A regular Saturday afternoon on the banks of Khoai river, near Shantiniketan is a beautiful setting of the Khoai Hatt every Saturday. Those tall “Sonajhuri” trees adorned every meter of the ground. Under these lovely trees and as the sun shines right above your head the khoai market gets into a shape. The expanses gets filling up fast with the tribal and the local sellers unpacking and setting up their shops in the regular places. Listening to the argument between two adjacent stalls, I got reminded of the school days when we used to draw a line on the table to say that my neighbour should not cross the border. I laughed as I walked around seeing the various hawkers set up their establishments.
As I walked around, I heard an ektara play, and my head turned as I walked to the direction of the soulful music that played.
It was a hoarse tone to start off with but then the jingling sound of “gungroo” and the dhol sound mesmerized me as I seem to float towards him. As the man came into view, I was delighted to see the saffron kurta clad man in his own world playing the ektara and singing on…
It did not seem to matter if there were people sitting or listening to him. It did not matter who clapped or not. He seemed to go on with his song, the beautiful baul songs.
As he finished one, he paused adjusted his Gungroo, tightened the ektara sting to the tune he wanted, played with his hairs and beard and clearing his throat went on to sing the next song. I was simply stuck at the simplicity.
As I got up to leave, he did not even bother to acknowledge the only one intently listening leaving. I kept some money and moved on.
It felt as if he was the master here with no strings. I am here to give and do not expect any in return. If you feel like giving, give or else move on.
As the afternoon moved to evening, had many other Baul singers who went on with their presentations. One of the them seemed to be slightly modern with CDs of their songs displayed as they kept playing. These artists were more playful with one a banjo like instrument and the second one on the flute while the third one was on the dhol and another couple of them who were busy playing the gungroo. As the tempo went on, I could not stop myself from swinging and dancing along with them. They were so mesmerizing that you will forget where you are. It is one that can only be experienced as it steers your soul.
While their singing was soulful, their dressing sense was equally swag. I just fell in love with their representation and deep connect with the roots.
These songs are mostly from what they see life as and are not written down. It is the Guru-Sishya Parampara that enables the knowledge move from the guru to his disciples. While today, you do have CDs and music available to pick up and listen to them but the ambiance and their presence adds to the overall soulfulness to the baul music. Folksongs at its best and pristine form.
It is an experience not to be missed at all if you happened to be there at Shantiniketan on a Saturday.
As I left the hatt, even though I am a distant relative to the language, the music kept playing on my lips and my hands dancing to the tune.