Dhamail on stage

By Ankita Das

Music that resonates for long, hours after it has been performed, changes a part of us – in a good way.
Dhamail is one such folk music and dance form of a remote Bengali community – Sylheti – living in parts of Assam and Meghalaya. The origin of these people can be traced in Sylhet district, which is a part of Bangladesh now.                                                                                 Dhamail, which is generally performed in the backyard of the houses, especially by women, on occasions such as marriage or rice ceremony, has for the first time been performed on stage.

Pic: Dhamail performance by Kalikaprasad Bhattacharya and group. These photographs were taken by me.

Folk music maestro Shri Kalikaprasad Bhattacharjee, lead singer of the Bangla Folk band – Dohar, led a dance troupe of almost 50 members, including girls from the age group of 5 to women over 50, to perform Dhamail on stage.
The phenomenal performance has not only left a major impact on the cross-cultural audience but the enthralling music by  Mr Bhattacharjee and his team made the crowd dance and sing along with them.
This initiative by Mr Bhattacharjee is a major contribution towards healing the Assamese-Bengali divide on the language issue.
The divisive views among people over language is a long-standing issue in Assam, where some nationalist parties have been demanding to make Assamese as ‘the only official language’.
It has infuriated a major controversy across the state and is strongly protested by communities like Missing, Rabha, Boro and many others, besides Bengalis, especially Sylheti speaking people.
Sylheti people are dominant in Silchar, a part of Barrack valley in Cachar district of Assam, where the majority of the people speaks in Sylheti, a Bengali dialect.
Dhamail was performed in ITA Machkhowa here on 11th Bhasha Sanskriti Milan Utsav on the occasion of International Mother Language Day on February 21.
On the backdrop of a turmoil relationship among the people over language, Mr Bhattacharjee said, “Language should not have the essence of power but of love. We should see language from the standpoint of love and compassion and not power and
dominance.”
Hailing the event, he said, “Let everyone speak in their mother tongue (sobaike sobar matribhashae kotha bolte dewa hok),” adding, “Language is to be loved (bhashata bhalobashar jinish).”
On the occasion, eminent Journalist of Assam Ajit Kumar Bhuyan, who chose to speak in Bangla in solidarity with the Bengali speaking people, said, “The way one loves their mother language, they should respect and have tolerance and compassion towards other languages spoken in the state.”
He lauded the initiative of  Byatikram MASDO, an NGO run by Dr Saumen Bharatiya, which organised the event, and said that this event is a stepping stone towards Assamese-Bangla companionship and unity and added, “Politics cannot affect this unity anymore.”
“The main objective of this occasion is to give back the lost glory and existence of various languages spoken by minority in the state (ae antorjatik matri bhasha utsober asol uddesho hochche astitva harano bhasha guloke tader astitva firiye dewa),” said
Kalpana Rai, an author and practising lawyer of Guwahati High Court.
Besides Mr Bhattacharjee, well-known singers and musicians – Nandini Chakraborty, Sudipto Chakraborty, Arijit Nath and Abhijit Baruah, who graced the occasion, chose to sing and play Bengali songs.
Mr Baruah sang Retro songs in Bengali and was cheered by the crowd.
Although Dhamail has been brought to this huge stage in Assam for the first time, the engaging and bewitching performance of the troupe left the audience, who danced along with them, with a feeling that this dance form needs a much more bigger stage.

  ******

(This article was released by United News of India on February 26, 2017. Here is the link to the article http://www.uniindia.com/dhamail-on-stage/other/news/793403.html

Please note that Folk singer Kalikaprasad Bhattacharya passed away on March 7, a fortnight after the article was taken).

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