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The 26th edition of the Federation of Bangladeshi Associations in North America (FOBANA) Convention was held on Aug 31-September 2 at the Broward County Convention Center in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The campaign for this much publicized event kicked off long before the show, thanks to the social Medias and the grocery shops, frequented mostly by the Bengali and Indian speaking people in the United States. The attractive posters of this event drew the attention of the Bengali and Indian audiences to some extent. However the lackluster performances by the artists and poor management by the organizers in the previous editions of the event were great minuses for the show of such a caliber. Despite this, some section of the audiences were excited to be a part of the event this year.
The inaugural session of this year’s FOBANA was held on 31 August. The show could not be started on the promised time due to the security issues and cross checking of the IDs of the attendances, which was a painful experience for most of the guests. Their initial excitement soon fizzled as many didn’t have ID’s (driver’s license) and was forced to turn back from the site. The organizers failed to inform the public about the need of such security card beforehand. Convener Atiquer Rahma put the blame on the limited time they had for preparing for this event. The holy month of Ramadan also affected the rehearsals and preparation for this large event, he was quoted as saying.
First day’s event was mainly dedicated for FOBANA’s host committee members, invited guests, their welcome speeches and few special performances. On the second day on 1 September, the program was delayed by at least three hours. There seemed to be a total chaos from the part of the organizer to maintain discipline in and outside of the podium. Management Convener Mr. Atiqur Rahman himself tried to emcee the event, which glaringly exposed the lack of a proper host for the show. The parents of some of the performers complained that their children were ready to perform but they had to unnecessarily wait for long hours as there seemed to be no coordination among them and the organizers. None had any badge to be identified as a volunteer that one can ask for any guidance or questions.
The children’s program, directed by Chitra Sultana, involving about sixty kids were highly appreciated and children’s memorization of National Anthem drew roar of appreciation. But to see these little children on stage at 12 am, seemed out of place. The day’s proceedings were however commenced at 11am with seminars, talent shows and business shows. There was presentation on the news presentation in Bangladeshi broadcasting media and the impact of its language. These seminars and presentations coupled with the talent shows continued till 4pm. However the main attraction, the cultural show began after 4pm. First, the FOBANA Youth Group came to the stage and danced with the tunes of Nazrul and Rabendra Sangeet. The group later also performed to a solo musical soiree where Samira Jahangir and Animesh Saha performed. Bangladeshi dance troupe Rhythm next came on stage and performed to three popular tunes. Later an enlightening video presentation on the distressed children by the Social Welfare group – Distressed Children and Infants International was shown. Florida based Bangladeshi dancers and singers also showcased their talent. Among them, the singing of Somila Bhatyacharya, Sohag Uddin, Merina Majumder was worth mentionable. Internationally famed mime artist Mashurul Huda also presented his mime skill at the show. The organizers saved the best for the last as Bangladeshi popular singers: Alif Alauddin, Kanak Chapa and Andrew Kishore singed their popular numbers. The show was wrapped up with the few popular duet numbers of Andrew and Kanak Chapa that include: Amar Buker Moddhekhane.
On the concluding day on 2 September, the show started at least three hours after the scheduled time. It was also announced that the Next FOBANA Convention will be held in Atlanta, Georgia. There were angry speeches about other groups using the same banner as FOBANA, apparently no actions have been taken to stop this duplicity/triplicate of events happening at the same date. At two hours distance, in Orlando there was another FOBANA function by some other organizers!
The highlight of the final day’s program was Beauty Das, whose rendering of Laln Geeti impressed the audience. There was again repetition children’s program at late night. The concluding program by trio singers, Partha Barua, SI Tutul and Samina chowdhury involved the audience. The program ended at 1.30am.
The venue was not ideal for a cultural event, acoustic was poor and vendors were at the end of the hall distracting the performers. Only one food vendor was available, consumers complained about the amount and quality of the food served. There were 16 stalls for clothes, jewelery, some came from Bangladesh. Reportedly the vendors didn’t have any complaints. The hotel arrangement at Hilton with free continental breakfast was pretty good.
On the whole, it turned out to be another lackluster FOBANA Convention. It’s about time that one must decide the justification of holding such conventions under different banners in different places. The organizers need to find out a strategy to bring life ad fun to this convention. FOBANA shouldn’t shy away from discussing with other such successful event organizers. If they wish, they can even take inspiration from the ‘Banga Sammelon’. They can even take inspiration from Atlanta where the Convention was held in 2006. The event that year indeed showcased lots of positive energy, enthusiasm and outpouring interest back into the heart of the Bangladeshis.
All said and done, we just hope for an end of such poorly coordinated shows in FOBANA years after years, where visions are not quite matching with the reality. If FOBANA can bring all the cultural artists from Bangladesh in one Umbrella under the label of one single organization, hopefully that would give it more credibility among a larger section of audiences.
(The author acknowledge helpful inputs from Faruque Azam in this article)