Album Review

Bauls of Bengal, The – “Bauls of Bengal, The ” – [Empire Musicwerks]

loun   2/20/2007   CD, International

There are some things that can only happen on the subcontinent. With their unique blend of religious diversity and fervor, rigid social strata, and tolerance, the people of the subcontinent found a way to live with the Thuggees, who robbed and murdered as an act of devotion, mathematicians who practiced their craft like a religion, and the Bauls, who deliberately present themselves as both Hindu and Muslim, as well as other religions, and make a living by singing for their supper.

Baul music is folk music of a surprising depth and sophistication, handed down through generations that do little else but play music. Unlike many folk styles, Baul music is fluid and personal – each performer is expected to bring their own search for God and truth into the performance. Likewise, listeners should hear the piece in the context of their own search. Perhaps that is why track 4 ripped my attention away from whatever I was doing each time it played – perhaps it spoke to my own search for truth, or maybe it was just Purna’s sweet and powerful voice wrenching my heart with her passion.

All tracks are solid, and can be played wherever an American folk piece would fit – the Bauls were to Bob Dylan as Ravi Shankar was to the Beatles. Take a little time and listen to the search for God – it began before we were possible, and will continue long after we are dust.

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