Friday, March 31, 2006

And another weekend rolls around!

I got this email from Auditi, and wanted to share - it does a very good job of summarizing the spirit of the AK rehearsals. I can't wait for the workweek to end so we can start the rehearsal weekend in full swing!

"All my 10 tickets have been promised out. I have 5 more if any of you are still looking. We will be sold out by Monday and you can't enter without a ticket so please confirm asap.
While many of you I know are coming to the show, I strongly urge you to attend any of our Saturday rehearsals just to see the madness and get a flavor of what Amra Kojon is really all about behind the scenes.

"Last week was a blast, especially with the new music system and audio console, new singers and other AK folks - and I am sure this week will be too. For anyone who hasn't seen a rehearsal at Taposhda's house, you are in for a treat. There are lots of non-performers (like me!) and food and jokes to entertain you if you aren't watching the rehearsal proper.

"All in all, it's quite a scene there. Please coordinate with me if u need a ride because we have people coming and going from Bos and Provi Fri, Sat. and Sun. and Naina and I are usually there all three days. Friends/music-lovers and funky instruments are welcome.

"And I can guarantee that you won't have any kind of weekend plans that could possibly outrival this in amazing you - so please try!"

The first time...

I got off the phone with Taposhda wondering "What did I get myself into?" Taposhda spoke to me about the sheer dedication everyone had to the "Amra Kojon," and a nearly physical concept of family that the group steadfastly adhered to. The passion flowed from his voice so effusively that it took me some time to adjust my own senses to truly grasp what he was saying. "Jhilmil come, I promise you... once you come, you'll never want to leave. I can just feel that you right for this group. You have no idea what this experience will be but I promise that you will leave here, or never leave here, with a brand new family."

Armed with a healthy dose of skepticism, I went to rehearsal, ready to seize this unknown but excitingly new experience. The family began to take form in the car. Himi picked me up from the T and immediately she drew me in and acquainted me with "Amra Kojon." From then on, the entire weekend was awash with music, dancing, drinking, and delirious laughter until almost 6:00 in the morning. I cannot explain exactly what happened that weekend, but it made me see what is lacking in most of our worlds: passion for people, passion for love, and passion for the arts. It is rare today to find those who are passionate enough... and I realized what I was thirsting for and was afraid I would never find.

Here at Amra Kojon, everyone seems to give up everything they have for musical friends. They are honest with each other and loving toward each other. This family had barely known me for a couple hours when already they were toasting to my presence and loving me wholeheartedly for the little that they had discovered about me. In a world full of suspicion, superficiality and cynicism, how rare is it to find such a thing? I feel as though I've hit the jackpot this week.

-Jhilam Biswas
on behalf of Amra Kojon

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Thorny Bed of Roses

The tragedy of AK...

.......Is that while Taposhda in his infinite wisdom and goodness manages all the politics single-handedly and has to be a friend to the annoying and the ugly (Hey, I have a huge theory on needing the world and its beings to be everything warm, friendly and beautiful or I dont want to have anything to do with it, thank you!), sometimes, unfortunately, so must we.

Snippet from a recent conversation between Amra Kojon 'Library' and one such Annoying Person.

L: Can you send me two paragraphs for the blog?
Annoying Person: Oh my god, I can't! I am so busy! I don't have timeto eat or sleep!
L: Two sentences?
AP: You have no idea how crazy my life at work is. I get up and go straight to the instead of my desk.... then I work constantly all day and then I come home and hardly spend any time with my kids and then I have to go to work again...(blah blah blah)
Me Interrupting: are talking to someone who doesn't sleep at all.
AP: (continues work rant...)
MI: She sleeps at 4 a.m.
AP: So do I....(work rant continues)
MI: EVERY DAY. She sleeps 4 hours so you fail.
AP: (Ok now definitely ranting, tone louder, pitch higher....more workrant - something about how the outsourcing to India didn't work and he fired a whole bunch of nitwits and now cant hire back that man power and has to do all their work...)
Nadia interjecting: sarcastic sympathetic "Oh"
MI: You still fail!
AP: (more work bordering on the incoherent)
MI: Still fail!
AP: (work rant continues - in a cartoon strip he would now start sweating profusely and try to strangle me but this is real life where I continue to smile sweetly and say things like "Zero" and Fail" with glee!)
Nadia and MI exchange eye rolls.
AP leaves room.

