Bangamela – The Festival for the Midwestern Bengalis


Bangamela 2008Just as the excitement and euphoria of the recently concluded BangaSammelan (Toronto) dies down, Bengalis living in the middle western states are preparing to get into a festival of their own – Bangamela.

The 10th annual Bangamela 2008 will be held in Columbus OH this year from July 18 to 20. The event is hosted by COBCA (Central Ohio Bengali Cultural Association). Just as Bangasammelan (NABC) is franchised and sponsored by CAB (Cultural Association of Bengal), Bangamela is managed and controlled at the high level by MABA or Mid America Bengali Association. Without going into the details about the genesis of Bangamela, it suffices to say that the Bengalis of the mid west felt that they needed to have a festival of their own, a festival that is located closer to where they live and is easily accessible compared to NABC that tends to get most of their attendees from the densely populated (with Bengalis) east and west coast states.

My first experience with Bangamela was in Memphis at the Bangamela 2007, where I joined the festival as a performer (along with our Theater group ECTA). There were about four to five hundred attendees (a small fraction of a typical NABC attendance) and they had a long line up of performers from Friday afternoon to Sunday evening. There were no crowds or long lines, no running around from one auditorium to the other. People were relaxed, they were busy meeting old friends and making new ones. It felt a lot homely and cozy atmosphere than NABC. Maybe this was what NABC was fifteen or twenty years ago. There were some organizational mishaps, scheduling problems and lack of event management skills – but tell me one Bengali festival that doesn’t have any?

I understand the 2008 Bangamela is expecting a larger crowd, they will have multiple performance venues and the guest artist (from India) line up is also longer. Once again, we will be staging our play (Satyameva) too as an invited theater group, and hopefully once again we will be able to meet friends and make friends. I know of several other people from the NY NJ area who will be attending this festival, and this shows that Bangamela is now attracting more and more people from the areas that were traditionally NABC areas. And I have no problem with it. The more the merrier. In this country of market economy, competition is the name of the game. Competition can help improve the quality of the festival, can help reduce the cost to the consumers – since they will go to the event that offers them the most value for their money. And think about the artists and performers from India, they too will have more than one opportunity to offer their art to the Bengalis of USA.

Hence I wish Bangamela and Bangasammelan (NABC) both the best for their efforts in bringing the Bengalis of USA together – be it in Ohio or in California, or in New York. Lets all celebrate our great heritage together at the festival of our choice and make this adopted homeland of ours a better place to live as a Bengali.

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