Last Tuesday, the Language Studies Academic Society and the UTM Music Club got together to bring us Cultural Night, billed as a chance to encounter global music and poetry “like you have never witnessed before”.

Things got off to a slow start. For one, signage was less than auspicious—an advertisement for a Rhythm dance show had been left on a whiteboard by the door, and I was frankly unsure for a moment that I had the right place. However, I was greeted upon entering the Presentation Room in the Student Centre by LSAS’s VP, Otilia De Andrade, and the matter was resolved. I took the chance to ask her what had inspired this partnership between the clubs, leading her to speak enthusiastically on the musicality of language itself.

The UTM Music Club saw the partnership in their own terms. The UMC president spoke in her introduction to the performances that surely there was no “better way to represent diversity than through music”. Although both clubs had slightly different perspectives regarding the collaboration, it seemed that diversity was intended to be the key theme of the celebration.

At first, I feared that the night might not live up to the expectations of the club leaders. For one, the event did not actually get underway until nearly half an hour after the set start time. What was presented in the opening act resembled a multilingual karaoke night; the number was a perfectly adequate rendition of “You Raise Me Up”, yet sung in Spanish and with Japanese subtitles projected onto the wall. It was disorienting, but I blame the tech crew more than the performer for this. Nevertheless, things started looking up as we finally were presented with (mostly) impassioned recitations of poetry, which sounded more musical to me than the pop songs, especially when the latter were sung with instrumental tracks from poor quality YouTube videos. Some of the poems were in English, others in foreign languages, and as they were spoken it became increasingly clear to me that the night was not merely a talent show.

The out-of-the-ordinary nature of Culture Night could be seen in a PowerPoint presentation about Bangladesh and the Bengali Language Movement of 1952, which preceded one of the poems. Apparently, the student-led Bengali language movement occurred after the announcement of an intention to make Urdu the sole official language of Bangladesh, even though a large portion of the population also or only spoke Bengali. This is conveniently reflective of the theme of the event itself—the veneration, celebration, and recognition of the vast diversity of languages and cultures here at UTM.

While this presentation was quite impressive, it was unfortunately underscored by music bleeding in from the pub next door—music which, for the rest of the night, would clash dramatically with the students’ performances. In addition to this issue, as students began sitting down in front of instruments, the lack of a proper stage or equipment became rather problematic, especially given how packed a venue it was.

Overall, I was pleased to have attended the event. I feel quite safe in declaring it a qualified success and hope to see these two clubs working in tandem again quite soon.