There are some people who clearly just don't get it. Sigh.

- Auditi Guha
on behalf of Amra Kojon

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Our out-of-towners.

Last night, I was exchanging emails with a friend of mine, Shafaq Islam, who had been unable to come to the rehearsals this weekend. He has to travel from NYC to make it to the rehearsals, and we had to pick 3 weekends out of the 5 for him to come rehearse with us.

A brief excerpt from our exchange:

"Here's a few thoughts of my own. Ok, as I understand it, the spirit of Amra Kojon isn't to showcase the individual talent of a few accomplished musicians. Rather, it's more about the group, right? That's evident in the name itself -- "Amra Kojon." As Taposhda was quoted by India New England, AK was formed as "an ensemble of musicians who would set their individuality aside to blend their sounds together." AK is about celebrating the performers' "Bengali culture together and passing on traditions through music, not featuring stars," reported Auditi's Cambridge Chronicle.
At the same time, I feel AK strives to discover and support new talent, taina? Otherwise it would be just a handful of the same people all the time. Rather, AK makes an attempt to be dynamic, always trying out new, creative, some would say crazy, ideas. It is at heart a youthful organization, trying to have some fun, entertain its members and audiences, and accomplish a greater social (and Bangali) good at the same time. "

Just another little glimpse into what Amra Kojon family members are thinking - you know, in case you were wondering why someone would travel from out of state (NYC to Boston, then down to RI with a group of us from Boston) every weekend to come partake in the AK way of life. Because it's worth it.

Sujan bhai, Dina apu - this is also a tribute to you two, driving up to Providence from Albany every weekend to help put together this April 22 production. To share the AK experience with us. Add to that, Sohini from London - doesn't seem like geographical distance is going to keep *this* family apart!

on behalf of Amra Kojon.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Worldwide 'energy crisis' and Amra Kojon

“Amra Kojon” is an explosion – an explosion of passion, nostalgia, harmony, and youthfulness. It is like the “big bang”, with which a universe is re-created, in the image and in the spirit of a universe that lives in our hearts and that exists thousands of miles away. Being a part of this creation was an extraordinary experience. Thinking back, it’s hard to believe how this enormous task was done with such perfection! We had the ideal leadership; the right mixes of personalities (hard to find it in a group of 100 individuals!), and a sense of belongingness and ownership that liberated the spirits. Music was the vehicle. What can be a better way to embrace our deepest longing for the culture and milieu that we lived and breathed in our tender years!

“Amra Kojon” is a platform from where I could connect with my friends who are at arm’s length, and, more importantly, with friends living in a universe half the world across, with whom I shared my dreams, of changing the world, of wiping out all distress, and of cheery stories, of a world full of optimism. They say people turn more cynical as they age – this is not the case with Amra Kojon. It’s lead by such upbeat energy that it only progresses in fervor with the passage of time. It is like a cyclone, except that it doesn’t destroy, it builds, and it elates anyone who comes into contact with it. It’s not a group, nor an organization or association; it’s a concept, a way of life. It’s a tribute to our loved ones scattered all over the world, and to our origins, proclaiming that we haven’t forgotten, we don’t forget, and we draw our energy from what they have given us – it is their spirit that we uphold…

- Mahrukh Mohiuddin (Nadia)
on behalf of Amra Kojon

Some reasons why AK is worth the nights we stay awake...

When on one such "work and rehearsal night" you meet a newcomer who sings like a dream AND composes and writes her own music...

When she is amazed by how amazed we are by her and amazed at our general excitement and enthusiasm where music and working together isconcerned...

When she catches the AK fever and leads us to jam with her after a grueling day of rehearsals -- till 6:30 a.m. the next day -- including a really cool version of "With or Without U" with impromptu harmonisation and music....

When you sleep for 4 hours and wake up refreshed and ready to go with more AK madness and realize you had the most fun ever......

You thank your stars for the people you know, the folks you get to meet, the things you get to do by being a part of the life-enhancing experience that Amra Kojon is for an ordinary person who certainly leads an extraordinary life.

