Sunday, May 17, 2009

Banga Sammelan has a different kind of fun – Srikanto Acharya

The first time I went to Banga Sammelan it was year 2000 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Then I went for the Silver Jubilee Celebration in Madison Square Garden in 2005. Right from childhood, when I had just started to read magazines (then neither there was television nor was mass media so powerful), I came to know that Banga Sammelan in America was a very big event. Performers from Kolkata and rest of India perform, and they were very very famous artists. Then I had never thought that one day even I would perform in such a great platform. In that respect, I consider myself very lucky – especially the Silver Jubilee Celebration in Madison Square Garden. That was a very big event and all of us really enjoyed. We all traveled together, stayed together in the same hotel – it was great fun. This is really an added attraction in Banga Sammelan

Unless there is a special occasion program, this seldom happens in Kolkata. I remember Kalyan Sen Barat’s program – we worked very hard for it. There were lot of rehearsals in Kolkata, then just before Banga Sammelan, we had a couple of days rehearsal in New Jersey. Lot of people were involved in it. Our musician friends had gone from Kolkata – it was a large troupe. Another friend of ours, Tejen - he organized another beautiful program with Rabindranath, Atulprasad and Rajanikanta songs. That had a different feeling. I personally enjoy these kind of programs where everyone collectively put together the components to make a complete theme.

When we are traveling five thousand miles for such an event, staying together, performing together, meeting our overseas friends – this fun has an altogether different taste. I have enjoyed twice and I have no doubt in my mind I’ll enjoy this time (in San Jose) as well.

(as told to

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Poila Boisakh - Happy Bengali New Year

There are no Times Square parties, nor are there the elaborate resolutions that accompany the first day of the Gregorian calendar. But for prabasi Bengalis, Poila Boisakh heralds not only the beginning of the Bengali New Year (1416 this time), but a flood of nostalgic memories. The prabhat pheries, the new clothes, the halkhata...

In the latest "Countdown to Banga Sammelan" podcast episode we are joined by North American prabasi bengalis. Writer Alolika Mukhopadhyay mentions how Poila Boisakh celebrations slowly got merged with Rabindra Jayanti while Bengalis got busy with the larger celebrations like Durga Puja and Banga Sammelan. Chandana Sarkar tells the story of how in Shantiniketan Poila Boisakh was also celebrated as Tagore's birthday. Rummana Chowdhury takes us back to the celebrations of Pahela Boisakh in Dhaka bat-tala while Arvin Ghosh reminisces about childhood Nababarsha. Dilip Bhaumik recites his Poila Boisakh poem - for the past three decades he has written a poem capturing the events of the past year.

How do you remember Poila Boisakh? What did you do this year? Let us know.

Monday, March 9, 2009

NABC2009 Opening Ceremony to convey "...Fun, Frolic, Celebration" - Tanusree Shankar

Its just a three-day event, yet the preparations take years. The annual Banga Sammelan is a true test of organizational skill and grit - planning, fundraising, logistics and creativity. The tone for each year’s edition is set on the opening day itself with a gala opening ceremony, involving choreographers from the host city and Kolkata. In each Banga Sammelan, Bengalis, thus, look forward to a new theme and a new sparkle of creativity. San Jose – host of the 2009 Banga Sammelan, promises to continue with the same tradition. NABC2009 Cultural Group Chairperson Prasenjit Biswas met with the Kolkata crew in the beginning of this year and sketched for us an outline of the event. Film director Indranil Chowdhury is developing the concept and has been entrusted with most of the visuals while the choreography will be directed by the internationally acclaimed dancer, Tanusree Shankar. She was in San Jose last month conducting workshops and training sessions for the California team. This is the first time Tanusree is participating in Banga Sammelan and feels “grateful that (the team) had that kind of confidence in me and wanted me to choreograph the event”. She has been very impressed with the US cast – quite a large and diverse group of 76 dancers from 4-35 years old. She found them “…very motivated and always ready to learn in spite of their daily workloads”. She also emphasized the fact that the participants never missed a class even with their extremely hectic and busy schedules. She left after the brief stint and would return later, but the team is continuing with the rigorous pratice schedule every week. When asked about the message that the ceremony would convey, Tanusree was quick to point out that it would be of ", frolic and celebration...since any opening ceremony is a happy occasion".

