Baul Fakir Utsav Journals

The Baul Fakir Utsav, held in the first, sometimes second weekend of January every year in our south Kolkata neighbourhood of Jadavpur-Shaktigarh, is a festival a group of friends have been organising since 2006. We are also in that group. The festival journal in Bangla brings to us many ideas expressed in many voices and here we have brought entire journals to our readers; they are connected in many ways to the spirit of our work of The Travelling Archive. There is also a short film on the festival.

The Baul Fakir Utsav is a free and independent folk music festival, being held in the Jadavpur-Shaktigarh area of south Calcutta every first weekend of January, sometimes second, since 2006. It is neither state sponsored nor corporate funded, but organised entirely upon the initiative of a small group of friends and friends of friends, the bauls and fakirs of Bengal included.
When it was started, there was no idea that this festival would over the years turn into a major annual event. The first time, in 2006, the Utsav was a small congregation of some Bauls and Fakirs of West Bengal, organised by a group of friends who had already been listening to such music; it happened spontaneously, with hardly any plan. A large tent had been put up on a small community ground which is encircled by residential buildings, with a teashop in one corner, where otherwise children play or other melas are held. The response to the first festival was, however, absolutely overwhelming. We too were so overwhelmed by the experience that soon we found ourselves planning the second festival. Now the field remains the same, the infrastructure is more or less the same, money is also the same–which means it is a struggle all the way through–while the actual festival has grown many times over. Since 2010 the festival has been a perfect meeting place for the two Bengals, with performers from Bangladesh joining artists from West Bengal, even Assam. Moreover, since 2011, singers of other mystical traditions of the subcontinent, such as the Kabir-singers of central India or the Sufi qawwals, are also being invited to the festival.

From its start, we (Sukanta and Moushumi) have been involved with this festival, not as The Travelling Archive per se, although the work of The Travelling Archive has major overlaps with the festival. Sukanta takes care of the live sound and audio recording of the festival and now his students and friends come and help him out. Besides, every year, before the festival begins, editing and mastering the CDs of the previous year, which are sold during the festival, take place in our house, which is The Travelling Archive office, then transformed into the Baul Fakir Utsav studio! This two-day ephemeral festival, like many of the melas of Bengal, is a space where many roads intersect and many minds meet; much like the space of The Travelling Archive.

The Utsav has been bringing out a journal from its second year. It started more as a souvenir but slowly became serious and scholarly, to which academics, collectors and practitioners from across the border have been contributing essays. It is called Arshinagar (The land of mirrors and reflections). Such scholarship in Bangla (mostly original writing, but also includes some translation) on a wide range of topics including folk music, folklore and mystical practices of Bengal, also field recording, sound studies and listening, is rare. Here we are uploading pdfs of entire journals, cover to cover, in the spirit of free dissemination of knowledge. Should anyone wish to use parts of these essays or refer to the ideas contained in them, please directly contact the authors or through us. If it is for some non-commercial project, then please give due credit to the festival and the author concerned. We are making these uploads with full consent of the Baul Fakir Utsav team.

The Baul Fakir Utsav journal began to be published from 2007. Here we have all the journals from 2007 to 2014. There were no issues in 2009 and 2010. Click on the images below to download pdf versions of the journals.

A Short Film on Baul Fakir Utsav

Amit Roy is the key person for all design and decoration matters of the Baul Fakir Utsav. He is a designer by profession; also a self-taught animator. He makes short animation films, for which Satyaki (another key person of the Utsav) does the music and Sukanta sound. Sometimes Indra, who lives near the festival ground, helps with the edit; so it all comes out of the same ‘family’, so to speak! Amit has a small digital still camera, which he bought in 2009 and in 2010 he captured many beautiful moments of the Baul Fakir Utsav, using its video mode. He has made this short film with that footage.
We thought we should share it with you.

Baul Fakir Utsav 2010 (5th year)