Welcome to the family Jhilmil, and here's to many more such nights of madness and bonding!

Saturday, March 25, 2006

April 22 rehearsal kick-off

We just kicked off the official rehearsal season for the Amra Kojon April 22 concert. Amra Kojon will be proudly presenting 20 of their best solo artists from the New England area, and ATN Bangla will broadcast the show live, worldwide. This is in preparation for our 'AKotRo - London 2006' project. If you don't already know about it, here's the relevant link:

Last night, Sujan bhai and Dina apu drove up to Providence from Albany, and Taposhda picked me up from Somerville on his way back from another cultural show in Cambridge. We all congregated at Shaptaak House (or AK headquarters, or alternatively, all of our second home!) and excitedly began discussing our rehearsal strategies, how best to produce the show, and caught up with each other's lives in general.

No AK gathering is ever really complete without the feast that Nitadi arranges for. So even though most of us had already had a round of dinner, we all sat down at the family dinner table around 1am! Tuhin bhai came downstairs from his apartment to join us.

Right after dinner began the real *work*. Elo Melo Sound's equipment had arrived from NY under the able guidance of our musical director, Sujan Bin Wadud, aka Cool Dude. Seriously, the 32 channel mixer just upped his coolness factor a few notches in my book, for sure!

We unloaded the car, and set up the equipment in the music room - and now it's up to par with any professional recording studio. Even better perhaps. I had to whirl around in excitement, snapping pictures of the cool machines that sport blinky lights, and just being excited in general. They worked until 5am in the morning with the setup, but I had gone to sleep long before that.

And now they are rehearsing. I've managed exclusive managerial rights to the kitchen, which has made me rather a happy soul. The excitement, the energy, the electric tension in the rehearsal room - it's back again!

on behalf of Amra Kojon

ps: if you don't already have tickets to the April 22 show, please do get yours quickly. There's limited seating, and we're selling out pretty fast. Remember, performers, volunteers, organizers and sponsors all need to buy tickets to attend the concert!

Last week, I opened my e-mail at work to find several e-mails from members of my AK crew. My inbox had a link to this blogspot as well as e-mails from several people about how, “Amader Sohini-ke amra Boston-e anbo.” [We will bring our Sohini to Boston] I can tell you that I was surprised and touched, but couldn’t possibly describe how much, so I’m not going to get all mushy and try (because I already cried at work). As Naina said in her first blog, many of us AK members, including me, are students and/or young professionals on limited budgets. However, as we did during the 2003 show, we put our money where our mouth is. We don’t just talk about being a big family, we act like one. Family-r karo biye hole jebhabe ghorer manushder ghore ashar bebostha hoye jaye, sherokom obostha! And just like you automatically form bonds with family members you had never met before, new additions to our Amra Kojon are welcomed with open arms on the very first day. I should know: back in 2002, I was a new addition myself.

I, like many others, I’m sure, have stories to fill many pages here. I’ll go easy for now. I still marvel at how, in just the year and a half I lived in Boston, I managed to make so many good friends in such a short time. Not just people to go out and have fun with, but people to call when things go wrong. Not since college have I looked forward to e-mail on a daily basis as I do now, with the AKotRo project approaching (especially since, as the only AK participant based in London, I’ve become the AK London contact by default!). I can already see that I am going to have an experience in London that was similar to my Boston one. When Taps and Sujan Bhai were in London last week, we trawled the town making presentations (Naina, you rock!) and drumming up interest from the local community. It was a buzz to see them again and to watch people’s reactions to our work. It was a good reminder for me too, of just how impressive we were. I watched clippings of our show with a sense of pride and achievement…..the weekly rehearsals, the sacrifices made, the big dinners, the informal music sessions, the weddings, the births, the road trips….this is a fun family. And soooo talented!

In London, I have been asked by many people if I really think that this AKotRo show is possible. Do I really think it can happen? It is a good feeling to be able to spread the word about our music and our culture. It is an even better feeling to feel the smile spreading across my face as I realize that I have no doubt that it is possible. I don’t just say that because I want us to succeed (although I do). I don’t say it just because Taps’ enthusiasm is infectious (although it is). I smile because I have the conviction of someone who is backed up and inspired by a hundred other people. I can look someone in the eye and say it will happen because I’ve seen us do it before and I know, I truly believe, that we can do anything we decide we want badly enough. If you have doubts, just ask me on April 22nd. I’ll be in Boston

- Sohini Alam
on behalf of Amra Kojon

Friday, March 24, 2006

My harmonium!

