The Concert for Bangladesh

1971 benefit concert organised by George Harrison and Ravi Shankar
(Redirected from Bangla Desh (song))
Bangla Desh (song) redirects here

The Concert for Bangladesh (or Bangla Desh, as the country's name was originally spelt) was a pair of benefit concerts organised by former Beatles guitarist George Harrison and Indian sitar player Ravi Shankar. The shows were held at 2:30 and 8:00 pm on Sunday, 1 August 1971, at Madison Square Garden in New York City, to raise international awareness of, and fund relief for refugees from East Pakistan, following the Bangladesh Liberation War-related genocide. The concerts were followed by a bestselling live album, a boxed three-record set, and Apple Films' concert documentary, which opened in cinemas in the spring of 1972.

Poster for the Concert for Bangladesh

Quotes about the Concert

  • On artistic merit alone, as encapsulated in the film and LP, the Concert for Bangladesh perhaps holds up better than Woodstock in showcasing the best of its era in terms of music, optimism, and goodwill.
    • Niaz Alam, "All the Concert(s) for Bangladesh", Dhaka Tribune, 28 November 2019 (retrieved 1 February 2021).
  • I got tired of people saying "But what can I do?" Also, the reluctance of the press to report the full details created the need to bring attention to it. So the song "Bangla Desh" was written specifically to get attention to the war prior to the concert.
    • – George Harrison, 1979, George Harrison, I Me Mine, Chronicle Books (San Francisco, CA, 2002; ISBN 0-8118-3793-9).
  • The money we raised was secondary. The main thing was, we spread the word and helped get the war ended ... What we did show was that musicians and people are more humane than politicians.[140]
    • – George Harrison, 1992 in Joshua M. Greene, Here Comes the Sun: The Spiritual and Musical Journey of George Harrison, John Wiley & Sons (Hoboken, NJ, 2006; ISBN 978-0-470-12780-3).
  • In the Oval Office, Nixon grumpily told Kissinger, “I see now the Beatles are up raising money for it. You know, it’s a funny thing the way we are in this goddamn country, is, we get involved in all these screwball causes.”
    • Richard Nixon, quoted in Bass, G. J. (2014). The Blood telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a forgotten genocide.
  • Even now I still meet waiters in Bengali restaurants who say, "When we were in the jungle fighting, it was great to know somebody out there was thinking of us."
    • – George Harrison, 1991 in Elliot J. Huntley, Mystical One: George Harrison – After the Break-up of the Beatles, Guernica Editions (Toronto, ON, 2006; ISBN 1-55071-197-0).

Bass G.J., The Blood telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a forgotten genocide (2014)

Bass, G. J. (2014). The Blood telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a forgotten genocide.
  • The Concert for Bangladesh was the first rock event for humanitarian relief—the precursor for shows like Live Aid in 1985, with all the attendant sincerity, vapidity, and showy self-righteousness... Under the spotlights, in a cream suit with a hideous orange shirt, sporting shaggy hair and a huge scraggly beard, Harrison was a fervid countercultural figure to dumbfound the generals in Rawalpindi... Of course, the eager young crowd came mainly for the music. But many of them knew about the horrors, and Shankar explained to the audience the misery of the Bengalis. In between freewheeling sets, the musicians showed devastating films of the refugee camps, with corpses and starving children.
    • quoted in Bass, G. J. (2014). The Blood telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a forgotten genocide.
  • The Indian government was delighted by this unexpected windfall, scrambling to get copies of Harrison’s record. For its part, Pakistan’s military regime was flummoxed by the power of rock and roll. The Pakistani authorities were humorlessly wrong-footed by Harrison and his hirsute musician friends. A Pakistani official warned all Pakistani embassies about an “Anti-Pakistan gramophone record entitled ‘Bangla Desh,’ ” which was “sung by George Harrison, a member of the Beatles’ Trio” (undercounting the Beatles by one). “It contains hostile propaganda against Pakistan.” This official, considering banning the song in Pakistan, ordered all of Pakistan’s embassies to somehow try to prevent its broadcast worldwide.6
    • quoted in Bass, G. J. (2014). The Blood telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a forgotten genocide.

Quotes about the song Bangla Desh

  • To the utter consternation of [US President] Nixon and [Secretary of State] Kissinger, George Harrison's 'Bangla Desh' hit the chart. It was a thrilling moment in the midst of all the sad news emanating from the battlefront. Even the Western journalists covering the civil war in East Pakistan were not yet using the word 'Bangladesh'.
    • Professor Farida Majid, in Simon Leng, While My Guitar Gently Weeps: The Music of George Harrison, Hal Leonard (Milwaukee, WI, 2006; ISBN 1-4234-0609-5).
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