About the Author: Garrett Wilkerson serves as a Cultural Affairs Officer at U.S. Embassy Dhaka in Bangladesh.
Stepping up to the microphone, Charlie cleared his throat and asked for a moment of silence. On June 4, 2010, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, a devastating fire struck the middle-class neighborhood of Old Dhaka. The loss of more than 100 lives left the country stunned and in shock and a national day of mourning was announced. The Charlie Porter Quartet, a jazz group welcomed to Bangladesh by the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka as participants in the Rhythm Road Series, wanted to pay tribute to those lost, and show that Americans cared.
As the moment of silence drew to an end, Charlie took his trumpet and played the first notes of "Dhonodhanye Pushpey Bhora," a classic Bengali song about the beauty and strength of Bangladesh. Quartet members Adam, Scott, and Jon took their instruments and joined in. The crowd of 700 was mesmerized. The band continued to play and murmurs of surprise spread throughout the audience. Charlie asked the audience to sing the lyrics, and the crowd enthusiastically joined in. The moment was intense. As the song drew to an end, emotions ran high. The Charlie Porter Quartet, as musicians and Americans, had not just played a song. What they did that night was speak to the hearts of countless Bangladeshis in a most unexpected way.
Video footage of the group's performance can be found here.