Bangladesh-UK Programme

Honouring Mujib was created to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Bangladesh's Declaration of Independence on March 26th 1971. The film is built around excerpts from a Grand Union concert in March 2020 for what would have been the 100th birthday of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, known as the 'Father of the Nation', performed by Grand Union and Bengali artists led by Lucy Rahman, singing songs by her father, Sheikh Luthfur Rahman - not only a well-known singer himself, but a tireless activist in the cause of independence.

It goes on to tell the story of the War in dramatic songs and music by Tony Haynes and Bengali writers compiled from Grand Union shows at London's Hackney Empire and Wilton's Music Hall, Leeds' West Yorkshire Playhouse and the Brick Lane Mela outdoor festival; there is also some colourful footage of Grand Union visits to Dhaka in Bangladesh.

This launched an ongoing programme which will culminate in a project commemorating the 50th anniversary of the end of the War, December 16th. See our Events page for more details and updates as the project unfolds



In 2020-21 Bangladesh commemorates the 100th anniversary of the birth of the Father of the Nation, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, as Mujib Year – a year-long programme of events culminating in a Golden Jubilee celebration also of the birth of Bangladesh as an independent nation in 1971, 50 years ago.

The Grand Union Orchestra is honoured to be taking part in these celebrations, working closely with its long-time musical collaborators in both East London’s Bengali community and from Bangladesh itself to present a programme of its own. This began in Spring 2020 with two very special concerts in our much-loved series Bengal to Bethnal Green at Rich Mix, Shoreditch, and a workshop programme at Poplar Union Arts Centre.

These events themselves were timed to coincide with another significant day in the Bengali calendar – February 21 st, or Language Day. Sometimes known also as Martyrs’ Day, marking the loss of lives on that day in 1954 as campaigners fought to use their mother tongue Bengali as an official language of what was then East Pakistan, it was eventually recognised formally by UNESCO as International Mother Language Day.

The project so far

The first concert, on February 16th, featuring popular singer Amith Dey with Grand Union musicians, was built around the songs of the legendary poet/baul singer Lalon Shah, whose songs affirm equality and common humanity irrespective of faith, race or caste.

The second, on March 1st, featured Lucy Rahman and other Grand Union musicians performing the songs of her father, the iconic composer and singer Sheikh Luthfur Rahman, a leading voice and activist in the 1971 War of Independence. They also performed The Mother, The River by GUO composer/director Tony Haynes, a deeply moving account of the war as seen through the eyes of a woman anxiously awaiting the return of her son.

These two concerts framed  open workshops and a performance at Poplar Union led by GUO tabla maestro Yousuf Ali Khan and members of our Re:Generation Band, exploring the themes of freedom and independence on Language Day itself.

The artists

The Programme is directed by Grand Union’s tabla maestro Yousuf Ali Khan, who has been a long term collaborator with Tony Haynes, working with Grand Union Orchestra for nearly 30 years. Yousuf comes from the same famous dynasty of musicians as Ali Akhbar Khan, and began playing tabla at the age of five, later studying in Kolkata. He came to England in 1980 to help set up South Asian music teaching, developing also his international career as a performer and accompanist of choice for South Asian artists visiting the UK.

Lucy Rahman was born in Dhaka, into a family of famous musicians, artists and poets.  From the age of six, she was trained in Indian classical and semi-classical music by her father and went on to train at the Nazrul Academy for six years. Now settled in the UK, she has forged a formidable reputation as a leading singer of South Asian traditional and classical music.She has also been a core member of the Grand Union Orchestra for 25 years, and her original performance of The Mother The River can be seen here:


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