March 31 2016
Bengali classical music is well-established and widely recognised but it might well be a first with a choir that sings of hope and joy…
WHEN you think of choirs – you mostly think of those that sing at Christmas time or those from the Welsh Valleys or the Black Christian churches.
You don’t imagine one that sings in Bengali.
In what could well be a first – a dedicated Bengali choir takes to the stage on Sunday (April 3) as part of one of the closing events to Freedom Week at Rich Mix in East London. It’s free too!
There will also be dance and poetry to emphasise the sense of triumph and hope with the creation of Bangladesh effectively in March 1971, and celebrated in Freedom Week.
“We don’t think a Bengali choir has performed like this before,” said Dr Imtiaz Ahmed (centre in top picture), who is the music director of the choir, which is made up of some 20 singers who have been trained through the Satyen Sen School of Performing Arts.
The choir will perform what is essentially a tribute concert to the great Bengali composer and musician, Salil Chowdhury.
“He was writing songs during the independence movement – many patriotic ones and he brings a lot of harmonisation to Indian music,” explained Dr Ahmed.
Chowdhury was something of a pivotal figure, growing up in Assam, he listened to classical records left behind an Irish doctor and is seen by many as bringing a certain confluence of west and east to bear on Indian music.
It wasn’t just that he had an impact on classical forms; highly versatile, he wrote for early Bollywood and is as well-known to the masses as he is to music professors and students of Indian classical music in Bengal.
On Sunday, the choir will present “The Songs of Awakening” (‘Ghum Bhangar Gaan’).
Dr Ahmed, a consultant oncologist who works in Essex and is the music director of Satyen School, has compiled the songs, while Dr Siddhartha Kargupta will conduct the choir itself.
“It’s been quite a challenge,” revealed Dr Ahmed. “We’ve been practising since the turn of the year. The songs are about secularism and patriotism and they are masterpieces. It’s not been easy.”
However, the dedication of those involved and the support of the school has helped to get the choir to the point where it can perform in a public space in its own right. Prior to this, there have been smaller shows, with a smaller number acting as a support to other or main acts. This time, the choir itself is centre stage and it is the choir’s concert.
Getting youngsters to learn Bengali and then sing in it is no easy task, conceded Dr Ahmed but this is one way of spreading the message and engaing them in their heritage.
“A lot want to learn their mother tongue – Bengali and this is one way and keeping the culture alive,” he said.
It’s hoped the choir will be regular feature of Bengali concerts and be another attraction for potential students of the Satyen School and Performing Arts in Tower Hamlets.
• Doors open at 12pm and there is a children’s art competition and Ananda-Gaan (a musical ensemble of songs and poetry from Rabindranath Tagore, Kazi Nazrul Islam and Salil Chowdhury) 2-2.45pm
• ‘Ghum Bhangar Gaan’ 3pm-4.30pm.
Free entry at Rich Mix, 35-47 Bethnal Green Road, London E1 6LA
Freedom Week continues until Sunday: (Sat) No Nazrul Blake Manush II
Exhibition: ‘Unfurling Bangaldesh: The Picture Through Her Eyes’
‘Life in Tea Garden’
More here http://www.richmix.org.uk/whats-on/event/satyen-sen-school-of-performing-arts-and-udichi-ghum-bhangar-gaan-the-songs-of-awakening/