation Bar--%>

Bangla Fusion
The Future of the Bangali Identity

Srabonti Narmeen Ali

On February 21, 1952 people from then known as East Pakistan united to establish Bangla as an official language. The movement demonstrated such pride and love for language that, in 1999, the UNESCO declared this day International Mother Language Day. The determination of Bangali people, not only became a universal phenomenon, but also set an example for cultures all over the world.

Today, over fifty years later, that same determination and pride is somewhat missing. The lack of pride in our culture and language is evident in many aspects in our society, most noticeably in the music that we listen to. With the onslaught of Bollywood Film maska chaska, Hindi pop, and Western hip hop and alternative rock beats, Rabindra Sangeet, Nazrul Geeti and folk music are almost lost and forgotten names in a culture which, not too long ago, prided itself on its musical acumen.

Although our music is not dying, its population is wearing thin. There is something about old Bangla music that does not appeal to the younger generation as much.

"Bangla music introduced new trends and style up until the 1960's," says a Rabindra Sangeet singer from the older generation. "However, in the 90's, it did not catch up with the innovations and technical finesse that Western music or even Bollywood music introduced. It still is the kind of music that can touch your soul and connect you to nature instantaneously. However, with the modern trend of music becoming a collective art, Bangla music still remains individualistic. This is perhaps why it fails to sustain the interest of the younger generation."

"The music that my parents listen to is really melodious, but it is kind of boring," says Sharmee, a college student. "My parents are always telling me that I should be more involved in my own culture and stop listening to Hindi songs, but Hindi songs are so catchy. It's the same with Western songs, there is just something about them that makes you listen. I wish Bangla musicians would get the clue."

Fortunately for Sharmee, musicians in Bangladesh are "getting a clue." The younger generation is now realising that to keep their musical heritage, it may be necessary to innovate techniques and create the kind of music that will capture universal appeal. At the risk of losing what some old school musicians call the originality of Bangla music, fusion music in Bangladesh incorporates a new style of music along with the language and flavour of Bengal.

Taking their cue from their Bangladeshi counterparts in the UK (such as State of Bengal and Joy, who specialize in Drum and Bass music with a Bangali twist), musicians such as those of Bangla and Habib have taken Dhaka city by storm with their music.

Bangla, Bangladesh's new phenomena, is known for its integration of Baul music and the ektaara in their compositions. Their second album Kinkortobbo Bimorho, features a lot of Lalon Shongit, a sub-category of Baul music. Habib, on the other hand, focuses on a more drum and bass style, with songs like Krishno, the title track on his first album.

"Bangla has set certain standards for fusion music in Bangladesh, by mixing Lalon music and making it accessible to the mass population," says Ashiq, a fan of Bangla. "I love Anushe's voice and Buno's compositions. They are all talented in their own way."

"In terms of Habib, his music has more western fusion music in it. It sounds a lot like A.R. Rahman."

A fan of A.R. Rahman, Habib is interested in promoting Bangla music not just in the global sense, but also to bring it back home.

"It's hard to say if Bangla fusion music will make it abroad," he says. "At the end of the day, the lyrics are still in Bangla, so how would people who didn't speak or understand the language be able to appreciate it?"

For Habib, the real music of Bangladesh is folk music. "I want to make music for the masses, and the masses are familiar with the folk style," he says. "For me, this is what defines Bangla music."

Whatever the definition of Bangla music is, fusion music in Bangladesh is slowly reviving Bangla culture in the hearts of the younger generation -- the generation that our parents thought had lost all love for their people. There is hope, yet. The feeling of singing in one's mother tongue is unparallel to singing in any other. For a culture that has sacrificed so much to make its language heard and acknowledged, fusion music comes as a sort of dark knight in rusting armour. Although it is not an exact copy of the original, it is formed around the basics, therefore keeping alive the Bangla pride that our people are now globally acclaimed for.



(C) Copyright The Daily Star. The Daily Star Internet Edition, is published by The Daily Star