The field trips began at the end of 2003, when Moushumi Bhowmik's project proposal 'Love, Loneliness and Longing: Biraho in the folk repertoire of Bengal' was being considered for a research and documentation grant by India Foundation for the Arts in Bangalore.
Here is a selection of recording sessions, chronologically arranged, and sorted by year to give an idea of how the work has evolved and how the field has grown and continues to grow; also how the researchers are evolving in the process. Moushumi has written most of the session notes, Sukanta has written some in Bangla. Both write from their personal points of view, based on their individual and shared observations and understanding of the field. These are not instantly jotted down field notes, but written after the dust has settled and the sound has seeped in, sometimes years after the actual trip. So, these session notes also become acts of remembering and reconstructing the past.
- Masadda, Birbhum. 24 July 2004. Kalpana Dasi
- Tarapith, Birbhum. 14 October 2004. Kanai Das Baul
- 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
- Chandrapur,Cachar. 28 August 2005. Janmashtami
- Krishnai, Goalpara, Assam. 30 August 2005. Rahima Kolita
- 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
- Sylhet, 21 April 2006, Biditlal Das
- Surma News Office, Quaker Street, East London. 27 February 2007. Ahmed Moyez
- Bethnal Green, London. 8 March 2007. Baul Abdul Shohid
- Limehouse, East London. 13 March 2007. Helal Miah
- Saptiguri, Siliguri, West Bengal. 17 June 2007. Shobha Minja, Deunishia Tirki, Prishaka Kindo, Miristila Tirki and Aruna Pappa
- Silchar, Cachar, Assam. 1 October 2007. Farijuddin
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.