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Bhatiali Song : The Song of the Boatman

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Barnali

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Barnali

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Posted: 13 July 2006 at 10:25pm | IP Logged

Bhatiyali

 


The term "bhatiyali" mean the downstream or ebb. But the term Bhatiyali in its literal sense signifies the particular type of folk music sung by the boatman during his up-journey across down streams of the riverine districts of Bengal. The song begins with an endearing address to a person who remains at a distance. So the voice takes a loud flight of top notes in the beginning. Gradually, the tune slides down to lower notes.

 

 

Bhatiyali traditional boat song of eastern Bengal, sung in a specific mode, noted for its long-drawn notes. In riverine Bangladesh, boatmen spent a lot of time in their boats. While sailing downstream, they had plenty of leisure to sing comfortably in the drawn out and elevated notes characteristic of the bhatiyali. In course of time, this song gained popularity particularly in mymensingh and sylhet districts.

At one time, there were five types of bhatiyali in Bangladesh. But some of these forms are extinct at present. The songs known as murshidi and bichchhedi are also forms of the bhatiyali. Strains of bhatiyali can be found in Bangla folk drama, especially in the form known as gazir gan.

In many instances, the word bhatiyali is used in a song to point out the note of a specific verse. Usually in 'Pala' or panchali, the first verse of the bandana or hymn is referred to as the ujan (upstream) and the second verse as bhaital (downstream), for example: 'In the east, I salute the sun god/ When the sun arises from one side, light penetrates all sides'.

There are also references to bhatiyali songs and tunes in different texts. sekhashubhodaya refers to bhadu songs which are sung in the classical mode of bhatiyali. Bhatiyali songs are also mentioned in srikrishnakirtan.  [Sambaru Chandra Mohanta]

 

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Barnali

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Posted: 13 July 2006 at 10:31pm | IP Logged

There is a difference between folk music of Bengal and folk music of most of the other kinds. Usually, folk music employs five to seven notes in all for a particular piece and goes on permuting them. That is why it becomes repetitive after a while. In folk songs of of Bengal, there are different styles. In one such style, called Bhatiyali (Boatman's song ), sometimes even twelve notes are used. And the range usually covers two and half octaves.


In this particular style of singing, we see something very close to a Chord playing. While the singer sings

                 g.p.s'.....

the accompanying instrument DOTARA (literally meanns: two-stringed instrument) plays

                 ssr ssg p,p,

                 [p, means PA of the MONDRO Saptak (lower octave)]

 

 

Barnali

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Posted: 13 July 2006 at 10:32pm | IP Logged

You've set me adrift . . .

Sudeshna Banerjee A long time ago, when man did not obstruct rivers to suit his petty needs, the river channels served as goodwill ambassadors to extensive geographical areas - a river originating in one country flowing through another, joining another river, forming a filigree of merging and diverging rivers - with the social and cultural heritage of one region blending into another, each drawing on the rich yet varied perspectives in the whole process of cultural evolution. This is perhaps most apparent in Bengal's rich and enviable variety of folksongs. Rivers form an integral part of the topography of Bengal: "Bangladesh is the land of rivers. Ganga, Meghna, Dhaleshwari, Shitalakshya, Gadai - in so many names and in such myriad forms these rivers encircle Bangladesh. Playing on the silvery strings of the rivers, an invisible musician has with his delicate touch composed the song of its heart - the bhatiyali. Several areas remain submerged in rainwater for almost six months in a year, with the boat the only mode of transport . . . separated from their families for months on end, they have for their companion only the river on which they row their boats, with the waters merging into the horizons, and the azure heavens above. It is as if the waters are limitless. And the boatman, in his solitude questions his own existence - where have I come from? Where do I go hence? such questions pervade the songs of boatmen. Like the lyrics of these songs which have taken shape from the waters of these rivers, the tunes too have blended into the lyrics from the lilting waters of the rivers." - Jasimuddin, "Murshida Gaan", Dhaka, 1977 Ashim Ghosh/Fotomedia
Though the bhatiyali remains one of the most popular folk melodies, with the river and the boatman as integral parts of its content and composition, the river and the boat are very common symbols with spiritual overtones used in folksongs all over Bengal. The scope of this essay will not permit me to go into the complexities and the variety of the spiritual problems and themes used in folksongs with the symbolic use of the river. I will try to cite a few examples to illustrate only some ways in which the river features in some folksongs of Bengal. One of the most famous and extremely popular bhatiyali songs is from the collection of the renowned poet and the folk music exponent Jasimuddin (1904-76). Few Bengali poets have loved the villages of Bengal more and few have expressed in poems and songs the simple joys and sorrows of the villagers more poignantly and feelingly. amay bhasaili rey
amay dubaili rey
akul dariyar bujhi kul nairey
kul nai kinar nai naiko nadir padi
tumi sabdhanetey chalaiyo majhi
amar bhang tari rey

(You've set me adrift
You've sunk me
The endless waters have no shore
Limitless, with no shores, the waters have no banks
O row with care boatman, my riven boat.) The opening stanza of the song excerpted here is a variation on the original, and immortalised by the late Abbasuddin Ahmed (1901-59), musician and folk music exponent, in his HMV recording. The turbulent rivers of North Bengal do not have a benign image in the folksongs. In this example, the destructive river is described by the lyricist as the great leveller, with just a hint of sadness in the concluding line, which also brings in the warm human touch to it: Orey o pagela nadi
ei ki hoilo tomar reti rey
kotojonar bhangilyan basat badi
karo bhangilyan dalankota badi
karo bhangilyan jamindari
karo bhangilyan nabin piriti

