Saturday, September 4, 2010


An evening of Baul music takes me back to the immensely soulful tradition of western folk music in my younger days. The sense of longing, and belonging that such traditional music invokes can be compulsive.

Unsurprising, perhaps, when it is said of the Hindu and Sufi Muslim tradition from which Baul derives, that the music celebrates eternal love.

The Sufi tradition, of course, which celebrates and worships the Almighty through music and dance, is a natural partner of the great Hindu traditions of music and dance that also celebrates celestial influence. And in Bangladesh, those two great religions have long coexisted.. with the occasional, usually externally provoked, fraternal disagreement!

The music is generated on one, or two stringed simple lutes, or a curious single stringed instrument, together with a small drum, help between the knees, or in the crook of the arm. Small cymbals sometimes join the percussion, and, of course, the simple, haunting music of the bamboo flute that is ubiquitous in all Bangladeshi folk music.
The singers weave, and if not seated, weave in compulsive motion, as much dancing as singing.

The musicians traditionally wear saffron coloured robes, not so very unlike the gard of Buddhist monks.
Immensely popular in Bangladeshi culture that remains close to the heritage of Nobel Laureate Tagore, and the rather earlier Lalon Shah, twice a year, to celebrate the birth of Lalon in March, and death in October (If the biography is to be believed he was 114 years old when he died!), great festivals are held in Kushtia, at which all comers find a welcome.. though finding shelter maybe a little harder! Perhaps something of a twice yearly Glastonbury?

Somehow, just an evening with friends and acouple of Baul artists seems more appealing.

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