Arnold Bake’s 1932-33 films and audio recordings from Bengal

Arnold Ardiaan Bake (1899-1963) was a Dutch ethnomusicologist who spent several years in the 1920s and 30s recording and filming music and dance from the classical and non-classical traditions, in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. He was later appointed lecturer of music at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, where he taught, among others, Nazir Ali Jairazbhoy. Bake’s journey through India began with Santiniketan where he spent quite a few years. He and his wife, Corry, were close to Rabindranath Tagore and the Santiniketan circle of intellectuals and artists of that time. Bake facilitated Tagore’s trip to Indonesia in 1927.

Bake studied Sanskrit and the classics in Santiniketan but he also became interested in the non-classical traditions of India around this time, as his footage from Kenduli reveals. He spent time in Calcutta taking lessons in kirtan singing from Nabadwip Brajobashi, whom he recorded in 1932. Arnold Bake transcribed several of Tagore’s songs and his book of staff notation, Twenty-Six Songs of Rabindranath Tagore, with an introduction by Phillipe Stern and Bake and free translation of the songs by Tagore himself, was published by Librarie Orientaliste in Paris in 1935. Of Tagore’s song Gram chara oi ranga matir path, Bake wrote in the Introduction that it was ‘a poem written to a boatman’s tune’. In 1933, Bake recorded a bhatiyali (boatman’s song) tune sung by Bhirecvar Chakravarti (spelling according to Bake’s notes) in Santiniketan. In his accompanying notes he wrote that this song ‘was taken by Tagore as Gram Chara’.

Copies of the archival footage from Kenduli and audio recording from Santinketan and Calcutta have been kindly given to TTA by the Archives and Research Center for Ethnomusicology (ARCE) of the American Institute of Indian Studies (AIIS) in Gurgaon, India, for the sole use of The Travelling Archives. No copies of these recordings may be made without the permission of:

Archives and Research Center for Ethnomusicology
22, Institutional Area, Sector 32,
Gurgaon, Haryana
Telephone: 91-124-2381424.
Main contact person: Dr. Shubha Chaudhuri.

Kirtan by Nabadwip Brajobashi

Bhatiyali by Bhirecvar Chakravarti

Bake – Ajay and Temple

Bake – Baul

Bake – Kirtan

Bake – Kusum(?)

Bake – Santhal Dance