(O you madcap river
Is this how you work?
Hutments have you destroyed of so many
And houses on courtyards
And estates of zamindars
And even new love) - from the collection of Khaled Choudhury In another song from the Radh region of West Bengal, the river and fishing are used as analogies to describe the spiritual vapidity of men who would rather teem the shallow waters near the banks. Such men are popular and easily saleable in the markets. It is the fish of the turbulent waters that are hard to catch with ordinary nets - the revolutionaries who are not sell-outs in this world range the deep waters. To get anywhere near them, one would have to plunge very deep into the waters of time: orey thelajaal ami baibo nadir kinary
ei punti-darkona machh bikain geil bajarey
jadi hoito gadai-shoal, lagai dito gandagol hey
ei daw-er machh na podey dangailey
shantar dili bhabajaley
(I'll move my net along the river-edge
To catch these tiny fish the punti and the darkona for the market
It'd have been a bother with the deepwater shoal-gadai
those that range the eddies are hard to catch
for them you need to plunge into the waters of time)
- from the collection of Khaled Choudhury
In a baul song, for example, the struggle between the baul's quest for self realisation and the stumbling blocks posed by the worldly desires is expressed through the analogy of the river - the river of life and spiritual success: banka nadir pichhal ghatey
opar hobi ki korey

sethay kam kumbhir royechhey sadai
(bap rey bap) sadai han korey
(How dare you cross this meandering river with your feet on its slippery bank, while the crocodile of desires looks forward eagerly to devour you?) An abiding quality of the folksongs is the way a song develops and modifies over the years. This is because these songs are primarily the creation of a community and are shaped by the community. It is not the property of a particular lyricist. Folklorists like Jasimuddin have often returned to the same villages to document the changing features in particular songs.

In 1964 in Calcutta, a group of committed scholars and folklorists had gathered together to form the Folk music and Folklore Research Institute at Khaled Choudhury's house, out of a growing "awareness of an impending crisis in folk music" compounded by "commercial distortion" and the consequential falsification of the folk genres. The commercial distortion has grown more and more macabre over the years, and one is pained to hear cosmetic bauls who sing pseudo melodies in a "heritage park" in Calcutta, forming just one of the trappings that make up India; or the lofty notes of a bhatiyali melody just serving a background score in a film - the rich earthy song of the soil decontextualised and deconstructed to serve the selfish ends of modern urban civilisation. The neglect that has ravaged folk music has been most evident in the glitzy packaging of the folk to sell as exotica abroad. The folk traditions of Bengal have died a slow death, despite the laudable efforts of Gurusaday Dutt, Dinesh Chandra Singha and other scholars and revivalists. What we require today is a serious and committed research which can save whatever is left of the fast depleting forms of folk music in Bengal. The rivers are ridden with the politics of water sharing. Where are the boatmen who can sing out into the blue heavens: "You've set me adrift..." ?

 

 

manjujain

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Posted: 13 July 2006 at 10:34pm | IP Logged
thanks barnali di for the educative information. I disn't know the meanings what you explained, which will help me understanding many other discussions about it.

Barnali

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Barnali

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Posted: 13 July 2006 at 10:34pm | IP Logged

Bhatiyali


The term "bhatiyali" mean the downstream or ebb. But the term Bhatiyali in its literal sense signifies the particular type of folk music sung by the boatman during his up-journey across down streams of the riverine districts of Bengal. The song begins with an endearing address to a person who remains at a distance. So the voice takes a loud flight of top notes in the beginning. Gradually, the tune slides down to lower notes.

A Bhatiyali song in Bengali script:

And here is English translation: Oh, the boat-man of my mind, take back the oar,
I fail to row any more
Throughout my whole life I have rowed the oar
The boat does not advance but falls back like ebb
Whatever care I would take with ropes and bars
The helm doesn't cut through water
The bottom of the boat is loose, the back portion breaks
The boat is not safe even being pasted and colored.
Here is another Bhatiyali song in Bengali script:

Reference : Folk Music of Eastern India, Sukumar Ray

 

 

filmi_chick99

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Posted: 13 July 2006 at 10:35pm | IP Logged
thanx..even more happy cuz i'm a bong!

Barnali

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Barnali

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Posted: 13 July 2006 at 10:38pm | IP Logged

Originally posted by manjujain

thanks barnali di for the educative information. I disn't know the meanings what you explained, which will help me understanding many other discussions about it.

Chk the topic of baul. http://www.india-forums.com/forum_posts.asp?TID=273413  thy r basically sung by a nomadic group which is more of a religious sect. thy call themselves baul. hence the name baul song.

Bhatiali is the song sung by boatman of bengal. It is originally frm eastern bangladesh. it is said tht the boatmans sings these song while thy r rowing through the rivers.

both the genre of songs r folk music of bengal.

 

manjujain

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manjujain

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Posts: 10485

Posted: 13 July 2006 at 10:40pm | IP Logged

Thanks barnali di, I will read it.

Originally posted by Barnali

Originally posted by manjujain

thanks barnali di for the educative information. I disn't know the meanings what you explained, which will help me understanding many other discussions about it.

Chk the topic of baul. http://www.india-forums.com/forum_posts.asp?TID=273413  thy r basically sung by a nomadic group which is more of a religious sect. thy call themselves baul. hence the name baul song.

Bhatiali is the song sung by boatman of bengal. It is originally frm eastern bangladesh. it is said tht the boatmans sings these song while thy r rowing through the rivers.

both the genre of songs r folk music of bengal.

 

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