Who is a Baul and what is an original Baul song, what's the secret of its mystic existence, the path of its evolution and its modern day relevance with its distinctive, enchanting and soul-stirring music -- are some of intriguing questions and quests finding space in many music lovers mind.
The essence of Baul song in its original form with just ek tara in sync with the vocal; and its relevance and ability to adapt & grow with the modern times were highlighted and showcased during a two-day Seminar cum Concert, organized by the Centre for Cultural Studies and Development (CCSD) at the India International Centre -- in the national capital last weekend.
The idea behind the two-day event, as CCSD Secretary Paulami Guha pointed out, was to bring forth the essence of Baul tradition and its philosophy among its 'urban audience.'
The seminar titled 'Baul Tradition - An Eternal Journey towards Mysticism' held on Saturday, Feb 15, had a panel comprising of prominent scholars, musicologists, and professors -- Dr Selina Sharma (Vice Secretary, Vraja Kala Sanskriti Sanstha, Vrindaban) Dr Indranil Acharya (Prof of English, Vidyasagar University, Midnapur), Dr Intaj Ali (Asstt Prof of English, Netaji Subhas Open University, Kolkata) Dr Swapan Mukherjee (renowned folk singer and empanelled with AIR, Kolkata) and was chaired by Dr Urmimala Sarkar Munsi (Prof in School of Arts & Aesthetics, JNU).
The seminar emphasized in a lively and engaging manner -- the need to search for the real and original Baul song and its tradition, its scope, relevance and importance in the space of traditional Indian music.
Interesting and fundamental questions were raised followed by some engaging debates and discussions about what is an original Baul Song and who is a Baul, the existing Akharas, gender equations, connect and disconnect with religion, its mysticism, understanding of body & sexuality, relevance in modern times, how Bauls are being misused by politicians for its election campaign and how to revive and popularize the Baul tradition.
The 'Baul Gaan' concert, performed by Swapan Adhikari and troupe from Bengal on Sunday, Feb 16, had a curious amalgamation of Baul traditional song and modern music with tabla forming an intriguing part of the concert. The various Baul songs enthralled the audience with its simplicity, purity, and mysticism surrounding it. Starting with Guru & Gaur Bandana, the singer introduced Baul with Shristi Tatva and recited the famous song:
"Jokhon Chhilo Nirakar
Dekho Naki Chamatkar"
meaning when there was no formation or existence we saw the miracle...
and sung a few more Baul Gaan and concluded with:
"Nadi Bhara Dheu, Bojhona to Keu; Michhe keno tori, Bau Bau re" meaning -- One needs to understand when the tides are high on a river, one shouldn't take a sail.
The audience included the likes of renowned writer-artist Tara Gandhi Bhattacharjee (grand-daughter of Mahatma Gandhi), who was quite impressed by the performance. "I am an admirer of Vaishnav dharma... so Baul music easily connects me to the Krishna bhakti... The rendition by Swapan Adhikari Baul was very soulful and heart pleasing," she observed.