JATRA BIROTI is a creative space or art lounge in Banani, known for their vegetarian restaurant and loved for their diverse programmes and events. Every weekend there is a gaggle of like-minded people gather here to experience music and art.
On November 28, Jatra Biroti hosted Ghurni: Beats/Verses; a night of new age hip hop and rap music with visuals. The line-up consisted of visual artists who collaborated with individual musicians to give the audience a live holistic visuals with musical experience. The audience were seen to be grooving all night to the music and largely consisted of indie and hip-hop enthusiasts and artists.
The show started with 30-minute freestyle by Shuffle, a hip-hop artist on the rise, to the beats of Siaminium. This segment had Siam and Shuffle, really committing to free-styling where Siam produced live beats; to which Shuffle free-styled effortlessly with some words thrown at him from the crowd. All the while, distorted art in columns were projected in the background.
This performance was followed by Our Lady of Bengal, a woman in a white saree and her face masked with surgical tape. Accompanied by Spaceghost and his music, Our Lady of Bengal recited her original hard hitting verses about the struggles of women. This act had the visuals of everyday Dhaka life, in black and white columns on the projector.
Her poetry followed simultaneous events of one Thursday evening, from 7pm onwards; an evening when a woman is raped on a bus while somewhere else, another is fretting over the ridiculous price of onions. The performance was colourful, not only because of her appearance and zest but also because when she spoke, she had the deep voice of a gruff grown man.
The atmosphere and mood changed as soon as Asir started playing his rhythm and blues music known as R&B with a conspicuous vibe; establishing his groove in seconds. Many new listeners were blown away by the smooth transitions and quintessentially composed songs with hilarious titles like ‘Onek kheyechhi, ar na aunty.’
Once the main line-up finished, the event ended with a freestyle session with several stand-alone artists and rappers. The concept of free-styling was slightly lost in this segment since a lot of them were not improvising.
Notable performers include BOX III or Munchimeister, who used sample music to rap about the many perils of being a Saudi-born Bengali living in Dhaka; as well as Young E who had the entire crowd jumping to his scarily accurate rhymes about life.
Some audiences, including myself, had higher expectations for the visuals. The art itself was pleasant but the projector facilities at Jatra did not do them justice. But the homely feeling of Jatra Biroti lures us back every time.
The audience left with a new-found outlook on this genre in this country, along with new favourites on SoundCloud and Spotify. The performers broke a number of barriers by addressing the pressing issues and a platform such as this has been necessary for far too long.
Nawar Fairooz is a student of Independent University, Bangladesh
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