Is the carnival over for Bangladesh’s party bands?

CAPTION: The party bands of Dhaka during a performance in 2019. The three remaining bands in the Bangladeshi capital are struggling to remain relevant, despite being a popular source of entertainment in the '80s. (Photo courtesy of Dhaka Band Party)
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CAPTION: The party bands of Dhaka during a performance in 2019. The three remaining bands in the Bangladeshi capital are struggling to remain relevant, despite being a popular source of entertainment in the '80s. (Photo courtesy of Dhaka Band Party)
CAPTION: The party bands of Dhaka during a performance in 2019. The three remaining bands in the Bangladeshi capital are struggling to remain relevant, despite being a popular source of entertainment in the '80s. (Photo courtesy of Dhaka Band Party)
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CAPTION: The party bands of Dhaka during a performance in 2019. The three remaining bands in the Bangladeshi capital are struggling to remain relevant, despite being a popular source of entertainment in the '80s. (Photo courtesy of Dhaka Band Party)
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Updated 24 February 2022

Is the carnival over for Bangladesh’s party bands?

CAPTION: The party bands of Dhaka during a performance in 2019. The three remaining bands in the Bangladeshi capital are struggling to remain relevant, despite being a popular source of entertainment in the '80s. (Photo courtesy of Dhaka Band Party)
  • The colorful groups have been providing the soundtrack for Dhaka events since the 1930s
  • But changing tastes and a slump in demand mean there are now just three left in the city

DHAKA: They used to be the life of every party in Dhaka.

For almost a century, “band parties” provided the soundtrack for events across the Bangladeshi capital, from weddings and birthdays to election campaigns.

But in a swiftly changing world severely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, the tradition is fading away.

Mohammad Ibrahim, who owns one of the only three remaining groups in Dhaka – the Bangladesh Band Party – entered the profession as a 13-year-old boy.

He said his craft was a family legacy and he “can’t think of doing any other business except this,” as he had never learned any other skills.

“But there is no one to take over after me. The history of this century-old business will come to an end after my death,” Ibrahim said.

All of the party bands in Dhaka share a tradition that started with a man named Mohammad Kha, who brought the idea to the city in the 1930s.

Kha’s four wives and five sons were all band artists. One of his sons, Siraj Kha, started his own group in 1948 and the tradition trickled further down the family line.

In their heyday, the bands could do up to three events in a day. But demand slumped as people increasingly turned to modern sound systems and DJs. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated their struggles.

“It’s not a very lucrative profession nowadays,” Mohammad Salahuddin, who runs the Dhaka Band Party, told Arab News.

“I think with the passing of time, the tradition of band parties will disappear from society. It’s only a matter of years now,” added the 62-year-old, who took over the family business in 1975.

The bands, which were still popular through the ’80s and ’90s, are unlike other musical groups. They comprise between five and 15 members who dress up in colorful uniforms and carry their musical instruments, giving them the appearance of a marching band.

They were once considered the ultimate form of music and entertainment.

“In those days we didn’t have many options for listening to music. So the band party was an immense source of entertainment for us,” 66-year-old Omar Hossain told Arab News.

Abdul Awal, a 72-year-old Dhaka resident, also remembers the bands fondly. He said they were the main source of entertainment for any occasion and would play different types of music according to the mood of the event.

“In fact, we couldn’t think of any celebrations in our early days without the music of the band party,” Awal said. “The presence of the band party instantly changed the color of any celebration.”

Mohammad Arman, who owns the National Band Party, said business had dried up due to the recent lockdowns and restrictions on social gatherings.

“We didn’t receive a single work order for 20 months in the last two years,” the 40-year-old told Arab News.

While he had received some inquiries in recent months most of them had fallen through, he added.

Arman, who has run the business since 1993 and is the fourth generation of his family to do so, said his troupe used to have 20 regular members but since the start of the pandemic half of them had left.

The lack of work meant they were not earning the $10 to $15 they would each normally get for a performance.

“I don’t know where they are living now or how they are managing to get by as I am on my knees trying to run this business,” Arman said.


Man charged with new woman’s killing on streets of London

Man charged with new woman’s killing on streets of London
Updated 57 min 39 sec ago

Man charged with new woman’s killing on streets of London

Man charged with new woman’s killing on streets of London
  • Jordan McSweeney, 29, is charged with the murder of 35-year-old Zara Aleena
  • He spoke only to confirm his name and details during a brief hearing at the Thames Magistrates' Court

LONDON: A man was remanded in custody Wednesday after appearing in a London court charged with the murder and attempted rape of a woman who had been walking home alone in east London.
It was the latest in a string of similar incidents that have heightened concern over the safety of women and girls on the British capital’s streets.
Jordan McSweeney, 29, is charged with the murder of 35-year-old Zara Aleena, who was attacked after a night out in Ilford in the early hours of Sunday.
McSweeney, who is also charged with attempted rape and robbery, spoke only to confirm his name and details during a brief hearing at the Thames Magistrates’ Court.
In a statement, Aleena’s family mourned her death and called for an end to violence against women. They highlighted the killings of other women who were targeted by strangers in London and elsewhere.
The family expressed sympathy to the families of Sarah Everard, Sabina Nessa and others who were killed in recent months and whose deaths prompted widespread protests calling for more protection for women and girls.
The family said Aleena, a law graduate who was training to become a lawyer, “walked everywhere” and “believed that a woman should be able to walk home.”
“Sadly, Zara is not the only one who has had her life taken at the hands of a stranger. We all know women should be safe on our streets. She was in the heart of her community, 10 minutes from home,” their statement said.
Police said Aleena suffered serious head injuries, confirmed in a post-mortem examination.
McSweeney was denied bail and remanded in custody until he is due to appear at London’s Central Criminal Court on Jul. 27.
A march remembering Aleena is planned in Ilford on Saturday.


