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 research, travelogues, collections of poetry, films, recordings, sleeve notes, websites, performances on YouTube, blogs, debates and discussions, NGO programmes, old and new festivals of music and so on. In the course of our work we have tried to wade through some of this material which has given a sense of how the word baul, and the related word fakir/fakiri, have been interpreted by various people at different points of time, bringing up questions ranging from etymology to identity politics, applied ethnomusicology to development studies and so on.
But then we ask ourselves, what is it that we are hearing? What are we looking at? One important factor for us is that we are listening to music and looking at performances. So, we are primarily concerned with the context of the performer and performance, musical form, styles of singing, audience composition and response and so on. What we hear and see is about all these things, as we have tried to show in our individual session notes.
The website www.baularchive.com presents a comprehensive bibliography on bauls and fakirs of Bengal and also a long list of related links. Besides, there are now countless performances to be heard/seen/studied on the internet.