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Bauls Music & Santhal Dance: Intangible Heritage of Bengal

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If you aren’t a fan of the Bauls yet, you will soon become one.

Durga Puja is here, and celebrations devoted to Goddess Durga are in full swing.
Meet a few Bengali folk groups who pay their respects to the deity through their art– music, dance and other forms. People have been captivated by the music of the Bauls of Bengal. And our host was fascinated so much that he set out to discover more about them.Interacting with a few Bauls, he learnt a lot about their music, instruments and their unusually simple lives.


Host: “How long you’ve been practising now?”
Basudev Das Baul: “Almost 50 years!”
Host: “Why did you choose the life of a Baul?
BDB: “I’m not really sure …. I first heard Baul music when I was about 10 and was captivated ever since. I trained under different Gurujis ….. and at 14 I started to roam villages to learn more.”
Host: “What do you feel about the different experimentations carried out on traditional Baul music?”
Purnendu Das Baul: “Everyone is forming Baul bands nowadays ….. but I want to take authentic Baul music to the people.”
Host: “Baul songs are part of your devotion. How right do you think is it to make a living out of it?”
Rina Das Baul: “There is a difference between Baul singers and Baul devotees. Baul devotee follow a set of rituals. But we, as Baul artists, travel across the world, simplifying complex poetries and spreading it among the masses through our music. There are people who can be both at the same time.”
Host: “You’ve been abroad to do shows?”
Dibakar Das Baul: “Yes, twice to France and once each to Spain and Switzerland. People there have received Baul songs with much enthusiasm and appreciation.”
Host: “Do you make your musical instrument from a gourd?”
Kalo Halder: “Yes, we make our instrument, Iktara, from a gourd.”
Host: “What do you do during monsoons? Does it not get difficult?”
KH: “Yes, it gets a bit difficult. We cover the Iktara with a cloth.”

So you think you can dance like the Santhals?
The Santhal tribe of Bengal are known for their intriguing Santhal dance. Our host was enthralled by the Santhal dance since childhood, and especially their dance attire.And now she explores more about it from the Santhal people themselves.
Host: “For how long you’ve been performing the Santhal dance?”
Lokiram Soren: “Since I was eight or ten.”
Host: “Did your forefathers also practice this dance form?”
LS: “Yes, my parents taught me this dance.”
Host: “You dance for your own joy, right? So, what do you do for a living?”
LS: “Yes, because my heart wishes to. We somehow get by working in the fields.”
Host: “You dance barefoot on the soil?”
Murli Soren: “Yes, we always do it that way.”
Host: “Even when it’s scorching hot?”
MS: “Yes, we’re used to it since childhood.”
The Santhals employ a variety of instruments like flutes, pipes, drums and cymbals in their performances. The men use tree leaves and flowers as the headgear for the dance.
The women have stacked up metal pots, with tree leaves and flowers in them, and effortlessly balance it even while dancing!
And this enlightening experience has stoked a desire, in our host, to learn the Santhal dance and open a tribal dance school in Kolkata.

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