Ansar Ahmed Ullah:: Managerial Editor::
The BBC Asian Network will begin a year of celebrations across radio and TV to mark Bangladesh’s Golden Jubilee celebration beginning on 22 March 2021
On the actual day of Bangladesh’s independence declaration, 26 March, Asian Network Breakfast with Harpz Kaur will feature an exclusive live session from Brit Award nominee Joy Crookes from the BBC’s Radio Theatre, including her first-ever live performance in Bengali. On performing Joy Crookes said, ‘I felt like performing for BBC Asian Network’s Bangladesh 50 was really important for myself and my heritage because it was a war that shaped my entire family’s life. My family lost many members – to be able to carry forward a mother tongue that my family fought for is important to me, singing in Bangla felt like the least I could do to mark this very emotional 50 year anniversary.’
In addition, a six-part series featuring some of the UK’s biggest Bengali artists and influencers will launch on BBC Sounds. Actress Nusraat Faria, activist Nabela Noor, Brit-Bengali star Nish and content creator SMASHBengali will each curate their own playlist and share the soundtrack of their lives.
On 28th March, Nadia Ali’s Bengali entertainment show will host a massive Bangla house party on Zoom, with a guest list packed with some of the biggest names from the world of Bengali music and entertainment, including Mumzy Stranger, Kona, Xefer, Muza, Sanjoy and Ridy Sheikh and more, celebrating the music, culture and what Bangladesh at 50 means.
Nadia Ali said, ‘I am really excited to be celebrating 50 years of Bangladesh independence on the Asian Network with so much pride, joy and music! I’ve been championing Bengali inspired music and culture for over 15 years and it’s great to see it at the forefront of celebrations on the network and beyond. I look forward to some incredible moments on my show and across the other programmes!’
BBC Asian Network is also teaming up with BBC Three and BBC News for the celebration as the station aims to highlight the UK‘s Bengali history and represent a new generation of young Bengalis. Beginning on 22 March, Asian Network’s Big Debate will dedicate a week of shows to a specially commissioned documentary series, in which presenter Qasa Alom will explore topics relating to his family heritage, Bengali life in the UK and the contribution of Bengalis to British society.
Amongst the debate presenter Qasa Alom will look back at the story of Bangladesh’s independence from Pakistan and speaks to those who witnessed the devastating nature of the conflict first-hand. Around half a million people of Bangladeshi origin now live in the UK. From curry houses to civic life, Qasa Alom will chart the contribution of Bangladeshis to Britain, speaking to renowned choreographer Akram Khan and Rushanara Ali, the first MP of Bangladeshi origin. And as Bangladesh celebrates 50 years of independence, Qasa Alom will ask what the next 50 years hold for the country with the growing threat of climate change and floods.
A joint commission from Asian Network and BBC Three coming to BBC iPlayer this summer will see British-Bangladeshi comedian Ali Shahalom go on a journey to find out what it truly means to be British-Bangladeshi today. Ali will hear from fellow British Bengalis, including chef and TV presenter Nadiya Hussain, singer Mumzy Stranger, Rushanara Ali MP and vlogger Rumina Begum, to hear about how they got to the top of their game and the obstacles they faced along the way.
Ali said, ‘I wanted to make this film so that all the British-Bangladeshi boys and girls growing up right now can point to something and say – this person exists, and that person exists. Because for me, growing up, I didn’t have that. And if we can highlight successful British-Bangladeshis, hopefully, that will inspire the next generation. I think that there’s power in that.’
Throughout 2021, Asian Network will also be inviting listeners and viewers to participate in conversations about what it means to be British and Bengali today and showcasing Bengali artists each month with live sessions from London, New York, Dhaka and beyond.
Head of Asian Network, Ahmed Hussain said, ‘As one of the youngest and fastest-growing demographics in the UK, it’s only right that we celebrate and champion the Bengali story. We’re not only looking back at 50 years of independence but also what is yet to come in the next 50. There is still a generation of people who remember the fight for the independence of Bangladesh, so we’ll be making sure that that story is told for the world to hear and understand, 50 years on.’