Sunday, May 05, 2002

Bangladesh Music: Condemned to extinction? - PART 3

The Future of Bangladesh Music industr - A damning indictment

Given the forces at play and the mute reaction of our authorities and no public awareness campaign, it will be a sad day when we as a nation will lose one of our most potent, far reaching and prized cultural possessions, our music.

We as artistes and musicians of Bangladesh, in our GREED for money and dominance of the media, have only promoted our short-sighted petty interest, which has confirmed the approaching doom of an industry that had all the potential to thrive and make an impact on the global arena, at a time where diverse ethnicity in music is considered a 'world music form'.

The music companies of Bangladesh started out as pirates of Hindi music and they include the two major players in Bangladesh as well. This was the easiest way to a) earn piles of black money that saw their sustenance and growth, followed by b) an interest in producing and marketing original renditions of Bangladesh artistes to legitimise the black money they had earned.

What has resulted over the years is a huge and thriving market of pirated Hindi music. No less, although significantly smaller, are the works of Bangladesh artistes in Bangali that one can say is the 'only competition' and the first line of defence of our culture to the Hindi music onslaught. However, it is the sheer numbers at which Bangladesh original works are sold, and the huge archival value of the works, that must be re-emphasised here.

Bangladeshi artistes have typically been ignored in West Bengal, for instance, and no major Indian companies are willing to market them, despite our music's entrenched superiority in attracting the youth market there. Indian 'cultural protectionism' is what we ought to take lessons from and try to replicate in Bangladesh.

Indian capitalist interest, with the wide technology and marketing support system, are all geared to invade Bangladesh. Their interest is not to promote or market Bangladeshi artistes or their repertoire, but to stake their claim for a market that was created by local pirates - and thereafter take it to high gear by making Bangladesh a quasi-Indian cultural colony in line with Nepal and Bhutan. Bangladeshi music marketers neither have the skill, equipment nor the talent to thwart this 'aggression'.

All of it boils down to the Bangladesh-India trade imbalance, the lack of an even playing field for us, the dumping of cheap and inferior Indian products on our territory, and their patronage of a handful of corrupt business men masquerading as music marketers in Bangladesh who often transmit their profits to India through illegal and clandestine channels.

While the music market, as indicated earlier, generates an official revenue of more than US$ 34 million annually, we have no indication of the revenue the Bangladesh government earns through taxation or VAT.

Representations to the authorities from the BCCDMA have always remained ineffective, as they have not been able to suggest recommendations to ensure the health and prosperity of the industry. Their negotiations with the authorities have only been vitriolic, and highly unprofessional.

Given the size and revenue of the Bangladeshi music industry, the real tragedy is that no large private Bangladeshi corporation or the Bangladesh government have shown any inclination or interest to invest in this potential rewarding business venture.

This write-up is intended to give an insight into the music industry and what ails the nation's fragile cultural health.

The collapse of any political entity in our national life has little bearing on our day-to-day life, but the collapse of a cultural component as powerful as music will also mean the collapse of a NATION, and what will come snowballing in, one after the other, is what we cannot comprehend or prepare for at any given time.

It is time that we wake up to this realisation and make strong recommendations and suggest definitive action plans to the authorities and the people at large. It is a patriotic duty of every citizen of Bangladesh to protest against this harrowing inertia to save our cultural heritage. Our failure to do so will mean that we will have also failed our nation, and also an upcoming new generation that has all the capacity and propensity to make Bangladesh music the most happening thing in the Third World, fit to be heard in the global arena.