Tana Tani, State of Bengal vs Paban Das Baul

Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA – Tana Tani
(Real World Records) is a
collaboration that brings together Paban Das Baul – a leading figure among
Bengal’s Baul singers – with Sam Zaman, king of the British Asian breakbeat

Saifullah ‘Sam’ Zaman, the east London DJ and producer who records as State Of
Bengal, was first introduced to Paban Das Baul when he attended a tribute to the
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
at the Royal Festival Hall, shortly after the qawwali
legend’s death in 1997. Zaman had been attracted to the music of the Bauls ever
since coming across a vinyl LP by an elderly singer called Burna Das Baul, who
possesses a heavy, screaming, untamed punky voice. He’d also been impressed by
the first track on Paban’s Real World album with Sam Mills (the guitarist from
worldly punk-funk outfit 23 Skidoo), entitled Real Sugar, often spinning it when
out playing DJ sets. Tana Tani
plunges Paban into the dub-heavy melee of the British Asian
breakbeat scene, where his ecstatic, smoky vocals soar over juddering beats and
squelchy bass lines, and his urgent and hypnotic rhythms mutate into frenetic
drum ‘n’ bass breaks.

The collaboration began in Zaman’s home studio in Upton Park, east London in
December 2002 and continued to grow at Paban’s Paris home. During the sessions
Zaman began working around Paban’s strong, timeless melodies and haunting
lyrics, building up each song organically. Often Zaman’s syncopated beats were
unfamiliar to Paban, and essentially they had to learn each other’s music. Both
Zaman and Mimlu Sen (Paban’s partner and collaborator) made suggestions, and
Paban experimented by fitting more familiar rhythmic patterns like the dhrupada
of the jhaptal into Zaman’s syncopations.

You can take a Baul to a track,” explains Mimlu Sen, “but you can’t
make him synch unless the approach is organic and interior

Zaman, who has collaborated with many South Asian musicians, was keen to push
Paban. He didn’t want to fall into the trap of always compromising on Indian
terms like so many overly-deferential East-West fusions. “I want to feel that
I’m moving things on, not just regurgitating music that’s being played for
,” he says. “I’d occasionally ask Paban to experiment in areas
where he wouldn’t naturally work

Paban is used to working with old folk songs which have been handed down for
generations, so it was something of a liberation for him to write his own
lyrics. The title track ‘Tana Tani’ translates as ‘pushing and pulling’. “It’s
to do with the tension between the rhythm and the bass line
,” says Zaman, “but
it also serves as a metaphor for the whole project
.” Elsewhere, Paban sings
‘Dohai Allah’, which Zaman says loosely translates as ‘God eat my head’! “In
fact the more figurative meaning is God, feed me, feed me with your

The guest playing on Tana Tani
is also exemplary. The sessions feature
Asian Dub Foundation’s Aniruddha Das on bass guitar (Dr Das’ former ADF bandmate
Deedar is Zaman’s brother) and New York jazz drummer Marque Gilmore playing his
unique drum ‘n’ bass percussion – replicating the rippling junglist hi-hats and
stuttering kick drums on a more-or-less acoustic drum kit. Other players include
guitarists Matt Mars, Yann Pittard and Qwami Boaten.

Paban’s music is the soul of itinerant India,” says Mimlu, “that
which lives below the bottom line. Sam’s tracks lead us to the nocturnal soul of
London, its sacred dancing, its hip hopping streets. Sam has made a confluence –
the Thames flows into the Ganges

Buy Tana Tani.