Cover Story

F Minor for cultural plurality

Nasir Uz Zaman | Published: 00:00, Jan 13,2019 | Updated: 13:35, Jan 13,2019

Cover story

F Minor band members from left: Gloria Manda, Nadia Ritchil, Akiu Marma, Pinky Chiran and Diba Chicham.

The all-women band F Minor started its journey in 2016. The songs of the band in different languages other than Bengali is a reminder that Bangladesh was born in 1971 with the aspiration to establish a linguistically and culturally pluralistic society and state, writes Nasir Uz Zaman

SINCE 70’s, the participation of women band members is noticeable but it is hard to get names of all-female members’ musical band except a few. Blue Birds is considered to be the first all-women members’ musical band in Bangladesh. In 1990, this female band marked their presence in the culture and history of Bangladeshi musical band. The marking feature of the band was that from drummer to vocal, all members were women. At that time women were seen, at the maximum, as playback singers for films or to sing folk songs, Rabindra sangeet or Nazrul geeti. But western rock was socially considered not a women-thing. Blue Birds dared to walk this territory conventionally unchartered by women. In 2008, five young women from Srimangal city of Moulvibazar tried to form an all women-band again — Twinkle. Their journey came to halt due to lack of support until they reunited in 2015 as Anchal.

‘F Minor’ — another all-women ethnic minority origin band is born out of this legacy. They started their journey in October 2016. The founder of the band, musician Jadu Ritchil with co-founder Antar Sku formed the band’s line-up. The band intends to represent the music and culture of ethnic people living in Bangladesh as well as to cover the other genres of world music. Folk music of ethnic communities works as one of the foremost influences for the band.

F Minor performing at a programme in Dhaka on Friday, November 30, 2018.

At present the band consists of five young members — Pinky Chiran (vocal), Nadia Ritchil (guitar, ukulele and vocal), Gloria Manda (lead guitar), Diba Chicham (kajon), Akiu Marma (keyboard). The marking feature of the band’s structural formation is that all the band members are young female students from different ethnic communities. The content formation of the band is that most of the songs are subjected to the festivals of ethnic communities and romantic genre’s songs.

F Minor, about choosing its name, told New Age Youth that though it is the name of a musical chord but might also be used to represent ideological perspective of the band. F also signifies freedom, fight, female and so on. At this point the members also point out that they faced a common question that why the name is not F Major but F Minor? One point for it is that all the members are from minority communities. One of their members is from Marma community and other four are Garo. Another point is that the F Major chord sounds loud and on the other hand F Minor chord is much more harmonious to tune in with the struggles of the community and melancholy. Hence it is the perfect musical of the realities of ethnic minority communities in Bangladesh.

The very first performance under the band’s name was at the Garo Wangala Festival 2016 in Banani, Dhaka. Wangala is a major annual traditional festival of the Garo people. The myth or belief behind it is that thousands of years ago, they did not have seeds to grow plants. So, they collected fruit and roots from the jungle that were their main food. One day they prayed to their god for seeds and the next day they found it. They preserved the seeds and started cultivating on the hills. After harvest, they used to thank their god first and then consumed harvest. The celebration is rooted in the community’s mythical history. Garo community celebrates this day with songs and festivity, F Minor is trying to collect these songs and spread them across the country.

Members of F Minor

Like Wangala festival, other ethnic minority communities have their own festivals. For Tripura community, it is Baisuk. For Chakma community it’s Biju. Then Marma community has its own Sangrai festival and Tangchangya community celebrates Bishu festival. F minor draws inspiration from all these festivals and sings song of the communities with the aim to reintroduce the local ethnic songs to wider culture of Bangladesh. The reality that we are losing local songs of ethnic minority communities due to dominant Bengali cultural aggression F Minor felt the urge to rescue the musical heritage of their communities before it’s too late. In another words, their songs are based on the life and culture of ethnic people.

Hereto, the memorable performance for the band was the one that took place in Thanchi upazila of Bandarban district. In the performance at Balipara of Thanchi, they released their original song Nachbe Pahar and sung the song for the first time publicly. As it was outside the city where urban racket was absent and the rural-ethnic environment was organically present, the song resonated with the audience more than they expected. As part of the community, singing the song of the community in its own cultural-ecological environment, made the performance truly memorable for F Minor members.

Somosto Din is another original song of the band which is about women’s daily life. As an all-women band, F Minor wants to shade light on women issues. It is generally and widely seen that women’s life is chained in doing only household works. But no one recognises the basic fact that she has also life outside the household works and world. It is as if she has no voice to break the chain. F Minor gave birth to such song to give women homemakers a voice. Some other notable original and cover songs of F Minor are Nepali folk song Resham Piriri, Tanchangya song Buyaran, Chakma song Utton Pege, Marma song Sangrai Khela and many more.

As a newly formed all-women band, F Minor has the dream to reach far and wide with their songs. They want to collect songs of ethnic languages' woven with the history of their communities. They want to sing these songs in their own ethnic languages, but also in Bengali. They want to record these songs with proper and professional support overcoming financial barrier and reclaim their musical heritage.

Amal Akash, a founding member of Samageet told New Age Youth that the more the ethnic communities' members come forward in mainstream Bengali culture with their own languages and cultures, the more they can ensure and secure their place. He also added that to have diversity in culture more men and women should come forward in cultural area and it is a valuable initiative that F Minor, an all-female band has come forward while there are not many all-female bands.   

Listening to songs of F Minor would at once help us reckon with the fact that culture is never static as seen stereotyped cultural representation of ethnic minority women singing songs by the Chengi River wearing ethnic attire. Cultural aggression, particularly on minority communities, must be questioned and F Minor's songs ask us to do so. More importantly, the songs of F Minor is reminder that Bangladesh was born with the aspiration to establish a linguistically and culturally pluralistic society and state. Over the years, the kind of Bengali nationalism is cultivated by the mainstream politicians and ruling elites, it is annihilating cultural traditions of communities other than Bengali. Members of F Minor perceived it as their responsibility to save their languages and cultures from this nationalist cultural aggression.

Nasir Uz Zaman is a member of the New Age Youth team.



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