This singing tradition cannot die
About the music work
Our ongoing aim is to preserve a kind of singing and playing, and the tunes and texts played and sung, in a northern region of Bangladesh. The effort aims in part at creating an archive. But the main purpose is to pass the knowledge of the elders to young people.
We have established a collective of singers and musicians devoted to teaching children whom they know by name, and whose life situations they know. The children know that they are known by other adults than their own family members.
For teaching to take place, the extended family and the village must participate. The very process of teaching and being taught is collective in more ways than one.
Our region is a land of rivers: Brahmaputra, Tizta,
Dhorla and more. Floods are common in Kurigram, Lalmonirhat, Nilphamari. People farm, fish, do day labour, or run small businesses. The region is the most flood- prone as well as the poorest in the country, far away
from the capital, Dhaka. The Hindu minority is considerable, maybe a fifth of the population. Among our children, there is a majority from Hindu families, and most of them are girls. At present, teaching takes place in eight villages. A special class for young people who may later become teachers is vital. Vulnerable, of course. (They are adolescents!) This class has been going on for six months. A special place for teaching instrumental music will be set up very soon.
Each informal song-and-music school is run by two teachers, in most cases one for voice/song and one for 2 rhythm. Some village elders with instruments drop in to participate. The place of learning, with or without walls, is located close to the home of one of the teachers. The teaching – which is free – takes place twice a week, on Thursdays and Fridays, each time for about three hours.
All the teachers come together every other month, some from far away. They stay in frequent touch by phone. Three teachers co-ordinate the project on a full-time basis. They visit one another ́s schools, as well as other schools, and evaluate the commitment and performance of local teachers and students.