Suddenly there is a buzz that George should somehow be honoured by Bangladesh for his efforts in bringing to light the plight of Bangladeshis way back in 1971 through his Concert for Bangladesh. But this has been in the pipe works for about two years. The Liberation War Museum have a plaque ready and are making some kind of effort to celebrate the ex-Beatle this coming February. Is this a late attempt to raise some cash and to get some official response tagged on to their events?
Mention Uzbekistan to me and I conjure up romantic visions of a fabled city called Samarkand, and of the great and vibrant trade route or Silk Road and all the great intrigues and powerplays down the centuries from Alexander the Great to Tamurlane to the Great Game to….er Islom Karimov. Who he you ask? Well firstly he is a mate of George Bush. So if you are thinking that Karimov must then be a tinpot dictator who boils people to death and presides over a country which uses child labour for cotton production, you would be right.
So what has all this to do with Bangladesh? Well from July, several European and U.S. firms will not buy Bangladeshi garments if they are made with cotton from Uzbekistan. This Uzbek cotton is bad news for an industry already under a variety of pressures - a lot of it self-inflicted of course. President Karimov recently wrote a book with a very catchy title - “Uzbek people will never depend on anyone.” This is a somewhat surprising title as Uzbekistan is very much dependent on trade. Therefore they are sparing no effort and have sent out their deputy minister for foreign economic relations and trade and investment Nasriddin Najimov to reassure cotton importing nations that all this child labour stuff is a load of old codswallop and that the country can’t be held responsibleÂ if Uzbek children love to play in cotton fields picking cotton. Its a traditional child’s pastime apparently.
And talking of children, Karimov’s daughter - Gulnara Karimova - has just been appointed a minister! Now which country does that remind you of?? She is a real go-getter it seems having accumulated vast amounts of wealth in the country’s energy industry. Not only that she is also multi-talented. She appears on state tv in her music videos. Going by the name Googoosha, you can see her perform a delightful ditty here on Youtube.
Yes folks its time to give you a free mp3 download. Kamal Ahmed gives a glorious performance of this classic Ghazal. ( right click and select save link as).
We use this song in our documentary Swapnabhumi (about the plight of the urdu-speaking community of Bangladesh). Kamal, the singer, is from Adamjee “bihari camp.” During the making of a documentary, the nature of editing is such that you go over the footage multiple times.Â During that entire period, we never tired of Kamal’s wonderful voice and the ghazals he sang. You will find this mp3 and at at least one other song in the web site for the documentary (almost finished!!).
Right Click this link and select save as. Or if you want to play in your browser just left click. And here is rough translation of the lyrics from urdu.
(please) embrace me, i am very sad
Now even beautiful sights spike my eyes like arrows
i’m weary of all crumbling relations
You have borne much sorrow in this world
do not be sad
you have borne much sorrow in this world
the sword of injustice will break
this wall of high and low will fall
i promise you my friend , do not be sad
you have borne much sorrow in this world
who knows when this way, this condition will change
when this perod of torture, sorrow and trouble will change
embrace me, i am very sad
Ah yes my lifelong interest in all things prurient has led me here….So dear audience here below for your delectation is a phonetic transcription of a song that accompanies an incredibly vulgar dance sequence in a Dhallywood movie. For non-bangla readers, apologies….you are missing out on the outpourings of a young girl wedded to an old git whose “machinery” isn’t working….And did i say part 1? Well if you want more, you will have to wait for my Dhallywood book..
Here is a taster:
Well if you want a slightly stereotypical view of Bauls read this piece in the Newropean Magazine. Actually it is such fun that i will reproduce it below. I don’t mean to criticise the learned Rene Wadlow but i wonder if he has spent any time with Bauls? I have a little, and these days they are as different from each other as you and I. Anyway that is a minor point. Here is what the learned professor has to say ( and keep reading otherwise you will miss the bit about tantric sex. Yummy):
The Bauls: The Dionysiac Minstrels of Bengal
“Why do you keep looking for the Man of the Heart
in the forests, in solitude?
Turn your attention this time
To the grace and beauty within your soul.”
So begins one of the songs of Lalon Shah of Bangladesh probably the greatest of the Baul singers. The message is simple, yet its appeal is universal. In his songs, he tears down the barriers of caste and creed, the walls that separate man from man. Lalon Shah who died in 1890 composed many thousands of songs, passed down orally from disciple to disciple, only a small number have survived such as his song on the moon, which is a strong Baul symbol:
By great good luck one may see that moon.
It has no dark spots.
In it lies the golden abode of the Unknowable.
In the world of the moon there is no play of day or night.
Who are these Bauls? The Bauls are a class of minstrel, wandering singers of mystic songs. They sing of love and friendship in the search for the Creator who dwells within each person, and of the beauty of all created things.
The Bauls came into prominence as a socio-religious group during the 19th century, and became more widely known as their songs were written down by Rabindranath Tagore Bengal’s great poet and social reformer. One of Mahatma Gandhi’s favourite songs “If there is no one that heeds your call, then go on ahead alone” is a Tagore song with a distinctly Baul melody and rhythm.
The Bauls today, number around half a million persons, living largely in communal establishments called akharas, the largest number in Kushtia, Bangladesh on the frontier of the Indian state of West Bengal. The Bauls live under a spiritual preceptor, the Murshed. Life in the Akharas is very simple. The Bauls have no personal possessions other than a single piece of cloth garment, often saffron in color, a reminder of a period when Bengal was largely Buddhist. Today, Bangladesh is largely Muslim and the Bauls are considered by most as Sufis, Muslim mystic preachers who also travel from village to village.
