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On the cultural side

  • Published at 05:51 pm December 7th, 2016
On the cultural side
It is only fitting that a city as perpetually transforming as Dhaka should have a dynamic, international literary festival. Apart from numerous panels and book releases, the three-day event offered some treats in the cultural sphere, seeking to showcase our rich cultural heritage to the outer world.

On the opening day, a captivating performance was held at the Nazrul Mancha featuring ten bauls. Titled Bauliana Caravan, it had renditions of baul songs alongside discussions on the philosophy of Fakir Lalon Shah. The discussions reflected not only on the philosophy and interpretation of Baul songs but also brought out the life that Lalon led and how he religious bigots, both from the Muslim and Hindu sides, attacked him and felt threatened by the popularity of his songs in a time when communal tension was on the rise. Lalon did not believe in any preconceived ideas about class or caste or race, though he had all the faith in the power of music which can transcend us to a higher state of spirituality.

Staging of the play, Bondhon, by BRAC popular theatre, was highly praised by the audience on the same day. It is a unique genre engaging common people during the staging. The BRAC popular theatre uses this unique way to raise awareness, and stimulate discussions around a variety of social issues.

A panel discussion on theatre, “When the Stage is Mine,” was held on the second day of festival, featuring Sara Zaker, Mita Rahman and Samina Luthfa Nitra. Moderated by Bonna Mirza, the discussion covered how theatre in Bangladesh evolved and came to its current shape. When questions were invited from the audience, the panellists were asked if theatre can change the society. In her reply, Nitra said, “As a tool theatre alone cannot change society, it needs some other components essentially. It can only be a catalyst to change.”

The second day of the literary festival had a tribute to Bob Dylan, performed by Stone Free, probably the best in town in rendering Dylan songs. The bad also paid homage to the recently deceased Leonard Cohen by performing Hallelujah. Cohen is widely celebrated as another legendary lyricist in folk-rock after Dylan.

In another panel on Baul songs, panellists opined that Bauls, who lead an essentially non-elite and unconventional life, have made a huge contribution to our secular culture. Folk singers Arup Rahee, Mehedi Hasan Nill, and Shofi Mondol took part as panellists in the session.

Under the vibrant canopy and colourful stage lights, Dhaka Lit Fest 2016 ended with a captivating show by the baul group, Shikor Bangladesh All Stars. They paid a tribute to their guru, Rob Fakir, who passed away recently. In the show, the singers engaged with the audience in conversation between the acts as the conversational style holds true to the tradition of baul performances, as dialogue is part of the treat.