In recent times, Baul music, the itinerant folk form of Bengal, has had its tryst with fusion. It’s possibly the free-flowing character of the music that lends itself to a global musical blend.
Leading the pack is Paban Das Baul, the Murshidabad-born and France-settled singer who has previously released collaborative albums with the British musician-producer Sam Mills, the British-Asian member of State of Bengal Sam Zaman, and Malian musician Cheick Tidiane Seck, in which Baul melodies matched glorious grooves with ambient sounds, electro-pop, jazz and Mandingue music. Then there have been intelligent engagements with the Baul genre by the talented Kolkata-based band Brahmakhyapa, the Chennai-centred Oikyotaan and, in two stunning albums, by the Bangladeshi band Bangla.
With Baul ‘n’ Beyond, it is apparent that Baul music can accommodate more influences. Conceptualized by well-known percussionist and tabla player Tanmoy Bose, the album comes without the pretension of being a rigid adherent of tradition.
The Baul form, dating back many centuries, is at the core of the album—intense, philosophical, wistful and conventionally rendered. It is the outer layer of sounds created around the Baul core that makes the album interesting and stamps it with individuality.
Five of the eight tracks cross the 7-minute mark. The extended lengths allow Bose to design an intricate web of sounds around the songs which quite often appear at the halfway mark. The protracted preludes to numbers — performed faithfully by Lakshman Das Baul, Krishna Das Bairagya, Kartick Das Baul and the feisty Bangladeshi singer Anusheh Anadil — provide the space for experiments with atmospheric electronic programming, light jazz, African and South-East Asian folk motifs, Indian classical music, and of course, attractive global rhythm patterns, Bose being a much-travelled musician who has cut his teeth with the likes of Pandit Ravi Shankar and Ustad Amjad Ali Khan.
While the preludes of numbers such as Impressions, Lalan’s blog-com, Fables of Spring and A Date with the Angels (impressionistic transliterations of the Bengali titles) gain a character of their own, it’s to Bose’s credit that he allows the Baul standards to flit in effortlessly, without the accompanying jerks that often bedevil fusion music. Fantastic music by Mainak Nag Choudhury on the contra bass, Ratul Shankar on percussion, Leo Dombecki on saxophone and Sanjeev Shankar on the shehnai complements the world sound canvas Bose creates in Baul ‘n’ Beyond.
Baul ‘n’ Beyond by Tanmoy Bose
Label: Music Today