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Origines Des Musique - Baul Sangeet
O my bird,
Though it is darkening,
Do not fold you wings.

This is a stanza of a poem that Rabindranath Tagore reads out in Bengali every morning on my favorite radio station, while I’m readying myself for work. Everytime I listen to it, I wonder what and why it is spoken. So this Sunday morning, I requested my housemaid to help. She revealed that it is an excerpt from one of Rabindranath Tagore’s poems dedicated to a highly influential Bengali folk group, Baul.

“The Bauls are an ancient group of wandering minstrels of Bengal, who believe in simplicity in life and love. They are similar to the Buddhists in their belief in a fulfilment which is reached by love’s emancipating us from the dominance of self.” Rabindranath Tagore.

The Bauls are one of the little known but highly acknowledged folk music groups from the eastern side of India and the neighbouring countries. The members of the group wander around the districts of Bengal ~ West Bengal and Bangladesh. They travel from village to village entertaining the residents by narrating folklores, mythologies and even contemporary day-to-day problems metaphorically in the form of songs.

These folk singers are paid not only in cash, but also in food grains and other items as well. Their dialect is mainly local, which makes it difficult for an urban audience to comprehend sometimes. However, a few upcoming bands and musicians are trying to revive it and popularise it by fusing it with modern beats and sounds, bracketing them in the alternative music and even world music genre.

This hundreds-of-years-old folk song seemed to have originated somewhere in the 15th century when Bengali texts also originated. The origination of the word Baul is said to have no definite derivation and is presumed to have been derived from the Sanskrit texts of either ‘Vatula’ which means ‘affected from the wind disease’, or simply ‘mad’, or ‘Vyakula’ which means ‘restless or disordered’.

You can read the rest of our feature Origines Des Musique - Baul Sangeet in the March 2007 issue of The Record Music Magazine available at your local newsagent.


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