Singer Rezwana Choudhury Bannya teaches Dhaka slum children

by Julie Mollins | @jmollins | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Thursday, 11 November 2010 11:21 GMT

* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

LONDON (AlertNet) - After a false start studying economics at university, Bangladeshi singer Rezwana Choudhury Bannya turned her focus to music and mastering the songs of Rabindranath Tagore. Tagore, awarded the 1913 Nobel Prize in Literature, was the firs

LONDON (AlertNet) - After a false start studying economics at university, Bangladeshi singer Rezwana Choudhury Bannya turned her focus to music and mastering the songs of Rabindranath Tagore.

Tagore, awarded the 1913 Nobel Prize in Literature, was the first Asian Nobel laureate, and renounced a knighthood in protest against the 1919 Amritsar Massacre in India during which hundreds of unarmed people at a gathering were shot dead by British troops.

"He was a reformer, he was a teacher, he was a philosopher, and most of all he was a humanitarian," Bannya told AlertNet during an interview in London on Sunday. "As he became mature, his thoughts and work became closer to the welfare and inner development of human beings."

It was under Tagore's philosophical influence that Bannya started the Shurer Dhara music school in Dhaka, Bangladhesh, in the 1990s and more recently a "Music for Development" programme designed to help slum children.

Bangladesh is one of the most flood-prone countries in the world because of its geographic location and topography.

Capital city Dhaka's population of 13.5 million keeps growing as migrants move to the city to escape flooding and rising sea levels. Housing shortages and high levels of unemployment make it difficult to find housing, jobs, food and medical supplies.

"Music is a very strong instrument to motivate people,"Bannya said. "That is the reason I dreamed of doing something with the slum children."

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