HYDERABAD: A musical tradition links Bangladesh to West Bengal and there are songs which cannot be divided into two, unlike land, says artist Tapasi Roy Chowdhury of ‘Baul’ music. Folk music is an integral part of the mystic tradition of an ascetic Baul and has come to represent the folk music in Bengal.
Lalan Academy in Naihati, West Bengal has been a frontrunner in creating a repository of this musical tradition.
“We have collected close to 15,000 spools of music and we share it with individuals who are interested,” says Tapasi, secretary of Lalan Academy.
In the city to perform on the occasion of Basant Panchami and Saraswati Puja, Tapasi speaks of how the music is being used in the present context to spread social messages across villages and to preserve the art form.
“Though the institute is named after Lalan Fakir, a Baul composer of great fame whose work had a lasting impression on Tagore, our archives chronicle compositions by others as well,” explains Tapasi who is a Baul singer in her own right.
Traveling across villages, the Lalan Academy established by Shubhendu Maity has salvaged recordings of some of the rare Baul compositions. “Since the academy was registered in 2003, we have traveled across 19 districts to record folk songs from peasants, fisher-folk as well as local singers.
There is an invaluable archive of material at the academy,” says Tapasi who laments the fact that there has been little encouragement from the government.
The academy runs on earnings of the ‘Lalan musical troupe.’ “There have been strong influences of Baul on popular music as well, but none of the popular singers want to reach out to the folk artists and composers or give them their due credit,” observes Tapasi.
The Lalan Academy has been instrumental in spreading public welfare messages in the villages through their music and performances. “We have toured 2000 villages this way and have spread messages on sanitation, education and other social issues,” shares Tapasi. To preserve the cultural heritage, efforts are on at the Lalan Academy to digitize the songs. “We have been sustaining ourselves for eight years now. We have an audio library, open stage for performances and also conduct workshops. I hope that the music travels far and we will keep up the fight. Three generations of artists work with the academy and the music is not dead yet,” asserts Tapasi before she brings alive the lush fields of Bengal through her rich voice.