Purna Das Baul, whose real name is Baul Samrat Shri Purna Ch. Das, was born March 18, 1933, in the village Ekchakka in the Birbhum District. He comes from a long lineage of Bauls, a sect of wandering minstrels from Bengal who sing traditional and spiritual folk music. His father is the late Shri Nabani Das Khepa Baul, a celebrated baul singer and a friend and inspiration for philosopher Rabindranath Tagore. His mother is the late Smt. Brajobala Das.
The Bauls are a nomadic sect whose religious philosophy goes back over 1000 years. One of the main tenets of Baul cult is love for humanity irrespective of their caste and creed, faith and religion, color and custom. The Bauls speak about the universal mysteries of life in simple words to touch the heart of common man.
Bauls seek their own person throughout their song. Their sadhana is singing spiritual songs. According to Baul philosophy, the soul or the Maner Manush is nothing but the god within oneself who has to be perceived and realized through inner enlightenment. A Baul is he who searches for god in man.
The Bauls sing in a style both dynamic and sensual, and use very simple instruments (including the ektara , whose single string symbolizes the unity with God), which manage to create peculiar textures and remarkably varied rhythms.
Purna Das Baul is a real folk hero in his country, where he is referred to as “the King of Bauls”. He represents the seventh generation in a dynasty of prestigious musicians. He used to spend most of his time with his father Nabani Das, who used to teach Purna Das the most fabulous Baul songs.
Purna Das, at the age of four, got a job as a singer in an opera part, earning only five rupees per night. There, he contacted laureate Tarashankar Bandhopadhyay. Their association inspired Tarashankar to write novels like Raikamal.
At the age of nine Purna Das went with his father to Rajasthan to a convention, where he earned a thunderous applause and a gold medal from Acharya Binoba Bhave. In 1942 he joined Akashbani (All India Radio) Calcutta as a Class A guest artist on invitation from the Station Director, without any audition.
Since 1960 he has attended nearly 200 national radio conferences covering most of the radio stations through out India.
From 1964 to 1980 he was sponsored by the field publicity department of the Ministry of Broadcasting. Purna Das was invited to perform as a guest artist of the government of India in various locations throughout India.
In 1967 he was awarded the title Baul Samrat (The King of Baul) by the President of India, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, in the year 1967.
Purna Das has also been involved with movie and theater productions, since 1958, as an important playback singer and actor in a number of Bengali films and theater plays.
In the 1960s, Purna Das Baul’s free-spirited nature and amazing vocal abilities found him in the company of prominent Westerners such as Bob Dylan, poet Allen Ginsburg and Mick Jagger. Today he is known as the most popular of all Baul performers, and has many international recordings to his credit. He is passing on his original songs and traditional Baul melodies to his three sons, with whom he actively performs on a regular basis.
Spiritual Songs of India (Chhanda Dhara)
The Bauls of Bengal (CramWorld, 1994)
Bengali Folk Songs (Saregama, 1995)
Songs of Love & Ecstasy (Womad Select, 1996)
Songs of the Madmen (Kali Mandir)
Ancient Mother: Kali Puja (White Swan, 2004)
Author: Angel Romero
Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music and progressive music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music and electronic music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World, Lektronic Soundscapes, and Mindchild Records. Angel is currently based in Durham, North Carolina.