Thursday, August 16, 2012


Music traditions in Bangladesh usually fall under three different genres: classical, folk music, and modern/Western-influenced music.

Classical music in Bangladesh is based on ragas, similar to that in Indian classical music. Ragas are sets of five or more notes that a melody is developed on. But the notes chosen, the order they are in, the number of notes are very important. Different ragas are used at different times of the day, for emitting different emotions, for different ceremonies and purposes, etc.

There are several categories that are based on the lyrical stylings of a particular author. For instance, Rabindra sangeet pieces are based on the works of Rabindranath Tagore, who we mentioned earlier when we discussed Bengali literature. Another one is Nazrul Geeti, based on the works of Kazi Nazrul Islam (who we mentioned earlier as well).

Folk music tends to come in several subgroups, generally tied with someone's profession or some other categories. The most popular one is Baul, which is inspired by Sufistic hermits. Other genres include Bhatiali (songs sung by boatmen and fisherman), Jaari (songs in a musical battle between two groups), Lalon (based on the works of Lalon Fokir of Kushtia), among several others.

Common instruments include the sitar, violins, flutes, and the esraj. The sitar is a long-necked stringed instrument whose name originally means "three string pairs" in Persian. The sitar was popularized and "introduced to the Western world" by famous Indian musician Ravi Shankar in the late 1950s/early 1960s, and several American bands used it in their songs, like The Kinks, the Beatles, and The Rolling Stones.

Sometimes called an Indian harp, the esraj is another stringed instrument that originated in Bangladesh and in northern India. While the sitar is plucked, the esraj is bowed.

When it comes to Western-influenced music, the rock genre wins out by a landslide. One of the most famous bands is L.R.B. (which stands for Love Runs Blind), headed by Ayub Bachchu. They have a nice blend of a little rock, a little blues, and a little Bangladeshi folk music. Not only do they use electric guitars and such, but they also incorporate traditional instruments as well. I really like the song "Bangladesh".

Another band I discovered that is a must-have for my collection is Arbovirus. (Although, I'm going to have to really search for it; initially, I didn't find it available on iTunes or Amazon). They are a little harder rock, somewhat in the style of Staind or Disturbed. What impressed me is the vocal lines follow an actual melody line, and sung decently too -- and not screamed. Not a big fan of screaming. Just ask my kids.

There are a number of Bangladeshis who have entered the hip-hop genre as well. One of the popular artists is a duo that goes by the name of Stoic Bliss. I liked some songs, others were ok. It wasn't enough to make me want to buy it. But I would definitely include it in a Spotify list.

While many dances are similar to and have derived from other dances in this area of the world, two dances that are from Bangladesh are the Monipuri and the Santal. Both males and females take part in dance, most often accompanied by jari and shari folk music styles.

Up next: The food! 

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