The Bhawaiya Musical Tradition of West Bengal: A Video Documentary

The Bhawaiya Musical Tradition of West Bengal: A Video Documentary

in Video
Published on: 24 December 2019

Soumik Datta

Soumik Datta is a musician, writer and independent researcher in the field of traditional folk music. He has research/documentation and performative experience with the baul-fakirs of Bengal. A literature, culture studies and films scholar by training, he sings and plays the piano, guitar, mandolin and dotara.

This short documentary is an introduction to the various aspects of bhawaiya songs of North Bengal. 

It addresses the historical origins of the modern solo bhawaiya form, the influence of nature and Rajbanshi culture on the development of the songs, and its gradual dissemination from early theatrical roots through the itinerant moishals (buffalo keepers) and gariyals (cart drivers) to the recording artists of the twentieth century. It examines the unique nature of the bhawaiya discourse on mortal love between men and women from the social margins, especially the women from whose perspective most of these songs are written, and how these lyrical love songs come to reflect the lived realities of an evolving society. 

This documentary includes interviews and performances of artist-historian Dr Sukhbilas Barma, veteran artists such as Ayesha Sarkar, Uttam Das and Dhaneshwar Roy, pala performers such as Nirmal Ray and Thaneshwar Gidal, as well as younger artists like Pradyut Ray and Kaushalya Ray, which provide a better understanding of the different nuances of bhawaiya.