Japan’s Kishida backs Sweden’s NATO bid

Japan’s Kishida backs Sweden’s NATO bid
Updated 8 min 46 sec ago

Japan’s Kishida backs Sweden’s NATO bid

Japan’s Kishida backs Sweden’s NATO bid
  • Japan hopes to strengthen its relations with Sweden further as partners sharing basic values, Kishida added.

MADRID: Japanese Prime Minister KISHIDA Fumio on Wednesday expressed support for Sweden’s bid to join NATO in a meeting with his Swedish counterpart, Magdalena Andersson, on Wednesday.
“We support (Sweden’s) historic decision. We also express our respect for its efforts,” Kishida told Andersson.
NATO, which opened a two-day summit in Madrid on Wednesday, is expected to grant membership to Sweden and Finland after Turkey switched to support their participation.
Kishida said that Japan and Sweden will hold the presidency of the Group of Seven major powers and the European Union, respectively, next year.
Japan hopes to strengthen its relations with Sweden further as partners sharing basic values, Kishida added.
Andersson expressed gratitude for Japan’s strong action against Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine.

* This article originally appeared on Arab News Japan, click here to read it.


Russian court lets opposition figure’s jail term stand

Russian court lets opposition figure’s jail term stand
Updated 29 June 2022

Russian court lets opposition figure’s jail term stand

Russian court lets opposition figure’s jail term stand
  • The decision by the Moscow City Court came one day after Ilya Yashin was sentenced

MOSCOW: A court in Moscow on Wednesday rejected a prominent Russian opposition figure’s appeal of the 15-day jail sentence he received on charges of failing to obey police.
The decision by the Moscow City Court, the capital’s highest municipal judicial body, came one day after Ilya Yashin was sentenced.
Yashin, who has publicly criticized Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine, was detained late Monday in a Moscow park. Police said he grabbed an officer by his uniform and insulted police, which Yashin denied.
In May, Yashin was ordered to pay 90,000 rubles ($1700) on charges of discrediting the Russian military.
Russia has cracked down on critics of its “special military operation” in Ukraine, A well-known dissident, Vladimir Kara-Murza, was arrested in April and remains jailed while awaiting trial on charges of spreading false information about the military. The offense carries a potential sentence of up to 15 years.


NATO invites Sweden and Finland to join the alliance, Madrid summit statement says

NATO invites Sweden and Finland to join the alliance, Madrid summit statement says
Updated 29 June 2022

NATO invites Sweden and Finland to join the alliance, Madrid summit statement says

NATO invites Sweden and Finland to join the alliance, Madrid summit statement says
  • The alliance also agreed on a new strategic concept

MADRID: NATO has invited Sweden and Finland to become members of the military alliance, a commununique published by the NATO summit in Madrid on Wednesday said.
“The accession of Finland and Sweden will make them (the allies) safer, NATO stronger and the Euro-Atlantic area more secure,” the communique said, adding that the alliance also agreed a new strategic concept.
The communique described Russia as the “most significant and direct threat to the allies’ security,” a reaction to the massively deteriorated relationship to Russia since its invasion of Ukraine.
The alliance pledged further help to Kyiv and agreed a package of support aimed at modernizing the country’s defense sector.
At the same time, NATO decided to significantly strengthen its own deterrence and defense.
“Allies have committed to deploy additional robust in-place combat-ready forces on our eastern flank, to be scaled up from the existing battlegroups to brigade-size units, where and when required underpinned by credible available reinforcements, prepositioned equipment, and enhanced command and control,” the communique said.
In the communique, the alliance described China as a challenge to NATO’s interests, security and values, and as a country that is seeking to undermine the rules-based international order.


EU proposes ban on flavored heated tobacco products

EU proposes ban on flavored heated tobacco products
Updated 29 June 2022

EU proposes ban on flavored heated tobacco products

EU proposes ban on flavored heated tobacco products
  • A recent commission study showed a 10% increase in sales of heated tobacco products in more than five member nations
  • The ban would cover devices using heated tobacco to produce emissions containing nicotine inhaled by users

BRUSSELS: The European Union’s executive branch on Wednesday proposed a ban on the sale of flavored heated tobacco products as part of its plan to fight cancer.
The European Commission said its proposal comes in response to a significant increase in the volume of such products sold across the 27-nation bloc.
A recent commission study showed a 10 percent increase in sales of heated tobacco products in more than five member nations, while heated tobacco products exceeded 2.5 percent of total sales of tobacco products overall across the region.
The ban would cover devices using heated tobacco to produce emissions containing nicotine inhaled by users. E-cigarettes may contain nicotine, but not tobacco. With traditional cigarettes, users inhale smoke from burning tobacco.
“With nine out of 10 lung cancers caused by tobacco, we want to make smoking as unattractive as possible to protect the health of our citizens and save lives,” said Stella Kyriakides, the commissioner for health and food safety.
According to EU figures, cancer is the second cause of death in the bloc of 450 million residents. There are about 1.3 million cancer deaths and 3.5 million new cases annually in the EU.
An estimated 40 percent of EU citizens will face cancer at some point in their lives, with the annual economic impact estimated at around 100 billion euros ($120 billion).
The European Commission previously said it wanted to ensure that less than 5 percent of the EU population uses tobacco by 2040.
The proposed ban now goes to member nations and European Parliament lawmakers for review.