Twenty years of Bongo Mela, USA
Twenty years is indeed a long time to continue an organization and take all the leading roles, specially in North America where life is a rat race. Even in that race, someone wins, someone stays in the fast lane to take the right exit and reach the destination in mind.
Someone like Jasmine Ahmed, who can sing or recite impromptu, speak well, organize, please, plead and cajole has been the secretary for the organizing committee of theBongomela,2018 held in Louisville, Kentucky, USA.
I was invited to sing this year and received first hand information both from the organizers and also by self participation. The weather was just right for the 6-8 July right after the national day celebrations on the fourth of July. Women in saris and lovely attires adorned the lobby of the Galt Hotel, as one passerby could not help asking, 'Are you having a wedding?'. The Galt hotel just overlooks the Ohio river and my hotel room gave me a view of the river, which just refreshed me from my long journey. I could see families with children enjoying by the pool-side, the busy 24 hour restaurants and some wonderful gymnasium overlooking the river.
A nearby hall named Actor's theater with proper acoustics was booked for the occasion. As usual food and saris were available during the three day long festivities.
Friday the sixth of July marked the opening of the Bongomela with lovely ghazals by Pandit Girish, followed by classical rendition by me. I chose to sing Rag Megh and a bhajan ,originally sung by my Guruji Pandit Jasraj Rani Tero Chirojeeyo Gopal. Both the table accompaniment by Tapan Modak from Bangladesh and synthesizer by Shekhar elevated the mood, as people from the subcontinent poured in to fill the hall and enjoy the music and dance which accords cultural union. There were Bharatnatyam dance pieces with local artists who were excellent and comparable with the world standard. They had been learning, they are a new generation but the thrust for art continues.
That evening I met one Bangladeshi lady, and learned that she was the daughter of Nargis, the beloved of Poet Kazi Nazrul Islam, taking a picture with her was my added thrill, as I watched the show unfold with a nice presentation of the rainy season by Tagore represented by songs and dances by local artists in Kentucky.
Saturday the seventh was marked with songs of Shobhon Ganguli of Kolkata and then Adity Mohsin, the Tagore maestro from Bangladesh. I sang songs of Kazi Nazrul Islam, starting with Noyon Bhora Jol , Khelicho e Bishwa Loye', Poddar Dheu re etc and gradually shifted to popular folk songs such as O Dheu khele re, Amay Eto Rate Kene Dak Dili, Aji Bhahahal Koriya to which the audience clapped and danced.
This had marked the end of my performance, but on Sunday I had to come back on popular demand. Another hour was devoted to singing Nazrul songs and bhawayya, the heart of Bangladeshi folk. No matter where I go, the folk songs go with me. It gives pleasure to all, bringing back nostalgia.
Nashid Kamal is an academic, Nazrul exponent and translator.