January 11, 2009

Bauls come together in Kolkata to showcase their music

Kolkata, Jan 9: Over 40 ‘Bauls’ - mystic minstrels of West Bengal - came together here from across the state to participate in a three-day baul music festival. Baul, which means divinely possessed, is one of the few widely-known folk musical genres of Bengal sung by bards known by the same name. The songs they sing are known as Baul-gaan (Baul songs).

The festival titled ‘Shikawr’ (roots) kicked off Friday evening and is being organised by state-based real estate group Bengal Shelter at ‘Mohor Kunjo’, a citizen’s park in south Kolkata.‘It is an attempt to restore baul music that is on verge on extinction like Punjabi Sufi music due to commercialisation of these songs. This is the first time so many bauls have come together for a cause,’ Amitabha Basu, one of the initiators of the fest, told IANS Friday evening.

‘Baul music is not only West Bengal’s, but one of India’s oldest folk music. But the present generation has no idea of what original baul music is all about. Instead, they distort the songs by remixing them and singing them against electronic instruments.’ Basu said. ‘The bauls here will tell us what their music is truly all about. They will perform with hand-made instruments like ’sarinda’ (a crude form of violin made of bamboo), ‘ektara’ (one-stringed instrument) and ‘dotara’ (two-stringed instrument, a crude form of little lute). I am sure none of our youths even know these names, let aside playing them.’

Basu said the idea of organising such a fest came from a French youth. ‘A few months back, I met a French youth at a fair in Shantiniketan and asked him about their folk music. He said French folk music exists no more as it has been devoured by commercial music. It was scary…and as a result, over 40 bauls from the remotest corners of the state have come together to showcase their genre of music and save their art from extinction,’ Basu said.

The bauls have come from remote villages of Bankura, Birbhum, Nadia, Purulia, Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar districts to perform their various types of music that includes ‘Bhawaiya’ songs, ‘Fakiri gaan’ and ‘Jhumur’.

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