Folk music has been the cornerstone of Bengali culture as long as anyone can remember. You do not need to be a folk enthusiast to know that. The rivers crisscrossing this Gangetic delta has rippled to the unforgettable bhatiali and sari folk songs of the ferrymen, whereas bhawaiya has been a staple of the north.
A wide spectrum of mystic songs composed by great bards like Hason Raja and Lalon Shah has been immortalised thanks to their devotees throughout the country, while Bangladesh's spirituality has also been externalised through marfati and murshidi songs.
With the view of putting emphasis on these hidden treasures and upholding them to the new generation, like every year, the Dhaka International Folk Fest kicked off where artists from not only Bangladesh but from around the world enchanted Dhakaites with the wealth of the musical heritage they brought along with them.
This year's festival opened with a dance by Prema and Bhabna Nrityadal. Other attractions of the evening included Georgian folk band Chveneburebi, the phenomenal Shah Alam Sarkar and the "King of Bhangra" himself, Daler Singh popularly known as Daler Mehndi.
As Chveneburebi took to the stage, they surprised the audience by greeting them – "Swagotom Dhaka! Tomra kemon achho?" An announcement that was meet with applause and fanfare.
In his welcome speech, Anjon Chowdhury, chairman of Sun Foundation and Sun Communications Ltd, said, "Folk music is the music of our soul. We want to spread this music across the globe. We are now very delighted that the people from all over the world are getting introduced with our festival."
Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen as chief guest, said, "Folk fest is the emblem of our joys and sorrows. The folk music is related to our tradition. I am thankful to all local and foreign folk artists and organisers for arranging such a programme.
Following inauguration, Information Minister Dr Hasan Mahmud said, "The folk fest tells the stories of our life. The unexpressed stories of our country are being told through this form of music. Love for music and culture have ensured that the young generation do not traverse the wrong paths."
Dedicated to six late giants of Bengali music, a video film depicting Subir Nandi, Bari Siddiqui, Shahnaz Rahmatullah, Ahmed Imtiaz Bulbul, Fakir Abdur Rob Shah and Ayub Bachchu, was screened at the opening ceremony.
This year, more than 200 artistes from six countries, including Bangladesh, are scheduled to share the same stage to celebrate the music of the masses.