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Harmonising Culture & Business: The Inside Story of Karimganj Music Festival 2023

After the triumphant Karimganj Music Festival 2023, the community has been abuzz with questions. People are curious why a tech firm like Team Karimganj (TK) would host a music festival, the reasoning behind selecting Anjan Dutta as the headliner, and the rationale for a profit-driven company investing over 25 lakhs rupees in a free event. This article aims to demystify the strategy behind this grand event.

A little more than 23 years ago, in the September of 2000, as a first semester student at the National Institute of Technology, Silchar (then Regional Engineering College), I remember my first encounter with Anjan Dutta’s “Bela Bose” played on a Winamp player at the desktop of a senior student. I fell in love with that song immediately. Back in those days, this song was a favourite among my fellow students, especially those final year students securing their first jobs. Over the years, I found myself increasingly drawn to Anjan Da’s other songs like Ranjana, Mala, Mary Ann, Ekhono Tai, Tumi Ashbe Bole Tai and so on. Anjan Da’s songs articulated the lives and struggles of everyday people and offered me hope and motivation during my life’s low points.

Fast forward to November 2021, over two years post the inception of TK. We celebrated the visit of our clients from Israel with a grand party featuring live music from local bands. Although I’m far from being a singer, those familiar with me know that a few drinks can surprisingly bring out my singing talent. On that night, this led me to take the stage and sing Anjan Da’s “Bela Bose.” At the time, the majority of my colleagues were aged between 22 and 25 and were doing their first job at TK. They immediately found a deep connection with “Bela Bose”. It has since become an anthem at TK, with no party concluding without a rendition of “Bela Bose.” Furthermore, Anjan Da, embodying a lifestyle and ideology that deeply aligns with TK’s culture, along with his rebellious lyrics that mirror the transformative vision of TK, made Anjan Dutt and the Electric Band the only choice for headlining the first Karimganj Music Festival.

So, TK is a great admirer of Anjan Dutta’s music. Then, why did we not settle for a small-scale music show for a smaller audience and instead opt for a large festival? Well, we at TK have always favoured doing things on a grand scale, and a modest music show simply didn’t align with our ethos. Furthermore, about 15 months ago, we found ourselves at the centre of a controversy due to a viral social media photo depicting my colleagues, some clients from abroad, and myself toasting with alcohol in a private gathering. This incident led to accusations from some community members that we were compromising Karimganj’s culture by promoting alcohol consumption. Although we had the support of the majority in Karimganj, the character attacks from certain quarters deeply wounded us. This fuelled a compelling need to demonstrate that TK’s actions were aimed at enhancing, not harming, the culture of Karimganj. The Karimganj Music Festival 2023, in its grandeur, was a testament to this commitment and a response to the lingering resentment from the controversy. At the festival, moments before Anjan Da and his band took the stage, I addressed approximately 7000 attendees from the stage. With pride, I declared, “15 months ago, we were accused of endangering the culture of Karimganj. Today, we have organized the most significant cultural event in Karimganj’s history.” This statement was our definitive reply to our critics.


Anjan Dutta and Band with Team Karimganj in Karimganj
Anjan Dutt and Band with Team Karimganj in Karimganj

Investing over 25 lakhs in a free event seems illogical for a business, but we see it as a strategic, long-term investment. Our goal is to elevate the Karimganj Music Festival to the stature of other regional festivals like the Falcon Festival, Hornbill Festival, Ziro Festival etc, enhancing Karimganj’s brand and helping local talents and products gain wider recognition.

Anjan Da was undoubtedly the star attraction of the festival. Yet, alongside him, five local bands from Karimganj also graced the festival with their performances, garnering widespread appreciation and support from the audience. In addition to the musical acts, we set up around 18 stalls at the festival venue, where local artisans showcased their products free of charge. These stalls featured a variety of items including handicrafts, pottery, cane and bamboo goods, woollen items, paintings, fabric, and more. Notably, one stall offered pure dry fish from Son Beel, meticulously packed in airtight containers, and certified with an FSSAI license. These stalls not only managed to sell a significant number of products but also received extensive marketing exposure. Furthermore, three of the local bands that performed have since been inundated with requests to play at live music shows across Barak Valley and beyond.

The core mission of TK is to serve as a conduit between the local talents of Karimganj and the wider global market. Our initial focus has been on the technology sector, where we’ve successfully connected the bright minds of our region with prominent western tech companies. Now, we’re poised to broaden our scope to include local musicians, artisans, and product manufacturers in this global outreach. We have plans to establish a modern music recording studio, a space where local musicians can both practice and record their music. Our ambition is to create an entity akin to Coke Studio Live, fostering a vibrant music culture. Concurrently, we aim to develop an e-commerce platform, leveraging the Karimganj Music Festival brand as a catalyst, to promote and sell locally crafted products. Ultimately, TK wishes to start a self-employment and cultural revolution in the region and for that long-term goal, 25 lakhs is a very small price to pay.

The author of this article, Hrishiraj Bhattacharjee, is Founder & CEO of Team Karimganj

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