Saurav Moni is one of the country’s prolific folk singers today. He sings Bengal delta’s traditional folk songs. He has imbibed the rustic singing since infancy in association with the fisherman, travelling boatman from various parts of Bengal, folk singers and wandering saints. Hailing from the remote village of Hingalgunj in the southernmost Sunderban, Indo-Bangladesh border; Saurav came to Kolkata for pursuing higher education when he felt the tug of his roots estranged from his parochial musical essence, steadily losing its natal lineage. Saurav pulsed the need for vocal archiving and researching on the rare folk genres, moribund village hymns (pallygiti) and transcendental verses.
JOURNEY: In his performance he shares the musical story of the boat journey from northern Bengal to the extreme south. He demonstrates the tempo of the songs in sync with the flow of the river: the tempo rises as the river quickens (in downward movement). He recalls his childhood Karim kaka (uncle) who used to visit his river bank village every year from farthest northern Bengal. Saurav since childhood have pictured himself to be a fellow traveler in Karim kaka’s boat wandering and absorbing the various streams of genres, lifestyles and faith to an ultimate musical confluence. Later in his field study Saurav has traced back to the same river route collecting and enlightening in it’s every mystic bent.
REPERTOIRE: His baritone voice twists and turns through the folk notes of his mainstay, the Bhatiyali (boatmen songs, while floating downstream) infused with lived experience. Songs of legendary Bengali folk singers Abbasuddin, Hemanga Biswas get a new lease of life in Saurav's deep mellifluous voice. He is equally adept at Baul, Sufi-Marfati genres of Bengal, like the legendary sufi saint- Fakir Lalon Shah’s songs and several anonymous composers. Apart from Baul, Marfati, Murshidi, Shaari, Jaari, Bhawaiya genre of songs he excels in the Bangla Islami gaan or Bengali songs with Islamic content - especially the 'milad'.
Live- Performance Format:
A. Ethnic Folk in accompaniment with Bengal's traditional acoustic instrument.
B. Ethnic Folk in collaboration with different music genres.
C. Folk Ensemble with Operatic Presentation.
WORK: With an ethnomusicologist bent of mind, he conserves and performs those traditional songs which are on the verge of extinction, being unaccounted and undiscovered like the Palkir gaan (palanquin songs). His relentless research on the journey of the songs egged him to embark on an interesting journey forming, Majhi Mallah (a band of boatmen) with the musical associates from his village. He represents the culture of a community and his folk songs are more: soul songs.
Exposure: He takes his music to the cities of Calcutta, Mumbai, Delhi and beyond, his voice never wavers from a deeply melodious, soulful tonality. Recently Saurav has carved a niche in the hearts of national and international audience through his illustrious performance in the Coke Studio @ MTV, Guest performance @ 57th Idea Filmfare Awards, Jaipur Literature Fest, launching of Limca Book of records, and Shows under the project: Ethno-magic Go Global, Art for Livelihood funded by European Union & UNESCO.
Upcoming Project: June & July 2012, Les Orientales Festivals De Saint le Vieil in France, (On the bank of La Loire) & Evora Classica Music Festival in Portugal- presenting River Songs of Bengal.
In his words:" I am a storyteller; I narrate the bygone tales of the lost songs to give the world a glimpse of my beautiful land, the lives of its people and also pay tribute to my culture and heritage. I strive to sing those songs and genres which are on the verge of extinction."
Context:Bengal (Bangladesh and West Bengal of India) has a rich tradition of folk songs, with lyrics rooted into vibrant tradition and spirituality, mysticism and devotion. Such folk songs also revolve round several other themes, including love. Most prevalent of folk songs and music traditions include Bhatiali, Baul, Marfati, Murshidi and Bhawaiya. Lyricists like Lalon Shah, Hason Raja, Kangal Harinath, Romesh Shill and many unknown anonymous lyrists have enriched the tradition of folk songs of Bangladesh. Several musical instruments, some of them of indigenous origin, are used in Bangladesh. Major musical instruments used are bamboo flute (banshi), drums (dhol), a single stringed instrument named ektara, a four stringed instrument called dotara, a pair of metal bawls used for rhythm effect called mandira.
Bhatiali or Bhatiyali is a traditional form of folk music in Bengal. Bhatiyali is a traditional boat song, sung by boatmen while going down streams of the river, as the word Bhatiyali comes from Bhata meaning ebb or downstream.
The course of the river harmonizes with the tune of the songs, with the tempo of each song connoting the pace of flowing water. In this way a slow tempo Bhatiyali song of northern Bengal (where flow of the water is slow) transforms into a fast tempo Shaari song (fast boat rowing song) in the southern Bengal where the river current is high. It mostly is sung in the Bhati (lower region of a river) area. Bhaitaili lyrics are traditionally about boating, fishing, life and rivers. Among the 14 subject of folk music in Bengal, that includes Deha-tatva (about the body) and Murshid-tatva (about the guru), Bhatiali deals with Prakriti-tatva (about nature). Between 1930s and 1950 Bhaitali has seen it golden age, when most of these personalities were contributing to the genre. Singer Abbas Uddin, S.D.Burman, Hemanga Biswas made the genre popular.
"Saurav puts his heart & soul into his music. There is passion, intensity and yet an innocence in his voice. Reviving and popularizing folk styles that were at the verge of extinction is a service for which Saurav should be applauded."
Shaan (Bollywood Singer)
"It is rare, if not impossible, to find among the deracinated urban mix passed off as folk music someone as profoundly connected to the soil as Saurav."
Mainak Biswas ,
Son of Legendary Folk Singer Hemanga Biswas.
(Author, Director & Film Critic)