Steeped in the ancient tradition of the Bauls, the wandering spiritual musicians of Bengal, Music Of The Honey Gatherers (Riverboat Records) is a collection of stripped back and powerful trance-inducing Baul songs, imbued with the itinerant flavor of life on the road. As a Baul – the ganja-smoking tantric mystic-minstrels who travel around the eastern end of the Indo-Gangetic plains – the charismatic Paban Das Baul has become a prolific recording artist. Paban was initiated as a Baul at the age of 14 and since then he has collaborated with a wide range of international artists and gained a worldwide stage for the inspired lyrical beauty of his songs and dubki (a small tambourine) playing.
Translated from Bengali, ‘Baul’ means ‘mad’ or ‘possessed’ and their philosophy combines elements of Sufism, Hinduism and Tantric Buddhism. They believe that God resides within the body and they are dedicated to enlightening the body through song. Madhukuri (honey gathering) is the Baul tradition of collecting alms as they travel from shanty town to village and from fair to festival raising their voices in ecstasy and raising ‘honey’ in the spiritual inner trees of their listeners.
A treasury of beautifully melancholic and often enigmatic songs, Music Of The Honey Gatherers conjures up a secret world of song, sensuality and adventure, as wild and unpredictable as the landscape. A collection of spiritual teachings whose topics range as far and wide as breath, philosophy, asceticism and mystical devotion, Paban’s compositions are as subversive as they are seductive.
The opening track ‘Kaliya’ unfurls the traditional story of a split between two lovers whilst ‘Pagla Ghora’ gives praise to the ‘crazy horse’, the wandering spirit which carries you ‘from here to there’. Written by Paban’s late brother, on ‘Kala Re’ he mimes an overdub of his brother’s vocal line as the lyrics exhort Krishna to go to the new city.