Monday, June 07, 2004

BAMBA - the way it all happened - Part 2

3. FLOOD AID - '88: BAMBA goes it alone with help from Udayon School

After about a month when the floodwaters had dried up and the stench all over Dhaka from the sewer system evaporated, Bogey, Hamin and myself had the first unofficial BAMBA meetings at his (Bogey's) residence in Green Road. Plans went quickly underway to organize a two-day concert for Flood relief at the Engineers Institute. A further meeting with other bands followed and to formalize matters we all agreed that Bogey should be nominated Convenor of BAMBA and press release, money matters etc down to MC'ing the show would be in his domains of responsibilities.

Hamin was to look after sound, lighting and other technicalities, which we all agreed only, he seemed to understand and that was about it.

We had a team of young volunteers from Udayon School (I can regrettably only remember the name of Shafique, the son of a BNP lawmaker living in Magh Bazar, but the total team was more than a dozen) which did the running about for permissions from the DC (there is a law in the country that makes it mandatory to seek permission for use of microphones) and organizing security etc - plus the toughest of all jobs, marketing the tickets and maintaining accounts.

As for my responsibilities?

With my then reputation as an agent provocateur, I was to be as Bogey put it: "Big Mac - without the fries" - whatever that meant!

4. Sorting out things with the 'Heavy Metal' heavy duties - 'No Problem':

There was another problem - there were only about 8 bands in total - and ALL of us had major problems with the 'heavy metal dudes' in town, whose inclusion I thought would increase the number of participants in the concert - and naturally the audience.

I had my reasons.

Between 1987 and 1988 with Feedback (where I was then the lead vocalist), I performed several of these joint concerts ("mixed concert") and it was a pleasant surprise to see the number of new bands and musicians.

I stumbled into the heavy metal "bad boys" in RockStrata, In-Dhaka, Aces and Warfaze - in one such gig at the Hotel Sonargaon , and found them supremely talented.

Another aspect that moved me tremendously was their close-knit 'brothers in arm' kind of camaraderie - and it was usual to see all of them hanging out together in any concert, irrespective of whether they were performing or not.

Sometimes they also shared musicians, just incase a guitarist of one band failed to show up, another from a fellow band instinctively filled in, for them the show had to go on - come what may. This attitude was sadly lacking in many of us 'established bands', and I thought that the heavy metal example could and should be an eye opener for the rest of the pack in BAMBA.

They had 'problems' of course: they played LOUD very LOUD, were brash, and unacceptable were their infinite indiscipline. Yet when I talked to them one on one, they turned out to be among the finest guys that I had ever met in my life. Their reputation or lack of it - I felt had somehow outpaced them.

For reasons unknown they all seemed to like me, as much as they made no secret that they did not like Feedback's music! I was touched by their honesty, so one afternoon invited them for lunch in my office and in a meeting that ended pretty close to about dinnertime, persuaded them to 'change their ways' for the future of Band music.

It was hard persuasion (impertinence was like a religion for them) but it worked. They had heard about the upcoming BAMBA concert and were itching to perform and I seized this opportunity.

'No problem' I said - without realizing that the 'real problem' was - who was going to bell the proverbial cat?

Then came BIG PROBLEM!

The following day I called Bogey and suggested tongue-in-cheek if we could get the 'heavy-metal dudes' to join BAMBA and the upcoming concert?

"What" he screamed - "have you gone mad- that will be the end of BAMBA, no one will ever agree."

On condition that I will ensure that they behaved and that their 'discipline' was my 'total responsibility', he consented that I could raise the matter in the final BAMBA meeting, (before the concert) scheduled for the same evening in Sargam Studio.

There was however a 'catch' attached.

Bogey inisisted that the BAMBA members had to be convinced about their joining, and the 'convincing'- I had to do, not the Convenor - he was not going to be in the meeting anyway: 'unavoidable dinner Mac'!

What followed was a grueling four-hour long meeting that evening and not a breakthrough was in sight, till I wanted everybody to answer a very simple question.

'Isn't BAMBA all about promoting talents - and can anybody out here place his hand in his heart and say that the 'heavy metal dudes' are not talented?'

The ice was broken and the 'heavy metal dudes' who I had prearranged to meet me at a teashop nearby jumped in joy when I gave them the news 'guys - you are ON'.

On the day of the concert, with minutes to go before the start of the show - Bogey was nowhere to be seen. Somebody had to declare the show open and then go about MC'ing.

Pilu the drummer for Bogey's band Renaissance came in from somewhere sweatng nervously to deliver me devastating news. Bogey is down with high fever. He will not be able to come and perhaps miss Renaissance's performance slotted for the next day. He has delegated me to make sure the two-day long afternoon to night concerts were a success.

A quick word with Hamin and with not so much as very little time to gulp a breath let alone think, with over a thousand strong audience already inside the hall screaming for the show to start, the curtains were drawn.

I like a complete fool, ended up welcoming everybody, and followed this up with making sure that all bands kept to their assigned time slots as well as doing some "bit-talking" in the recess when the next band came in and tuned-up.

Everything fell into place like a well-greased machine afterward and Flood-AID 1988 was a screaming, all sold-out mega success.

The 'heavy metal dudes' were brilliant, leather jacket, chains, studs, bandanas, girlfriends, extra helping of fizz and sandwiches and attitude aside; their distortion and fuzz guitars thanks to sound engineer Mishal Kabir - became a phenomenon worth reckoning.

The most complex of rock forms in the world had come to stay in Bangladesh.

The money we raised through the concert was spent directly to sponsor the buying of corrugated tin sheets for a village near Dhaka - and BAMBA members personally went over to distribute them.

Al Amin (now living in Sweden) from Chime handled the entire operation, by taking a dozen BAMBA members over to and handing over flood relief. The grateful villagers treated them with Biriyani and a goat was specially slaughtered to feed the 'bhodro long haired kids' from Dhaka. I was out of town, so missed this momentous first.

All in all I escaped the two-day ordeal with about a nano-centimeter of flesh around my teeth - but that was not all.

Two days later at a post concert get-together of musicians again at the Sargam Studio I had to face the hardest decision of my life and one I was not mentally prepared for.

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