Music of the Bauls of Bengal

Lalon -- the greatest of all Baul composers Baul means madcap, from bayu (Sanskrit Vayu) in its sense of nerve current, and has become the appellation of a set of people who do not conform to established social usage. The derivation is supported by the following verse ...:
``That is why, brother, I became a madcap Baul.
No master I obey, nor injunctions, canons or custom.
Now no men-made distinctions have any hold on me,
And I revel only in the gladness of my own welling love.
In love there's no separation, but commingling always.
So I rejoice in song and dance with each and all."

-- Rabindra Nath Tagore
The Hibbert Lecture, Oxford, 1930

The venerables

Photo of
Nabani Das [deceased] of Birbhum (c. 1948)
holding the ektara

Nitai Khepa (Betalban, Bardhaman) [deceased]

The crazy one searches for his mind's twin
(khepa khunje mare maner juti)
streaming audio here
Windows media player here

© Folk Music & Folklore Research Institute Calcutta

photo of Nitai Khepa    

If one asks the Bauls questions about their philosophy they do not respond in words, but in songs. And they have such a wealth of songs in their coffer! Why do they act this way? They reply: " We are the bird people -- we do not know how to walk, we like to fly" ...

Many of the Baul songs do not even have the signature of the composer. When I complained about this to an old Baul he pointed to the river Padma and said to me: "Look at the boats in full sail on the big river afar .. do they leave any mark in their wake? And see these boats being pushed through the mud in the little canals here, leaving lots of marks behind them. Which of these two is more natural and easy? We are travellers of the Easy Path (shahoj path), we do not give importance to leaving artificial marks in our wake."

-- Kshiti Mohan Sen (1949)

Dinabandhu Das (Lakshmanpur Hoogli) [deceased]

On the slippery banks of the curved river
(banka nodir pichol ghate)
streaming audio here

Keep your love for Shyam secret in your heart
kichu din mone mone
streaming audio here

Chintamoni Dasi [deceased]  

I was hit by the breaker from the river of Gaura-love
(gaur premer dheu legeche gae)
Streaming mp4 6:25 min  here

Sanatan Das (Khayerboni Bankura)
photo: young Sanatan Das 

Buy a ticket to Dig Nagar if you wish to travel to Brindaban
(paro to dignagarer tikit kato mon)
In this 1984 recording in Santiniketan, Sanatan gives a spirited performance singing and dancing in circles (hence the occasional fading of his voice). Accompaniment: khol (clay drum), guba, cymbals, flute and, last but not least, his ankle bells. He also has an experienced audience on his side.
Listen in stereo for best results.
Streaming RealAudio 7:15 min   here


He did not come yet, the lech Kalia (Krishna)
(ekhano elo na kalia )
In this song, composed by the venerable Bhaboprita of Deoghar, Sanatan, accompanying himself on the metal-string dotara, displays his astonishing musical sensibilities acquired from the Bengal Jatra (village theater) music. The tune is not traditional Baul, but based on Raga Shivaranjani. Same acompaniments as in the previous recording.
Listen in stereo for best results.
Streaming RealAudio 8:50 min   here

The contemporaries

Gaur Khepa (Bolpur)

Gaurachandrika (Adoration of Gaura)
(jaya nityananda sri gaurachandra)
Gaur Khepa on the khamak, also known as gopijantro, guba, gubgubi, or ananda lahari
Streaming audio 10:10 min here   Text

Kukila Das and Kartik Das sing in trains between Calcutta and Santiniketan (Bolpur) to supplement their earnings.

Gaur Khepa is a prodigious player of the khamak.

Tarak Das was recorded at the Kenduli Jayadev Mela in 2000.

Kukila Das (Bolpur)

Gauranga, the "good doctor" and his new clinic in Nadia
(bhalo ekjan baiddo elo shonar nodia-e)
Kukila on the metal string dotara (lute)
Streaming audio 6:10 min  here   Text

Tarak Das (Kenduli)

I will store you in my heart, Kind One
(hrid majhare rakhbo go dayal )
Tarak on the metal string dotara
Streaming audio 5:00 min here    Text


Let's go for a tour of the garden of Krishna-love
(amar mon chalo jai bhromone )
Tarak on the guba
Streaming audio 8:00 min here    Text

Kartik Das (Gushkara)

The modern!


Q (to a Baul):  What is your name and
                        where do you live?
A: I will give you my (business) card ...
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