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Barrackpore gridlock, Kolkata culture & folkpop music uploads

14 October 2010

Yesterday we went to Barrackpore on the northern side of Kolkata to have lunch with Inderbir Singh and his family. The bus ride up to Barrackpore took 2 hours to drive the 20 km’s because of the heavy Durga Puja traffic. Next to us drove a car pulling a transparent glass box cart in which a wrapped and garlanded body lay. The dead do also travel fast here and you really get used to seeing this in India, you just have to.

2,5 years ago during our Rajasthan project me and Maarten had been hosted by Inder in Delhi through the wonders of couchsurfing. Sometimes things do go further than hosting alone and turns into a friendship as I stayed in contact with Inder who had gotten married and recently moved to Kolkata. We met his wife Sandeep and his 7 month old son Sabby (Sandbir) for the first time. Sandeep had made such a tasty Punjabi lunch for us (thanks!) and we enjoyed it fully while catching up on our lives and seeing India beating the Aussies at cricket live on tv.  Afterwards we drove in their car through the army area of Barrackpore (as his wife Sandeep is in fact an army major,  working in the army hospital) and we even got saluted!!) by a soldier in a serious manner with clacking boots and such.  Barrackpore was established in 1772 by the British who drove away the Portuguese on the other side (such a  typical aspect of British worldwide colonialism). We stopped at the first British entry point to watch the serene Hooghly river (last part of the Ganges flowing towards sea) where a little temple stood and people doing puja or prayers  in the river. Next to it was a green scenic park named after Mangal Pandey, an Indian sepoy soldier who ignated the Indian Mutiny rebellion in 1857 (and rightly so).  Time for another long ride back to Kolkata. We are happy that we visited Inder and his family, thanks for inviting us!

Cultural life here in Kolkata is very vibrant and no one visiting the city should miss out on this. It’s a pity that most backpackers here seem to miss this. Perhaps they’re too busy staying in the hotel, smoking hash, drinking beer and swapping travel stories? Who knows. All the art academy students, Bengali culture lovers and the city intellectuals hang around at the Nandan complex, where various music and theater venues and expo rooms are situated within the same block. We saw an old 50’s Bengali comedy movie about a man in hindu hell, funny as hell -at least the scenes we could understand-.  Afterwards we met a threesome of arty folks; a locally famous journalist, painter and theater director who invited us as guests to his Durga mime play premiere.  It’s a real pity we didn’t make it because of the heavy traffic yesterday.  At least we got to see a some Durga Puja live music around our corner in front of a Pandal of the poor Hogg market township. Distorted holy songs with mics on echo, bleeping keyboard, digital drumming pad and dholak drums. Heavy stuff. It very much was like an Indian version of Omar Souleyman , instead of *yalla* there were shouts of *ek-do-tin-chaar* (and a 1-2-3-4!). Ofcourse the locals went mad for it, fun indeed and I hope to go back tonight and record some of it.

Tuesday evening we got to see a classical raga performance in Sisir Mancha within  Nandan complex of female vocalist Piu Sarkhel. She did some experimental singing raga’s and the soothing drones mellowed us just fine. I recorded most of it, but it’s too big to upload (wav size), so here’s an older video of her;

I like listening to classical raga’s for some peaceful moments, but I just love local folkpop sounds for the heavier party spheres in Rebel Up! style (as my Folkpop Dhamaka Mashup mix is a fine example, click to listen).  I’ve already been collecting a lot of new folkpop stuff on this trip in Nepal and I’ve bought many cheap mp3 cd’s in the Kolkata bazar shops with a selection of special Bengali, Santhali and Oriya music. The music that the common man listens to, as Bollywood music doesn’t rule every party. This is the real and rougher sound of India that you otherwise don’t get to hear.

Time for some local music to download, Here we go. First some Bengali Modern Pop (as they call it).

Pakka Pakka Aam (*the mango has ripened*, a mango season song!, as translated by my the Bengali girl next to me)

now a tribal Santhali *Super Hit* song. The Santals are a tribe who live in West-Bengal and the neighboring states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa and Assam.
Tetaram – Dining Lekhai (no clue what this song means)

The digital tribal *Sambalpuri* music of Orissa is one of my favorite folkpop styles of the Indian subcontinent, always a bizarre tempting and thumping sound! In Orissa we will try to visit some Sambalpuri studio’s and start our project of recording some local music.

Suna Nahin Chandi Nahin (my Oriya is less than basic, but I think it’s something like; *hear nothing, see nothing* and the fella is going on about his *premika* wife/fiancee)

Mui Phulwali (no clue what it means), but this typical Sambalpuri vocoder sound is good fun.

and some special culinary experience. Below the Raj Kachori snack, which seemed a good idea to order but didn’t go down so well. It was a real spice bomb of chillies, massala and many undefined flavours. I like a lot of Indian tastes, but not this one (except some of the lentils and potato’s inside). The kesari milkshake (saffron!) was a much better choice, anything with saffron in it works for me. Same for the coconut kulfi icecream with some kesari (yes, again saffron) in it.

Enjoy the sounds y’all!

3 Comments leave one →
  1. 15 October 2010 14:38

    Heb je mishti doi gegeten in Kolkata? Toen ik dat geproefd had, wou ik niets anders meer!!

    Ben in Kumar Tuli gaan zien naar waar ze al die standbeelden maken voor Durga Puja, was wel indrukwekkend …

    • Seb Bassleer permalink*
      15 October 2010 14:52

      mishti doi nog niet, maar we hebben nog een laatste kans deze avond!

      we hebben geen plekken bezocht waar de Durga beelden worden gemaakt, wel al veel gezien in onze buurt van sudder street en pandals bezocht; zoals gisteren hierachter om de hoek, de pandal van een jonge rijke straatbaas/politieker (zoals mafiabazen hier zijn) waar we bij mochten zitten en gratis limonade en pateekes kregen. iedereen kwam de man op godfather wijze eer betonen. vrij bizar. dus dat er dan 2 witte gora’s bijzaten vond men vast nog vreemder.

      gisteren ook nog een Indiase breakdance performance gezien van de lokale arme township, met tieners van 16 tot peuters van 4 jaar. kei grappig. wel jammer dat we de rest van de Durga puja gaan missen morgen en de finale zondag met het werpen van alle beelden in de rivier. ach, we zitten dan in de jungle bij tribals. ook niet slecht 😉

  2. 11 December 2011 23:51

    This is a great track. All time favorite.

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