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Songs of the earth: Mamata announces Baul academy at Birbhum to help promote songs & culture

Sulagna Sengupta | Updated on: 12 January 2017, 15:37 IST

A day after Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announced the setting up of a Baul Academy at Jaydev Kenduli village in Birbhum, the Bauls have welcomed the initiative and feel that there is a need for a training centre for them as well.

Bauls are a group of 'mystic minstrels' from Bengal and constitute both a 'syncretic religious sect' and a musical tradition. The academy is going to help preserve and promote the musical and religious traditions of the Bauls.

Senior officials of the Birbhum district administration said they are in the process of identifying land where the academy will be set up, and once that has been done work will start.

Around 6-8 kothas of land is required to set up Baul Academy at Jaydev Kenduli, which is located about 30 km from Santiniketan.

Brindaban Das, one of the Bauls who attended the Jaydev Mela on Tuesday, said, "It's encouraging to know that a Baul Academy will be set up in Bengal, but there is a need for an overall development of this sect too. There are many Bauls who sing well, but they are very poor and they cannot get an opportunity to showcase their music outside Birbhum. There is a need for an overall upliftment of the community so that they could earn a good livelihood."

According to the UNESCO: "The language of the songs is continuously modernised thus endowing it with contemporary relevance. The preservation of the Baul songs and the general context in which they are performed depend mainly on the social and economic situation of their practitioners, the Bauls, who have always been a relatively marginalised group. Baul songs help in shaping the lives of many people. With just an ektara they create soulful music."

Speaking at the mela on Tuesday, Banerjee said a visit to Birbhum was incomplete without listening to the Baul songs and meeting them. She also laid the foundation stone for the academy at the event.

Mahitosh Biswas, another Baul, who attended the Jaydev Mela, said, "We applauded the initiative of the chief minister and we hope that the academy will help budding Bauls to showcase their songs."

Banerjee also said the intention is to develop the Baul academy into a world-class exhibition centre where people from across the globe can come.

If things go as per plan, then this will be the country's first Baul academy.

District officers said a cultural group will be formed after land has been identified. This group will decide what programmes the academy is going to showcase to help promote tourism in the state as well. It was also decided that many fusion songs will also be a part of these programmes.

Edited by Jhinuk Sen

First published: 12 January 2017, 15:37 IST