It was 8 in the morning. Ammu woke me up. 'Himi, your April 22 show is less than a month away. Gola shadha to cherei diyecho. [translation - you've stopped vocal training completely!] How are you going to sing if you don't practice?'

For a moment I wasn't sure how old I was and where I was. Cause Ammu waking me up from sleep and forcing me to sit with my harmonium and 'gola shadha' was my every morning in Dhaka till I left in June 2000. Then reality hit me and I got up scratching my eyes.

It is 2006 and I have recently become an Amra Kojon family member. And my life has completely changed since then. It now has a meaning and a goal to accomplish. Through Amra Kojon I found true friends to share my passion with. What else could I ask for? What else can anyone ask for? But now I need to be worthy of my family. The show has to be perfect and I need to practice.

So I jumped up from bed, quickly brushed my teeth and opened my harmonium. But there's no sound !!!! How can that possibly happen??I was just singing a week ago and it was perfect. My brain froze for a moment and I could feel warm water flow down my cheeks. Ammu too became paranoid. Her first reaction 'practica na korle to harmonium noshto hobei'. I could barely speak. My frozen brain was trying to work up some logic as to what to do now. I need to make a phone call and talk to Taposhda. But for that I need to be able to talk. So I took some deep breaths and tried to calm myself down. My lungs were revolting with all their might. But I need to talk to him. Now.

So, I reached out for the phone on the bedside table and dialed Taposhda's number.
"Himishona..kire. Ki khobor'
'Taposhda, my harmonium' .... (I tried to speak. I believe I said something. I don't think he understood)
'What happened to your harmonium'
(Then I tried to speak some more and he tried to understand some more)
'Himishona, calm down. Tell me what happened. What happened to your harmonium?'
'My harmonium is not working' (that's all I could gather myself to say. I was afraid if I tried to explain the details I would break down again)
"I will take care of it. Bring it with you on Friday. And I promise - it's my responsibility. Now don't cry anymore."
"bring it with you on Friday, ok?'
'and don't cry. I promise it will be fixed'
'Ok. khoda hafez'
And I knew right then that it will be fixed and I stopped sobbing. I don't know what really happened to my harmonium. Neither does Taposhda (yet). But I know everything will be ok.
I know this sounds crazy. But I also know that the feeling is right. I don't know how to explain it. And I am not sure if there are words to explain how I feel. But this is how I have been feeling since I have been in AK. And one needs to be in AK to be able to feel this way. There is just no other way.

- Nuzhat Karim Himi
on behalf of Amra Kojon

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Amra Kojon: The unbreakable bond we treasure

It was a warm summer evening when I drove up to my brother’s place for dinner upon my bhabi’s request to meet some of their friends. There they were, Taposh Da, Mamun Bhai, Harmonium, Tabla, Gaan, a truly breathtaking performance, a wonderful friendship, all tied together in one. I casually sat down to listen but was caught completely speechless. At the end of the evening, I was even given a gift by this dynamic duo! It was a cassette with songs for a show to be held in Feb 2003. I refused, after all, I just met them, how could I accept it? They would not take no for an answer. I was hesitant, yet eager to grab the opportunity, after all, this was a very unique approach to a show unlike any other I had experienced, and that itself in my book was my first encounter to set Amra Kojon apart from all others.

When Taposh Da asked, I casually agreed to become an organizer assuming with group politics and as a new recruit, I would be at the bottom of the list. I enjoyed peforming and loved organizing, so I didn’t want to brush off the idea completely. The first rehearsal was simply overwhelming! I was amazed to see the number of eager performers that turned up. Having no idea how I was going to fit into an already close nit group of friends, I was intimidated, wondering should I back out? That was just the first 5 minutes of the rehearsal. Greeted with warm hugs and big smiles from everyone, I was not even given a chance to have a second thought. Since then, I never had the need to look back or feel like an outsider. The newly made group of friends that I referred to as “them”, quickly became “us”. Amra Kojon was mine just as much as it was everyone else’s. Amra Kojon became very much a part my daily life, as I looked forward to spending each weekend with my new friends; not one, not two, but one hundred of them! The professionalism, discipline, rigor, yet fun and casual rehearsals became an integral part of my weekends. Days and months went by and there came Feb 9th, 2003! With sold out tickets and long lines of people still waiting to get in, gave us a sense of accomplishment like none other. Over 1100 seats were filled? For us? At the end of the show there was not a single soul that did not shed tears of joy. All the hard work had paid off. The evening ended with hugs, tears, laughter and a sense of fulfillment.

