Baul music set to reach new audiences in Bradford and Keighley

Manningham Housing Association (MHA) has secured funds for a project to revive, preserve and promote the writing of Baul music in Bradford and Keighley.

Originating in Bangladesh and the neighbouring Indian state of West Bengal, Baul music was especially popular in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

As well as a form of folk music, it is a distinct philosophy of life embedded in music.

The term Baul is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Batul’ or ‘Baur,’ meaning a devotee who could merge with divinity through music.

Bradford district is home to numerous writers of Baul music, but most of their work has never been published.

The grant support from the Leap Pioneer Programme, Bradford Council Arts, Culture and Heritage Fund and National Lottery Heritage Fund will now enable this to happen.

More than 100 original songs will be promoted in local communities by translating the lyrics into English and incorporating them and the accompanying sheet music into a book due to be launched in Bradford later this year.

Professional musicians will also perform some of the songs at a large community event.

Sadar Uddin, MHA Community Partnership and Investment Manager, said:

“Baul music writers who live and work in Bradford district class themselves as ordinary people.  At Manningham Housing Association, we see them as talented people who deserve recognition.

“This project will increase greater awareness of Baul music and motivate individuals to learn, write and perform at public events in venues easily accessible by local communities.

“I have met with several highly qualified Baul songwriters who have published some of their works, but there are many others in the communities of Bradford and Keighley who have spent most of their lives writing Baul folk songs which have never been shared publicly.  We want to put that right.”

Ulfat Hussain, MHA Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Operations said:

“This is a non-housing added value project with major cultural value.

“The project will target beneficiaries living in hard-to-reach neighbourhoods which face multiple deprivations and disadvantages.  Almost 99 per cent of the targeted participants are from poor economic or unemployed backgrounds or low-income families.

“Long term, we would like this project developed into a learning hub for Baul music, creating a vibrant forum for writers and enthusiasts.”

Barrington Billings, MHA Chair, said:

“I congratulate Sadar for his hard work in securing the funds which will allow this exciting new project to fly.

“It will promote Baul music to a wider audience, enabling different communities in Bradford and Keighley to come together.

“MHA likes to do things differently.  We warmly welcome the faith the Leap Pioneer Programme, Bradford Council and National Lottery Heritage Fund have shown in our ability to deliver by providing this support.”