Subhamoy Das Baul
interviewed at Shubhash Pally, Shyambati, Shantiniketan, Bolpur, Birbhum
Aditi: Tell me your name
Subhamoy: My name is Subhamoy Das.
A: Tell me the full story from your childhood of how you joined this Baul world.
S: Since I was little, I wanted to do music. I studied in school, and at the same time did a bit of music. People came to the house, and we’d sit, and I’d play ghungur and dubki. In that way, I started leaning in the Baul direction.
My studies didn’t go well. My parents didn’t force me; they said, “you do what you want to do.” In that way, I came into the Baul line.
Now I travel around performing, often with my father, for three months or so at a time.
A: When did you start playing music?
S: I’ve been playing music since I was about four.
A: Tell a bit about how you learned around the house, from your mom, etc.
S: My father didn’t want to teach me music. He wanted me to go to school. I used to do music around the house, wandering around. When I forgot a verse, I would ask, “Ma, what’s the next verse?” and then my mother would remind me of it. Then my father understood that I would be a musician. He never forced me. I learned music in that way; my father was my guru. First, my mom was my guru, since she taught me first. Then my father.
A: What’s the instrument that you play?
S: I play dubki.
A: Why dubki?
S: I don’t know why I chose dubki. I can play all of the instruments more or less. I first saw the dubki at the house, I watched it and liked the sound. I learned from my father. Then my father had a student whose name was Robi. I watched him play. Then I learned some from Tinkori Chakraborti.
A: What kind of songs did you learn then, when you first learned from your mom?
S: Baul songs, folk songs, all types.
A: What’s your age now?
S: Now my age is 20+.
A: What instruments do you play now?
S: Among Baul instruments, I play anandalahiri, what they
call khamak. I can play that, dubki, a bit of dotara; I haven’t been able to
learn everything yet. But I play all of
the instruments a bit.
A: And what’s this instrument by your side?
S: This is a Western instrument, mandolin. I’m trying this a bit now, learning a little bit.
A: How are you learning?
S: There’s a guy named Diptanshu Roy whom I first heard play it. He showed me some things.
A: Do you play concerts? Or what do you do now?
S: Music is my profession, I don’t do anything else.
A: What do you want to do in the future?
S: I want to do this.
A: Are you married?
S: I haven’t married.
A: And what do you want to do for the rest of your life?
S: This, Baul music.
A: How do you like this Baul life?
S: This life is very good. Bauls don’t have any fixed address: sometimes the foot of a tree, sometimes a three-story house. That’s this life. That’s how I’ll spend my whole life. Through doing music, I meet lots of people, socialize, do music, play on lots of good stages. Through music I get all this. Many things. I really like it.
A: Where have you played concerts?
S: I haven’t been abroad yet. I’m travelled all over India: Kerala, Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore, Assam etc.
A: What’s your favorite place to play? Villages, Kolkata, Kerala, Bangalore, Chennai?
S: Of all places, I think, Kolkata people really appreciate and understand Baul songs. Most village people don’t appreciate it and understand much. There are a few, but they’re mostly older. Now there are so many types of music to hear, and because of that people don’t want to hear Baul songs as much. Kolkata people really pay attention; they sit and listen. I get the most satisfaction playing concerts in Kolkata.
A: Play a bit of what you’ve learned on that instrument.
Directed by Aditi Sircar
Camera by Jesse Alk
Translated by Ben Krakauer
Edited by Rhonda Granger