Rina Das Baul
interviewed at HMV Studio, Dum Dum, Kolkata, West Bengal
My name is Rina Das Baul. My house is at Bolpur Shantiniketan. I live in a village in Paruldanga, near Shantiniketan. The place is called Hishabithi(?) colony.
Where were you born? I was born in the same village, Paruldanga.
Did you get married in Paruldanga? No, not in Paruldanga, but in the place where Chandidas and Rajokini lived...
What is the name of the place? Nanur.
What made you came back to Paruldanga… how long have you been living here? I came back to Paruldanga after my marriage. I am married to Dibakar. We came back to Paruldanga so we could continue with Baul music. Nanur is too remote a village to provide the facilities that we have in Paruldanga.
When did you start singing? My grandfather was a baul. Music has come down to me through ancestry. So I have been learning since my birth. My father is a baul, my brother sings. I also have followed the same path. I have two children. I hope they will take after me. I am associated with this line but as I learn more I will be able to guide them better. They are already showing themselves to be keen.
So music has come down to you through ancestry? Did your mother sing too? My mother could sing. But she never went outside to perform. My grandfather performed in presence of Rabindranath. He could sing very well. He had so many things to offer, which we never realized then. When we did it was too late, he was dying. I remember a few lines of a song he used to sing “Lau amader mojar torkari, O lauke koto korbo mushuri...lau amader mojar torkari (The gourd is wondrous, varied are its uses).” My husband knows a few of these songs. I often think about my grandfather. He never had the facilities or opportunities that we now have. I wish he had had the opportunity. We would have benefited. There were so many archaic songs and tunes …all that is lost.
What is your father’s name?
His name is Sujit Das Baul.
Did your father not learn from your grandfather? No. The times were different. The image of a baul as perceived was not as it is now. Even my grandfather was sceptical about a woman learning Baul music. He regretted that even someone as experienced as him did not get an audience. Nevertheless my grandfather expressed great happiness as I began singing quite well. But he could never see me perform… he had died by the time I began performing.
Since when have you been performing? I was fourteen years old at the time. I had married Dibakar. We began our travelling performances after my marriage. We are continuing that still.
How did you meet Dibakar? My father knew Dibakar. Ours was an arranged marriage. My father always wanted me to marry a Baul. He was in love with the baul life. My father had been in a government service. But he chose the life of a baul over the security of a government job. Such was his inclination towards music.
Performing in public, don’t you face any impediments as a woman or at home? No, I don’t face any impediments. My in-laws are happy that I sing. Even the people of my village love me very much. They love me for my music. I am invited to perform the opening number in all major village programs. I am respected and adored in my village.
You must have been to many places in India to perform? Yes.
To which places have you been? I have been abroad just once. It was Paris. Also other places like Delhi, Mumbai… I have been there.
How many children do you have? I have a son and a daughter.
What are their ages? The girl is fifteen, and the boy is seven.
What are their names? My daughter’s name is Pratima Das and my son is named Purnendu Das.
Are they into music as well? Yes. My daughter sings. Even my son has a strong inclination towards music. Both of them are in love with music.
Do you wish for them to remain in this path? Definitely! Even without my influence they will follow this path. My daughter has already informed me of her intention to become a baul singer. She keeps asking me to sing various songs for her. She also is attracted to the Mahajani identity. What surprises me is her immense attraction towards these songs without any deeper knowledge of their meaning. The same goes for the boy. He likes all types of music but baul music is clearly his preference. Some of his favourite songs are ‘moner moto baul pelam na (I haven’t found a Baul to my liking)’ and ‘desh bideshe manush jaye (people travel to different countries)’. What gives me immense pleasure is that both my son and daughter like all types of music but they are much more enthusiastic about my baul music.
You were born in a baul family and you have chosen this baul life. So, what do you think of this life now? It’s a unique world. No other world offers such fulfilment and no other profession can bring such happiness. It is more than just a profession for me! Both of us are very happy. In fact our feelings cannot be expressed in words.
Has any of your music been released on CD /cassette? Once we went to Bangladesh. We had been performing the songs of my Mahajana, Bhoba Pagla, in Dhaka. The organizers recorded the songs and later gave us a CD. Also, we have recorded a CD at a studio. Not much is available in the market. The CD that we recorded is there with us. If anyone shows an interest, we give her/him this CD.
What kind of songs do you like to sing? I love the songs of Lalan the most. Although I can’t sing them very well they are nevertheless my favourites. And I like all kinds of music. I like the songs of Rabindranath Tagore, those that are influenced by baul music, the others I don’t know much of. And I sing the songs of Bhoba Pagla. I had begun my musical training with my husband Dibakar with the songs of Lalan, and they are still my favourites.
Who are you formal initiator and formal trainer? My formal initiator was Bhoba Pagla. There are certain things that we have to learn during our training and there are certain things that we have to do as well. I have performed these with my Dharmaraja guru. His ashram is at Bordhoman, Jamalpur.
Have you learnt these practices in that ashram? Yes.
Do you still practice them? Yes.
Who was you music guru? My music guru is Dibakar. Before that it was my father and before that my grandfather. But Dibakar has been my sole guru ever since I began performing in public.