Sunday, May 21, 2006

ATN Bangla broadcasts

ATN Bangla will be broadcasting parts of the Amra Kojon's "Let Music be the Language of our Conviction" during one of their shows that focus on expatriate community life and activities.

One part will be broadcast at 1010pm, EST, on Saturday, May 20, 2006. This is 810am in Bangladesh and 840am in India, on May 21, 2006.

Don't forget to watch the show and check back frequently at our website for subsequent broadcast dates and times.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Take 2

After finishing (and re-finishing) the DVD for the MIT concert in 2003, I eagerly awaited my turn to shoot video for Amra Kojon. I assumed that first chance would be London, but thankfully a preliminary concert would appear in Cambridge before the drastic leap overseas.

Upon early arrival at the Morse School, I felt simultaneously excited and at ease with the environment created for the show. Immediately I knew it was going to work! It had to. So much care and attention to detail must be rewarded with success.

One show and a few weeks later, I sit with the footage I shot and marvel at the talent displayed that night. Amra Kojon has found an amazing collection of talents. The future will only reaffirm this feeling.

- Chip VanDyke,
on behalf of Amra Kojon

Post-production updates

If you've been keeping up with all the updates made to the Amra Kojon website - well, then you're already up-to-date, good for you. For those who've missed the recent updates, thought I'd let you know what's happening :)

We've added the April 22 Photo-Gallery to the website. Now, you can find all rehearsal pictures, behind the scenes pictures, party pictures and pictures from the show all neatly organized in one place.

If you have pictures taken on the day of the show and want to share your pictures through our photo gallery, please get back to us. Comment in response to this post and we can get back in touch with you to coordinate picture collection :)

Remember how there were 4 professional photographers on the day of the show? Well, they've taken exceptionally beautiful shots of the performance, stage, backstage, the lobby area and of the audience members. Their online exhibits are also linked from the Photo-Gallery page.

The performer profile pages have been put up on the web. Yes, some are still under construction, as I coordinate with Mark, our current web-saavy volunteer, and some are missing the biographical profiles. If you haven't given me your profile yet, or your friend hasn't (and you can tell because their profile reads "coming soon") - now is a good time to get in touch with me.

We are waiting to receive the original sound track from ATN Bangla - after which, Chip, our talented videographer friend, will create the individual mp3 files to post along with each performer profile. We will then work on finishing the video editing of the show, and posting the songs on the website. What else? Oh yea, Matt, our documentary director/producer, will be working with the various interview footage to create a coherent "The spirit of Amra Kojon" clip. Again, once all that is done, you'll be able to access a lot of those materials through our website.

We're short-staffed - as always. If you want to volunteer in some capacity to deal with the logistics and post-production followups, please let us know :)

And in the meantime, enjoy the pictures from the show at the Photo-Gallery!

-Naina Ahmad
on behalf of Amra Kojon

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

An embracing pride

I received this on April 25th from Angela:

I woke up last night with an insomnia attack where Jhilmil's "pa ma gare sa" song was stuck in my head! I don't even know the words to that song and it's been going through my head ever since. It was one of the most wonderful concerts I've been to in years. Perched between my very white husband and two malayali friends, I was so proud to be a bangali sitting among the audience. The whole time, I was thinking, this is what we are all about. After years of being in the most-corrupted-nation-list or the infamous bottomless-basket-list, this show tells the story of passionate bangalis in the best possible light.

I don't know Faarzein but her words from the AK blog express exactly how I feel also:

" If there were ever a true, ideal Bangla nation, it would be AK because AK is what Bangla nation should be: self-less hospitality, crazy passion for Bangla culture, infectious merryment and pride in being a Bengali.......and all this without any of the religious/political narrow-minded nonsense that afflicts most Bangalis! As far I am concerned, AK is more home to me than Bangladesh. At AK, we worship Bangla culture, we uphold Bangla ideals and we passionately sing Bangla songs! What more could a Bangali girl like me ask for? :)
- Faarzein Mahmud,
on behalf of Amra Kojon"

I would like to add that when Bangalis are proud, it's not because of our might in the sword but rather it's a sense of love for the nature and the people that nourished us, expressed through the poetic hearts and singing voices of our people. The uniqueness about "bangali pride" is that there is an absence of a sense of dominion or power over others. In its place there is an abundance of closeness to our love of culture in whatever form it may take, be it poetry, paintings, songs, or dance.

