Jat gelo jat gelo bole...Asbar kale tumi ki jat sile, ese tumi ki jat nile....Ki jat hobe jabar kale, se kotha vebe bolo na...” go the lyrics of a popular song by the Bengali Baul Lalon Fakir (1774-1890). His works have influenced the likes of poets Rabindranath Tagore and Allen Ginsberg (who even wrote a poem — After Lalon). The lyrics convey an important message: religion and caste differences are futile. And that, in essence, is also the message of the Baul sect, a folk tradition and religion in Bengal, whose humanitarian philosophy is propagated through songs.
Fakir may have roamed the villages of Bengal more than a hundred years ago, but his songs, which talk of nature, sexuality, secularism and humanity, resonate with issues we face today. With an aim to highlight this message and promote Baul music in Mumbai, a 28-year-old Mumbai-based singer and writer Wriddh, hosts Stories of The Street, a discourse session on Baul philosophy.
A mystic coincidence
Wriddh, an erstwhile rock musician, who likes to be addressed only by his stage name, was first introduced to Baul music in 2009, while he was on a trip to Santiniketan, West Bengal. “I met and ended up jamming with Bauls on the banks of a river. I went there to learn about Tagore but ended up finding Baul music; I merely replaced the ektara with a guitar,” he laughs.
Over the years, Wriddh got acquainted with the Baul way of life and learnt songs from present generation Baul singers such as Jagannath Das Baul and Gautam Das Baul.
To highlight his learnings from the Baul sect, Wriddh started narrating fictitious scripts peppered with original Baul songs a few months ago. In the sessions, he performs songs such as Porojonome (on finding the same beloved in another birth) and Sohoj Manush (the search for the simple man).
Additionally, he also explains the core concepts of Baul tradition — the idea of God residing within the heart and the deity being beyond caste, religion and gender. For the upcoming session, he will focus on Lalon Fakir’s songs interspersed with dohas by Kabir.
Not the end of the road
Baul music came at an opportune moment for the musician. After having performed for Kolkata-based rock bands like Kryptic and Dump Terminal, he was disconcerted with the rock music scene in the city and was keen on learning this form of music.
In the process, he ended up finding similarities between the genres. “Baul music and rock music, at times, speak of the same things. The former just says it in a sweeter manner,” he says, adding that Baul compositions are also close to modern poetry: “If you consider the poetry of the English romantic poet William Wordsworth, the themes of nature and emotion are similar. Only, Baul music didn’t get the right platform, especially under colonial rule.”
Despite spending time inculcating the philosophy, Wriddh doesn’t consider himself a Baul. “A Baul faces a lot of hardships; they often have no home and live in poverty. I have never faced such trials, so I can’t say that I am a Baul,” he explains.
Rock and Baul
What: Catch Stories of The Street: Baul Music by Wriddh on January 23, 7pm
Where: The Hive, Huma Mansion, Chuim Village Road, Khar (W)