It was 9 o’clock after dark. Everyone was in a trance-like state. The music was palpable throughout the air. Madol was playing on stage, while some were dancing on the front- all the other pairs of eyes were glued to them.
This is a scene from “Concert for Diversity” (Boichitrer Oikotan) organized by the Partnership for a Tolerant, Inclusive Bangladesh Project of UNDP under the Bokultola, Institute of Fine Arts. It was a true celebration of diversity. Not only the concert had bands from a lot of Bangladeshi ethnicities, but it also had two all-female bands owning up the stage.
The event started off with Rho Sangskritik Dol’s performance. Then came up the all-female minor ethnic band F-minor, who covered a wide range of songs, and got the audience up on their feet. By the time F-minor got down, the bokultola started to fill up, even the last seats were being taken up. Five thorn wings took the stage following F-minor. They started by explaining their songs which were all written in Khasia language. Their rock-sound filled up the air, all the while they were crooning to us about the struggle of their existence. They left with a deafening round of applause from the audience.
During the breaks between performances, people went to the side of the stage to fiddle with the folk music instruments that came from all corners of the country to be put on display, along with other handicrafts which were on sale for the event. The city- dwellers, especially the kids, were overwhelmed by them.
After Five Thorn Wings came the Bangla Band named Bangla 5 which already has its own fan-followers who also kept the slightly chilled weather warm with their support. They were followed by the second and final all-female band of the event, Kremlin. They geared the audience up again with their upbeat, funky music- their rendition of 4 non-blondes “what’s up” got people moving in and out of their chairs. Sacrament blew the whole crowd away with their very own diverse playlist full of Bengali, English, Garo and other songs and their charismatic persona.
One of the most vivid examples of diverse performance was from the Santal band called Sengel. All the members dressed up to the occasion in their traditional dresses, headdresses and flower arrangements while having a mixed set-up of desi and modern musical instruments. They sang and danced about their folklore, their traditions and, also their struggles. By then, the dancing crowd in the front of the stage grew even larger and the whole place turned into one big, heart-warming party where the diversity was not dividing, rather it bound them all together in celebration.
After the whirlwind of Sengel, Meghdol took the stage and calmed the hyped audience down with Shibu and Shoaib’s engulfing voice and the band’s kaleidoscopic tune.
The night ended with the headlining performer, the indigenous band Madol ruling the stage unanimously. Their strong words and trance-like music played the whole audience like puppets. The crowd was as engrossed with the indigenous band Madol as they were for the Dhaka-centric band Meghdol.
The aura of the whole scenario was something else. Even in the regular setting to celebrate “diversity”, there’s always a very significant and specific bubble of “woke” people present. But the case was completely different in Charukola as people from all sphere of life stopped to appreciate the music. Rickshaw-wala mama parked his rickshaw and sat down, bobbling his head with the familiar rhythm woven into pahari words. Mom with freshly bought books from Boi Mela on one hand, her kid on the other, took up chairs. It seemed like people from every ethnic background came together without a care for the culture of intolerance and violence currently existing in Bangladesh.
For one night, with the ticket paid by tolerance and peaceful co-existence, the love of music made all the people gather in celebration of all the ethnicities under one country, one nationality. Is that not the dream?