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Not a cultural hijack

  • Published at 07:37 pm March 15th, 2014
Not a cultural hijack

Brattish puritanism ensues and so commences the whining. My God! What is happening to this nation? Why are we so insecure and childish? Why does every big entertainment event hosted here have to enrage nationalists, VIPs, or be an occasion of war to protect our heritage? Is our thousand-year-old culture really going to go extinct? Is chomchom going to be less sweet tomorrow?

Do we not celebrate March 26 or Pohela Boishakh the way we always do? Are all our own TV and radio channels broadcasting in Hindi? Why can’t a show be just that, a show? Why does it need politicisation? It wouldn’t be far-fetched to label us the leading drama queens of South Asia.

Please have some dignity or display restraint in your paranoia, so that some of us, with our diminishing stocks of self worth, may continue to retain it more easily. The stench of hypocrisy in the current flow of borderline racist and bigoted outrage is all pervasive. We must make a concerted effort to be a part of this century, lest we be abandoned completely, at which point we truly will see a hijacking of our culture.

Following pre-show “India is taking over Bangladesh’s culture” rants on Twitter and Facebook to the post-show conspiracy theories as to why it’s unfair to have Hindi songs play in our opening ceremony, to our baseless lamenting of public funds being used in the show prominently featuring Indian artists; our image to those who believe in a cooperative global village abroad is getting smaller with each instance of such demented close mindedness. 

For one, this is an opening ceremony/celebration concert for a sport that is multicultural and global; we don’t own cricket, and no one else does. To stage a global sporting event in its full glory, it requires that we summon our resources and contacts globally and present a show that’s “entertaining” and of a “world standard.”

Everything – the lights, the budget, the artists – must represent a global standard and display our abilities to host events like this in the future. There must be an element of novelty and brevity. An attempt must be made on such instances to display a vision that’s global, that we too can compete with the world. Whether we succeed or not is a different question meriting perhaps a debate, but we must intend to put our best foot forward.

FIFA World Cup musical ceremonies, like that of the Olympic ones, no matter in which country they are hosted, often prominently feature headlining artists of varying nationalities. Think Shakira, a Colombian, at the football World Cup in Africa.

Hosting a celebration for a global sport often requires that you present your nation’s strengths “in organising” such events and in this instance our headliner was AR Rahman, an Oscar winner and multiple Grammy winner who has in the past performed in numerous distinguished global events such as the Oscars and the Nobel Peace Prize concerts, amongst many such other illustrious examples.

It strikes me as odd and selectively political in its tone that the uproar in one section of our society centres on AR Rahman performing, yet little noise was made on account of Mr Akon. Is there more to this selective protest by nationalist advocating of local artistic protectionism? Would the guardians of our culture please stand up?

Can the non-religious elitists amongst you please explain to me how perhaps having Shakira or Justin Timberlake would make you less angry? Why was Bryan Adams’ opening turn at the cricket World Cup more palatable?

One must be realistic and pragmatic about our artistic image in the world. I find it hard, with due respect to our own crop of legendary performing artists in the show, to claim that they could, by merit, stand shoulder to shoulder with other artists worldwide perhaps with the exception of Arnob and friends.

Who really are the only artists that we can be proud of on a global stage? If the others could, and had it in them, we’d have seen it by now, and have witnessed universal appreciation for them, both critically and commercially the world over, like that of an AR Rahman and Akon, who they claim, they are better than.

Then after all that, to argue that we are deprived of opportunities worldwide, so on our soil we must make exceptions for them, is really taking the cake and burning it. That would be a true waste of our phantom public funds. 

To the proponents of the anti-Hindi language movement in Bangladesh, you are overlooking that we are a pretender progressive nation, and must on the face of it, in events such as this, regardless of personal biases, pretend to uphold the tenets of what that means. To be less bigoted. To be more accepting of diverse cultures. To be more humble and kind to guests. To believe that we have still lots to learn as a nation from others in the world. These are all qualities we must begin schooling on if we are to grow in the world stage. 

To end, seriously ask yourself, where’s the novelty in seeing Miles or LRB perform for the umpteenth time the same songs they have performed for two decades? Why should we be protecting their interests? What would be their universal draw in such a ceremony? A cover of Santana?

The only fair thing would be to leave these matters to the free market capitalistic community that we truly are, and I see nothing wrong in that. There must be a freedom to plan these kinds of mega events in our country, and for us to not shiver and acquiesce every single time to the unreasonable demands of being represented, because that is what a progressive nation does.

We must fight and compete for our representation worldwide. We must reject free handouts. We must enhance our art to international standards and fight for recognition. We must make a global impact with our art. We must collaborate with open hearts with other artists, and not condemn their art because of misplaced pride and ego. That is how our brethren across the borders progressed to the front stage of world entertainment, and we’d be wise to take a leaf out of their book.