Bhakta Das

Bhakta Das

interviewed at Bagan Para, Shantiniketan, Bolpur, Birbhum

2008-06

-    Tell us your name.
-    My name is Bhakta Das Baul.
-    Tell us where you live.
-    My present address is Ramkrishna Sarani, Bediapara, Nirala, Dum Dum, Kolkata-700077.
-    Tell us about how you embarked upon this Baul way of life. Also tell us the name(s) of your guru(s) and your present age.
-    I was born within a Baul family. My father, Abhiram Gosain, was a Baul. He was known as Abhiram Das Baul. Every day, without fail, he would awake at 4 in the morning. At the break of dawn, my father would sing four or five songs welcoming the day, and would ask me to accompany him. Even as a child, he would wake me up from sleep and ask me to sing with him. I would sit on my mother’s lap and sing along with my father. That is how I entered the world of Baul music. At a later age, I came to Kolkata and got an opportunity to sing for the All India Radio (AIR). At first, I sang for the children’s section on the AIR. Thereafter, I auditioned for the AIR Youth section. This has a certain age limit. I qualified the audition and began performing for the Radio Youth section. Thereafter, I have had to give subsequent auditions, as a B High artist and an A grade performing artist. Now I am an A grade artist with the AIR and perform songs for my audiences. I have also had the opportunity of performing abroad. I travelled with a group which included Purna Das, Lakshman Das Baul, Jiban Krishna Mondal, Nabin Koyal and Smt. Manju Das, Purna Das’s wife to Australia. We performed at various venues there. One of the most memorable experiences of my life was performing at the same venue as Pandit Ravi Shankar and Ustad Alla Rakha. Our Baul songs were deeply appreciated. Pandit Ravi Shankar was scheduled to perform after us. However, we were again called on stage and greeted by an unending applause from the audience. The organizers of the show came and asked us to sing a couple of more songs as per the audience’s demand. We had to oblige! It was after this that Ravi Shankar’s performance began. It was indeed a very memorable experience of my life!
-    Which year was this?
-    It was in 1973. Besides this, I have also performed in Burma and in Singapore.
-    Which places within India have you performed at?
-    I have travelled to and performed at most of the major cities of India. I have performed at Bombay, Goa, Punjab, Haryana, Delhi (on multiple occasions), Himachal and many other places. I have taken this music that represents the very soil of Bengal to various places, both at home and abroad.
-    How many CDs/ Cassettes do you have?
-    I have around twenty-five cassettes from various music companies. Most of them have been launched by T-Series. Gulshan Kumar had given me the opportunity to record for T-Series, and I have multiple albums with them. Besides, I have also performed for Star Line and Raga (now known as Symphony). It is also through these recordings that I have been able to reach out to my countrymen.
-    Do you have any other profession besides singing?
-    No, singing is my only profession! At present, I am trying to experiment with our traditional musical instruments such as the dotara, iktara and the khamak. I am trying to adapt traditional Indian classical music played on the sharod and the sitar to the dotara, iktara and the khamak. I am presently immersed in this exercise and hope to achieve success soon!
-    That is a commendable effort indeed!
-    Yes, I am trying to adapt sharod melodies to the dotara. If I can play pure Indian Classical tunes on the dotara, I can popularize its use beyond a folk instrument. The present demands of the stage often prevent us from using the khamak as a musical accompaniment while singing. The microphone is placed very close to the mouth, and unless the khamak is played very loudly, the audience cannot hear it! To make the khamak audible, an additional small microphone is required. Most venues, especially in the rural areas where we perform, do not have such an arrangement. So, in most places, I am unable to play the khamak for my audience. I want to create a platform especially to popularize these traditional folk instruments of the Bauls. I have been practicing the same, late at night, till one or two a.m. My neighbours, too, have been very accommodating. They do not object to me practicing late at night. Not just that, when I am away from home for a few days, they inquire about me and say that they miss the sound of my dotara. This is how I am practicing my sadhana and I hope to be able to win the love of everyone.
-    Joy Guru!
-    Joy Guru!


Interviewed in Santiniketan, Bulpor on 30th June, 2008

Interviewer: Aditi Sircar

Camera: Shubhankar Bhar, Ashesh Mukherjee

Sound: Dhiman Karmakar, Sudipto Mukherjee 

Translated by Parjanya Sen