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Rock 'n' roll is dying in Bangladesh

By admin / Published on Thursday, 22 Nov 2018 12:49 PM / No Comments / 230 views

The seeds of rock ‘n’ roll culture were planted in Bangladesh during the birth of the country in 1971, after a war for liberation separated this majority-Muslim territory from Pakistan.

For most of the 20th century, the region was a traditional Southasian agrarian society. Its soundtrack: Bengali folk music, featuring instruments like the tabla drum set, harmonium pump organ and the ek tara, a one-stringed guitar.

Then came a bloody war for freedom. And that political rebellion allowed some musical rebellion to take root, too, as my historic research in the country shows.

Rock spurs social change

After independence, a handful of Bangladeshi performers – top among them Azam Khan, a freedom fighter-turned-musician – began looking West for artistic inspiration, listening to Jimi Hendrix, George Harrison and The Doors.

Khan’s band Uccharon introduced drums, guitars and keyboards into their renditions of local music. Bangladeshi audiences had never heard anything like it. With his long hair, bell-bottom jeans, stadium concerts and powerful lyrics – which often delivered a social and political message – Khan became a pop culture phenomenon.

In one famous track from 1970s, “Bangladesh,” Khan paints a grim picture of his young nation, which was gripped by extreme poverty and famine.

He sings of a boy “born in a slum near the rail lines” whose death leaves “his hopeless mom crying.” Throughout the melancholic, guitar-driven song, Khan depicts the desperation of Bangladesh’s early years, punctuating his lament with cries of “Oh, Bangladesh!”

Khan, who died in 2011, influenced a generation of young Bangladeshis to critically reflect on their country’s traditions.