Today is the 32nd anniversary of the start of the Bangladesh Liberation war of 1971. I only know this because my mom told me! I was at her house this afternoon and she had the Bangla TV cable channel on, as per usual. As I was munching my way through some chicken and chips, not paying much attention to what was on TV I gradually became aware that there was something a little unusual about the Bangla music blaring out of the TV. Typically, the music is in the bangla sangeet style but this time there was a certain martial beat to it.
I managed to tear my attention away from my rapidly diminishing pile of chips and saw a pretty Bangla woman singing with great gusto whilst standing in front of a rather large field gun! Now for those who may not frequent the outer reaches of the cable spectrum upon which Bangla TV finds itself, I need to stress that such a spectacle is not it’s usual fare. On any [other] given day, you would see the pretty Bangla women singing their sweet, (almost east asian sounding), songs while walking in palm thronged beaches, pathchwork quilt paddy fields or flower filled parks. But not today!
I asked my mom what was it all about and she explained that today was Shadinota Dibosh. The war to Liberate Bangladesh was a brutal affair by any standard and many hundreds of thousands, (many say millions), died as a result of this war at the hands of a particularly brutal Pakistani army of occupation. Anyway Bangla TV was commemorating this event with a programme of shows that consisted of music, song and dance, (popular opera like), depicting the heroic struggle of the mukhti bahini (freedom fighters). I think that this is wonderfully Bangla – remembering momentous events with song and music.
A lot of people in the world felt deeply about what was happening during those 9 months of war; George Harrison, inspired by Ravi Shanker, organised a Concert for Bangladesh, which was the template for future such concerts like Live Aid and Joan Baez wrote:
The story of Bangladesh
Is an ancient one again made fresh
By blind men who carry out commands
Which flow out of the laws upon which nations stand
Which say to sacrifice a people for a land
–Joan Baez (Song of Bangladesh)
Sentiments which sadly, (in another context), are still apt today.