Catch this baul performance online

The Sahaje Swadhin collective brings performances by traditional baul singers of Bengal, online

For Debdas Baul, a man well acquainted with no-fuss instruments like iktara, duggi and ghungroo, getting used to video calls and the online world seemed like a challenge. But the baul singer, from Birbhum district in West Bengal, knows he has to adapt for his art form to survive. This year in August, for the first time in 52 years, the 67-year-old went online with his baul songs.

His online performances, the second one on October 17, are part of Sahaje Swadhin collective, supported by the Dara Shikoh Centre for the Arts. The idea of the collective is to bring together art practitioners to engage with the traditional lineage of baul singers.

“Online is the way to go for us to sustain our families. We do not know anything other than music,” says Debdas who has not been able to perform live since the lockdown started in March. “This mode of performance is slowly growing on me and I am thankful to the organisers for thinking of this avenue to help us generate an income,” he adds.

Debdas will be joined by his three sons Lakshman Das, Gautam Das and Uttam Das, along with Kanai Das Baul from Tarapith. They will sing around 12 songs including ‘Amai Tene Nao Na Guru’, ‘Shei Na Desher Kotha Monn Bhule Giyeche’ and ‘Ki Chomotkar Phol Go Guru Dhore Ei Deshe’.

“Singing without an audience is like singing at home,” laughs Debdas, adding that he misses singing to a crowd and the energy that comes with it. Normally, they travel around the country and perform at various cities like Kolkata, Delhi and Srinagar. This year, they have used this time to further hone their skills. “I used to write songs earlier. But now because my hands are not steady anymore, I can’t hold pen to paper,” says Debdas.

Every evening at 7 pm, Debdas’ family gathers together to sing these much-loved folk songs. His wife and daughters-in-law join in too. Uttam Das, Debdas’ youngest son grew up at a time when film music and pop songs were all the rage. Yet, it was baul music that caught his attention.

“I was nine when I first performed with my father and my brothers. I began to understand the message of the bauls in the songs,” says Uttam. It struck a chord and he knew he wanted to take these messages to more people. As an example, he narrates lines from ‘Porome Porom Janiye’ and says, “The crux of it is this, ‘We have come into the world on your orders and when you want us we will come back to you…’”

Fascinated by this genre of music, a lot of enthusiasts have even signed up for online classes with this family. “We have a 12-year-old from Kerala as well as a 50-year-old in Kolkata learning from us,” says Uttam, who is now also teaching his six-year-old son.

The event will take place on

October 17 at 4 pm. For details, log on to:–oct17-2020/event. Tickets are priced at ₹150.

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