Baul Gaan: Minstrels of Mystic Melody Tuesday, 29 September, 2009Posted by ~uh~™ in India, Music, Soceity & Cultures, Videos.
Tags: Auchin Pakhi, Baul, Cryptic lyrics, Ektara, Folk, Hippie, Khanjani, Khartal, Khol, Lalon Fakir, Mistrels, Mridanga, Music, mystic, Paban Das Baul, Purna Das Baul, Rabindranath Tagore, Songs, Video, World Music
This is the second video blog of the series on the context of Durga Pujo and traditional Bengali Culture. The first was on Dhak can be read here.
I have been influenced by Baul gaan since the very first time I have heard a song as a kid. It was a song by Purnadas Baul, the king of Bauls –
Piriti kathaler aatha lagle pore chhare na
Golemaale golemaale piriit koro na
(Love is like sticky juice of jackfruit, it’s too sticky to get rid of
So don’t fall in love when chanced within the perplexity)
I liked the song instantly, though understood the real meaning much later in life. Years later, I got the opportunity to listen to songs of Lalon Fakir and they left me mesmerized. In today’s world of religious divide and materialistic gain, his songs spoke about basics- truth, love and human soul. His songs were like a crack in the wall of my prison, which gave me a glimpse of another world where Icould never go, but wished to. However, Lalon Fakir is a subject in himself and before me; there was another dude who liked him- Rabindranath Tagore.
Khachar vitor, ochin pakhi kemne ashe jai!
Tare dhorte paarle mono beri, ditam pakhir paay.
(Look, how the strange bird flies in and out of cage!
If I could catch, I would bind it with my mind’s fetter)
Thus sang Lalon.
Amar praner manush Achhe prane tai heri tare sakal-khane.
Achhe se noyon-taray, Alok dharay tare na haraye ogo tai heri tare Jethaye sethaye
(The man after my heart lives inside me,
That is why I see him everywhere.
In the gaze of my eye, in the sparkle of light
Oh I can never lose him —
Here, there, everywhere,
Wherever I look, he is right there for me.)
Thus wrote Tagore.
The Baul philosophy of liberal love, life and music existed much before Woodstock happened. A Baul dejects himself from all material bonding, is a wanderer and travels with travels with his Bostomi, his lifemate. It was the Baul culture that made me realize that wearing torn jeans and smoking pot doesn’t mean liberty or being ‘hippiee’, there’s a force much deeper and larger, required to unbelong and love what you love. It’s a state of mind. The biggest expression of Baul philosophy is it’s music- which is melodious, memorable and highly influential. Baul music has inspired poets at home and lyricists and musicians across the globe, time and again. Undoubtedly, Baul gaan today can be considered as one of the influential contribution to World Music. Paban Das Baul’s [Facebook page ] album with guitarist Sam Mills called Real Sugar was released in 1997 featuring the heart-wrenching plea to Khoda, Dil ki doya, he became an instant celebrity on the world music circuit. [Ref link]
Traditional Bauls are conspicuous with there saffron or golden yellow robe, rudrakhsha bands, long beards and hair tied up in top-knot, the single stringed Ektara, the Dugi, the ghungroo and rustic melodious voice. Some of the musical instruments used by Bauls listed below [Ref link ], are featured on the video.
Image found here
Ektara – A plucked single string drone – fingers and thumb are used.
Khanjani – A tabourine without jangles. [ Remember Dylan’s ‘Hey mister tambourine man……’ ?]
Khamak – A rhythmic instrument with one or two strings attached to the head of a small drum. The strings are plucked with a plectrum and they are alternatively tightened or slackened to generate an amazing array of rhythmic and tonal variations.
Mridanga or Khol – A barrel-shaped clay drum with two heads – sort of a combination of the baya and daina of tabla as described above.
Mandira or Kartal – Small bell-shaped cymbals, usually used in Bhajan/ Kirtans.
Ramchaki – A pair of wooden clappers with jangles.
The lyrics of Baul songs are mystic, often cryptic with deeper spiritual meanings hidden under witty wordings. Unfortunately, because the lyrics are deeply related to simple household terms contextual to rural Bengal, it is difficult to literary translate without distorting the theme.
For example, the song featured on the video “Rattir Belay Bou Amake Baba Bolechhe” literally means’ My wife addressed me as dad at night’ is one of the famous song.
I also have the video of the Piriti Kathaler Aatha ( Love is sticky like jackfruit juice) and ‘Jamai Nangta’ (the naked son-in-law), will upload at the next best opportunity.
I should stop here, before it looks like I am writing an essay on Bauls. Let me just conclude this post by adding some facts which might help updating the general knowledge for those who think Baul Gaan is just another form of folk music –
1. Baul Gaan is listed under Performing Arts in UNESCO’s Asia Pacific Database on Intangible Cultural Heritage.
2. Mention of Baul culture is found in texts as old as 15th century.
3. Baul philosophy of Syncretism is a subject of philosophical research. The Baul tradition is a mysterious fusion of elements from Buddhism, Saktism (worshippers of goddess Kali – the source of all energies), Vaisnavism (worshippers of Lord Visnu) and Sufi Islam, may well have its roots in the Tantrik Buddhism of Bengal in the 9th and 10th centuries.
4. Rabindranath Tagore was deeply influenced by Baul. His speeches and writings on baul has been compiled into a Book “The Religion of a Man”. Pous Mela (the traditional Bengal version of the festival of Holi) in Shantiniketan still celebrates the festival the traditional way. His song Amar praner manush Achhe prane was a tribute to his attachment to Baul music and Lalon Fakir.
5. A Baul can perform 3 or more musical instruments (the Ektara, the Dugi, the Khanjani and the ghungroo) simultaneously while singing and dancing. [See video]
6. I have seen Bauls using hitech gadgets like Casio keyboards and electric Ektara with pick-ups and portable speakers, even when performing in Kolkata suburban local trains (Sealdah South), for money.
7. Bob Dylan is probably a Baul in disguise.
Related reads for the interested mind-