Debalina Bhowmick
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Debalina Bhowmick

Kolkata, Bengal, India | Established. Jan 01, 2014 | SELF

Kolkata, Bengal, India | SELF
Established on Jan, 2014
Solo Folk Traditional

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Music

Press


Singer Debalina Bhowmick performs at the CD launch of her album Choriya Managbari organised by Banglanatak dot com. - The Times of India


MUSIC LOVERS OF PATNA WERE IN FOR A TREAT AT SUFI SUTRA — A THREE-DAY EXTRAVAGANZA OF ARTISTES ACROSS THE WORLD CONCLUDING ON SUNDAY - The telegraph India


Catch the harmony of ‘Baul and Fakiri’ musicians, a rich and vibrant folk heritage of Bengal whose music celebrates the search for eternal truth. Having enthralled audiences in London, Paris, Liverpool, Tunisia, Syria, China and Japan, Shyam Cheap, Ohidul Khan and Sanatan Das from Nadia, Mohan Patra from Bankura, WB and Lok Geet singer Subhash Mondal from Saharsa, Bihar will be at the Edge Bar this February 16 along with
Deboleena Bhowmik whose bold, melodious and heartwarming voice is definitely a delight to the ears and soul.
From the streets of Bengal to Sweden, catch the eclectic tunes of Barkbröder Extended a folk music duo playing new and traditional music from all over Sweden in different musical dialects. Their music weaves threads of darkness, melancholy, light and happiness to present a vigorous pattern of pluralistic music. Members: Thommy Wahlström, Robert Wahlström, Rickard Hellgren, Nina Nu Wesemeyer and Matti Norlin-Keyharp.
Rounding up the musical extravaganza will be a beautiful "Chau" performance by Jaganath Chowdhury and the Mitali Chau Maldi. Chau is an agile power-packed tribal dance with colourful ornate costumes, beautiful masks and the bold and vigorous techniques of martial arts. - The Goan


With her feet on the soft white sand, her flowing red dress, shining against the moon piercing the inky dark, she made the waters gyrate to the sonorous sound of her flute. Her eyes half shut, she awakened the waters and the sands of the flute went deep into the ocean, caressing the waves as the moon looked on.

She was in no land and in no country. She was in a cosmos of the flute, the moon, the sea, in a trance that made us mesmerized. We did imagine- that there was no heaven, no country, no possessions, just the sky above us. Nothing came between Nina and her flute on that gorgeous stretch of sand between Majorda and Utorda at Consua. Around her were fellow musicians from Sweden, one from the island of Gotland, away from the Swedish mainland, south of Denmark. Behind Nina, on a chair rested a harp, an instrument like the flute that needs no words to give it song. The harp belonged to Martin, the long haired vagabond who travels through Europe playing solo or in any band that will have him. And Roberto, another member of the team. These wandering singing minstrels are part of an amazing global movement created in Calcutta by a revolutionary movement with an unusual name – banglanatak.com. It started off with them unearthing rustic rural folk singers in the depths of remote villages of Bengal, empowering them and showcasing their talent in various platforms and countries. The movement then spread to bringing the world to Bengal and collaborating with Bengal’s musicians in a world without boundaries and barriers. As a part of this was born Sufi Sutra, bringing singers, including folk and devotional singers and dance troupes, including the whirling dervishes, to perform in India every year, as a part of a very steady global dream of music across languages.

The Swedes were here this year with the banglanatak team along with rural craftsmen of Bengal who are now linked to a store called Mandi in Betalbatim, run by sisters Cornelia and Cleo, who have travelled to Bengal to meet and establish linkages with Bengal artisans. So the artisans came along with the Swedes and the Baul Fakir singers from rural Bengal. On a magical night, the night before all of them went to Consua to dine and let their hair down, last week. Baul and Fakir singers Shyam Khyapa and Khaibar Fakir’s folk renditions, combined with the melodies of Sweden intermingling with another up and coming Bengal urban folk singer Debalina Bhowmick. Khaibar Fakir strummed his do tara (a string instrument), Martin of Sweden responded on his harp, Debalina began a full throated stanza of her song, and Nina followed with a Swedish one, all a part of the same seamless fusion number, completely spontaneous. We forgot countries and styles and instruments because the music that emerged that night on a lawns of a little resort at Betalbatim, was one.

