If someone asks what are they are singing about, reply, what is you are listening about? What are you looking at?–Ruchir Joshi in Eleven Miles In this journey, the word baul has been one of the most difficult to understand and interpret. There are countless works and initiatives on the bauls—religious studies, ethnomusicological and anthropological … Continue reading Baul
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Tuntun Fakir of Kushtia in Bangladesh had come to sing at our 10th Baul Fakir Utsav in Jadavpur, Shaktigarh in January 2015. The tenth year was a very special occasion for us, for while it marked a milestone in the life of the festival, for some of us it was also a closure of sorts, … Continue reading Baul Fakir Utsav, Jadavpur, Kolkata. 10 January 2015. Tuntun Fakir
A team from Sylhet was invited to take part in Baul Fakir Utsav 2010 –they were mainly musicians we had come to know through our fieldwork in Sylhet. Ranesh Thakur, the main singer of this session, is the younger brother of our departed contributor, Ruhi Thakur. Here he is singing a song that Ruhi da … Continue reading Shaktigarh, Jadavpur, Kolkata. 9 January 2010. Baul Fakir Utsav
From Ruhul Amin to Ahmed Moyez. From Ahmed Moyez to Noman’s house in Bethnal Green in East London, where many of the people I had met about a year ago in Betar Bangla radio station had also come. It was our Bethnal Green Party, a communal celebration of Bangladeshi immigrants, with friends, food and music. … Continue reading Bethnal Green, London. 8 March 2007. Baul Abdul Shohid
I had heard about the singer Debdas Baul’s long association with researchers and filmmakers, especially Bhaskar Bhattacharya (who passed away in 2006), and I was told he understood the ‘outsider’s’ needs very well. Rangan Momen had said: You must meet Debuda, he will know where to take you. During these last six years, Debdasda has … Continue reading Santiniketan, Birbhum 27 Nov 2004 Debdas Baul, Nandarani
This was my second field trip with Sukanta. The first one had also been to the temple town of Tarapith for the songs of the blind singer, Kanai Das Baul, but the session had got washed by rain, so we had decided to return the following week. My familiarity with the music of Kanai Das … Continue reading Tarapith, Birbhum. 14 October 2004. Kanai Das Baul
The Baul Fakir Utsav, held in the first, sometimes second weekend of January every year in our south Kolkata neighbourhood of Jadavpur-Shaktigarh, is a festival a group of friends have been organising since 2006. We are also in that group. The festival journal in Bangla brings to us many ideas expressed in many voices and … Continue reading Baul Fakir Utsav Journals
This was my first field trip, a kind of recce before the formal start of my IFA-supported project to explore biraho in the folk repertoire of Bengal. I went with my friend, Sudheer Palsane, a cinematographer. He had a Sony PD 150 DV camera, which was our recording equipment for the session. The reason for … Continue reading Bolpur, Birbhum. 25 November 2003. Nimai Chand Baul
Rangan Momen, a London based Bengali, runs Sadhu Guru Boishnob Recordings, a label dedicated to producing high quality field recordings of Baul-Fakir songs and music, mainly from the Nadia region of Bengal. All the recordings are done in a village in the Bangladesh side of Nadia and recorded by people within the Baul-Fakir community. Sadhu … Continue reading Rangan Momen
We mourn the passing of Shibda, Shibaditya Sen, our teacher in Santiniketan. Sukanta and I knew him separately as highschoolers, in different decades. Sukanta, more through growing up in and around Santiniketan; me, as Shibda’s direct student. However, it is our work together as/for The Travelling Archive, especially our work on Arnold Bake, which took … Continue reading SHIBDA, A NATURAL KEEPER OF KNOWLEDGE
Nimai Chand Goswami, the baul musician who passed away on 14 June 2014, was on our first ever field recording session. Moushumi had been to his house in Suripara, Bolpur in November 2003 with Sudheer Palsane, who recorded the session on a Sony PD 150 DV camera, even before the first IFA grant was announced. … Continue reading Nimai’s dotara falls silent
We grieve the passing of Chandrabati mashima. At the same time we feel blessed to have known her through this last decade of her life, although it seems like too short a time now.. Chandrabati mashima opened for us new worlds of listening and understanding music. Also new ways of understanding what it is to … Continue reading Chandrabati Roy Barman (1931-2014)
When the 25-year-old Ranen Roychowdhury came to Calcutta from Sylhet, he carried in the vessel of his body, songs from a home he had to leave behind. But this was not just generic communal music that he brought with him, this was also a music processed inside the artist, something of his own, something which … Continue reading A BOATMAN NAMED RANEN ROYCHOWDHURY
