Wednesday, July 02, 2014
From Akhara to Fusion - the transformation of Baul music in Bangladesh - Part 1
by Maqsoodul Haque
1. Historical evolution of Baul Music
Baul music has come of age. It has been over 124 years since the transition of the Sage Fakir Lalon Shah (circa 1774-1890). If the 116 years he is thought to have lived and the 75 years timeframe in which the corpus of his works were composed are used as reference points, Baul music as we know it in Bangladesh is nearing 200 years as a musical art form. While Lalon is considered central in the study of Baul music and its associated philosophies, Bauls however predate him by several centuries.
The word ’Baul’ first appeared in Bengali text around the 15th century, and over time became a recognized and popular musical genre. However in reality it remains a generic term that has often by default incorporated exponents of existing traditional forms i.e. Moromi Gaan or ‘mystical music’ such as Murshidi, Marefoti, Boyati, Jari, Shari etc which continue to influence our culture and are easily identified by the masses. Nonetheless the power of poesy of the rustic bards sets the art form as an epochal landmark in the cultural heritage of Bangladesh. It is the overall literary value of the works, the philosophy and spirituality in the unique music, together with the Bauls emphasis on living life in closest proximity with nature’s climactic cycles, cosmology, their food habits, social rites and rituals, spirit of tolerance and secularism makes it one of our most phenomenal cultural component.
A Baul performing at the Akhara of Fakir Lalon Shah in Seuria, Kushtia
Bangladesh is a blessed land when it comes to musical forms. It is estimated that until 200 years ago there were over 500 musical forms in circulation within our rural heritage, where the majority of our population then, as even today live and make their existence. With passage of time, prompted by increased urbanization, economic and social changes and our steady disconnect with rural communities; today we have about 200 musical forms still in existence. Less known among them yet popular are the following gaans or musical forms: Panchali, Ashtok, Halue, Alkap, Ghetu, Royani, Vashan, Pot, Kobi, Torja, Korocha, Dhamail, Gombhira, Shong, Vadu etc.