Macron rejoices in Bangla music

French president Emanuel Macron during his visit to Rahul Anand's studio on SundayCourtesy of Rahul Anand

Musician, actor, instrumentalist and ‘Joler Gaan’ frontman Rahul Anand and his wife, painter Urmila Shukla live in a house in Dhanmondi with their son, Tota. Rahul named this old nameless house “Bhangabari” (broken house).

Last night, the couple hosted a special guest, French president Emanuel Macron, at their house. They didn’t do anything special to welcome the French president, except the beautiful “alpana”, an age-old Bangla custom of floor painting to welcome guests, that Urmila Shukla painted using colourful flower petals.

Emanuel Macron went to visit Rahul Anand’s studio at around 11: 00 pm Sunday. Each of the walls of the studio was packed with different sorts of unique instruments invented by Rahul, including, Draupadi, Pagla, Padma, Mandola and Totaban. In fact, Rahul Anand’s Bhangabari is more like a museum of musical instruments than a studio.

The singer introduced president Macron to the rich repertoire of Bangladeshi folk music through music and informal discussions. He sang songs of different genres of Bengali music, from the songs of Pratul Mukhopadhyay to Lalon songs, from Abbas Uddin to the songs of Abdul Alim.

As the music itself is a language, the French president was completely overwhelmed by the musical melodies of Rahul Anand despite the language barrier. Macron was enjoying the time so much that he stayed in the studio an hour extra than the plan.

Rahul Anand presented Emanuel Macron an ‘ektara’ (one-string local folk instrument) from his collection. The French president even took some lessons on ‘aktara’ from Rahul. The actor and singer also got a pen from the French leader.

“He (Emanuel Macron) told me to write songs and poetry about nature with this pen for him. I am a simple person. I tried to please him within my capacity.”

Even within this short time, the French president befriended everyone in the house in between music, talks and black coffee.

At one point, Macron asked Rahul about his dream. The instrumentalist said, “I want a green earth.” The French president then asked him, “What would be your contribution in that case?”

Rahul Anand said, “I always try to encourage people to plant trees and to take care of our rivers and nature. I have been planting trees in open spaces since 1994. I even planted trees along the Bangladesh-India border a few days ago.”

“I love making instruments, which need wood and I get that from trees. I feel like a bird and trees are essential for the birds to survive. Where would I get the woods for my next instrument if I don’t plant trees? Where will the birds nest?” Rahul told the French president.

French president Emanuel Macron is also known to be a music-lover. He is an amateur singer as well. He was spotted singing on a Paris street in April. A video of this went viral on social media. He is also a pianist.

French president Emanuel Macron with Rahul Anand, his wife Urmila Shukla and son Tota at their home ''Bhangabari"
Courtesy of Rahul Anand

The French government always puts special significance on culture. He regularly visits the studios of local artists whenever he is visiting any country.

The French president was accompanied by information and broadcasting minister Hasan Mahmud and singers Ashfika Rahman, Kamruzzaman Shwadhin and Afroza Sara during his visit to Rahul Anand’s studio on Sunday night.

The French president left Dhaka on Monday afternoon after his two-day visit to Bangladesh.