The Sufi singing duo of Jyoti Nooran and Sultana Nooran sent a jam-packed Army Stadium audience into frenzy on the second night of the Dhaka International Folk Festival, on a night where messages of spiritual awakening were a recurring theme.
With their booming voices that enveloped the arena, the Nooran Sisters from Jalandhar (India) belted out Sufi numbers like “Vari Jaoon Re”, “Ishq Awalla”, “Kulli Ni Faqir Di Wichon”, “Bulla Nacheya Ishq De Saza Te”, and “Ni Main Jana Jogi De Naal”, mixing it up with more popular songs like “Patakha Guddi”, “Ghani Bawri”, “Allah Meri Tauba”, “Jee Ve Shonyea Ji” and their breakout hit “Tung Tung Baje” as the final artiste on the day's lineup. The audience, who had fallen into a bit of a lull during the previous two performances, roared into life as soon as the sisters sat down on stage, and the energy only built up throughout their set despite the clock ticking past midnight.
The sisters' all-encompassing voices, particularly Jyoti Nooran's, echoed through the stadium, and despite some frustrating issues with the sound (an unfortunate repeat of last year) the duo put their entire musical caliber on display, be it with modulations and strong classical undertones, or the frantic trance-like hand-clapping and vocal runs.
The evening however began with a young Bangladeshi band, Baula. Their renditions of Lalon's “Robe Na Ei Dhon Jibon Joubon”, “Dilo Na Dilo Na” (written by Shah Alam Sarkar) and a Hongsho Das song “Ache Shyam Onge Rai Ongo Heliya” were commendable.
Arif Dewan, took the stage next with an elaborate folk musical arrangement including two harmoniums, flute, ektara and trumpet, and performed “Ei Ghuddi Ke Banailo Re”, “Jar Kopale Ja Leikhachhe” and more, “Shoto Jonomer Biroho Gatha”, among others. In between the songs, the seasoned artistes explained the essence of the song, of connecting to a higher power and letting life be driven by it.
Nepalese folk instrumental ensemble Kutumba were to follow, and like the previous day's performers Mauricio Tizumba and Tenzin Choegyal, connected with the audience in an instant. Their magnificent soundscape created by a wide array of traditional Nepalese instruments expressed the moods of their songs like “Chyantey Ghoda” (The Horse), “Jharna” (about waterfalls of the Nepalese mountains) and “Voice of the Youth” got the audience grooving to their melodies. The flute featured predominantly in their presentation, along with the sarangi (fitted with guitar pedal for added effect), violin, lute and various percussion instruments.
Mekaal Hasan Band, an Indo-Pak band led by Lahore's Mekaal Hasan, brought along Armeen Musa and her Ghaashphoring Choir from Dhaka to complete a sub-continental trifecta. They opened with a sombre song “Kinaray”, and went on to perform an Amir Khusrau Kalaam “Dilam Dar Ashiqui Aawareh Shud Aawareh Tar Badaah”, a Shah Hussain poem “Jhok Ranjhan”, and original songs “Sanwal”, “Ghunghat” and “Andholan” mashed up with a Lalon song sung by Bangladeshi singer Aanon H Siddiqua. Their set was rather abruptly cut short by the anchor of the event, a phenomenon that would continue for the next two performances. The organisers' urgency in keeping the festival within allotted time is understandable, but such a move only shows disrespect to the artiste on stage.
Shahjahan Munshi, the Bangladeshi folk musician followed them, and in his typical laid back, composed manner sang a couple of 'bicchedi gaan' (songs of yearning) including “Ekbar Eshe Prano Bondhu Dekha Dao Morey” and “E Ki Premer Protidan”, as well as a Bijoy Sarkar record “Tumi Achho Doyal Amar Boro Proman Sei”.
The crowd went over-capacity at the stadium on Friday, with people of all walks of life gathering at the venue. From the urban youth to middle aged couples, the gallery remained packed, as did the food stalls. One of the highlights of the audience was a 50-strong group coming from Rajbari, each of them wearing identical caps so they do not lose each other in the crowd. Their enthusiasm and excitement remains testament the Bangladeshi people's love for music, ready to stand in long queues and small inconveniences like overcrowded toilets and getting home late at night, when offered good music.