We dedicate this page to those who have shown us the way, and still do. Some of you walk with us, some have walked before. Your wisdom shines like light, when we are groping in the dark.
We mourn the passing of Shibda, Shibaditya Sen, our teacher in Santiniketan. Sukanta and I knew him separately as highschoolers, in different decades. Sukanta, more through growing up in and around Santiniketan; me, as Shibda’s direct student. However, it is our work together as/for The Travelling Archive, especially our work on Arnold Bake, which took us to him again.
When the 25-year-old Ranen Roychowdhury came to Calcutta from Sylhet, he carried in the vessel of his body, songs from a home he had to leave behind. But this was not just generic communal music that he brought with him, this was also a music processed inside the artist, something of his own, something which was born of his individual experence and sensitivity.
Majhi tor naam jani na
Ami daak dimu kare?
Boatman, I don’t know your name.
Who shall I call?
Ranendra Ballav Roychowdhury (1925-85), popularly known as Ranen Roychowdhury, was born in Tantikona village of the Chhatok region of Sylhet into a land-owning family, also engaged in the arts; his elder brother was a painter. He grew up in Sylhet, and came to Calcutta after Partition, in 1950. Those were politically difficult and heady times for a nation newly broken and nations newly born. His friends were the Communists, he too was a member of the Party and also active in the Indian People’s Theatre Association. He had learned to sing songs in the mystic tradition of the fakirs and bauls, from the itinerant and ‘sadhak’ singers he met at the shrine of Hazrat Shah Jalal in Sylhet, and whose close company he kept. more
Tareque had opened for me the possibility of having a new country; a country of the mind. What connected me to him was the fact that both of us were engaged in a kind of cartography, mapping our fragmented land of Bengal with songs and stories, crossing boundaries, making mental journeys to distant geographies, playing with a complex of times. more
Deben Bhattacharya (1921-2001) was essentially a traveller into worlds of music. He was born in Varanasi, into a family of Sanskrit scholars and practitioners of traditional medicine, which had earlier migrated to this north Indian centre of learning from Faridpur in Bangladesh. A man who could not conform to formal education, Deben Bhattacharya went in his twenties to London, prompted by a deep urge to travel. From then began an enchanting life as music recordist, records producer, filmmaker, writer and translator, who worked in more than 30 countries around the world, but had made Paris and Kolkata his two homes. It was not at all common for someone from the subcontinent to embark on such a career in the 1950s; even later.more
On a Wednesday evening at the end of August 2014, Tinkori Chakraborty, the magical dubki player of Nadia, wandered out of an ashram near Krishnanagar not too far from his home in Nabadwip, where he had gone to visit, and since then he remained untraceable for about three days till his body was seen floating in the waters of a small and dead pond. The official post-mortem report will probably tell when the man had died and how. He was intoxicated perhaps and could not hold himself and maybe that’s why he fell into the waters from where he could not rise. Where he was walking, going from where to where and why, only he would know. Perhaps such details are of no consequence.more
Salamot Khan, who was Salamotbhai to us and was our friend and teacher, lived and died a ‘local man’ in Faridpur, in western Bangladesh in August 2015. Since his death, Faridpur, the place which gave to us some of the best of our songs–Ibrahim Boyati and Habib, Laila and Nuru Pagla, Jainuddin’s jari and Sadek Ali’s bichchhed, Gosai Das’ kirtan, Ajmal’s Lalon, the broken voice of Idris Majhi and so much more—that place seems to have ‘died’ for us. Strange it is; so many of our richest sounds came out of that one place, and yet with one man gone, it becomes clear to us that he was the river through whose body all that music flowed. What happens when such a river stops flowing? more
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.