The next evening as we went for a meal at Consua, and got talking, the realization was how dreams are universal. In Sweden or Salcette, men and women of art express themselves through music, moving from pace to place. They tell us that we are all gypsies, our hearts who want to wander free. So while Martin goes from Gotland to Stockholm, or in the mountains of North Sweden, Khaibar Fakir with his flowing white beard and a complete Osama Bin Laden look could be wandering from Nadia to Purulia. On stage, distances, language and religions became a beautiful blend as they sang and played.

As the evening went into the night, the chats didn’t cease. Nina, middle aged, but sang and danced like a teenage ballet dancer, spoke about how simple rhythms make the best music. At about three in the morning, when all fell silent, letting the sea make all the noise and a full moon above, Nina picked up the flute and sang to the sea. All of us fell completely quiet and surrendered to the sound of the flute and the ocean and the universe of nature, music and mankind. - The Goan


This fusion of Bengali and Swede folk, in Betalbatim was something that had all talking about it way after the performance was over. Deboleena Bhowmik's rendition of the folk songs threw light on some of the folk traditions.
The folk music played by the Swedes were of a different rhythm. The songs by Thommy Wahlstrom, Robert Wahlstrom, Rickard Hellgren and the others reflected the variations in Swede folk music. This all was followed by the Chau dance. The dancers looked brilliant in their ornate costumes and masks. - The Goan Times


EAST TO WEST A journey to Gorbhanga, a melting pot of myriad genres of earthy music

