A rousing applause greeted Ustad Shahid Parvez Khan after a complicated yet melodious alaap, jod and jhala in the expansive raag Gara at Dhaka’s Bengal Classical Music Festival. Khan, the seventh-generation sitar maestro from the illustrious Imdadkhani gharana and Ustad Vilayat Khan’s nephew, was visibly touched by the response. “I wait for audiences like you,” he said. The temperature may have dipped quite a lot at 2 am, but a maidan full of people, at what’s being called “the world’s biggest classical music festival”, sat in complete attention at the music festival.
Khan’s melodic twists and turns, resplendent strains and the meends (glides), made his performance at the all-night music festival noteworthy. Earlier in the day, Pune-based classical vocalist Pandit Ulhas Kashalkar and santoor maestro Pt Shiv Kumar Sharma presented invigorating performances. Kashalkar’s khayal in raag Jog took one through the maze of the pentatonic raga with much vigour. A performance by Astana Symphony Philharmonic Orchestra from Kazakhstan, in collaboration with L Subramanian, opened with a rendition of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake and found much attention on the festival’s opening day.
At Dhaka’s Abahani Field in Dhanmondi, about 300 miles from Cox’s Bazaar on Teknaaf Highway where more than 8,30,000 Rohingya refugees are sheltering, the music festival is a fresh breath of air. The entry is free and inclusiveness of every community is what Abul Khair, Chairman of the Bengal Foundation (presenters of the festival), is aiming at. The event, which recently got a go-ahead from PM Sheikh Hasina and the Indian High Commission, is aiming to create social consciousness through music.
“This is not merely a festival. I believe that violence against minority communities can be tackled through the strength of music,” said Asaduzzaman Noor, Minister of Cultural Affairs in Bangladesh. Commenting on the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar, Noor said, “We are giving shelter to foreigners, the ones being killed in the name of religion. People we have been living alongside for thousands of years are being attacked. We saw Chittagong tribals and Buddhists coming under attack. We saw Santhals being targeted. We saw Hindu localities being attacked in Rangpur. The activities of such elements need to be omitted.”
In the next two days, more Indian stalwarts will present music at the festival, including flute maestro Pt Haripradsad Chaurasia, vocalist Ustad Rashid Khan, violinist Mysore Manjunath, ghatam maestro Vikku Vinayakram and Mewat gharana doyen Pt Jasraj, among others.