It's a pride that embraces others and doesn't isolate. It's even more inspiring in these times because pride today means burning down the bridges of understanding and connection between us and them.

Thanks for reminding us of all the songs we grew up with. Songs in which we actually call nature "our mother" and thus invoke a sense of belonging that stretches the boundaries of modern nations and making a family of us all.

Good job all of you for bringing that embracing sense alive!!

-Angela Muhuri,
on behalf of Amra Kojon

The "ultimate thrill"

It has been a family tradition for us for many years to perform and for those of you who know me, know that I like to have fun with music, absolutely love the thrill of being on stage, yearn for the excitement and the anticipation right before a performance, long for those sleepless nights when all I could think of is the show, the sound of "ghungur", the rhythm and the beats and ultimately seeing the look on the faces of those who crave for music. My universe revolves around it and it is a world that to me only I own; it is my ultimate comfort zone. Then how was I willing to step outside of that and not perform on the 22 nd show? Many asked, many were surprised and many thought I was not given a choice. But I still remember Taps asking me if I wanted to dance and this was the first time I found myself refusing to perform as I was longing to work behind the scene.

The fact is I wanted to know what it takes to create that comfort zone, beyond the limits of the stage. I wanted to find out what is it that makes performers like Taps always say that they enjoy rehearsals and all the behind the scene work a lot more than being in lime light. How could that be? Well, I found out, as I stepped aside to experience the "ultimate thrill" as many may call it, and explored the behind the scene work. The intricacy of actually crafting a show was beyond my imagination until now! The excitement of meeting new people, making friends, all the hard work, the laughter and the fun in creating the environment for music and for performance, the drive, the dedication and most importantly the team work involved to hold it all together, allowed me to see a world that I had never seen before. Watching a show blossom into something so wonderful is something that can only be experienced and cannot be explained with the clicks of the keys from my computer. I always wanted to be known as a performer and after the show many only knew me as someone who was at the entrance or at the DVD booth. The fact is it didn't matter to me because today, I can finally say that I got to have the experience of a lifetime; the "ultimate thrill"! Today, if I had to choose again between performing and being back stage, my choice for AK will remain the same. It is the same excitement and the anticipation, the same sleepless nights, the same sound of rhythm and beats that aspire me to conquer whats beyond my comfort zone and expand my horizon to a "limitless boundary".

- Pusha Karim
on behalf of Amra Kojon

Thursday, May 04, 2006

They say I'm a dreamer....

"They say I'm a dreamer,
Ah, but I am not the only one."

There are many reasons why *I* will never lead AK. Mainly because a lot of people I hate will not be allowed to participate in it in any way.

Unfortunately, I have to swallow that bitter pill often given the platform that is our pride -- the fact that we are a close group of friends and music-lovers beyond the borders of country, class, religion and community.

But that platform does not spell out a lot of things that AK deals with every day -- both good and bad.

-The bond that makes our AK friends come from London and SFO and Albany and NY to support us or participate in our endeavors.

-The dedication that makes people donate 100 percent of their blood, sweat and time to working behind the scenes despite holding full time jobs and with very little rest or sleep. (Hey one even gave up his job a week in advance so he could help AK fulltime a week before our Nabo borsho show!)

-The belief that many have in us to give us their time and money so their our dreams can come to fruition.

These people, and I, cannot understand why, when we are trying to do something positive, something different, and something we believe could really make a better world, there are others who pour in cynicism, criticism and lies.

-Yes, we make mistakes. Our projects are great but we are not. We are humans and not even professional event organizers, but we try our best. When we know mistakes have been made, we feel worse than anybody else could and we apologise, sincerely.

-When Murphy's Law takes it's course and things go haywire, we try to learn from them to prevent it from happening the next time around.

