Sahana Bajpaie has made a name for herself in Rabindra sangeet, but her connection to folk music has been a long one. In her early days at Santiniketan, she came in close contact with many Bauls and was always eager to learn. When the first Bangladeshi folk-fusion band, Bangla, was formed, she was initially the vocal for it. And even today at her live performances she makes room for a folk song or two. So it was only a matter of time until the teacher-by-profession decided to make a folk record, and the time is now. Ahead of the release of her first album of folk songs, titled “Mon Bandhibi Kemone” in Kolkata on September 27, the artiste spoke to The Daily Star via Facebook, about the album and her deep-rooted love for Bangladesh. Excerpts:
Was there a specific reason why you chose to do the album now?
Sahana: It's not exactly that I chose a particular time for this particular album. I get a two-month vacation at my university at this time, so it's the only time I get to work on a big musical project. There's no specific reason. I just recorded songs that I love to sing. Making music is always great fun for me, so what more do you need!
Tell us about the songs and the musical arrangement.
Sahana: So there are eight songs. Of them, Satyaki (Banerjee) has arranged four of them in very traditional folk arrangement. The other four were done by Samantak, where British folk guitarist Mal Darwen and jazz clarinet player Idris Rahman has played. Idris' father was from Bangladesh, and he is very familiar with Bangla music. There was no forced attempt to combine jazz and folk, so there was a comfortable atmosphere. Idris played clarinet in one song, and duduk (Armenian double-reed woodwind flute).
We recorded the traditionally-arranged songs live, all at once, to keep the spirit of a live performance. Like old times – no cutting and pasting. If someone made a mistake, we had to start over. It was a great experience.
Do you miss Bangladesh? And if so, what do you miss the most?
Sahana: I miss Bangladesh terribly. I left an entire life of mine there; so many loved ones, students, friends. I miss Fakhruddin's biryani, Kasturi's morog polau (chicken pilaf), kabab from Star, and the unending love from the people.
Back to the album. What are your expectations?
Sahana: I don't really have a specific expectation. I just want people to listen to the songs. It has always been like that for me. Singing is not my profession, I sing for the love of it. I didn't try to force anything new; whatever resonated in our hearts created the soundscape. It would be very rewarding if my listeners like them. Constructive criticism is also most welcome, because I am still learning.
How can your Bangladeshi fans get your album? Digital format is the present and future of music, but that is not a common practice here yet.
Sahana: It is saddening and frustrating. I want to reach my music to Bangladesh through the available digital medium. No one buys CDs any more. If music becomes free, how will musicians survive just on appreciation and applause?
Finally, when will you come to Bangladesh and sing for us live?
Sahana: Very soon. It has been too many years since I had to leave this dear country of mine. I can never pay back the love people of Bangladesh have given me. I will definitely come, to sing, and to taste all the amazing food that I miss.