Tarapith, Birbhum. 14 October 2004. Kanai Das Baul
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 Baul or Kanai Baba, as many call him, went back several years; he had sung in Anup Singh’s docu-fictional essay on Ritwik Ghatak, Ekti Nodir Naam (The Name of a River) and I had seen him during that recording session. The blind Kanai Baba was also the subject of Ranjan Palit’s film Abak Jaye Here, besides being one of the main singers in Georges Luneau’s landmark film on the bauls, Le Chant des Fous.
Kanai Das Baul
Tarapith, where Kanai lives, is famous for its temple of Tara Ma, situated on the bank of the Dwaraka river, next to the smashan or crematoria which itself has traditionally been a site of spiritual Tantric practices. Kanai spends most of his time in this temple, in the company of sadhus, singers and pilgrims. We had heard his stories before, how as a little blind boy he would stand in neck-deep water and sing away and how an older cousin had once said to him, ‘You know what? Music might be your salvation.’ Kanai’s journey has been a long and difficult one, through poverty and blindness, but it is music that has always saved him.
Early on in his life Kanai had started to pick songs from the road. His training as a singer has been through encounters at railway stations and melas, temples and shrines—that, in fact, is the common story for many bauls and fokirs. Then it was this temple of Tarapith that gave him his base. This might be the reason why he is so at home when he sings songs of devotion to Ma Kali (Kali and Tara are often interchangeable in these songs), and why his other songs such as baul and kirtan too are touched by the same bhab or mood. This here is a clip from a Ramprasadi song, about diving—in the name of Kali—deep into the recesses of the heart, seeking its unending riches. He sings, accompanying himself on the ektara and dugi, which are his favoured instruments.
Our recording session lasted about two hours and other than Ramprasadi, Kanai Das sang baul, fokiri, bichchhed and kirtan. Sukanta recorded the session on our new Sony MD Walkman MZ-NH700 with a Sony Electret Condenser Stereo Microphone ECM-MS957. Now we could do some justice to the quality of the songs and I no longer had to record like a novice; but for Sukanta too this was to be the beginning of a long learning process.
Written in 2010.
- Saptiguri, North Bengal. 27 November 2003. Nirmala Roy
- Bolpur, Birbhum. 25 November 2003. Nimai Chand Baul
- Chitarpur, Kotshila, Purulia. 28 November 2005. Musurabala
- Mahiganj, Rangpur, Bangladesh. 17 January 2006. Biswanath Mahanta & Digen Roy
- Debicharan, Rangpur, Bangladesh 18 January 2006 Anurupa Roy & Mini Roy, Shopon Das
- Kumar Nodi, Faridpur, Bangladesh. 21 January 2006. Idris Majhi and Sadek Ali
- Baotipara, Faridpur, Bangladesh. 21 January 2006. Kusumbala Mondal and others
- Uttar Shobharampur, Faridpur, Bangladesh. 22 January 2006. Ibrahim Boyati
- Faridpur, Bangladesh. 24 January 2006. Binoy Nath
- Jahajpur, Purulia. 27 February 2006. Naren Hansda and others
- Sylhet, Bangladesh. 20-21 April 2006. Ruhi Thakur and others
- Sylhet, Bangladesh. 21 April 2006. Arkum Shah Mazar
- Sylhet, Bangladesh. 22 April 2006. Chandrabati Roy Barman and Sushoma Das
- Ambikapur, Faridpur, Bangladesh. 29 April 2006. Hajera Bibi
- Surma News Office, Quaker Street, East London. 27 February 2007. Ahmed Moyez
- Krishnai, Goalpara, Assam. 30 August 2005. Rahima Kolita
- Chandrapur,Cachar. 28 August 2005. Janmashtami
- Manasar gaan, Munsiganj, 12 January, 2018
- Santiniketan, Birbhum 27 Nov 2004 Debdas Baul, Nandarani
- Changrabandha, Coochbehar. 16 December 2004. Abhay Roy
- Dhaka, Bangladesh. 23 December 2004. Monjila
- Dhaka, Bangladesh. 24 December 2004. Ali Akbar
- Sylhet, Bangladesh. 26 December 2004. Abdul Hamid
- Srimangal, Sylhet. 27 December 2004. Tea garden singers
- Bhaddi, Purulia. 6 January 2005. Amulya Kumar, Hari Kumar
- Shaspur, Birbhum. 8 January 2005. Golam Shah and sons Salam and Jamir
- Kenduli, Birbhum. 13 January 2005. Ashalata Mandal
- Kenduli,Birbhum. 14 January 2005. Fulmala Dasi
- Silchar, 25 August 2005, Barindra Das