MUSIC

 

 

by Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury

In Bangladesh, Fakir Shahabuddin is known as the king of Bangla folk songs. This year marks the 500th anniversary of Mexico City which also is the bicentennial celebration of Mexico’s independence from the colonial rule of Spain. On May 22, 1521, Spanish forces and their indigenous allies laid siege to the powerful Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán, where Mexico City now stands. The battle lasted nearly three months, ending with the fall of the Aztec Empire and Spain’s consolidation of power in a large swath of North America. Now, Mexico City marks the 500th anniversary of the conquest with events that highlight the complex ways it shaped the country’s society.

Planned events include a celebration of the equinox at the Cuicuilco archaeological site and academic discussions of historical myths and realities surrounding the siege. Rather than celebrating the Spanish victory, Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum says, the events highlight Mexico’s cultural diversity without ignoring its violent history.

This summer’s events also mark the 200th anniversary of Mexican independence from Spain. The colonial power officially recognized Mexico as its own country on August 24, 1821. As Michael Sauers reports for Morocco World News, Mexico has excluded Spain from participation in this year’s commemorations—a choice with which Spanish President Pedro Sanchez has expressed “enormous displeasure.” Tensions between the countries are related to both current issues and historical ones. In 2019, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador asked Felipe VI of Spain for an apology for the conquest of Mexico, citing “violations of what we now call human rights.” Spain’s foreign minister responded that it was “weird to receive now this request for an apology for events that occurred 500 years ago”.

On this occasion, the king of Bangla folk songs, Fakir Shahabuddin presented the songs of the soil to the people of Mexico, a friendly country of Bangladesh.

Bangla folk songs comprise a long tradition of religious and secular songs for over a period of almost a millennium. Composed with lyrics and blended with the mystique tunes of Sufism, Bangla folk music spans a wide variety of styles, which contains the highest ingredients of mesmerism and indulging its listeners to the wide arena of high-philosophy and love towards nature and the creatures. Bangla folk songs teach the spirit of secularism, love for every human being and upholding the magnificent ideology of religious harmony.

The earliest music in Bengal (comprising Bangladesh and West Bengal) was influenced by Sanskrit chants and evolved under the influence of Vaishnav poetry such as the 13th-century Gitagovindam by Javadeva, whose work continues to be sung in many eastern Hindu temples. The Middle Ages saw a mixture of Hindu and Sufi trends when the musical tradition was formalized under the patronage of Sultans and Nawabs and the powerful landlords. Much of the early canon is devotional, as in the Hindu devotional songs of Ramprasad Sen a bhakta who captures the Bengali ethos in his poetic, rustic, and ecstatic vision of the Hindu goddess of time and destruction in her motherly incarnation, the Hindu goddess Kali. Another writer of the time was Vidyapati. Notable in this devotional poetry is an earthiness that does not distinguish between love in its carnal and devotional forms; some see connections between this and Tantra, which originated sometime in the middle of the first millennium CE.

But Bangla folk songs found the real identity when it was written by high-philosopher named Fakir Lalan Shai, Hassan Reza, Arkum Shai, Durbeen Shah and lately Shah Abdul Karim. Fakir Shahadubbin has been dedicatedly promoting Bangla folk songs and spreading them throughout the world for over three decades. He enthralls the listeners as music gurus say – he sings from the soul. Being a researcher of Bangla folk songs, Fakir Shahabuddin has also been collecting century-old lyrics from various parts of Bangladesh and India.

My relationship with Fakir Shahbuddin dates back to 1989. For more than three decades, we have been maintaining regular connections, not just because he is my dearest friend, but also because Fakir Shahbuddin has greatly influenced me in writing and tuning songs – mostly Bangla folk songs for years.

I would like to congratulate the great Mexican nation on the auspicious occasion of the 500th anniversary of Mexico City and the 200th anniversary of Mexican independence from Spain. God bless Mexico and its people.

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About the author:

Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is a multi-award-winning anti-militancy journalist, research-scholar, counterterrorism specialist, and editor of Weekly Blitz. Follow him on Twitter @salah_shoaib