Coke Studio Bangla's Live Concert held on 9 June at Bangladesh Army Stadium was one of the most hyped national events, especially considering that it was also the day when the national budget was announced. A flash monsoon storm nearly doured the event but the brilliant roadies and organisers turned it around as soon as the weather permitted.
Right after the storm hit, causing a section of the Army Stadium to collapse, a picture of the debris quickly went viral on Bangalee social media. Memes and snarky comments flooded the internet almost immediately, but the counter call was even louder. Almost everyone in the music community and true fans of live music called out all the haters and the naysayers, vocally showing their support for the organisers and the artists. According to the artist coordinator of Coke Studio Bangla, everyone was mentally prepared to postpone the programme except for Arnob, who was consistently pushing to make the show happen. Furthermore, the sound team played a major role in quickly setting up the show as soon as the weather permitted. The roadies were a tornado of activity and effort conducting soundcheck and tuning instruments to get the artist on stage as expeditiously as possible.
Free public concerts in Bangladesh usually find their home at the Bangladesh Army Stadium and have played host to multiple large scale events before, the only caveat being that those events were held in the winter season. Coke Studio Bangla's biggest dice roll was holding the event in the monsoon season, it was what almost ruined AR Rahman's performance 'Cricket Celebrates Mujib 100' at Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium. Unfortunately Bangladesh isn't one of those open air friendly countries.
Regardless, there was no limit to the enthusiasm of melophiles. At one point, in what could best be described as a cavalry charge, hundreds of excited spectators stormed gate 12 of the stadium and broke through the police barricades to fan over their favourite artists. Their patience was rewarded when the Coke Studio ensemble took the stage at 8 PM. With the slogan 'The show must go on' Coke Studio Bangla live kicked off their set drenched in a kaleidoscope of stage lights.
It started with the performance of 'Ekla Cholo', the first official mashup of Coke Studio Bangla, followed by 'Nasek Nasek' performed by Animes Roy and Pantho Kanai. Much like in the studio, Animes stole the show with his unique folk flair.
Arnob and Boga Taleb's rendition of 'Chiltey Rod' was a calming reprieve, followed by a soulful, melodious performance of 'Bulbuli' by Rituraj and Nandita. The rising artists of Coke Studio made the audience groove with their Nazrulgeeti performance.
Funnily enough, after all the trials and tribulations of the day, Momtaz unironically sang 'Allah Megh De Pani de' (Prarthona) in front of a live audience. But it is unanimously agreed upon that the performance by Boga Taleb and Animes stole the show.
The last song from the Coke Studio ensemble was 'Bhinnotar Somabesh', their latest release which celebrates the cultural diversity of Bangladesh.
Because of the time constraints, the performances of a couple of artists were cut short and each of them were allegedly instructed to sing only two songs. The opener was Tahsan. Although his renditions of fan-favourites 'Irsha', 'Bindu Ami' and 'Alo', was somewhat underwhelming.
But the subsequent showing by Nemesis dwarfed the ones that preceded them. Nemesis sang 'Gonojowar' and 'Kobe', the latter lighting the crowd on fire. Lalon followed Nemesis on stage and began with their 2020 release 'Ruhani'. Nigar Sumi who had already featured before in Coke Studio's rendition of 'Vober Pagol', rekindled the magic once again with Lalon. The audience singing along with Sumi in 'Pagol' did create a sublime and surreal soundscape on the grounds.
Then the magic of one of the old school bands: Warfaze, mesmerised the audience, which started with 'Purnota' and ended with 'Boshe Achi'. The latest vocalist of Warfaze - Palash did not disappoint, but Mizan's powerful baritone was still missed.
The night ended on a perfect note, literally, thanks to Nagarbaul's James. The legend sang four of his famous tracks - 'Bheegi Bheegi', 'Dushtu Chele', 'Taray Taray' and 'Pagla Hawa'.
A disaster was narrowly avoided, and there was chatter about some behind the scene shenanigans, as pointed out in a statement put out by the nascent Bangladeshi rock band 'Arekta Rock Band'. The band was reportedly invited to play at the concert, then rejected, then asked to come to the grounds and then rejected again.
Moreover, 25,000 tickets were given out against only 20,000 seats - a large chunk of which were reserved for the law enforcement. The organisers at Grey Studio should be lauded on their amazing ability to turn it around, they were constantly online reassuring fans about the validity of their passes and promised to keep them informed by the minute. This is the sole reason why the turnout we saw through the livestream almost exceeded capacity. Turns out the internet, weather and cynicism is nothing in the face of artists, audiences and the unadulterated adulation for Bangalee artists.