Steeped in the ancient tradition of the Bauls, the wandering spiritual musicians of Bengal, Music Of The Honey Gatherers is a beautiful and varied collection of stripped back and powerful trance-inducing Baul songs, imbued with the itinerant flavour of life on the road.
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Stripped back and raw, this album is the culmination of many years' work, imbued with the itinerant flavour of life on the road. It was recorded on spare days, in between concerts and travels, between 2006 and 2009.
Some songs were recorded at home in Montreuil, France, and include the exceptional Rajasthan musicians Nathoolal Solanki (the monumental nagara player from Pushkar) and Chugge Khan (from Jaisalmir). Other tracks were recorded in September 2009 in London with Paban's lifelong friend Nimai Goswami.
After releasing a number of crossover albums, from 1994 to 2004, Paban wanted to return to his folk origins and re-explore Baul culture in light of his experiences. He wanted to produce his own album, to record his songs unplugged and to arrange them himself, using all the knowledge he acquired working with Western musicians. He sought out sound engineers Subhadeep Sengupta in Kolkata, Francis Bonfanti in Paris (who first recorded Paban in 1977 for the album Le Chant Des Fous) and Paul Chivers in London. The aim was to render the authenticity of Paban's vocals with a minimum of tampering. Paban, deeply interested in the process of sound recording, added overdubs of backing vocals, as well as the dubkiand the khamak.
On Music Of The Honey Gatherers, Paban performs songs from the trail of the honey gatherers - the wandering Baul singers from the very eastern end of the Indo-Gangetic plains. It is here that the Baul singers of Bengal circulate, anchored in a unique way of life. The honey they gather is spiritual rather than physical. When the sound of a Baul's voice penetrates the ear, an inner tree - the kalpa briksha (the tree of time) - awakens to life inside the body and seven flowers bloom, lotus chakras of energy, and honey rises in these blossoms. In exchange for this honey, the villagers give alms of rice, dal and vegetables to the Bauls.
Madhukuri(honey gathering) is a tradition among the mendicant Baul singers of Bengal, a tradition that is anchored in the rites of early Tantric Buddhism. They believe that God resides only within the body and is therefore within every human's reach. Each morning, the Baul singers wander from village to village singing for alms, playing their one-string ektara and thumping on the duggi(bass drum), with voices raised in ecstasy to celebrate the secrets of the human body.
In his wandering, Paban Das Baul has picked up melodies and rhythms, and improvised new words to describe new situations, using the age-old simple village metaphors: the body is a boat, the river is life itself, and the true mastery over sailing can be achieved if the helmsman knows his own grid. The body is a pot of clay, which needs to be fired by inner knowledge in order to retain the water of love.
Like his brother Bauls, Paban is a wanderer, an ascetic who abandons the village world to lift his voice in heartfelt songs to the world, to heal by awakening new, magical energetic life.
Emotional, varied and intensely spiritual, this beautiful collection of songs demonstrates why Paban Das Baul has succeeded in bringing the traditional oral world of Baul singers of Bengal to an international audience.
'...some of the most ecstatic and beguiling music in the world... Paban Das Baul... is one of the leading singers today... with [his] mellow voice, this creates the atmosphere of a traditional performance as the poet philosopher communicates his personal message: &;ldquoMy spirit is a crazy horse!&;rdquo' 3*** stars The Evening Standard, UK
'About six minutes into &;ldquoPrem Katha Ti Shunte Bhalo&;rdquo, limber drums suddenly kick in, and transcendence hovers.' Financial Times, UK
'Sufi vagabond goes back to his acoustic roots... This album, supported by informative but unfussy liner notes, successfully conveys that melding of spirituality and music... His voice soars and dips with a profound yet playful energy and mellow richness above meditative arrangements of Baul folk instruments such as the dubki (tambourine) and dotara (a five-stringed lute)... Reflecting Paban Das' technical and vocal mastery, this high quality album tempers exuberance with an innate funkiness that characterises Baul music at its most effective.' Songlines, UK, 4****stars