Mahiganj, Rangpur, Bangladesh. 17 January 2006. Biswanath Mahanta & Digen Roy

Listen to a song from this session
Biswanath Mahanta and Digen Roy

Song region:

Bishwanath Mahanta is a music teacher of Rangpur in the north of Bangladesh and what he teaches is primarily bhaoaiya. During this recording session, which was more like a lecture-demonstration, he talked about bhaoaiya being the music of the region and, using the harmonium for accompaniment,  explained its many variations and styles. He talked about Coochbehar across the international border—it is the same region, he said. There are artists who cross the border to come and give concerts in Rangpur, Ayesha Sarkar being a local favourite.




Digen Roy

Many of Biswanath’s students are now ‘successful’ bhaoaiya  singers. ‘Successful’ of course only in their small-town or regional context—they sing for the radio and some have CDs in the market and they also perform in local events. But Digen Roy, who is featured in this session along with Bishwanath Mahanta, seems to be an exception. He sells paan in the local market, cannot maintain regularity with his lessons, but he has sincere regard for his teacher. When he sings you can hear the melancholy in his voice. ‘Digen is very good but somehow lacks confidence,’ Bishwanath Mahanta said. ‘I have to send word to him through other people to come and see me.‘

The previous evening, when we had met Digen at a recording session in Barobari, also in Rangpur, we had felt that he was different from the rest of the singers, and so we had asked him to join the session with his teacher the next morning. Bishwanath Mahanta started a song and passed it on to Digen. Mao boro dhon shona re, Bishwanath sang; a verse in praise of the mother. Then he nudged Digen. ‘Kao,’ he said.  Say it. Mayer maya shital chhaya; she shades you with her love, Digen continued.

Written in 2010.