It all began with the unbelievably successful first edition of the Bengal Classical Music Festival in 2012. Ever since, Bangladesh’s music scene has seen some considerable actions in the following years with several music festivals being held all year around attended by artists from all over the world.
The classical, folk and rock music scene in the country has always been quite solid. But to give the music enthusiasts more sophisticated endeavour, Blues Communications organize yet another unusual music festival. Sponsored by Grameenphone, the first Dhaka Jazz and Blues festival sees 12 artists from 6 countries leaving the audience in a daze.
The line-up for the festival was very well thought out, with a perfect balance of foreign jazz/blues artists and local stars. Local performers included experienced artists and relatively younger additions to the music industry of our country.
DAY 01 Curtains rose on the 5th of November, at the Army Museum field with a slot by Imran Ahmed Quintet, a jazz group based in Dhaka. The first performance was an original, ‘Lights’ which beautifully flaunted the modern jazz the Quintet usually plays.
Vasundhara Vidalur, popular for her collaborative work with Adil Manuel as a duo known as the Higher Agency, took the stage next with an ingenious jazz adaptation of Nirvana’s ever popular “Come As You Are”. The Shai Maestro trio, a jazz group from Brooklyn, followed suit.
Close to midnight, the Maestros made way for the festival headliner – John McLaughlin, 49th ranked guitarist on Rolling Stones Top 100 Guitarists of All Time and considered the founding father of jazz fusion guitar. Simply put, he is a jazz legend and this was the first time he has performed in Bangladesh. With most tracks from his new album “Black Light” that ranged from soft and mellow to absolutely mind-numbing instrumentals, McLaughlin lived up to the hype and more.
Photo: John Mclaughlin's sensational performance that Dhaka will cherish for long
DAY 02 The second installment saw more off our local jazz artists. The evening started off with a slot by a Bangladeshi-French cellist duo – Razef Khan and Florian Antler. Arguably one of the more popular instrumental slots of the entire festival, the cellists mesmerized with their covers of chart topping mainstream rock and pop songs AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck”, Michael Jackson’s "Smooth Criminal” and Rihanna’s “We Found Love”. Although, their Nirvana medley of “Lithium”, “Come As You Are” and “Smells Like Teen Spirit” stole the show.
The Blues Brothers, a Bangladeshi 5 piece band based in Dhaka took to the stage next. Lead vocalist Tashfee left everyone in the museum awestruck with her powerful voice that eerily resembled Adele’s, which is a huge compliment in itself. The slot mostly consisted of popular jazz covers and a few originals. Definitely one of the best slots at the festival, the Blues Brothers were a discovery for many of the people attending, standing only to show how far the music scene in Bangladesh has progressed.
Arnob and friends made a surprise 15 minutes cameo on the second day followed by Louis Banks, often deemed as the father of Indian Jazz. Californian blues band King Baby brought the night to a close with their groovy music.
Photo: Baby King performing on stage at Day 02
DAY 03 The final day had an absolutely star studded lineup with the Esdras Nogueira Quartet, all the way from Brazil, setting up the stage for an evening to remember. The second slot by Shillong based jazz band, Soulmate was the highlight of the evening. Tipriti Kharbangar on the vocals had the crowd mesmerized with her voice and infectious energy. The AB Blues followed by headliner China Moses, Paris based American singer, concluded the event on a high.
The Jazz and Blues festival was all in all extremely well-organized and executed. The huge turnout only goes to show how much the people of this city need more events like this to happen. The series initiated by Blues Communications is indeed commendable.
Photo: Esdras Nogueira Quartet got the crowd euphoric with the melodies of Saxophone
Photo: AB Blues Club captivated the fans with their popular numbers