Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of “The Concert for Bangladesh”

By: Brandon Clark

Photo By: Brandon Clark

Monday, Sept. 12, 2022, marked the 50th anniversary of the first-ever concert hosted for a charitable cause. Recognizing this occasion, South Alabama’s Communication Department invited special guest Shamin Al Amin, a documentary director who, in 1971, captured the fiery spirit of those in support of the country of Bangladesh.

Amin’s documentary, “The Songs of a Country,” serves many purposes, each conveyed in vivid detail. Above all, this documentary aimed to bring to light the oppression of Bengalis by Pakistani armies at the time. In the earlier scenes of the film, the focus is on the injured and wounded people of Bangladesh. Some of the casualties and the injured were people who fought in the Liberation War to defend their country. However, many of the wounded were civilians attempting to escape their war-stricken country without hope or anywhere to go.

While at the presentation, I was given the opportunity to interview Dr. S Raj Chaudhury, Executive Director of the ILC at South. Dr. Chaudhury lived in Kolkata, India outside of Bangladesh during the Liberation War. 

When asked about the effect documentaries of Bangladesh had on him during that time, he responded saying, “So even though I was only eight, I do remember leaving the movie theater shocked beyond anything I had ever seen before. I had never seen such scenes of death before, but I think I was left with this feeling that we had to do something…”

Dr. Chaudhury also recounted the situations where his city was threatened by Pakistani bombers, although outside of Bangladesh.

“We had black-outs because the Pakistani bombers were possibly targeting Kolkata… so we actually at night would have to close our windows and really do [ ] black-out conditions so the bombers wouldn’t see the lights from the city. I remember that very vividly, so it had a huge emotional impact on me.”

These emotions were also felt by those living outside of India who had heard about the brutal oppression of people living in Bangladesh. Pandit Ravi Shankar, a famous sitar virtuoso, decided that he would offer help using his passion for music. From here, the documentary shows how an effort that only started with Pandit Ravi Shankar and notable British songwriter George Harrison could propel into a bigger demonstration of support. In New York’s Madison Square Garden, artists Pandit Ravi Shankar, George Harrison, Ali Akbar Khan, Billy Preston, and more would captivate an audience electric in spirit and unwavering in support at “The Concert for Bangladesh.”

At the conclusion of the presentation, attendees were left with the idea that film and media are both unique messengers, something that Shamin AL Amin and Pandit Ravi Shankar both recognized. First-hand accounts documented in films, and songs composed of hope connect heavily with their audience. When a call to action is powerful enough to resonate with thousands of people, its influence knows no bounds.