Anandale Washington DC had not seen so many beautiful men and women together, all dressed in colourful sarees and matching kurtas! Fall is a colourful time in USA, the leaves start taking different hues, from pale orange to deep crimson, from a subtle green to a bright spinach colour. The vibrant fall colours offered the most picturesque background to celebrate and be in a festive mood. Two eminent organisations BAIE and Drhupad of Washington DC celebrated the creations of poet Kazi Nazrul Islam in a convention titled the 17th convention on Nazrul. The dates were 15 and 16 of September. The hall of Nova Arts Centre was adorned with pictures of Kazi Nazrul Islam, in various ages and his songs formed the banner Basant Mukhor Aji and usual ones, like Momo Ek Hate Baka Basher Bashori r Hate Ronoturjo.
Deputy Representative of Bangladesh Mahbubus Saleh inaugurated the convention and his speech was awesome. He spoke about the need to propagate Nazrul not only for the future generation of Bangladeshis or those from the sub-continent. It should include mainstream Americans as the words of Nazrul can bring the future generation closer in their thoughts and appreciate, practice, celebrate what Nazrul had left for the world. The invited artists were introduced by Rini Biswas from Kolkata with one song each by Nazrul exponents Fatema Tuz Zohra, Khilkhil Kazi, Salauddin Ahmed, Artist Tushar Dutta, dancer Warda, Meher Afroze Shaon, Bidisha, Dorothy, Flautist Majid, Tabla artist Jogonnath and last but not the least Tomal. He amazed the audience with his song Dite Ele Ful He Priyo, accompanied by a Middle Eastern instrument. He is self taught and as a person born and brought up in USA, his rendition brought immense hope in my mind. This introduction was followed by a joint presentation of songs and poems by Salauddin Ahmed and Khilkhil Kazi, respectively.
The convention had simultaneous sessions of cultural programs as well as scholarly discussions on Nazrul Islam. It was not possible to attend all sessions but the one I did really fulfilled my intellectual spirit. It was a talk given by Prof Emeritus Winston Langley. He paid tribute to me by saying that he was much instigated by the essays translated in my new book, The path of the comet and other essays. He went on to explain the beauty of Truth in Nazrul's works. According to Nazrul, if someone has to be exiled if he spoke the truth, it means that truth itself has been exiled. We remain with a nation full of ‘Yes’ men and he gave examples of the coinage of the expression ‘Alternative Truth’ which was once used by the Trump administration. Nazrul's bold and blunt support for truth and his statement in Confessions of a prisoner were very much appreciated by this wise man.
In another session, mainly the brain child of VOA broadcaster, former Professor of English, poet and journalist Anis Ahmed, I had the opportunity to participate. Tagore songs were rendered by Dorothy and Nazrul songs by me and recitation by the veteran Iqbal Bahar Chowdhury. The main theme was to exhibit the similarities between the creations of Tagore and Nazrul and juxtapose the titles Rebel Poet for Tagore and Biswakobi for Nazrul. Anis Ahmed gave examples of the rebellion that was obvious in Tagore's works such as Ghore Baire, Chokher Bali and others and the way Nazrul has been inclusive of the whole world. In summary, these titles may or may not describe the creations of the poets. At a higher level, all philosophical theories speak of the same amity and forbearance, human empathy and tolerance for all. It was the most prominent part of the convention.
Dance performances by Warda and her team made the audience spellbound. She had gone to DC prior to the show and practiced the dances with the local team. Other local items such as the song sung like a qawwali Tora Dekhe Ja Amina Mayer Kole brought tears to my eyes, as I saw Abbasuddin Ahmed struggling to bring out the jist of Islam through these songs in undivided Bengal. Fatema Tuz Zohra, Meher Afroze Shaon, Tushar Dutta and myself had solo sessions of Nazrul songs. North Americans will remember Nazrul through the lyrics, we can only be the means!
Nashid Kamal is a Professor of Demography, Nazrul Singer and Translator.