Flight of the Soul-bird
The soul of the soft-spoken Baul Rob Fakir departed yesterday (August 7) at 2:30 am, at a local hospital in Kushtia. He had a stroke, said his nephew Zahid. He was 49 and left behind his wife, a son, a daughter, and a number of disciples and fans to mourn his death. He was buried yesterday after asr prayers at his home in Baradi, Kushtia.
Rob Fakir's soulful voice gave him a definite edge over his peers. In conversation with The Daily Star, the artiste once said that while singing, he immerses himself wholly in Lalon's realm. “It's not 'singing' unless one sings straight from the heart. The core aspect of Lalon's philosophy is the search for divine within. Lalon's songs evoke gyan (knowledge) which ultimately generates bhaab (union of souls),” said Rob Fakir.
A disciple of Boro Rob Fakir, a revered Baul of Kushtia, Rob Fakir was also known as Gopal Shadhu.
Providing insight into Lalon's songs, he once said, “I think the most important aspect of Lalon's songs is the verses, which the Baul singers call kalam. Tune is secondary when it comes to renditions of Lalon's songs. To me, it is not important in which style or in which way people sing Lalon's songs as long as the lyrics or messages are intact.”
“If anyone wants to be a follower of Lalon, he or she has to go through a process which is known as khelafat. This process takes 12 years,” he added.
As a follower of Lalon, he would interpret various tatwa, which is an important aspect of Lalon songs. I was fortunate enough to meet him several times. We attended the “Bangla Gaan-er Utshab” – jointly organised by Bengal Foundation and ITC-Sangeet Research Academy – in Kolkata. Rob Fakir performed at many international folk festivals like Womad, UK (the biggest folk festival in the world), Songlines Encounter, UK with contemporary folk band Shikor, Dhaka International Folk Festival, and International Sufi Festival in Dhaka.
The band Bangla played a key role in popularising Rob Fakir among the urban youth. The band's second album Prottutpanyomotitwa featured songs – “Helaye Helaye Din Boye Jaye” and “Shobey Ki Hobey Bhobey” – rendered by Rob Fakir.
Music label Ektaar produced Rob Fakir's lone solo album Shobder Ghar. The album features 10 less-familiar songs including “Jagat Muktitey Bholalen Shai”, “Jey Pothey Shai Choley Pherey”, “Dekhlam E Shongshar” and “Shobder Gharey Nishobdo Kore”.
Lalon Fakir popularised a master-disciple oriented tradition, at the core of which is humanism. His songs attracted widespread attention for their mystical approach to humanism as well as their melodic appeal.