Now there’s only silence
It's a curious term. When you hear of a "band party", you know it's different from a musical band, although a band party accomplishes the same function: to provide entertainment through music.
This age-old, traditional group has been playing soundtracks for various events for close to a hundred years, from wedding events and birthdays to election campaigns.
In Old Dhaka's Aloobazar alone, there are four band parties carrying on with the craft, with over 100 artists associated with these troupes.
But for all the history and practitioners' passion, the form has been on the decline for years, especially in the aftermath of Covid-19, as economic hardship has pushed band party musicians to look for more stable incomes elsewhere.
The four band parties of Aloobazar are Bangladesh Band Party, Dhaka Band Party, National Band Party and New National Band Party.
The band parties of Aloobazar have a singular origin.
It all started with Mohammad Kha, who brought the culture to the old town in the '30s.
His four wives and five sons were band artists as well.
In 1948, his son Siraj Kha started the National Band Party. After Siraj died in 1993, it was handed down to his two sons, the younger of whom is Arman "band master".
Arman's eldest brother Mohammad Reaz founded New National Band Party in 1996.
He said business was at its peak during and right after Pakistan period. But with the advent of portable audio players, speakers and DJ parties, band party culture in general started to diminish.
Back in the glory days, a band party used to get booked for three to four events a day, which even included playing for films at times. Nowadays, they're lucky to even get one.
Twenty years ago, they used to get Tk 5,000 for a gig, minus transportation and costume.
But these days, they only get Tk 3,000-4,000.
New National Band Party completely shut down during 2020 due to the pandemic and only started operating at a small scale around eight months ago, he added.
Reaz said all the other band parties in the area are run by his relatives, while some artists are from their family too. In addition, there are 20-30 regular artists, while others come in for gigs on a freelance basis.
This correspondent also spoke to Dhaka Band Party artist Mohammad Saeed.
His father was Rustam Kha, eldest son of Mohammad Kha.
The 60-year-old said he couldn't get married due to financial hardship, as his profession never paid well enough. But he persisted and continued his father's trade.
Asked why, he boldly said, "It's in our blood," mentioning that he started out at the young age of 11.
All five of his brothers used to be in this profession, but he's the only one still at it today.
He said costs for band party include shop space rent, buying instruments and dresses and paying proprietor Arman Tk 200 per gig.
The rest of the money earned from a gig is split between the artists, he further said. Saeed said these days, they barely get one or at maximum two gigs per week, mentioning that they got no help during the hardest phases of the pandemic, when bookings ran out altogether.
Even as they bring this time-tested art form deeper into the new century, the band party artists of Aloobazar are spending their days in disappointment -- dissatisfied over their economic condition and anxious about the gradual extinction of their craft.