Thursday, November 20, 2014

The whirlwind

Once again, I am at a loss for words.  The incredible Next Level Bangladesh program has just concluded, with a thunderous performance at Shilpakala--the national auditorium of Bangladesh.  

The Next Level Bangladesh artists and NL Dhaka Academy gave a flawless performance that put Dhaka on the map as the hip hop capital of South Asia.  

The NL program gave legitimacy to a burgeoning hip hop community, and gave them a huge platform on which to showcase their immense talents.  They went from the backstreets to the biggest performance hall in Bangladesh.  Fully packed beyond the brim auditorium, with a mob outside trying to get into the show.  Hall filled with tv crews and print media. 

And they flawlessly rocked it. 
And the collaboration with legendary Bangladesh Baul singers was one of the finest cultural exchanges I have ever seen or heard.

This residency was a dream-come-true for the Dhaka hip hop community, and they rose to the challenge and seized the moment. The NL Bangladesh team was incredible, and truly got the most out of their students.  They legitimized hip hop in Dhaka. 

The team members Asheru and Jocelyn even met the Nobel Laureate Dr. Mohammud Yunis, who publicly welcomed them at an event.  He literally stopped the event to welcome the Next Level Hip Hop Artists to Bangladesh, and invited them to speak about their experiences in Dhaka.  

Our students had their parents coming to their first shows ever.  The NL Dhaka Academy was an opportunity like no other for the Dhaka hip hop community, and they made the absolute most of it.

Already some of our Dhaka artists are being invited to perform and discuss the NL Bangladesh program at the Hay Festival, Bangladesh's premier literary festival.
And the partners we had were peerless.  The indomitable Team Dhaka of the US Embassy to Bangladesh was the best team we have worked with yet.  The embassy went above and beyond.  From the ambassador on down, this post exceeded all expectation.

The program was a stirring reminder of the universal nature of hip hop, and its ability to connect communities like no other form of music that exists.  Hip hop diplomacy is what jazz diplomacy once was--and I am so proud to be a part of a program that is nothing short of the next generation of the famed Jazz Ambassadors program.

Following the conclusion of the program, we left Dhaka. Two member stayed on in Dubai for a few days, and the other two went home to America.  I had a 7 hour layover, so I left the airport and joined Amirah and Asheru for some humus, kebabs and hookah in Dubai.

I returned to the airport and caught an early morning flight to Athens via Istanbul, where i am presently lounging with my Greeek girlfriend Marianna at her lovely apartment.  I presented her with a lovely pearl necklace from Bangladesh's famed pearls.  I was met in return with homemade stuffed peppers filled with rice, raisins and pinenuts, and homemade spanakopita, and apple cake for dessert.  

I am taking a few days to relax after the whirlwind that was the NL Bangladesh program, with its unending traffic and overflow of emotion from the incredible program,

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