Sukanta Majumdar It was a summer afternoon in 2003 or ’04, I can’t clearly recall, on our way back from Surul to Santiniketan, when Moushumi asked me if I would join her project on “biraher gaan” as a research assistant. I was still at film school, studying sound recording. She wanted me primarily as a … Continue reading OF THE RECORD
Salamot Khan, who was Salamotbhai to us and was our friend and teacher, lived and died a ‘local man’ in Faridpur, in western Bangladesh in August 2015. Since his death, Faridpur, the place which gave to us some of the best of our songs–Ibrahim Boyati and Habib, Laila and Nuru Pagla, Jainuddin’s jari and Sadek … Continue reading SALAMOT KHAN: THE MAN WHO MADE PICKLE
On a Wednesday evening at the end of August 2014, Tinkori Chakraborty, the magical dubki player of Nadia, wandered out of an ashram near Krishnanagar not too far from his home in Nabadwip, where he had gone to visit, and since then he remained untraceable for about three days till his body was seen floating … Continue reading THE MAGICAL FINGERS OF TINKORI CHAKRABORTY
Deben Bhattacharya (1921-2001) was essentially a traveller into worlds of music. He was born in Varanasi, into a family of Sanskrit scholars and practitioners of traditional medicine, which had earlier migrated to this north Indian centre of learning from Faridpur in Bangladesh. A man who could not conform to formal education, Deben Bhattacharya went in … Continue reading DEBEN BHATTACHARYA
Bhungur Khan and his team of Manganiyar singers from Barmer in Rajasthan had been invited to our 10th Baul Fakir Utsav in Jadavpur Shaktigarh in January 2015. For some years we had been inviting a team of bhakti/sufi singers from outside Bengal, to come and sing songs which would have some overlap with the songs … Continue reading Jadavpur, Kolkata. 11 January 2015. Bhungar Khan and party.
Chandrabati Roy Barman was invited to the Baul Fakir Utsav in Kolkata in 2010. It was through our work that our friends in Kolkata had come to know about her. Our friend and guide in Sylhet, Ambarish Dutta, brought a team to this festival; this became the beginning of a new phase of music sharing … Continue reading Chandrabati Roy Barman. 13, 14 January 2010, Kolkata
When Gour Khepa succumbed to his fatal injuries from a road accident in a hospital in Kolkata on 27 January 2013, there were many friends and bhaktas (devotees) waiting outside to take him to his samadhi or burial in Kankalitala, not far from his home in Bolpur, Birbhum. There this wild and restless artist would … Continue reading Bolpur, Birbhum. 18 November 2009. Gour Khepa
We had this session in the courtyard of our late friend, Sadek Ali’s house in Ambikapur bazar, Faridpur. The evening before we had had another session inside his house. Like his mentor, the poet Jasimuddin, Sadek Ali bhai was a true lover of music, which is why he could open his doors to anyone who … Continue reading Ambikapur, Faridpur, Bangladesh. 31 March 2008. Jainuddin Boyati and team
This was our second recording session with the well-known Sylheti singer Helal Miah, in his Limehouse council flat in East London. Ahmed Moyez had taken us to Helal. First we met in Moyez’s Surma News office, then went to this Limehouse flat on 3 March 2007. There was Helal and his friend Ahmed Ali, the … Continue reading Limehouse, East London. 13 March 2007. Helal Miah
This was my second meeting with Ahmed Moyez, Sukanta’s frst. I had met him in August 2006 in the office of Betar Bangla–a Bengali/Bangadeshi, more specifically Sylheti, radio station in Bethnal Green. Ruhul Amin, Sylheti filmmaker in London, had taken me there and many other people had also come—mainly students and intellectuals from the Sylheti … Continue reading Surma News Office, Quaker Street, East London. 27 February 2007. Ahmed Moyez
Chandrabati Roy Barman and Sushoma Das were both born and brought up in the natural environment of song and rituals in villages in the Sunamganj area of Sylhet in eastern Bangladesh, a region known for its music and mystic poets. This was the time before Partition in 1947, for both women are now above 80. … Continue reading Sylhet, Bangladesh. 22 April 2006. Chandrabati Roy Barman and Sushoma Das
Ruhitaswar Chakraborty, popularly known as Ruhi Thakur, a man who left such an indelible mark on us with his songs. Perhaps because he would be gone within a year of this recording? At the time of his death from cancer Ruhida was hardly in his mid-50s. A day before this recording session we had seen … Continue reading Sylhet, Bangladesh. 20-21 April 2006. Ruhi Thakur and others
We mourn the passing of Shibda, Shibaditya Sen (1952-2018), our teacher in Santiniketan. Gone too soon, and another light has faded out of our sky.