Asea of heads rocking, rolling, gyrating — pulsating to the throbbing melodies and lyrics of traditional baul songs — set the mood for the evening. The bauls, themselves, were lost in the music, singing and dancing with ektaras, dotaras in their hands — generations of oral hand-me-downs. A celebration of humankind and a yearning to be one with the divine being. Approaching the main stage — a small platform in the middle of a clearing — through winding dirt tracks, with colourful festoons hanging overhead, soulful, mellifluous baul music over loudspeakers greeted the audience coming in. Hundreds... thousands of them! Almost 10,000 people were clapping their hands and swaying to the music against the floodlights at the Fakiri Utsav at Gorbhanga, in Nadia district.
The baul on the stage was immersed in his song, singing his heart out — accompanied by a back-up band sitting on the floor of the stage — to the beats of the ektara, dotara, harmonium, khol, dhol, khamak, khartal and manjira. The intoxicating music, the touching words drowned the audience in lyrical ecstasy. Aroma-mixed smoke wafted around as is the practice in any worship. Worship of music...
A three-day musical event, where bauls and a Welsh folk group — Olion Byw (pronounced ‘Biu’), along with a group of young people from Kolkata, came together to celebrate the traditional, annual event. Songs by the fakirs of the villages of Nadia and the guest artistes filled the air. The music, in the main enclosure in different golghars, continued until 9 pm.
The next day’s event began with a workshop from 11 am till 1 pm, where the Welsh team and the bauls came together and blended effortlessly with each other’s music. After lunch, the music continued in the golghars until about 5 pm. The main attraction of the Fakiri Utsav began in the evening on the main stage — a bare five-minute walk down the mud lanes. It started with songs by Khaibar Fakir, Babu Fakir, Armaan Fakir, Akkas Fakir, Golam Fakir and by other artistes from the nearby villages, followed by Lucy Rivers (singer-violinist) and Dan Lawrence (guitarist and mandolin player) of Olion Byw. They were later joined by a group of Bengali youngsters — Debalina Bhowmik (singer), Arpan (acoustic guitar), Sandip Ganguly (tabla and khol), Sandip Bag ( djembe) and Sanjay Mondol (singer) — from Kolkata.
The rainbow musical event broke all barriers of language and culture as the Welsh team picked up the tunes and played and sang along with the Kolkatans in front of an audience from nearby villages, Kolkata, and also across the globe, on that cold January evening.
So, how did Olion Byw get to know about this place? “We were invited. Amitava Bhattacharya (founderdirector of Banglanatok dot com), the host of the event, came down to Wales for a music festival and approached a company called Track, which deals with Welsh folk music. He told them he wanted to invite a Welsh band to Bengal. So, we met him through Track,” said Lucy and Dan.
When asked how they related baul music with traditional Welsh folk songs, Lucy said, “Here, it seems more devotional, but that’s not so. It’s philosophical and about human experiences, and a lot of Welsh folk songs have that same quality. Some of our songs are devotional and some are love songs. Here, it’s more soulful and, back at home, it’s more of yearning. It’s haunting, and many songs are like crying out for love.”
“It’s more like celebration of all things in the world that God has created. Appreciation of the world we live in, and seeing the whole picture of what’s being created,” adds Dan.
“There’s a great history of poetry — both in Bengal and in Wales. There’s a very long history of bards in Wales. It’s a very important tradition. There’s a very formal way of writing poetry, with very strict rules, and there are other ways that are far more free. There are still meetings between bards on social occasions, where they compete light-heartedly with each other. They try and make up new poems on the spot. Which happens a lot here, too,” Dan seems enthused.
Just as the bauls are on a road to revival of their music and culture, Olion Byw was on a trip to spread the Welsh language and music — an almost lost language, much older than English. People in their own country are trying to promote it, which many of them have forgotten over the years.
The mists swirled. The haze in our heads, too!
The crowd broke into loud cheers as the duo started performing on stage. The words did not matter. The language of the music touched the hearts of the people gathered around. They encored Lucy to continue after the second number when a group of young people was called on to the stage to play, and the crowd thought that it was the end of the Welsh duo’s session. Hardly did they know what surprise awaited them! Although the crowd wanted more of Olion Byw, when Sanjoy, followed by Debalina, from Kolkata, began to sing, they got a very loud response, and the music and the words were easier to relate to. It was their own music after all! Olion Byw was asked to join the young musicians and the fusion that flowed was a wonderful experience. Dan and Lucy blended their music with the folk artistes. Lucy, singing the Welsh version, and Debalina, giving the Bengali rendition to Welsh tunes. And, finally, Lucy joined in and lipped the Bengali words. Some of the baul singers, too, added English verses to their songs for the international guests present there: “Hrid majhare rakhibo, chhere dibona/ Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God...” Initially, Amitava wanted to give the
bauls a platform where they would get the basic training in formal music. Then, he took them all across the globe to perform with international musicians. Now, they get invitations from foreign countries and have also helped film director Goutam Ghose make the film, Moner Manush, on the life of the legendary Lalan Fakir. Artistes like tabla maestro Tanmoy Bose have also played with them on stage. These exposures have made them confident that they can perform in front of an international audience too — and even get standing ovations.
The village wore a festive mood and the organisers ensured that everybody was comfortable and every need of every guest was met. From lip-smacking dishes, to warm water in the toilets, and even warmer beds on a cold winter night, everything was there! Something one can hardly expect in a village, miles away from even a small town, very close to the Bangladesh border.
To add to this, everything was eco-friendly and no plastic was in sight. The saal- leaf plates, the paper tumblers and paper cups, all went to echo the eco-friendliness of the
baul village. On both sides of the narrow mud track that led to the main stage were stalls put up by locals. There were food stalls with
jalebis, telebhajas, papads and masala muri, and stalls with toys and trinkets. An opportunity for the villagers to pick up some business.
Many came to watch the show out of curiosity. Many went back with images of a white-skinned Welsh couple, whose violin played in unison with the percussion band of the bauls, never stopping, or wavering for a moment.... So much so that, unless you saw their faces, you’d never imagine that it was a Western band that was playing a baul tune! - Hindustan Times


Discography

Debalina Bhowmicks first music album is ready to be released on April 15, 2014 and the second album preparation has already started. 


Photos

Bio

Debalina Bhowmick, based at Kolkata, has received formal voice training from her guru and reputed classical vocalist Sreela Bandopadhyay since she was 12 and later, under the tutelage of renowned Bengali folk singer Abhijit Bose.

Debalina has performed at Sufi Sutra 2014 (Intl festival for Sufi and Traditional music) in Kolkata and Patna, has performed at Gorbhanga Fakiri Utsav, Akhra@Baitanik, Mandi Festival in Goa and collaborated with quite a few International music teams including Arnob & friends from Bangladesh, Barkborder Extended from Sweden and Radiant Arcadia from Denmark. 

Debalina uses authentic Indian instruments, including flute, dhol (percussion) and dotara (string).

Band Members