Monday, July 12, 2004

BAMBA - the way it all happened - Part 5

9. The Mother of all 'kicks'!

Nearing the stage, the canon like sound got progressively louder - but as it turned out much to my relief, was nothing more than Fanty checking out the sound of his kick drums!

This was the first time in my life, or for that matter anybody in Bangladesh had heard a bass drum being kicked at 10,000 watts peak in the stillness of a wintry Dhaka midnight! There were probably about 200 people from the surrounding neighborhoods and many students from the residential halls. Writ large on their face was curiosity and amazement as what would be happening the next day. To be entirely honest I could not answer one question that many asked - 'who is the chief guest of your function'?

We had none - and this they found very perplexing!

Back to Fanty still not happy with the sound and Masud of Obscure our engineer getting exasperated by the hours we learnt a whole lot of things about sound - of the 'canon fire like variety' and we knew 16th December 1990 was going to be a BLAST.

10. 'There is hope for the nation': Rumi

I was back home by 2:30 and woke up at 5 a.m. to get going. At 6:45 I was at the Mall Square and we had more musicians at that point than audience! You could tell by their bloodshot eyes that nobody had slept properly the night before - excitement and enthusiasm was overwhelming.

I asked Tulu of Chime if we were going to have 1000 people by afternoon to come and watch this free show and would it not be better to start instead at 10 a.m.? He told me the grapevine suggests we will have an 'assured crowd' of no less than 20,000 people and that we may not be able to provide standing room for the audience in the evening.

He promised me that if we start on time the 'Natok' stages in and around the vicinity would soon fold up and the entire crowd would rush in by the sheer magnitude of the sound system we had hooked up. "Trust me Maqsood bhai" he pleaded and 'OK ' I said, the show will start on time.

In retrospect that was the best decision Tulu ever gave me. It was time for the professional sound system to take on the chonga once and for all, but heck still not one new face other than us musicians and in came the first lot - a bevy of heavily made up beauties heading straight for the space in front of the stage!

The ground was wet with overnight dew, so I designated Shuvro the 'good looking' one in BAMBA of K-Oz to welcome the ladies! He went out of his way by graciously arranging a huge tarpaulin for the ladies to sit on instead of the grass made wet by overnight dew and fog.

By 8 a.m. the first band clambered on stage and had more or less started tuning up - and it was amazing to see how the huge Mall filled up all so quickly. Word of mouth publicity about the concert it seems was on everybody's lips and especially among the Dhaka University students and those in the residential halls expectations were huge - there was to be no let up.

There is no denying that BAMBA on 16th December 1990 seized cultural leadership of Bangladesh. All other cultural functions around town had to close down as words spread like wildfire all across of our great success. By afternoon bus loads of fans were arriving from far off places like Narayangunj, Savar, Tangail and even Mymensingh.

Overall the atmosphere was festive and jubilant and the crowd appreciative and full of humor. Again I found myself MC' ing but it was for the first time in my life that I discovered that the audience had so much to do with what I was saying.

It all started with a young lady rushing on to stage early afternoon with a look of desperation "Maqsood bhai please make this missing person announcement, somebody backstage is inconsolable". Momentarily stopping Feelings mid-way through their set and without even waiting a minute, I rushed to the microphone to make the announcement.

The note I read out without first cross checking said:

"This is Zeenat - please darling Ershad come backstage to rescue me - some mastaans are harassing me - please"!

The joke was on me!

The pun was intended on the fallen dictator and his alleged mistress, and the crowd was hysterical with laughter. More imaginative practical humor and ribaldry followed given a vibrancy and spice to the entire daylong performance.

All the bands played brilliantly the 30 minutes each slot assigned to them - and by evening keeping with Tulu's prophesy we had more than 30,000 people and YES there was no standing room. Some in the crowd, hired rickshaws to perch themselves to see whatever was going on - on stage. All said and done - the concert was HISTORY and Band Music of Bangladesh certainly carved its own niche in the alternative domain of mass entertainment.

We knew the fire was soon to spread all across Bangladesh.

'Bengalee Heavy Metal' had its debut and Warfaze did not displease the audience. Sanjay was simply prolific in the three songs he sang. 'May-tal' as people would call it later was to destined be a mainstay in Bengalee alternative rock.

After the bands ended, Pablo of Feelings introduced a blind Baul friend of his, who proceeded to hold the crowd for another hour or two. Our identification with our rural folks roots were made complete in the Baul songs that drove the thinning audience to tears.

Closing the show I bumped into somebody using a camcorder and up close discovered it was non-else but Rumi, owner of the fashion boutique CATSEYE. He went back to Canada in disgust over the political situation in Bangladesh and returned the very same day - wasting time enough to dump his suitcase in his house in Dhanmondi, and retrieving his camcorder to shoot the historical concert.

He had been a life long music aficionado and I therefore asked him what he thought of the concert.

"Unbelievable Mac - this is the tip of the iceberg of changes definitely coming - there is hope for the nation"

BAMBA and music historians please make notes. If Rumi has not erased it - I suspect he is the only person in Bangladesh that has footage of the historical BAMBA concert of 16th December 1990.

Back home after three days on the run in which I slept for probably 8 hours - I broke down and cried. The experience was simply overwhelming and I thanked God for his blessings and mercy in making all of this happen without any incident, without any fuss - and importantly giving us the courage to conduct ourselves with dignity in a genre of music we all loved, which I knew will see us favorably in the days ahead.


This article is dedicated to all Bangla band music enthusiasts all over the world.

A special thanks to and its brilliant forum participants who welcomed me into their fold, and showered me with their unadulterated love and affection.

I hope they would find this first person rendering of events on BAMBA, which I have penned as honestly as I could, of some use in the days ahead.

...Keep Rockin'...and Never give up the fight.....


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