The Bauls play a two-stringed banjo-type musical instrument, the “do-tara”. Women Bauls put on a white single-piece dress; they do not use ornaments. The Bauls sing for the unlettered, a school for the poor and the down-trodden masses. They sing of the primacy of the spirit in a world where many would prefer material wealth and luxury.
The Bauls also carry on esoteric tantric practices which were developed by the Sahajiyas, early Buddhist mystics of Bengal who considered the sex act as the key ritual in their worship form. The Bauls believe that inner enlightenment comes by sexual union with a specially selected and trained woman. The sex act is performed to help both the man and the woman to attain their spiritual destiny. Sexual union is part of the “Deha Tattva” the doctrine of the body said to be composed of the four elements: earth, water, air, fire, and its powers as a way of reaching “Shain” -the God within. The Bauls are looked down upon by the more legalistic Muslims of Bangladesh or thought of as only “folk singers” but their search for the inner man, for the indwelling light has a message for each of us.
Many, many thanks to the anonymous reader who sent me this inspiring link about a demo by migrant workers in South Korea against the government’s Employment Permit System. It describes a demo which took place some years ago or around December 7th this year - I can’t work it out! Anyway, the article refers to a Ms Jalal of Bangladesh who performed a song at the demo (is that her in the pic below?) :
One of the undisputed highlights of the rally was the performance of WAW (We Are Warriors, breaking the borders): a traditional song from Bangladesh modified with a song against EPS, and employer arbitrariness and demanding the struggle for a better life. The song was created as a expression dance by Ms Jallal from Bangladesh - really great it was.
The Employment Permit System Act came into effect in August (2004), giving the Ministry of Labour a legislative structure to control and monitor migrant workers for the first time. The Act allows migrant workers with visas to work for a maximum of three years, and gives some protection of basic rights. However, undocumented workers who have stayed longer than four years are liable to immediate detention pending deportation. Employers face large fines if they employ undocumented workers.
There are around two hundred thousand undocumented workers not registered with the authorities, many of whom are unemployed. They provide cheap labour, often in dangerous conditions. ( Culled from Amnesty International).
Here I am in Singapore running from relentless personal bad news and doing a bit of reconnaisance for an incredible project I am about to begin in November. The migrant worker project I am embarking upon kicks off quite rightly here in Singapore. ….a country whose basis was migration. There are tens of thousands of migrant Bangladeshi construction workers here. They are involved in the making of the gleaming glass towers one sees all around here. Indeed Bangladeshi workers are responsible for gleaming towers all over the place - not just south east asia but also the middle east. Not that anyone associates the success of these places with those who toil to make these places so.
The Migrant Voices team
Singaporeans - or sections of Singaporeans- are waking upto the contributions that migrant workers make to their society. So it was a lovely suprise, when I came across a CD called Migrant Voices whilst I was walking in the Esplanade theatre complex. It is a CD of songs performed (and some written) by migrant workers and put together by volunteers. As the CD says, it
“brings together the musical talents of migrant workers who have put in their heart and soul to the growth of Singapore. They are work permit holders who cook for our families, care for our elderly, clean our streets and build our homes…..They leave behind families and deep kinship ties to work here, in hopes of providing a better life for their loved ones.” …The project grew out of the realization that many migrants turn to music as a release from their personal and work woes.
Don’t I know it.
Takashimaya Department store display earlier today.
As Singapore approaches its 41st birthday next week I was extremely pleased to see a fantastic new film about Singapore on the flight over from Dhaka yesterday. One of the things I like about SAA is that it features films other than just blocbusters. Its in-flight entertainment has everything from indie and art movies to the latest Tom Cruise nonsense.
Singapore Gaga is a beautiful film, and dare i use that cliche, multi-layered. It really is. Any one who has been to Singapore and spent any time in it or thought about this enigmatic place will find something of interest in this 52 minute film. And if you have not, Tan Pin Pin’s film will nevertheless send you into a contemplative mood. A film of great artistic merit and an antidote to the kinds of commercial/partriotic government nation building exercises underway to celebrate Singapore’s 41 years. Read more about it here.
Their blurb says “spread the word” and so I am doing so. All your favourite ditties are there - all the golden oldies.
With a subscription you don’t get the ads.
Next time you go for jummah prayers to Baitul Mukkaram (Dhaka’s landmark mosque) take a look around at the stalls around there and at the stadium. This is Rana. You will see him there. He sells all *types* of VCD at his stall. I asked him whether the recent intended crackdown on p*rn*gr*phy troubles him (announced by Information minister M Shamsul Islam). ( Pls excuse the asterisks: if i write the whole word, google picks it up and I get the wrong kind of visitor to this site!) Not in the least, he tells me. Sometimes he has to lie low because the police have to flex their muscles etc but “things always blow over.” The last time he had to lie low for a bit was about six months ago. He sells triple x, double x and a new genre, well to me at least:- Rana calls it “ganer modhe khola mela,” which roughly translated means “songs with open stuff” - that is risque dhallywood music videos interspliced with european hardcore stuff.
Taking a look at the titles you suddenly realise you don’t get them in Gulshan video stores. I asked him what the quality is like. He assured me that he would give me top quality stuff. I bought four video CDs. Two turned out to be blank CDs. One had a virus file as well as the intact VCD files. Only one of the four CDs was playable - it was a “ganer modhe khola mela” one. Not bad for 120 takas?! I was a bit saddened that my copy of Sayed Shamsul Alam’s “Damn Care” was a blank - it looks like a real dhallywood classic with buxom Moiuri look-alikes brandishing knives dripping with blood.
Read my earlier brief post questioning Hayekian interpretations of this phenomenon of intersplicing p*rn*, and Dhallywood in general.