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      Volume 10 |Issue 05 | February 04, 2011 |


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Touching Base with the Soul

Syed Badrul Ahsan

There are times, always, when you need to make your way back to the culture you were born in. And with that comes that essentiality of knowing your history. Together these two constituents of your personality are a huge reminder to you of the heritage which is yours, no matter where you may be and despite all the crosscurrents of global culture you might have become steeped in. It was these sentiments that drew me to the Matir Pinjira show, verily a touching of base with Bangladesh's ethos, last week. I know I should have been there much earlier than the twilight hour. Even so, something of a good feeling rose somewhere within me as I heard Mustafa Zaman Abbasi regale the already electrified crowd with his witticisms before he plunged into that whole river of folk songs. You have to admit . . . there is something of creative ebullience in the man, a charm that comes naturally to him. He sang and then spoke and made people laugh with his humour, with him.

And that is what life ought to be like. Everything serious we embark upon must come on a platter bubbling over with wit and humour, sometimes of the self-deprecatory sort. Abbasi soared in his rendition of the familiar songs, something which Nashid Kamal must have done as well (she had departed the stage before I could make my way to the venue at Charukala). Abbasi bantered with the largely young audience, quipped on historical episodes, the eventual purpose being to draw attention to the kurta he had on. It was a gift from Bahadur Shah Zafar, he said mischievously. We roared with laughter. And then we positively doubled over, at least I did, when the Gombhira bit got going. Sadya Afreen Mallick was in a clear state of the soulful, clapping all the way through the songs, the Gombhira and all the others. Ah, the Gombhira! How does such a huge dose of humour come into such a serious demonstration of folklore?

Photo: Zahedul I Khan

Indra Mohon Rajbongshi was in his element, as always. His songs take you through the contours of time, all the way to the mystical. I sat there, as evening gave way to night, and imagined the primordial river along which the timeless traveler sings of Creation, of the cosmic bounties we pass through, we touch, every day, not knowing that we pass, not knowing that figurative tactility. Creation, of course, is diversity, is life and experience in their myriad forms. Which is why it was enlightening, in that musical sense of the meaning, taking in the melody that Chittagong has produced through time. It was dialect you did not follow all the way through. But the essence you did not miss. Love has its own language. You feel it, in moonlight and in the scorching heat of the desert.

Rhythm was all. And rhythm, with that big dash of the spiritual, was what came aplenty from Rinku. He took you on a journey through the stars. The voice rose and then rose and then shot all the way into spaces where you think the gods reside in all their ancient and pristine glory. This was a young man, a strapping one at that. If he did not sing, you would not know the powerhouse that he was, and will be for years to come. Was I enthralled by the range and depth of his voice, by its sheer ability to touch the heavens? Let me stay away from answering that question. There are queries to which the answers are self-evident, in their clarity of the misty sublime. That baul mon was mine, was yours, as much as it was Rinku's.

There is the soul in the soil. On that night of rural splendour sanctified by melody coming down the ages, it was the voice of the country you heard. Matir Pinjira, the cage fashioned out of clay, was a whole lot more than what came through in its literal meaning. That life is grounded to earth, that the soul carries the pounding beats of the heart upward through cloud and rain and into the fathomless beyond, that in death our understanding of life acquires deeper shades of meaning were the lessons that came down to you, drop by patient drop, on that evening of surefire energy.

You were in the company of Lalon. There was Chumki in all her grandeur. And you were with Hason Raja. In the gathering silence of the city, Shefali's profundity played on the strings of the heart. No, you were too late to hear Akramul Islam take you into a state of torpor with nesha lagilo re. But you hummed the song all the way home. You came a little closer to the meaning of the universe.



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