Why Baul Fakir Utsav?
India is a land of diverse cultural heritage and what makes this diversity more unique is the continuing rich tradition of folk music in the country. While each region has its own variety of folk music, the forms seem to unite in their essence of being a rustic reflection of the larger Indian society. Folk music is very distinct from classical music. Classical music usually requires a student absorbed into perfecting it, on the other hand, practicing folk music is like following a daily ritual. It is mostly sung in to celebrate the day-to-day activities like weddings, birth, and interaction with self, nature and higher purpose.
It is of grave concern that this traditional form is standing on the brink of extinction. Partially due to lack of talent and partially owing to the dwindling number of audience for authentic folk music, the instruments of this form are on the verge of disappearance. One such dying but an extremely popular form is ‘Baul & Fakiri’ tradition from Bengal’s (India and Bangladesh) countryside. It is both a spiritual sect and musical form.
While popularly believed to be mystic musicians, Baul / Fakir is not just a genre but a cult that goes back to 15th century. The philosophy has elements of Sufi, Tantra, Vaishnavism and Buddhism, but it transcends religion and some of the most famous composers, such as Lalon Fakir, have often criticized the superficiality of any divide or discrimination. Baul music celebrates celestial love. The lyrics however are metaphorical and takes reference of simple earthy life to propagate profound philosophies.
Besides traditional motifs drawn from everyday life, Baul songs have always been inclined to evolve and incorporate change to keep pace with social and economic changes. Famous lyricists and composers like Rabindranath Tagore, Kazi Nazrul Islam, Bob Dylan and A.R. Rahman has been greatly influenced by this folk form. Influenced most rock and soul bands of India & Bangladesh, prominently Indian Ocean, LRB and Nogor Baul.
Despite the rapid industrialization of the world, the rural communities continue to be the real flag bearers of our heritage traditions. Ironically, the developing and under-served rural population is actually the one still practicing the ancient cultures of the world. However, with the increasing urbanization, traditions and cultures are fast eroding. Increasing living costs and urban aspirations for a convenient life, brings the rural population to the cities. In the process of migration, the ancient practices are either looked down upon as ‘backward’ or are forgotten.
Government and social organizations in different parts of the world are making efforts to preserve many of the dying traditions and cultures through initiatives, funds, support. Yet the urban migration continues and communities practicing these art forms for centuries, do not find the profession meeting their aspirations of life or bringing them at par with the global advancements.
Art Sustenance is possible only when the artists have all they need to lead a dignified life in their rural settings. Lack of incentive to push their art to future generations leading to slow death of the art. Practicing of traditional art forms is clearly not enough for them to sustain their livelihood. Most of practitioners practice them as part time activity with new generations clearly showing disinclination towards further continuation of such practices even as part time.
Features of BFU
- Noted as the biggest folk music festival in Calcutta, which draws over 20,000 visitors and more than 100 artists every year from India and Bangladesh.
- A 2 day residential festival which gives ample opportunity for the music enthusiasts and musician connect and interact at various opportunities
- 48 continuous hours of performance and activities
- An entirely voluntary programme, none of the organisers and volunteers are compensated
- Entry is free
- Local community members contribute (as a mark of Seva) for food and accommodation of all the artists and volunteers for 2 days and nights
- A vibrant community fair is organised, which encourages small entrepreneurs to showcase and sell local products. The items include Books, Art & Crafts, Musical Instruments, Clothing and Accessories, Food and Photography.
Stalwarts artists, such as Late Gaur Khyapa, Late Sanatan Das, Late Subal Gosain, Late Tinkari Chakraborty, Late Tarak Das, Paban Das, Golam Fakir, Tuntun Fakir, Mansur Fakir and Kartik Das performed here.
Guest artists include Pralhad Singh Tippania, Warsi Brothers and Kaluram Bamnia, among others.
Footfalls include an eclectic mix of eminent personalities from corporate, film, theatre, television, media, art along with music lovers from all walks of life. Students from various universities and institutes, and listeners from the local areas. Over 20000 visitors come here every year.
2019 onward, we will expand our viewership through live online streaming to all the continents, and actively promote linkages with various similar cultures.
The festival is totally dependent on self-funding, personal donations, advertising and in-kind contribution. It started in 2006 with 50 artists and 5000 listeners, which has now grown to more than 100 artists and 20000 listeners. The festival itself has now become a heritage of Urban Kolkata. The Trust is looking for institutional support to keep this festival relevant among the urban listeners. Almost a third of the total organizational cost is borne by enthusiasts and people of the community.
Local entrepreneurs along with other established brands put up stalls to showcase and sell various merchandise.
People of Calcutta, West Bengal and Non-Resident Indians donate and raise funds for the cause.
Over 100 volunteer artists, musicians and technicians help produce a wonderful cultural experience.