Interview | Babu Kishan (Krishnendu Das Baul) folk singer-composer-producer-writer-director of DIL PUNJABI (CANADIAN DREAMS)

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[image: Babukishan Krishnendu Das Baul]Germantown, Maryland, Jan 4, 2011  (Washington Bangla Radio) Krishnendu Das baul is better known as Babu Kishan among the music enthusiasts all over the world.  In a candid interview hosted by Arijit Chakraborty of Washington Bangla Radio, the baul narrates the tradition of baul folk songs in Bengal. The life and achievements of the folk singer as he narrates through the course of the interview, provides glimpses to the wonderful world of baul culture that nurtured his childhood. As the adda reaches towards the conclusion, Babu Kishan discusses about his latest experiment with cinematography.

Babu Kishan or Babuda was contacted at Vancouver, British Columbia in Canada where he is living now. The session starts with a brief introduction of the multi faceted personality with his own words. The son of famous Purna Das Baul and grandson of Nabani Das Baul had spent a childhood at Shiuri, Birbhum in the environment of folk music. Ramkrishna mission was the chosen school. From an early age he has attended various musical festivals around the world along with his father and mother; and the incidents has left a great impact on his formative years and later guided him through his music career.

Babukishan Krishnendu Das started his experiments with music in his early days and he was greatly influenced by the energy and melody of the baul folk songs charted out by his father and grandfather. Though Lalan fakir was a great lyricist, he always felt that the music was lagging in the songs. Speaking about his grandfather, he mentions the fact that the title “khyapa baul” was incurred upon Nabani Das Baul by Rabindranath Tagore, and in turn Nabani Das used to call Tagore “Ravi baul”. The simple stories of the yester-years ring a chord in all Bengalis. Khyapa baul was considered a guru in his community but he never went out of his country.

Subodh Mitra's 1955 classic oldie Bengali movie Raikamal (Buy Bengali Movie DVD in USA) was filmed on Nabani Das Baul, while the Hindi movie Hansraj was based on the life of his father, Purna Das baul. Raikamal (Bengali, 1955) is adapted from a story by Tarashankar Banerjee and starred Uttam Kumar, Kaberi Bose, Nitish Mukherjee, Sabitri Chatterjee, Chandrabati Devi, Jiben Bose, Namita Sinha and others with music directed by Pankaj Mullick

The eminent US poet Allen Ginsberg holds a prominent role in the exposure of baul song at the world stage. The poet on his visit to Shantiniketan, heard Nabani Das sing and his instantly fell in love with the baul folk music. He wrote about Nabani Das baul in the New York Times. Years later, when the organizers of Woodstock Music Festival decided to represent world music, they invited Pundit Ravi Shankar from India. Ginsberg suggested to the Woodstock organizers to invite Nabani Das, praising him as the eighth wonder of the world. As the opportunity of performing in foreign shores presented itself, Nabani humbly declined the offer and instead sent his two sons to represent baul music on the world stage.

Krishnendu Das himself was the first baul to get education at school and college. He is more comfortable in experimenting with different genres of music, instead of remaining true to baul heritage only. He is the ninth generation of the only Vaishnava Baul family in the state of West Bengal. Babu-da was the first to introduce different musical instruments in baul songs. Dhol, guitar, keyboard and saxophone were the instruments that were  introduced to baul folk songs by him for the first time. The songs were sung as the original with the addition of these instruments. The creations were not always well accepted in Bengal, but managed to garner respectable popularity outside. Babuda sings a couple of lines of the famous song “Dekhechi roop sagore, moner manush; kacha sona…”, to the glee of the listeners.

Babu Kishan started thinking about a music career in Bollywood when he abandoned his dream of pursuing Ph.D. His mind was made when his idol R D Burman asked him to join and stay with him at Bombay. Though the first Hindi baul never stayed with R.D. Burman, he spent 13 years of his life in Bombay, nevertheless. It was during his stint at Bombay that he got the new name Babu Kishan. Sooraj Salim and Mahesh Bhatt gave him the name as “Krishnendu” was too tough for them to pronounce.

The singer gained rich experience from the Mumbai music industry and from there he started to focus on audiences outside the country. The singer travelled to America, Europe, China and Japan. He represented not only baul but other folk songs too, to the foreign admirers of music. His music album was launched by Pundit Ravi Shankar. The album was named Gypsy India (listen to free samples and download MP3)  instead of something like "baul India". Later, Priya Ranjan Das Munshi asked the singer about the reason for the name of the album and Babuda explained to him that the world audience was better able to connect with the word “gypsy”, than “baul”. The album went on to be sold in a huge numbers and remains the best-known Indian folk-songs album internationally.

Babu Kishan baul is excited about his latest creative venture and shares his enthusiasm with Arijit Chakraborty. The singer started shooting a documentary on the life and struggle of the immigrants to Canada. The small project soon gathered momentum and turned out to be a feature film. Babuda is the writer, director and producer of the film. The movie, “Dil Punjabi" (English Title: Canadian Dream) is the story of a Punjabi Family that has sold all it's assets back in India and moved to Canada, lured by a better life. The film portrays the realization of the family that life in Canada is not all rosy. The absence of help from their own community in Canada and the struggle to counter the hardships is the story of Canadian Dream. The film has already attracted rave reviews and will be participating in the New York and Los Angeles film festivals. Babu-da has composed a unique background score for the film in the form on fusion music inspired by Persian traditions.

The debutant director adds while signing off, that he is thinking about producing a comedy movie in Hindi and another one about the mystic land of India. Let’s wish all the best to Krishnendu Das baul on his future endeavours.

Interview details:

Guest: Babukishan (Krishnendu Das Baul)
Hosted by: Arijit Chakraborty, Washington Bangla Radio, Toronto, Canada
Recorded / Edited by: Supratim Sanyal, Washington Bangla Radio, Washington DC, USA
Article written by: Kreation Guru, Kolkata, India