French President Macron Finds Joy in Bangladeshi Music
French President Emmanuel Macron paid a visit to musician and lyricist Rahul Ananda of the singing group "Joler Gaan" at his private studio in Dhanmondi, the capital of Bangladesh, on a Sunday. During his visit, Macron enjoyed the group's music and engaged in conversations with the members.
Accompanying Macron were Hasan Mahmud, the Information and Broadcasting Minister, the French Ambassador to Bangladesh Marie Masdupuy, François Grosjean, the Director of the French cultural institution Alliance Française de Dhaka (AFD), and other high-ranking officials from both countries.
During the visit, the President gifted Rahul a pen and pledged to use it to compose songs and poems. Rahul Ananda expressed, “I’ll write about nature and life. He will listen to that music one day.”
The French President's visit took place after dinner, and he spent more than an hour and a half at Rahul Ananda's studio. During his time there, he interacted with Rahul Ananda's family, which includes his wife Urmila Shukla and son Tota, as well as three other Bangladeshi artists: Ashfika Rahman, Kamruzzaman Swadhin, and Afroza Sara.
In addition to enjoying Rahul's heartfelt performance of Bengali music, including songs like "Ami Banglay Gaan Gai" and a medley of Lalon songs, the French President also explored the various musical instruments crafted and played by Rahul Ananda as an instrumentalist.
To commemorate this special visit, Rahul Ananda, along with his family, adorned the entrance of their 140-year-old Dhanmondi residence with flowers. In a brief statement to the media after the French President's historic visit to his home, Rahul Ananda described it as a brief yet beautiful cultural exchange between two artists. He noted that President Macron shares a passion for music and is an enthusiastic music lover, making the interaction all the more significant.
The artist shared with the media how the connection with President Macron came about. In June, a multifaceted musical and theatrical production called "Made in Bangladesh" was presented at the Alliance Française de Dhaka to celebrate World Music Day 2023.
During this event, Rahul Ananda collaborated with Belgian artist Max Vandervorst. It was through this performance that President Macron became interested after learning about it. This artistic collaboration served as the initial point of contact between Rahul Ananda and the French President.
"I feel like and call myself a bird, and I am also an instrumentalist and I make my own instruments, so the tree is a pivotal part in my artistic activism, and I am actively involved in tree plantation across our country. The French president lauded this initiative and he also learned how to play the 'Ektara' I presented to him, and I was surprised to find out that he is a fast learner," Rahul Ananda told the media.
“Who has never heard of Kazi Nazrul Islam, Rabindranath Tagore or even Firoza Begum? These names ring in our ears in every street, their spirit permeating every single corner of Bangladesh. Like Bangladesh, France is a country deeply proud of its cultural heritage,” the French embassy said.
“In this sense, we founded the Alliance Française of Dhaka, a place at the crossroads of this cultural exchange that became an essential part of Dhaka's cultural life since it was founded in 1959. Every year, Alliance Française of Dhaka organizes more than 20 exhibitions which attract no less than 30,000 visitors.”
“It also broadcasts films, shows and concerts, which attract 10,000 spectators. Committed to promoting the language of Molière, the establishment offers top quality French classes with no fewer than 6,000 pupils a year. This vibrant cultural place is one of the biggest symbols of our cooperation with Bangladesh,” the embassy said before the arrival of the President.
The short two-day visit of French President Emmanuel Macron holds historical significance because the previous official visit by a French President to Bangladesh took place in 1990.