Read more in our tribute page
Salamat Khan (Salamot bhai as we called him) passed away at dawn on 12 August 2015. He was so essential to our world, yet so much like a bird impossible to catch. Forever uncaged and uncageable. His death to us is like the last visible flight which he has taken. As if he had a sharp beak with which he pierced the sky and once he went in, the sky closed itself upon us. We lesser mortals were left below looking skywards, our hearts filled with longing for a little bit more.
We grieve the passing of Chandrabati mashima. At the same time we feel blessed to have known her through this last decade of her life, although it seems like too short a time now.. Chandrabati mashima opened for us new worlds of listening and understanding music. Also new ways of understanding what it is to be a woman and an artist. There is much to learn from the utshaho--her boundless energy and courage--which was seemingly at the root of everything she did and dared to do. When we first heard her in 2006, we felt sure that this music would travel. It did indeed. Mashima was always loved in her own land, but when she came to our Baul Fakir Utsav in Kolkata in 2010, she won the hearts of thousands more. Now young singers of the city are singing some of her songs--dhoirojo na dhorite, pari na shohite, onurage tonu jhore --which they have picked up from the Utsav's CDs, also from our recordings perhaps. As they sing, we hope they will remember that it is Chandrabati Roy Barman who gave them to us. Our own CD of her and Sushoma Das' songs and conversation from Travelling Archive Records has been received with critical appreciation by many, crossing boundaries of language and culture. Slowly the music seeps in; music made of songs and conversation, everyday sounds and silences. As we listen, the image of the artist comes alive. Some do not die, they only make a transition.
Sadek Ali of Faridpur, Bangladesh sold grains for his living, but lived for his songs. As a child he followed the folk poet Jasimuddin around wherever he went and the poet’s shadow seemed to hang on him for the rest of his life. Every time he sang for us, he would religiously mention that he had spent 45 years with Jasimuddin. There was a framed photograph of Jasimuddin on the wall of his shop in Faridpur market. Sadek Ali not only sang for us but also generously organised recording sessions in the space of his house, first in 2006 and then again in 2008. Last time we went to see him in 2011, Sadek Ali bhai was lying semi-paralysed in bed having suffered a stroke some months ago. He passed away in 2013.
Nimai Chand Goswami, the baul musician who passed away on 14 June 2014, was on our first ever field recording session. Moushumi had been to his house in Suripara, Bolpur in November 2003 with Sudheer Palsane, who recorded the session on a Sony PD 150 DV camera, even before the first IFA grant was announced. They went unannounced and Nimai was generous enough to let them in; he played music and talked about his life, mixing reality with fiction. The reason for this early visit was the sound of Nimai's eloquent dotara, we hadn't yet heard much, but Nimai was among the few things which occupied us in that preparatory phase. We had heard him on albums released in Europe with Paban Das Baul, such as Manuche O Rautan. Later Nimai had taken Moushumi to meet Kalpana Dasi and Shyamsundar Das Baul of Masadda, also in Birbhum. One place led to another, from one recording session we went to the next. As the initial years passed and we began to gather experience, we did not go back to Nimai any more; only met him occasionally at melas and festivals, also at our own Baul Fakir Utsav. But it is not easy to forget the sound of Nimai's dotara--not for its virtuosity, but because it was deeply affecting. Coincidentally, the first text in Bangla on the top of our Home page, is from a song we had heard Nimai sing. When we chose those lines about the power of listening, little did we know that Nimai's dotara would fall silent so soon.