My first time: Bangladesh @ 50 Cultural Festival
After hosting a all day free events To celebrate Bangladesh’s 50 years of independence, including poetry, crafts and themed food, the Midlands Art Center invited visitors to its newly furnished open-air theater for a variety showcase . When I arrived the atmosphere was lively, with crowds lining up for the samosas and entering the theater in vibrant traditional attire to watch the show. The MAC, Sampad and the Purbanat, Gronthee and Radharaman Society have promised an evening of entertainment celebrating Bangladeshi pride through dance, music and theater.
Although I am no stranger to MAC, it is important to note that I am not familiar with the Bangladeshi culture. I became interested in the Victory Day festivities after researching an internship with Art at heart, an arts organization in the Midlands that also hosts a cultural project based on 50 years of independence. I arrived at MAC thrilled to be introduced to different styles of live performance, and from the moment I walked in I felt welcomed into the celebration.
The hosts greeted us in both English and Bengali, and throughout the evening they varied the order in which they spoke, so as not to favor either language. This multilingual aspect was also manifested in the performances, which began with an appearance by the Sonia Sultana Dance Company. With dazzling jewelry, traditional green and red sarees, and hand-held lotus flowers, the dancers perfectly set the vibrant and festive mood for the evening. Dancing to a song described as âpresenting Bangladesh to the world,â the four women created elegant forms as a group that complimented the patriotic nature of the song.
Then we were introduced to a live band, which was particularly impressive compared to the electronic soundtrack from the first issue. The genre was described as Bangla and Sufi folk music, which included a Bansuri, keyboard and Korka drums. While the drums kept a lively rhythm, the Bansuri flute delivered some interesting melodic phrases which formed my favorite part of the ensemble. It was also great to see the audience members sing along to the voice numbers.
Another highlight was a duet dance performance between a male dancer and a female dancer, which featured elements of mime. While the synchronized poses of the dancers in the group had been impressive, these two dancers interacted with each other in a more spontaneous way. Ghungroos (pegs secured with bells) worn by the two dancers also created an immersive shimmering sound.
The Sonia Sultana Dance Company returned to the stage for a few more dances, this time accompanied by props such as wicker fans and vases to evoke a sense of storytelling. This was followed by Gouri Choudhury, an award-winning singer who has led choirs and taught music to young women across the world. Her soft, high-pitched voice offered an interesting contrast to the heavy rhythm of the group that accompanied her, and she impressively played an autoharp alongside the vocals. On her last song, she encouraged audience members to come together and dance in front of the stage, which many (bravely) chose to do!
After a short set by fellow singer Jessy Barua, the RadhaRaman Society took over with a performance that included folk music, spoken word and dance. Lead singer Admed Kaysher led with an inspiring speech that he was “proud to be the British Bengali here in the UK”, before thanking the various acts that came “from all over this country”. The next set included romantic poetry, translated into English before being sung in Bengali.
While the emergence of spoken word towards the end of the night was a refreshing addition, I still found myself wanting more (dare I say it) “variety” from this variety showcase. That said, Sampad delivered a cohesive and engaging evening, with subtle lighting that matched the colors of the performers’ costumes. For me, it was a brilliant introduction to a rich and vibrant culture, and for many members of the audience, it was obviously a welcome opportunity to celebrate their legacy together.
Did you like this article? Learn more about Redbrick Culture here:
South Asian Heritage Month: what to read
Censorship hits Hong Kong book fair
Queer biographies: James Baldwin
Update our literature: Fairy tales exchanged between the sexes