Friday, March 26, 1999

Letter to the Editor, The Daily Star

Dhaka 26th June 1999

Mr.Mahfuz Anam,

The Daily Star
Dhanmondi R/A, Dhaka

Dear Sir,

In my (never to be printed) article of the 16th June,1999, 'A Public Reprimand : Stop Demonization of the Bangladesh Television' I had made the following observation's about The Daily Star

Books reviewed without been read, TV drama critiqued without been seen, and audio tapes reported on basis of hearsay has made culture necessarily notorious in the daily.

I now refer to the Culture Page of June 24th, 1999 and the audio cassette review of Anjan Dutta titled 'Hallo Anjan'.

Firstly the glaring spelling mistake in the piece. 'Hallo' as opposed to 'Hello' is not only an abuse of the English language - it is also the misuse of a happy greeting. It is an English word, and we expect it to be properly spelt, and for the Daily Star to spell it the way it did is inexcusable.

Your Mr.Ziaul Karim has obviously reviewed the tape based on hearsay. He mentions 'One Lucky Akhand, is a brilliant musical tribute to one of our brightest pop singer who died prematurely'. The truth is Lucky Akhand is very much alive and it was indeed his younger brother and my friend Happy Akhand that passed away in 1987 !

A correction is also in order : the late Mr.Happy Akhand was not merely a 'pop singer' (his music was anything but pop) - but one of the greatest musicians that Bangladesh ever produced.

That Mr.Ziaul Karim has not heard the cassette is obviously clear, as for those that did, know for a fact that just before the song 'One Lucky Akhand', Anjan Dutta had mentioned in few words, how he met him in 1998 - here in Dhaka, and how Mr.Lucky Akhand joined him on stage with an accordion to perform impromptu.

The spirit of camaraderie in music that others don't understand, is the magic of Anjan's tribute to Lucky and reveals the greatness of both these artist from Dhaka and Calcutta.

The likes of Mr.Ziaul Karim have obviously been employed by the Daily Star to lecture readers of the greatness of Rabindranath Tagore and how the 'modernist' should be asked to limit their creative experimentation.

These are mindsets of those that want to destroy music and brush aside the accomplishment of a younger generation out to improve upon our inheritance in music, the backbone of our culture. That mentality, without taking the trouble of understanding or educating themselves about music - not even by listening to music tapes - but by indulging in some kind of 'intellectual masturbation'. One does not have a right to criticize things that one does not understand.

For instance Mr.Karim does not know that the term 'modern' in music has already become dated and what is truly happening now is a renaissance of post modern alternative free flow in music world wide. This is not only related to lyrics - but specifically MUSIC, which is a product of group of musicians creativity and chemistry, and not merely the voice or 'gaan' of one individual 'kontho shilpi'.

In West Bengalee Sumon Chatterjee and Anjan Dutta are 'stand alone' singers with very mediocre music, however the duo should only be credited for changing the Calcuttan penchant for listening to music with harmonium as an accompaniment. Sumon and Anjan introduced the West Bengal to the Western acoustic guitar. Indeed until 1992 (i.e before the advent of Sumon) West Bengal had not heard the guitar or known of its existense or its use as an accompaniments. In Bangladesh however among musicians the guitar has been used 'progressively' since after 1971 !

Mr.Karim should be checking out the lyrics of many hard rock or heavy metal Bangla bands in Dhaka, before arriving at any final judgement on music or lyrics in these changing times. He ofcourse neither has the time nor the 'taste' to listen to music does he ?

Mr. Ziaul Karim concentrates very narrowly when he insist on Rabindranath Tagore's lyricism. This is Tagore fundamentalism and all in keeping with the fashionable but marginalized mentality of a cult of Tagore-fundamentalist's in Bangladesh. The truth is the Bengalee free form end rhyming lyrical tradition is much older than Tagore - and if we even consider the Baul tradition it is several hundred years old, not to forget the Sufis' with their Murshidi and Marfoti lyricism.

Mr. Karim ofcourse review's no Bangladeshi musicians or their tapes and probably has never ever heard any Boyati tape and its lyrics. He has no idea of what we have inherited as part of our rich oral tradition neither the recorded works easily and freely available.

I wonder what Mr.Ziaul Karim refers to when he says 'true contribution lies in tune' - as if, indulgence in newer tunes, other than the ones set by Mr.Tagore is all we can accept to be a parameter of judgement for our music in the days to come. As if anything other than Mr.Tagore is blasphemy !

In reality Mr. Rabindranath Tagore was not a great composer, neither was he a singer of great repute or a musician. If he was alive today he would not even receive a Grammy Award ! Yet it was the same Mr.Tagore, who understanding the limitations of the Bengalee listening taste of the Ziaul Karim variety if we may, sought to adapt Scottish, Irish and English tunes and lyrics to Bengalee. He can be credited for starting these experimental ventures, and true to that great spirit, musicians in West Bengal and Bangladesh are poised to take on the world with music that speaks for the times and has attained the level of excellence that is required to make Bengalee music a force to reckon with in the global arena.

I do realize that there will still be an elitist class (where you Sir Mr.Eiditor will be invited) sipping whiskey in air conditioned comfort's and listening to classical and Tagore music in urban Dhaka - without knowing a damn thing about music. Music for this lot is a elitist exercise of being known as somebody 'cultured' - and culture is ofcourse not complete without the hypocrisy of 'not letting any music pass' through the ear drums - numbed if we may through intoxication, yet with pretensions of great samajdars - great connoisseur of good taste!


Blogger Apoplexy said...

Mac, that was slightly disappointing.

4:20 PM  

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