Ansar Ahmed Ullah:
Grand Union Orchestra has been celebrating Bengali artists and their contribution to music in the UK for many decades. Grand Union Orchestra is currently working with partners Swadhinata Trust and Rich Mix on two important cultural commemorative events next month. Both events celebrate the birth of the independent nation of Bangladesh, forged out of the struggles, bloodshed and vision of its courageous people, 50 years ago, on 16 December 1971.
The British Library Sound Archive is now home to a significant oral history project, Bengali Music and Musicians in the UK, which is being launched at the ‘Songs of Freedom’ event on 16 December. Curated and compiled by the Swadhinata Trust, who work to promote Bengali heritage amongst young people, the archive project contains extended interviews with the prominent UK based Bengali musicians and champions of Bengali culture. These include Grand Union’s own tabla maestro Yousuf Ali Khan and Composer/Director Tony Haynes, whose long running collaboration and friendship forms the backbone of Grand Union’s profound engagement with Britain’s Bengali community and musical heritage. Grand Union musicians are joined by Yousuf Ali Khan on tabla and singer Lucy Rahman will perform songs by her father Sheikh Luthfur Rahman, a celebrated singer-songwriter and activist in the cause of independence
The event “Fifty Years of Freedom – A Musical Legacy” at Rich Mix on Sunday 12th December a special celebratory intergenerational concert, will see young British-born Bengali musicians from East London share the stage with core Grand Union performers. This concert will bring together the Bengali diaspora with other local East End communities in a joyous and transporting evening of music led by Yousuf Ali Khan and featuring Lucy Rahman, with Grand Union musicians performing alongside their mentors in the main ensemble. The evening will include two screenings, the first honouring Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, a 25-minute film compiled from full Grand Union shows, dramatising, through music, the protest and resistance that led to the War of Independence; the second The Mother, The River (music by Tony Haynes, lyrics by Mohammed Rafiquzzaman) presents a deeply moving account of the war seen through the eyes of a woman anxiously awaiting the return of her son.