That was then, this is now…Amra Kojon, harboring all its energy is ready to come back with full force, better and stronger, to embark on its new journey, the World Tour, starting with the London trip. As we look forward to our new adventure, I always look back at the old memories that I cherish so dearly, cannot help but wonder where I was, and how far I have come through a true learning experience and a journey like none other. As a team, we support each other, sharing each others‘ sorrows and laughter. I find myself rushing to the computer every morning as I look forward to everyday‘s e-mails, forwards, updates, and news from London. Each day holds new hopes and challenges, filled with anticipation, excitement, endless possibilities and an unexplainable drive to conquer it all. We take pride in our prompt action to rise up to all obstacles as we strive for perfection, yet learn from mistakes. What defines us? We are not just friends, we are a family. My biggest pride? The group of talended individuals that I am honored to associate with every day. Its not just the gesture of that first cassette that sets it apart anymore, its many more of these small encounters that create the unbreakable bond we have today. As I stumble through the chaos of every day life, Amra Kojon brings a breath of fresh air; it adds color to my life and makes each day that much brighter.

- Pusha Karim
on behalf of Amra Kojon

Amra Kojon makes dreams come true

Taposhda and I were on the phone, talking about the performer list for April 22 show, about rehearsal schedules and about how to coordinate rides to and from Boston and Providence. The conversation casually steered towards our anticipation surrounding our London sponsors’ decisions upon the budget review. With that thought in the background, we again returned to our discussion of the April 22 show – thinking out loud almost in unison that having Sohini Alam join us from London would be such a great fulfilling experience – not only for the members of Amra Kojon who all miss her spirit and verve so dearly ever since she left us for London, but also for the quality of the show. After all, how can the statement “Amra Kojon presents 15 – 20 of their best performers from the area” be true without our dear Sohini?

In a moment of inspiration, we just threw around the idea – why can’t we all just chip in and help her with the trip to Boston? There’s enough of us around so that the contribution wouldn’t be a pressure on any one person. Immediately Nitadi volunteered her $100 contribution, and Taposhda put down Sujan bhai for another $50-100 – confident enough in his spirit not to have to really consult with him. I joined in with a $50 pledge, and Taposhda and I hung up, excited to get the news to Sohini.

I was on the phone with another friend for 10minutes after that. When I came back, my inbox had been filled – a lot of the Amra Kojon family members had jumped in with their contributions – Auditi, Tuhin, Pusha, $25, $50, whatever they can spare. All of us are students or young professionals with limited budgets – yet put in perspective, there’s really not a price you can put on the fun you can have with your close friends!

What’s the point of this entry? Not much. I had had a long day, and had been ready to collapse in a heap of exhaustion past midnight, having worked almost around the clock for hours on end. Yet I felt oddly energized. Excited. Rejuvenated. The speed with which our friends had jumped onto board to make something happen, the spirit of sharing, of trying to make the impractical happen – that’s what makes dreams come true. And Amra Kojon makes dreams come true: through its people. That’s our unique strength. The gift of friendship.


on behalf of Amra Kojon

Hello World!

You've always wanted to know why Amra Kojon is so unique. What makes the family stick together so tightly, despite such diversity in its members? How can they achieve so much, deliver so much - always?

We've told you it's our spirit, our energy, our friendship.

Here's a glimpse into our lives behind the scenes. What goes into the planning, the thinking, the executing. The tears, the pain, the laughter, the love. The dreams that are shaped, re-shaped, and realized.

The dreams that are shared. Around the clock. Share the Amra Kojon magic through this blog - a peek into our lives around the clock.

-Amra Kojon