The Dhaka International Folk Festival returned to the capital for the third year on Thursday, and people of all ages thronged the Army Stadium to show their love for one of the biggest musical events of the calendar. A jam-packed crowd on a weekend evening was treated to melodies and beats from around the world amid festive atmosphere.
Bauliana, a group of young musicians coming out of the musical talent hunt TV show 'Magic Bauliana', opened the festival with a brief two-song set, possibly to compensate for a slightly delayed start. Their choral renditions of folk hits “Dhonno Dhonno Boli Tare” (Lalon song) and “Baula Ke Banailo Re” (by Hason Raja) felt a little cacophonic, but warmed the audience up just fine.
Fakir Shahabuddin, a sincere practitioner of folk music of the country, took the stage next, and truly set the festival in motion with his array of folk songs. He opened with a Murshidi song, “Doya Koro Amare”, and stepped into gear with a Durbin Shah song “Tui Jodi Hoiti Golar Mala”. His strong vocals coupled with a musical arrangement very close to the authentic Baul sound continued in the Maizbhandari song that he did next, followed by two crowd-pleasers – Hason Raja song “Bonde Maya Lagaise” and Shah Abdul Karim's “Agey Ki Sundor Din Kataitam”.
The next act, Mauricio Tizumba and his sextet from Brazil, was a thoroughly new experience for the audience. With a chorus line of six percussionists playing various kinds of hand drums, Tizumba walked on to the stage with a silent guitar and immediately got the audience's attention with his booming voice and rhythmic songs. Not a word of English was said on the stage, but the crowd did not mind; the infectious beats and chant-like singing took over the stadium. The free-spirited Afro-Brazilian melodies flowed through and communicated with the listeners in an instant.
In a brief opening ceremony that followed, Finance Minister AMA Muhith inaugurated the ceremony where Dhaka South City Corporation Mayor Sayeed Khokoh, Sun Communications Chairman Anjan Chowdhury and eminent folk singer-researcher Indramohan Rajbongshi also spoke.
Tibetan artiste Tenzin Choegyal came next on the stage and immediately brought an air of calm and peace with his sage-like presence and soft, touching melodies. Playing a lute himself, Tenzin was accompanied by a guitarist, a tabla player and a flautist. The sage-like musician gave little introductions of his songs, explaining their essence and the stories. His earthy, raspy vocals with a strange yet enchanting vibrato transported the audience to a snow-capped mountain. His songs spoke of love, peace, humanity, being true to self, and the chakras (spiritual concept of energy of the universe).
As evening made way for night, the audiences swelled in anticipation of the night's star attraction, Papon. The Assamese singer already had a fan following in Bangladesh due to his soulful hits in Bollywood and music shows like Coke Studio India, and made a big impression on the festival audience in its inaugural edition in 2015. With a full band, Papon opened his set with “Dinae Dinae”, probably his most popular song the Bangaldeshi audience because it is a mash-up of a Bangla folk song with a Punjabi folk song. With his rich, baritone vocals, Papon represented all of India's folk music while also showing his vocal diversity, singing songs from Rajasthan (“Baisara Beera”) to the Sindh region (“Tere Bin Nahi Lagda, immortalized by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan). In a show of professionalism, Papon stayed away from his film hits and played the entire set of folk songs, many of them from his homeland, including familiar songs “Boitha Maro”, “Bihu Naam”, “Tokari” and “Jhumoor” bringing a flavor of the mountains and the tea gardens. While it certainly helped that Assamese resembles Bangla closely, Papon's carefree, expressive performance, stage presence and audience interaction is what got the audience to stay on their feet the entire one-hour performance.
The third edition of the Dhaka International Folk Festival is presented by Meril, powered by Dhaka Bank and organized by Sun Communications. The festival is being telecast live every day on Maasranga TV, as well as being live-streamed via the Facebook and YouTube channels of the festival.
PERFORMING TODAY AT DHAKA INT'L FOLK FEST
Shah Alam Sarkar and Aleya Begum (Bangladesh)
Shahnaz Beli (Bangladesh)
Basudeb Das Baul (India)