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By 26th October 2021April 5th, 2022Current Events

CELEBRATING THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF BANGLADESH INDEPENDENCE on Victory Day 16th December at British Library 2021, with stories, song and music booking now available on




On December 16th 1971 the nation of Bangladesh was born after a war of liberation from the rule of West Pakistan.


On this day we are pleased to launch the Swadhinata Trust archive of our oral history project, Bengali Music and Musicians in the UK, now available on the British Library Sound Archive website on this link


Tonight’s Programme includes:


Mahmudur Rahman Benu-bhai who led the Bangladesh Mukti Shangrami Shilpi Shangstha Liberation Team of Artists in 1971, touring the war zone and refugee camps in India singing Songs of Freedom.

Moushumi Bhowmik, an Indian Bengali singer, writer and music archivist. She composed and sang the iconic ”Joshor Road’ for Tareque Masud’s documentary, ‘Muktir Kotha’, which has become an anthem of the 1971 Liberation War of Bangladesh. Her research and collection of field recordings from Bangladesh may be found in The Travelling Archive

Budhaditya Bhattacharyya, an Indian musician and music researcher based in London, UK. Trained in Hindustani classical music and modern Bengali songs currently under the tutelage of Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty. As a DDS-funded doctoral researcher at Durham University, Budhaditya is working on musical histories of migration and citizenship between Bengal and Britain.

The Grand Union Orchestra, led by composer Tony Haynes, has an long history of collaboration with artists from Bangladesh. Tonight he and three members of GUO are joined by Yousuf Ali Khan on tabla and singer Lucy Rahman performing songs by Lucy’s father Sheikh Luthfur Rahman, celebrated singer/songwriter and activist in the cause of Independence.

The event will be hosted by Julie Begum, chair of Swadhinata Trust, and Valentine Harding, a member of Swadhinata Trust and volunteer researcher for the Bengali Music and Musicians in the UK project.

Audio Summary


Concert held at the British Library Knowledge Centre on December 16th 2021 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Bangladesh Victory Day and launch of the Bengali Music and Musicians in the UK Oral History Project.


Hosted by Julie Begum and Val Harding.

Introduction to the Swadhinata Trust and history of December 16th 1971 given by Julie Begum.

Film clip shown from Sheik Mujibar Rahman March 7th 1971 speech in Dhaka

Introduction to the Bengali Music and Musicians in the UK Project given by Val Harding.

Film clip shown from the film Muktir Gaan to introduce Mahmuder Rahman Benubhai.


Concert programme:

Mahmuder Rahman Benubhai: vocals and harmonium.

Yamin Chowdery: tabla.


  1. Deshey deshey bromi tobo dukho gangahiye (travel from country to country singing your sad songs). Traditional folksong.
  2. Pakposhuder martey hobey cholorenao dhaiya, nouka ebar choley moder juddher shaman loiya, heia re heia (3) (to kill all the Pakistani animals, ride all the boats, our boats now carry firearms). Freedom fighting song (Muktir Gaan)
  3. Jessore, Khulna, Bogura, Pabna, Dhaka, Borishal, Noakali; tara Hindu o noy, Muslim noy, shudhu Bangali (J,K,B,P,D,B,N, they are neither Hindu or Muslim, only Bengali). Freedom fighting song (Muktir Gaan).



Moushumi Bhowmik: vocals

Ben Heartland: double bass

Ros Acton: Cello


  1. Joshor Road: written and composed by Moushumi Bhowmik, based on Allen GInsberg’s ‘September on Jessore Road’.
  2. Aay Go Uma: traditional
  3. Pranonath Bondhu Re (one verse): written and composed by Pir Mojiruddin (early 20th century) of Syedpur, Sylhet

Sung A capella (unaccompanied voice)