The musical score for the opening ceremony is being composed by Joy Sarkar – one of the best contemporary composers of Kolkata. This is the second year in a row that Joy would have this honor. “Banga Sammelan is no doubt the largest international cultural event of the Bengalis”, Joy says with obvious pride. “This year’s opening ceremony will definitely be one to remember and is doubly notable for me since I am working with the renowned Tanusree Shankar for the first time”, Sarkar confided. (You can listen to the full interviews and exclusive insiders’ information in our podcast, “Countdown to Banga Sammelan” at, or dial, 1-530-418-5527 for listening through any phone).

Singer Lopamudra Mitra comes back to Banga Sammelan after a decade and feels nostalgic. Her debut at Banga Sammelan was at San Francisco in 1999. Performing in Banga Sammelan, she feels, is a memorable event for any Bengali performer. Her excitement stems from the fact that she will take part in a number of events. There will of course be her solo slot, but she is also likely to have a role in the opening ceremony and a special joint musical session with Srikanto Acharya. There may be other surprises in store. “My fans have mostly heard me sing my own songs and Rabindra Sangeet, but this time they may get a chance to hear me render adhunik songs of yesteryears”, Lopamudra adds. “In this year’s Banga Sammelan I am into so many things that, what can I say, I can hardly contain my excitement”, Lopamudra signs off!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Survey introduced in Banga Sammelan

Each year we come back from Banga Sammelan with mixed feelings. While our insatiable apetite for nostalgia and adda gets whetted irrespective of facilities and logistics, a comfortable arrangement coupled with quality events make it a truly memorable experience. Participants in the Countdown to Banga Sammelan Podcast have been echoing their sentiments about Banga Sammelan for the past two years, in general praising the massive annual undertaking while expressing reservations about few key areas. For the organizers, much of the feedback process so far has been personal perceptions and heresay. So this year Cultural Association of Bengal or CAB as it is well known - the primary sponsor of Banga Sammelan, decided to conduct a survey among registrants. One could rate various categories like Cultural Events, Food arrangements, Hotel facilities, Registration procedure etc. "Right now it's in black and white and people are saying", says Siddhartha Basu, member of the CAB executive committee. "The whole idea is that we can go back to the organizers of the Sammelan and inform them about the facts collected so that problems can be mitigated", adds Basu. Three lucky winners among survey respondents would be getting free registration for San Francisco Banga Sammelan.

The results of this year's survey reflected the general sentiment we heard among Toronto attendees. (
watch and hear attendee comments). The opening ceremony was the crowd's favorite with 87% of the survey respondents rating it Good or Excellent. Registration procedure was close behind with 77%. Food and event management got the most unfavorable response. To be fair to the 2008 organizers though, it was only on the first day that the food arrangements and event schedulings were inadequate - we hardly heard any complaints during the next two days as the organizers did a fine job of bringing things under control. But by then, in the minds of most of the attendees, the verdict on these two important aspects of the Sammelan had already been delivered. This highlights the importance of planning and perhaps a regular survey would be a useful tool in this process.The survey has a broader connotation too. Basu adds, "We also want to use this survey to study the demographics of Bengalis in North America so that we can deliver better service for their needs." A step in the right direction, may we add.

The survey is closed but you are welcome to leave your comments here. After all, if the needs are better articulated by us, the organizers can plan the events and services that much better.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

2008 Toronto Banga Sammelan - A weekend well-spent

A day has gone by and we are still suffering from the pleasant hangover. The very colorful closing ceremony, choreographed brilliantly by Kalyan Sen Barat and Calcutta Choir and local Toronto troupe, brought the curtains down to a very enjoyable weekend getaway in Toronto. Bengali arts, adda and cuisine competed with the usual festivities that surround the adjacent CN Tower (where, by the way, we spent our hangover day), except that when it came to having a time limit to enjoyment, the Banga Sammelan organizers indulged us into the wee hours of morning every day. If Aneek Dhar finished into the early hours of Saturday, Ustad Ali Ahmad's Shehnai took us into Sunday and Kumar Sanu finished just before Sunday midnight - that too only because the convention center was booked only till then.

We had great fun before the event when we brought to you the Countdown to Banga Sammelan podcast and the enjoyment doubled when we were able to meet many of our listeners in person. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on Banga Sammelan with us. Silicon Valley beckons us for the 2009 Sammelan - we will have a wrap-up episode available in a few weeks about Toronto and San Francisco Banga Sammelan. But in the meanwhile lets keep the discussion ongoing.

How was this year's Banga Sammelan for you? What were your favorite moments? Do you have a message for the organizers? We would love to have your comments to this post.

Piya and Deb