Gopal Bandopadhyay Presents
Folk & Tribal Music of Bengal - A Guide
Listen to different kinds of Bengali Folk & Tribal Songs Online, performed by Gopal Bandopadhyay:
- Podaboli Kirtan Giti
- Probhati Anger Gan
- Hasan rajar Gaan
- Baidyar Gaan or Bede-Bedenir Gaan
- Dhaan Katar Gaan
- Tusu Parab er gaan
- Nimai Sanyas
- Baishnab Baul
- Nailar Gaan
- Manasha Mangal
The following article is a rough guide to the various folk musicals forms of West Bengal, India. This article is penned by Shri Gopal Bandopadhyay. We have previously featured Mr Gopal Banerjee where he has briefly written about Bengali Folk tradiitons and you can watch Mr Banerjee live in concert - click here.
These songs revolve around the concept of opting for the lifestyle of an ascetic by Nimai and thereby leaving his Grihasthya or family life. These songs were composed on the basis of the pitiful appeal by his wife Bishnupriya and his sorrowful mother Sachimata.
These songs are usually sung in the morning time by Vaishnavas throughout rural Bengal praising the glories of Radha, Lord Shri Krishna and Gauranga. These songs help the villagers start their day afresh with pure thoughts positivity.
These songs are sung by the peasants of Bengal during the month of “Paus”. This is usually the time to reap the paddy from the fields. These songs mention about the popular sweetmeats of Bengal like “Pitha”, “Payesh” and “Nabanna”, prepared all across Bengal during the winters. Men and women sing and dance to the tunes of these songs.
These songs are usually performed by religious enthusiasts. These songs try to delve deep into the mystery of the origin of the human body and question the spiritual issues on mankind’s behalf.
The peasant clan of Bengal sings these songs in the Hindu calendar months Agrahayan and Paus, during the reaping process of paddy. These songs are in praise of the harvest process of the new crops. These songs are also referred to as “Labour Songs”.
Hasan was a famous composer from Sylhette. Though he came from a wealthy family of Zameendars (land lords), his songs reflected the hardships that can be seen in a common man’s life. His songs pictured the common human aspects like, love and pain of separation.
The majority of the peasant clan from Bangladesh is Muslims. In summers, when the scorching sun sucks out the last drop of water from the rice fields, ponds, these peasants sing songs wishing and praying for rain. These songs also reflect the dependence of the peasant clan upon nature.
The main festival of Bengalis is the Sarodotsav or the Durga Puja. This festival starts after the rainy season and with the advent of autumn. Bengalis across the globe eagerly look forward to this festival. The main theme of these songs is about the Goddess Durga coming to her father’s home.
songs can be heard in the peasant clan of Murshidabad, a district of
West Bengal. Alkap is like a drama, an act. Alkap portrays different
little stories that revolved around Lord Shri Krishna and his beloved
Radha and other incident of the then society.
Although Shree Chaitanya belonged to the tribal community, he chose the path of singing Keertans, in the later part of his life. The reason behind this is assumed to be religious i.e. he wanted to popularize the religion though his singing. The subjects of these songs are the love, affection and pain that took place between Radha and Bhagwan Shree Krishna. Keertan has mainly two parts namely, “Pala Keertan” and “Naam Keertan”. Pala Keertan is usually more diversified and detailed than Naam Keertan, thus making it more attractive.
This musical form is prevalent in Malda, a district in the state of West Bengal, in India. The last month according to the Hindu calendar is “Chaitra”. These songs are usually performed in the last 5/6 days of this month with the purpose of informing Lord Shiva, all the social problems that were faced during the year. Devotees also place their demands and enlist their complaints in front of Lord Shiva.
This musical form is usually confined in the Vaishnav society. The daily tortures and the ruthless face of life often lead the daily commoner to take shelter in chanting the divine’s name. These songs, usually written keeping a spiritual though at the back of the mind, are prayers to the almighty, to help the common man find a way out of the daily grind.
These are the songs of the Muslim society which are written about the long history of the battle of “Karbala”. The performance of Zari is such that the principal/main singer walks the listener through the facts though rhymed verses. The supporting singers support the main singer by re-iterating those words. The concept of these songs are as like advises that one would receive from a priest. These songs are widely performed during the Muslim festival “Muharram”.
Manasha Mangal is an epic, believed to be written sometime between the thirteenth and eighteenth century. The main characters of this saga are Lakhinder and his wife Behula. Lakhinder’s father Chand Saudagar, angers the goddess Manasha (the goddess of snakes) and that results in Lakhinder being bitten by a snake in his wedding night. Behula, sailing in a boat with her husband, Lakhinder’s dead body, tries to convince the goddess Manasha, to grant him back his life. These songs are usually sung in the month of “Srabon”, the 4th month of the Hindu calendar.
These songs are very popular in Sylhette and Moymonshingha (in erstwhile East Bengal, currently in Bangladesh). The female folk would perform these songs surrounding the bride and the groom. This would also be accompanied by dancing and clapping. The groom and the bride are often compared to Lord Shri Krishna and his beloved Radha, in these songs. These songs are also known as “Dhamail”, locally.
Bengal has hills, mountains and forests. The forests also have different types of snakes. Bede and Bedeni usually refer to snake charmers and their wives, who lead a nomadic life and are in continuous search of snakes. They usually survive by selling the venom, that they extract from the teeth of the snakes and also by demonstrating many tricks with the snake (usually by playing a wind instrument called the “Been”). Their skill also lies in the ability to prepare medicines from various herbs, trees and vegetables. These songs are mainly reflections of the common aspects of life like love, affection and the pain of separation. It also reflects the colorful, ever changing gypsy lifestyle. They try to uphold the fact though these songs, that they are not bounded or bonded to any particular geographical location.
is one of the main festivals in the area of Manbhum. This festival
takes place during the period from the last day of the month of
“Srabon” till the last date of the month of “Bhadro”, as per the Hindu
calendar year. The women are the one who usually perform these songs
and worship “Bhadu”. Since these songs are performed during the night
before the last day of the month of “Bhadro”, it is also known as the
About the author ...
Gopal Bandopadhyay was born in 1956 in Barasat, 24 pgs (N), West Bengal and grew up with his elder brother and Sister. His father is Late Bholanath Bandopadhyay and mother late Renubala Bandopadhyay.
His father had always been an unfailing source of inspiration to Gopal
regarding his training in music. Gopal is no exception to this ago-old
trend. As a vocal artist having mastery over Baul songs of Birbhum and
Bhowaiya - Chatka of North Bengal region he had his initial grooming in
the hands of his father, renowned kirtania Shri Bholanath Bandopadhyay.
The fulfillment of his father’s teachings did not take long to
materialize and Gopal was very soon recognized and appreciated as a
competent singer of Baul, Kirtan, Bhowaiya, Bhatiali, Lalan, Hasan
Raja, Goyalparia, Mahut-Mai-Shal and Murshida Songs.
Learn more about Shri Bandopadhyay at our previous post HERE.