  1. Batash Tomay Dakchhe: written by Moushumi Bhowmik,

Composed by Moushumi Bhowmik and Oliver Weeks



Budhaditya Bhattacharyya: vocals and harmonium

Yamin Chowdhury:tabla

Harjodh Singh: esraj


  1. Jwale pran durnitir chitay (Lives burn in the pyres of anarchy): a Bengali song based around Raga Bilasi Todi— a blend of two traditional ragas, Miyan ki Todi and Bilaskhani Todi—created by Jnan Prakash Ghosh. Composer and lyricist: Budhaditya Bhattacharyya. Co-artiste: Harjodh Singh (esraj).
  2. Ganer tarani beye (Rowing the song-boat): a Bengali khayal in Raga Bhupali set to teentaal (16 beats). Lyricist: Syed Shamsul Huda. Composer: Munshi Raisuddin. Co-artistes: Harjodh Singh (esraj), Yamin Chowdhury (tabla).
  3. Laye badhava jag siraj (Sun, the harbinger of good tidings): a Hindi khayal in Raga Bhupali set to rupaktaal (7 beats). Composer and lyricist: Budhaditya Bhattacharyya. Co-artistes: Harjodh Singh (esraj), Yamin Chowdhury (tabla).
  4. Sakalbelar aloy baje biday byathar Bhairabi (Tagore’s English translation: “The morning-light aches | With the pain of parting”): Rabindranath Tagore wrote this song based on Raga Bhairavi during his stay in Stuttgart on 26 September, 1926. Co-artiste: Harjodh Singh.
  5. Shanti mantra (Prayer for peace). Co-artiste: Harjodh Singh


Grand Union Orchestra

Tony Haynes: Director, Composer, keyboard. Lucy Rahman: vocals. Yousuf Ali Khan: tabla. Shanti Jayasinha: trumpet, cello. Louise Elliot: tenor sax, flute. Gerry Hunt: bass guitar.

  1. Rokte Aamar Aabar Proloy Dola (composer Sheikh Luthfur Rahman). Tenor sax solo: Louise Elliott
  2. Ami Apar Hoye (composer Lalon Shah). Flute solo: Louise Elliott; cello solo: Shanti Jayasinha
  3. Lanchito Nipirito Janatar Joy (composer Sheikh Luthfur Rahman). Trumpet solo: Shanti Jayasinha
  4. Churir Tale (composer Kobi Nasrul Islam). Tenor sax solo: Louise Elliott
  5. Milon Hobe (composer Lalon Shah). Trumpet solo: Shanti Jayasinha; tabla solo: Yousuf Ali Khan


Note: interviews with Mahmuder Rahman Benubhai, Moushumi Bhowmik, Tony Haynes and Yousuf Ali Khan, Julie Begum and Val Harding are available on this website.






  • Val Harding says:

    Dear All,

    We would just like to thank you all again for your wonderful performances on Thursday evening.

    We have had many messages from people in the audience who really enjoyed it and appreciated the music. Also people less familiar with the history of Bangladesh and the music telling us how much they learnt.

    We made a great impact !

    Also we would like to thank Jon and colleagues at the British Library for staging and managing the event.

    Here’s a video of Lucy and GUO, and article in Bisshobangla news

    With very best wishes

    Val and Julie

    PS Please pass message on to other musicians whose emails I don’t have – Yamin, Harjodh, Ben and Rosalind.

  • Dear All

    Thanks so much to everyone on behalf of The British Library for an excellent celebration last Thursday. The memorable performances and the fascinating and inspiring words that linked them together made it a very special evening. It was an honour and pleasure to be present, and I was one of those who learned a lot.
    With warmest wishes, Season’s Greetings and a Happy and safe New Year.


  • Hi All,

    Congratulations on the event last week, I’m very pleased to hear it went so well. The line-up looked impressive and it sounds like it was very well attended despite the circumstances. I enjoyed reading the news article and wish I could’ve been there.

    It’s been a pleasure working on the Bengali Music and Musicians in Britain Collection which is now safeguarded at the British Library Sound Archive.

    For those of you who haven’t read Julie and Val’s blog about it, please see here –

    Best wishes,


  • Dear Julie, Val and Ansar,

    Many congratulations on arranging and bringing off Songs of Freedom to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Bangladesh. I bet it was nightmare to organise, but what a splendid way to celebrate. Fabulous musicians and a really interesting and moving programme. I’m so glad to have been there. It was great to have the history and the connections. Val’s having been there in 1971 was such a strong link to the whole tortuous story and your continuing work to document the music.

    Thank you all very much.


  • Dear Julie

    It was a great joy to be able to perform in the Victory Day concert on the 16th of December at the British Library.
    Thank you for making room for me.

    I am attaching my invoice with this email.

    Love and regards

  • Morning Julie

    Congratulations on pulling off such a great event on Thursday! I’m in awe of your energy, and commitment to the cause – I hope you were please and satisfied with the outcome.

    We’ve forgotten what fee you were offering Grand Union, although I do remember that it didn’t really cover musicians’ fees for the day (£750)! I asked therefore if you could also put something towards our preparation and rehearsal costs.

    Finally, and trivially, I left my thick scarf behind. Did you come across it or could you check with the Library? They were very assiduous in tidying up after us!

    Let’s meet up for a chat in the New Year; meanwhile, enjoy some rest, a break and the Festive Season.

    With warmest regards


  • Dr. Chris Tang says:

    Thanks for last night Julie – such great music, each group so different and complementary – left with a swollen heart

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