by Anas Khwaja
Baithak – a part of an ongoing greater celebration is a household word for Dhaka Nawab family members. This is an after dinner party where family members sing songs gathered on the floor. It is as old as the family history, embedded deep in our culture and shows no sign of ebbing. It has made its way from Gol Talab to the wintry nights across the Atlantic in America.
Baithak (H Baithana to sit):
The literal meanings of Baithak are drawing room, sitting posture adopted by the performers, assembly or presentations of music. See “A concise dictionary of Hindustani music” by Ashik Da Ranade .
Pretext: Kaan Chedan (ear piercing), Khatna (circumcision) and wedding.
Sponsors: Baithaks are pre announced and organized by immediate family members and friends either jointly or individually.
Musical Instruments: Dhol is mandatory whereas harmonium, bongo and jhunjhuni makes Baithak more musical.
Song slection: Indian movie songs from the forties and fifties and Pakistani movie songs from the fifties and the sixties are most popular. Nowadays Bengali band songs are making way in their own merit.
The first song of the baithak is always a religious one –“Jinka naam hai Muhammad”. “Tona kaise Hoke Laga” is the grand finale on the last night’s Baithak. Tona song is intended to collect money from the listeners which are then distributed amongst the singers who put their heart and soul into the baithak.
Duration: Forty night long baithak of the past now has been curtailed to one to three night affairs.
Bonus attraction: From time to time popular radio TV artists are invited to perform in the Baithak.
Refreshment: Paneer (cheese), Kakcha buiscuit with Kashmiri ot Sheerin Chai is the soul of a baithak, usually served towards the very end. The moment chai is gulped guest start heading home.
Indirect participants: On the sideline of Baithak elderly play card, gossip, teenage girls put henna (mehendi). Women occupy themselves by chewing paan or sewing the bride’s saari ka paar (Border) or Gota pattha.
The Killer: In the midst of a baithak Chamki or Rang Khela Kheli or an overexcited person’s impromptu Naagin Naatch (Snake dance) causes biathak’s premature death.
Popular Singers: To name a few- Putul bhai (dhol player), Budda Bhai (thumri singer) , K.M.Farid, Bhola Bhai, K.M.Modassar, K.M. Manawar, K.M. Shukkur (for tali clapping), K.M.Aslam , K.M.Azam, K. Naqib (Goro ki na Kalo ki), Qayyum Reza Baba (Duniya Banane wale) , K.M.Adel (gazal singer) and K.Naim (flute player).
K.M.aslam son of K Ahsanullah-King of Kongo
Tidbits from 1920’s: Baclelor’s hockey player Khwaja Solaiman Quader & Khwaja Humayun Quader- the brother duo used to punish youngsters for staying late at Baithak compromising physical fitness and sporting skills.
Under Threat: With zillions of sopranos on dish and home loaded with VCR, internet, MP3 & Ipod who want’s to go to a Baithak today?
What to watch: Under the shadow of Baithak some young stars sit face to face, make eye contact, sing along and a new “Pyar’ is born. Pyar is a byproduct of Baithak.
If you have a facebook account click the link below to see a Baithak clipping posted by Mohd Talha.