Bauls are India wandering spiritual minstrels of West Bengal whose ecstatic songs and dance reflect their joy, love and longing for mystical union with the Divine. To them the human body is the holiest of holies wherein the Divine is intimately enshrined as the "Moner Manush",the person of the heart. Baul philosophy emphasises love for all human beings as the path leading to the Divine Love. Romantic love to the Baul is the link between the human being and God. In fact, they believe that God is the eternal lover of the eternal woman which is the human soul. The word "Baul" is derived from the Sanskrit word "Baul" which means "mad". Bauls are free thinkers who openly declare themselves to be mad for the God who dwells within us all. Among others, Bauls use the following instruments:
1. TABLA - the high drum.
2. BAYA - the bass drum: commonly known as a set of TABLAS. Capable of a myriad of different sounds and tonal combinations, these are the most popular drums of North Indian classical music.
3. EKTARA - literally "one string". This one string drone instrument is used to accompany singers into he folk traditions of many regions of India. In addition to plucking the strings, the skin head is also struck like a drum to provide rhythm accompaniment.
4. GUNGAROO - these ankle bells add to the orchestration as a singer plucks and beats his ektar, creating a kind of one-man-band effect. Classical dancers use a much heavier set of gungaroos with many more bells to create startling rythmic counterpoints to the slapping of their feet against the floor.
5. DOTARA - a folk instrument much like it's classical cousin, the sarode, and not unlike it's western relative, the fretless banjo. Plucked with a coconut shell pick, the strings are depressed with the fingernails of the left hand, rather than the finger pads as in a guitar or violin. the finger nail becomes like the slide on a slide guitar. My dotar has an electric pickup built into the bridge, which is normally made of elephant teeth, I am the first Baul to do fusion music, then I made an electric mandolin, and added more instruments...
"The first Dotara used by Bauls was by Gopal Das Baul in the early 1940's he was the husband of Radharani Dasi Baul ( Babu's aunt who was the biggest most famous Baul women ever.) Gopal Das Baul was the disciple of Nabani Das Baul. Nabani asked what Gopal wanted because he was such a wonderful student, of all my students you are the best, and Gopal said I want to marry your daughter, Radharani, he said allow me to be in your family and take care of Radharani all my life.. Gopal Das was pure Vaishnava, a true sadhaka.
Radharani was the first official Baul to record for all India Radio... In 1960's there was movied call Raikamal made about Radharani's life, wrote by one of Bengali's top writers, Tara Shankar. In 1985 a movie called Togori was also made about Radharani's life.. A very historic family Lineage of Bauls....
Gopal Das was the son of the Ekchakra Nityananda Temple, and he was a great sweet maker. Nityananda Mahaprabu was a Baul and from this lineage."
6. CHIMTAS - combination rhythm instrument fire tongs, and weapon used by Sadhus (wandering mendicants all over India). Sri Nabani carried this because he was a ardent wandering Sadhu.
7. HARMONIUM - portable pump organ, introduced to India by the missionaries, this little reed organ has become one of India's most popular instruments, perfect for 2 finger typists like myself - the left hand pumps the bellows while the right hand plays the keys. Babu's mother Manju Das Baul introduced the Harmonium as a Baul instrument, she played the Harmonium all over the world during her 0ver 50 years of traveling the world with her husband Purna Das Baul and her son Babukishan Das Baul. They played at places in London like the Royal Albert Hall, South Hall, Hyde Park, Carnegie Hall in New York.
8. KANJIRA - small frame drum. Used by both folk and classical musicians. This one has a goat skin head, but usually the head is made from a lizard skin.
9. KARTALS - finger cymbals. Great for making a lot of noise while singing Kirtan (chanting the names of God).
10. SMALLER KARTALS - for the quieter moments.
11. GUBGUBBI- (also known as Khammak) - an inverted bongo drum with two gut strings attached from the inside of the hide to the membrane on a small cup. You put the bongo drum under your arm, pull on the cup and pluck the strings. This is the most popular instrument of the Bauls of Bengal. It's also called "anandalahari" - waves of bliss. The name Ananda Lahari was a name given by Sri Nabani Das Baul, (Babu's grandfather.)
12. GOPI CHAND Yantra- this one string instrument allows you to change the pitch by squeezing the bamboo sides. The tighter you squeeze, the lower the note gets, until the instrument breaks and you have to get a new one at the corner gopi chand store. The name Gopi Chand came from Babu's lineage, The Vaishnava Lineage Bauls of Bengal.13. DHOLAK - 2 headed barrel shaped drum popular in all sorts of Indian folk music.
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Written..by Babukishan aka Krishnendu Das Baul