Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Concert for Bangladesh 2005

I was so happy to see that the Concert for Bangladesh was being released as a DVD. I had seen the film when it came out in 1971 and loved it. If you weren’t alive back then, or you were and the Sixties and Seventies are now showing the effects of (our) misspent youth, here’s a brief refresher course on why there was a concert for Bangladesh in the first place.

In 1947 there was West Pakistan and East Pakistan, which were separated by about a thousand miles of India smack dab in the middle. West Pakistan and East Pakistan were a single Muslim country, and aside from the fact they both had Pakistan in their countries names, they had basically nothing else in common. For real. The regions themselves were physically different, the cultures, languages and races were all different. Most of the wealth and power was in Bengali-speaking West Pakistan, but the majority of population was in the Urdu-speaking East Pakistan, which was much poorer. So how did this odd situation come about? Check out this link , because I’d rather get on with the review.

Anyway when the first free elections were held in 1969, despite the fact the East Pakistanis won the majority of power, the West Pakistanis refused to transfer power and began cracking down on the opposition. Three million people were killed in the conflict and East Pakistanis trying to flee to India were hit by destructive floods, starvation and disease. Foreign aid couldn’t handle the sheer magnitude of the crisis.

Then came Ravi Shankar, who approached George Harrison to help him organize the first ever benefit concert. The Concert for Bangladesh is the granddaddy of Live Aid, Farm Aid, and all the other benefit concerts musicians now do for those in need.

And now for the review (boy, aren’t you glad – you didn’t think you’d have to sit through a history lesson did you?)

An impressive array of stars came to help:

George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Jim Keltner, Billy Preston, Leon Russell, Klaus Voorman, Jesse Ed Davis, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Badfinger - Pet Ham, Tom Evans, Joey Molland, Mike Gibbons, Hollywood Horn Players, led by Jim Horn, Ravi Shankar, Allan Beutler, Chuck Findley, Marlin Greene, Jeanie Greene, Jo Green, Jim Horn, Delores Hall, Kamala Chakravarty, Jackie Kelso, Usted Aliakbar Khan, Claudia Lennearm, Lou McCreary, Ollie Mitchell, Don Nix, Don Preston, Carl Radle Alla Rakah.

The film is a treasure to watch. It hasn’t been remastered, so it looks like it did in the theater, which gives it a certain authenticity to me because it really looks like I remember it looking the first time I saw it. It starts off with Indian music by Ravi Shankar (sitar), Kamala Chakravarty (tamboura; and take a look at her bracelets!), Usted Alla Rakah (tabla) and Ustad Ali Akbar Khan (sarod). It’s real Indian music so be prepared. I happen to love Indian music, but I know some people just don’t…it’s OK.

Of the 18 songs, the ones that really shine are My Sweet Lord, It Don’t Come Easy, Beware of Darkness, Leon Russell’s version of Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Bangladesh and every song Bob Dylan is on. He is at his peak here, no doubt at all! Leon Redbone and Billy Preston really stand out.

And I cried when George did While My Guitar Gently Weeps. I always have. I never met him, and I miss him on this earth, but I know his spirit lives on. I don’t know, maybe I cry whenever I hear this song because I feel his spirit. Sounds crazy I know.

Best of all? The bonus CD. A documentary with interviews and footage not in the original film, plus lsound checks and rehearsals. (More Dylan! More Leon Russell!) The mini-features are treasures worth exploring, especially Recollections and Original Artwork.

This two CD set comes in a fantastic looking box, and has a full color brochure loaded with pictures. It has a forward by Ravi Shankar, and a better history than mine of the Bangladesh crisis. 100% of all artists royalties benefit UNICEF.

OK, folks, this is where you start thinking "Wow, what a gift this would make for my friends! It's a great video and and it'll help children!" Go ahead, you know you want to. You should.

After watching, please, please, please, go to http://www.georgeharrisonfundforunicef.org/. In the words of the insert:

The George Harrison Fund for UNICEF is a joint undertaking between the Harrison family and the U.S Fund for UNICEF. Fund for UNICEF that aims to support UNICEF program, providing lifesaving assistance to children caught in humanitarian emergencies.

George may have left us, but his work goes on, All Glories to Sri Krsna.

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