Last Thursday evening I was attending one cultural show. A local band was performing rocks and modern Bangla songs. The crowds were seemingly not happy with the performance. The acoustics were good, but the vocals were not matching them. Then came a girl, who started to sing popular Hindi movie songs. The crowds were on their feet and cheering like anything. I quietly alienated myself from that place. This is not the Bangladesh I want, lost to the superiority of another culture.
The same night I caught a glimpse of the 'Close up 1 - Tomakey Kujche Bangladesh' (Bangladesh Looks for You) contest finals on TV. This is the first ever music talent show in Bangladesh(can be termed Bangladesh version of American Idol). In that show Nolok Babu, 19, with a passionate voice won the crown with 775,000 sms public votes against the 1st runner-up Razib (331,000 votes), who was the favorite of the judges.
Now for two reasons this competition is significant and successful. The first reason you will get to know from these headlines:
- A 'train singer' is Bangladesh idol
- Penniless street singer set to win first 'Bangladesh Idol' contest
Yes, this is not fiction. Nolok Babu started singing in public after his father, a taxi driver, left them several years back when his mother was down with Hepatitis. Funds were needed to treat her and Babu started singing at the local train station as well as on trains to ensure his mother fully recovered from the disease. On his first day he earned Taka 500, an unimaginable amount for novice street singer. Living in a slum did not stop him to pursue his dream as he continued to sing to earn and got recognition of his talent finally. The key to his popularity was his performance, not sympathy. Nolok Babu is the name he got from his friends and admirers. The prizes he got include a one million Taka singing contract, a car, home theatre system and Plasma TV.
The second reason is that this competition has been a booster for the Bangladesh Music Industry. On the following day, while walking past the music shops in Elephant road and New Market area, I heard the competition songs playing everywhere. The new voices are very good and refreshing from the ordinary contemporaries. People have really welcomed them. Especially the 2nd runner-up Beauty has got a very wonderful voice and she is deemed the next queen of folk music. You can download some of the songs sang by the top contestants (via Rajputro).
Yes, Bangladesh is looking for guys and girls like Nolok, to rock us.
Update: More songs from close up 1 to download.