The Concert for Bangladesh (or Bangla Desh, as the country's name was originally spelt) was a pair of benefit concerts organised by former Beatles guitarist George Harrison and Indian sitar player Ravi Shankar. The shows were held at 2:30 and 8:00 pm on Sunday, 1 August 1971, at Madison Square Garden in New York City, to raise international awareness of, and fund relief for refugees from East Pakistan, following the Bangladesh Liberation War-related genocide. The concerts were followed by a bestselling live album, a boxed three-record set, and Apple Films' concert documentary, which opened in cinemas in the spring of 1972.
|The Concert for Bangladesh|
|Dates||1 August 1971|
|Location(s)||Madison Square Garden, New York City, US|
|Founded by||George Harrison, Ravi Shankar|
The event was the first-ever benefit of such a magnitude, and featured a supergroup of performers that included Harrison, fellow ex-Beatle Ringo Starr, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Billy Preston, Leon Russell and the band Badfinger. In addition, Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan – both of whom had ancestral roots in Bangladesh – performed an opening set of Indian classical music. The concerts were attended by a total of 40,000 people, and the initial gate receipts raised close to $250,000 for Bangladesh relief, which was administered by UNICEF.
After collecting the musicians easily, Harrison found it extremely difficult to get the recording industry to release the rights for performers to share the stage, and millions of dollars raised from the album and film were tied up in IRS tax escrow accounts for years, but the Concert for Bangladesh is recognised as a highly successful and influential humanitarian aid project, generating both awareness and considerable funds as well as providing valuable lessons and inspiration for projects that followed, such as Live Aid.
By 1985, through revenue raised from the Concert for Bangladesh live album and film, an estimated $12 million had been sent to Bangladesh, and sales of the live album and DVD release of the film continue to benefit the George Harrison Fund for UNICEF. Decades later, Shankar would say of the overwhelming success of the event: "In one day, the whole world knew the name of Bangladesh. It was a fantastic occasion."