Bengalis Abroad Rooted to their Culture


It takes an ample of passion, dedication and commitment to nurture Bengali ethos and aesthetics in the land far away from native home. Since its inception in 2002, Bishwa Shahitya Kendro, London (BSKL) has been organising Baishakhi Literature Festival (BOI-LIT Festival) to mark the bangla new year with unique display of authentic Bangladeshi heritage. BOI-LIT festival is considered to be the flagship annual event of BSKL, which aims at promoting language, literature and culture in true flavour of Bengal in the very heart of cosmopolitan London.
The two days festival was held on 21st and 22nd May, 2016 at Rich Mix Cultural Centre, London. The first day of the festival marked the children’s literature emphasizing on traditional and multicultural storytelling, dance –drama, songs and rhythmical recital of childhood rhymes. London’s illustrious story teller Sef Townsend, Daedalus theatre’s artistic director Paul Burgess, and Poet Shamim Azad, Chair-BSKL inaugurated the children fete by lighting up the candles with the theme song Aloamaralo which was sung by BSKL singers. The owner of Bibiana fashion house, LipiKhandker and poet/writer/musician Freddy Macha graced the show as special guest’s performers. The program was beautifully presented by PunamPriyam, eminent TV personality, Channel I, Bangladesh. The short play ‘the invention of shoes – Jutaabishkar’ written by Rabindronath Tagore was played by young members of BSKL, which was coronet of the show. The children who performed the musical drama have given such seamless performance while delivering the dialogue in bangla that it was difficult to reckon they were the second and third generation British Bangladeshi whose first language is English. London’s east-end based storytelling group called EAST wonderfully narrated few traditional fables, gibberish rhythmic rhymes and folklores. The children from the UK Bangla TV talent hunt show also performed array of lively bangla songs and poetry which echoed nationalism. A brief, dramatized narration of Shakespeare’s Macbeth was performed by children also. The four hours long program never for a moment failed to fascinate the audience with its brilliant presentation.
The second day of festival was themed on ‘’Bangla Renaissance and Influence of European literature’’ in our literary realm. Poet Shamim Azad briefly mentioned the reason for selecting such theme.  She highlighted that ‘’during 19th century Bengal produced a galaxy of reform movements due to the exposure and influence of European renaissance in some prominent scholarly figures. It ushered in a greater revolution in thoughts and ideas, in religion and society. Within three quarters of the present century, prose, blank verse, historical fiction and drama have been introduced in the Bengali literature. From the stories of God and goddess, kings and queens, Bengal has learnt to descend to the humble walks of life, to sympathize with the common citizen and peasant.’’  The program focused on the work of Rabindranath Tagore, Michael ModhushudhanDatta and D. L Roy’s work and influence of W. B Yeats, Homer’s Iliad and Shakespeare’s literature on their creativity through dance-drama, poetry, puthipath (tuneful narration) and musical illustration. Dr. Jennifer Langer, poet, writer & chair Exiled writers Ink, UK, Jim Hollington, Head of Arts, South Asia, British Council and Eddie Berg, CEO , Rich Mix have glorified the program with their gracious presence.

The program commenced with Michael ModhushudhanDatta’s illustrious work on the villain of the classic Sanskrit epic Ramayana, (which was originally written in Sanskrit by the sage Valmiki) was presented through musical dance-drama, storytelling and puthipath style. Modhushudhan found a tragic hero in Ravana, as he was conversant in western literature. He felt a shadow of Hector of Troy in Meghnad. The episode of Sita’s abduction was selected from the epic as it has great similarities with Helen’s abduction by Paris in Troy. Both have striking connection with the progress of the fables. The reason for choosing Madhushudhan was as the slaying of Meghnad is deeply influenced by western epic tradition and is sprinkled with nods to Homer, Milton and Dante. The mythological illustration from the stories of God and goddess, kings and queens, the audience was then taken to the humble walks of life through the soothing recital of poems of Tagore and Yeats. It was visible from audience’s absolute fascination how they transformed from surreal world of Gods to the world of human.
Through poetry recital and short poetic analysis, European influence on Tagore was explored by the BSK performers. Tagore’s 37 years friendship with Yeats proved to be a great stimulation on him. The two noble laureates have shared several striking resemblance in their opus. Tagore remained one of the legendary pioneers in Bengali renaissance, and in Europe, Yeats involvement with Celtic revival; a movement against the cultural influences of English rule in Ireland during Victorian period made him one of the key poets of Irish revival. Both had lifelong interest in mysticism and the occult and drew extensively from sources in mythology and folklore. The poems chosen from each poet to draw the common notions were nationalism, romanticism, mysticism, mythological and religious allusions. ‘The lake Isle of Innisfree, When you are old, The second coming, The cat and the moon, No second Troy’ were recited from Yeast’s collection. ‘RupnarayonerKule, HotathDekha, Prarthona, EkiBolaka’ was few poems enumerated from Tagore’s numerous collection of poetry.‘BaironerUddhshe,’ ‘Tajmohol,’ ‘TansenBikromadittoeShongbaad’ were few poems performed from D. L Roy’s collection of poetry. Through the performance, audience had taste of his rich wit, humour, irony, sarcasm, comedy and parody. D. L Roy is regarded as one of the most important figures in early modern Bengali literature. Virility, strength, lyric beauty and simplicity are four pillars on which rested the entire structure of his poetry. His description of sea-voyage in his composition and his commitment to the uplift of women, strong stance against Hindu religious orthodoxy and ritual, all these influenced him during his stay in England. He had an admirable freedom of thought from the usual traditional ideas and sentiments which was express in his lucid expression of love, sacrifice and inspiration of women in his writing and songs. ‘Oi mohasindhuropartheke, moloebatashebheshejabo, amraemnieshebheshe jai, dhonedhannepushpebhora, belaboye jai’- were few songs sung.
Throughout the program Dr. Imteaz Ahmed rendered Tagores which complimented with the BSK’s dramatized rendition of each segment beautifully. The tabla percussionist UstadYousuf Ali Khan magnificently complimented the performance with his soulful beat throughout simply created heart a heart-rending moods of love and tenderness. LouisseEliiot played the high land tune in flute with the recital of Tagore and Yeats’s poems undoubtedly created sweet and restful feel in the ether.   The BSK performer’s soulful and distinctive panache enthralled the audience for wholesome two hours. The ambience was altering from pensive to festive moods, from sentimental to more devotional state of mind and from soulful to flirtatious temper. Khadija Rahman, Secretary of BishwaShahittoKendro, London (BSKL) and Co host S. M. Zakir Hossain jointly concluded the program by giving vote of thanks. They mentioned how art and cultural program plays an important role in providing opportunity for participation in community life through festivals, events, performance and can illuminate our inner lives and enrich our emotional world.


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