-AK's unofficial disclaimer is that we do not intentionally leave anyone out of our planning and process. If you want to serve coffee or make copies just volunteer and we'd love to have you. But be on time and don't ditch us. Keep that commitment when you make it because we can't keep track. When there are so many people in charge of so many things that often we can't check every single aspect.

-We welcome criticism and no one has been more critical of our events than many of the most involved people themselves. But at same time we have to move beyond our mistakes. There's more work to do, more goals to meet, bigger projects to unveil and very little time. We can't afford to be bogged down by things smaller than our dreams.

I still remember the first Amra Kojon meeting at MIT where we met prospective sponsors and most of them laughed off the idea of a large-scale event showcasing 1,000 years of Bangla music with more than 100 singers on a stage as prestigious as Kresge.

But hey, it happened. And it was sold out. On a snowy weekday. And it received rave reviews in the media in Boston, NY, London and Dhaka. Don't believe me? Check our press clippings online at

About a year ago, another meeting took place when Taps voiced his dream for the project we now call AKoTRo or Amra Kojon on the Road -- a never-before attempt to take Bangla music chorus all over the globe -- a world tour, no less. Once again, we were met mostly with derision and cynicism. They said it was impossible. They said it could never happen. They said he was dreaming.

Well, guess what, it's happening again. I for one will be laughing on the other side of my face when I board that plane. Or when others board, in case I have to manage the home base if needed.

I do not understand Taps' obsession to involve and appease everyone, be they performer, organizer, one-time assistant or guest. But I respect it and I admire him for being able to do something I clearly cannot. For his sake and AK's, I am respectful towards all those people who crib and contribute nothing because it is not my place to tell them to shut up or stay out. Because the dream is no longer mine
alone and I have no rights sabotaging it for others. And AK needs the strength of diversity, of numbers, to succeed.

So if you want to come and join us, do. We want you. We need more dreamers -- and doers. But do so at your own peril because AK will monopolize ur life, make giant demands of your time, demand instant action and a commitment to have and to hold, for better, for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to
cherish, 'till death do us part. You can either believe or not. There is no middle-path. Call it a cult, if you must.

If you only want to party with us and not participate in the AK workload, still join us. Our parties very much capture the spirit of AK.

But the moral of my long story is, if you have nothing to contribute other than negativity, hysteria, criticism and lies, DON'T! And if you must, well, we've survived this long with the negativity, chances are we still will....

"I hope someday you can join us,
And the world will live as one."

- Auditi Guha,
on behalf of Amra Kojon

How can I not be proud?

It is quite feeling to be surrounded by such talented friends, and quite fulfilling to take pride in the achievements of not just one individual, but a whole team. I know that people have been thanked all over the place and that some are getting tired of it, but I have to express my appreciation for a few special people who put in so much time and effort to make others on stage look good. Undoubtedly, our singers and musicians were awesome, but I got to see firsthand what Audi, Pusha, Naina, Sujan Bhai and Tuhin Bhai did for all of us. And what impresses me most is the unselfishness with which they did their work. Hours of hard work put in and no recognition desired. How can I not be proud to have friends like that?

- Sohini Alam,
on behalf of Amra Kojon

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Dare to Dream!

I am writing two weeks after the show and the drunken afterparty.

That I am writing at all is a miracle cos I think I have had it with Bangla songs, alponas, maniacal backstage chaos and fatigue! I have a secret plan to move to the Arctic reserves and fight against drilling for oil or something that will take me out of the next AK project.

Unfortunately I have no drive and no money and without Taps to feed my mind and soul (and stomach too!) I'd be starving anywhere else.

Five years ago I remember my first highway drive in the US in a beamer he claimed wasn't his, maybe at 3 am in the night. We listened to sad songs on the way and cried and exchanged lifestories, two strangers in the night.

Later at his studio, we sang our favorite songs, told our saddest stories and wept our happiest tears. And I wondered aloud why we can't leave our mundane lives behind and roam around the world and make music instead.

I was serious and I know the thought stayed with him.

So I wasn't surprized when our first AK show came into being - it was just one step closer to a bigger dream. And I don't think AKoTRo will be the end of it.

This is just the beginning.

- Auditi Guha,
on behalf of Amra Kojon