Bengali culture is incredibly rich and ancient. Yet, Bangladesh the modern child of an old people, is usually overlooked when it comes to discussions about South Asian music. Herewith, an expert from an excellent article on that issue from the World Literature Today magazine.
Go look up “Bangladesh” in the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians.Hmm. There is an entry for “Bengali music,” but not one specifically for Bangladesh. Try the Continuum Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World. There at least you will find an entry titled “Bangladesh and West Bengal (India).” Despite something of a classificatory discrepancy here—what other nation in the world is refused its own entry?—these scholarly choices seem reasonable. Why separate something that is inseparable? But West Bengal and East Bengal were indeed separated, first in 1905, then again in 1947.
No wonder that the doyen of Bengali music and literature, Rabindranath Tagore, is the composer both of the song that became the national anthem of India in 1950 (“Jana gana mana”) and the song that became the national anthem of Bangladesh in 1972 (“Amar shonar bangla”). Claimed as a native son by both motherlands, Tagore’s extensive compositional output remains very much in favor today, his songs being performed by all kinds of musicians working in all kinds of styles. Lesser known outside of South Asia is Kazi Nazrul Islam, thirty-eight years Tagore’s junior—deeply influenced by him yet with a distinctive poetic and musical voice, a Bengali Beethoven to Tagore’s Mozart. His songs are also performed widely today, and he is particularly revered in Bangladesh.
When Partition severed Bengal, Kolkata was of course its cultural hub, home to thriving music and film industries; Dhaka in the 1950s had nowhere near its technological infrastructure. The East Pakistan Film Development Corporation, founded in 1957, released films in both Bengali and Urdu through the 1960s; Swadhin Bangla Biplobi Betar Kendra, now the state-owned radio station Bangladesh Betar, played a prominent role in the War of National Liberation in 1971, broadcasting speeches and news along with patriotic songs. In recent years, Dhaka’s technological infrastructure has undergone a digital revolution. The increasing availability of inexpensive digital audio and video production software was transforming the music and film industries in the late 1990s, and widening Internet access in the 2000s has shifted patterns of consumption and distribution. (Read whole article)
In the vast Bengali diaspora in the UK and US young Bengali artists are making their presence felt and making some very exciting music on the ‘world’ scene. We will get around the sharing some of that soon, but for tonight, here is a record of rural folk music.
I don’t have much to say about this record except that it is excellent. The music, performed by untrained, natural musicians, sparkles and shines like the early morning sun on a flooded paddy field.
02 Songs Of The Freedom-Fighters
03 Folksong From Noakhali
04 Baul Song
05 Patriotic Song
06 Seasonal song (Mousumigiti)
07 Love Song
08 Wedding Song
09 Song From Chittagong
10 Bamboo Flute