SOAS University of London

SOAS academics producing international music album in celebration of Bangladesh's 50th anniversary

17 December 2021
album cover
Album cover

SOAS academics, Dr Somnath Batabyal, Lecturer in Media in Development and International Journalisms, and Dr Georgie Pope of SOAS Research and Enterprise, are executive producers of UK-India-Bangladesh collaborative album, "Doyel Pakhir Ganer Khata" (The Magpie-Robin's Songbook), celebrating 50 years of Bangladesh.

The exceptional trio Sahana Bajpaie, Samantak Sinha and Sohini Alam will be the stars of the UK-India-Bangladesh collaborative album featuring contemporary renditions of songs recorded during the Liberation War.

Along with the album announcement, 16th December also marked Bangladesh Victory Day, and with it, the release of the first single from the album, O Buri Ganga Nadire sung by Sohini Alam with arrangement, mixing and mastering by Samantak Sinha. Alam’s soaring vocals take centre stage in this soulful rendition. With heart-breaking lyrics by Subimal Bhattacherjee, this song was originally sung by Amar Pal and recorded by Hindustan Records in 1971.

This album was a dream project of Somnath Batabyal with his roots in Dhaka’s Gandaria and co-creator musician and ethnomusicologist Georgie Pope who has been researching the music of Bengal and Assam for the past decade. Andrew Glen, Senior Teaching Fellow in Music and Studio Manager has also assisted with the creation of the album. 

Georgie said:

"This album is a dream collaboration for me. It joyfully brings together so many different parts of my life - personal and professional - and connects colleagues and departments from across SOAS, each bringing their rich and varied backgrounds. Somnath’s parents migrated from Dhaka to Kolkata before Bangladesh was created, Sahana, who teaches Bengali here, is famous as a singer in India as well as in Bangladesh and has lived and worked in both countries.

Sahana Bajpaie, Samantak Sinha, and Sohini Alam.
Sahana Bajpaie, Samantak Sinha, and Sohini Alam.

The album concept grew out of Somnath and Sahana’s friendship in London and conversations in the corridors of SOAS and in their homelands. I could immediately see the possibilities of how the output fits with SOAS’s goals of community engagement and knowledge exchange. I built around it the SOAS Concert Series event in October, which featured a live performance from Sohini Alam, a terrific British Bangladeshi singer and musician,  as well as a video ‘virtual support act’ from Sahana Bajpaie and Samantak Sinha from Kolkata in West Bengal, India.

The exciting release of the first single involved academics, colleagues in the School of Arts, Enterprise, Law, Languages and Music departments and was supported by IKE funding. This project shows the possibilities of creatively reaching out to the world beyond SOAS with our unique expertise and contacts."

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Somnath said: 

“In the summer of 2018, I was sitting with Sahana in the balcony of her house in Santiniketan, both of us listening to birdsong. We started talking about what it means to be a Bengali in foreign lands, and what binds us together. Our collective response was: it is music and poetry, and the particular sounds of childhood we carry with us. It was at this moment that idea for the album was born. The fiftieth anniversary of the birth of Bangladesh was approaching and it seemed an opportune moment to mark, remember and rejoice in both the trauma and the promise of that time through music.

We are all children of 1971. We have grown up in the shadow and the possibilities of what Bangladesh promised. Collectively, we wanted to hand this treasure to a younger generation.

2022 being the 75th year of India’s Partition, the album will take on new meanings for a new generation. It has been a dream project; to explore the myriad ways of being in diaspora.”

Watch the SOAS Concert Series event: Celebrating Fifty Years of Bangladesh with Khiyo, Sahana Bajpaie and Samantak Sinha

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