o cassettes
From the heart of Bengal
(The Statesman Friday 20 September 2002)

Two albums by Swapan Basu confirm the singer's credentials as a serious explorer of the folk from in all its variety. It is not just virtuosity and painstaking selection of folk songs from the heart of Bengal but the blend of philosophical harmony with earthly passions that make Matir Bichchana (HMV) rare treat. As in his earlieralbums, the language of music is common - simple melody, clear rhythms translated into human appeal.

The songs are all traditional in lyrics and tunes including "Aaami ekdine na dekhilam" and "Chirodinkancha baansher khaancha thaakbe na" by Lanlan Fakir, "Poran tarey jodi bandhitey paritam" by Manoj Thakur and the soulful "Manush nairay deshey" by Charankabi Mukundadas. As in "Sona bandhu" sung in his earlier album Baashbhumi, Swapan Basu possibly prizes friendship. His opening number - "Hawar gaadi choila gelo re, samara bandhu aile na" - starts with a pleasing interlude of dhol and earionet and is all about welcoming a friend. A touch of Jhumur follows in "Jakhan phool koli chhilo", but all the singer's passions are on display in the very meaningful title song, 'Khat palankey shuiya remon". Not withstanding the impassioned execution of the singer, the efforts of the flute, rabab, banjo, serinda, violin and dotara adda weight to this intellectual effort.

Bashjumi (HMV), the earlier album, selected folk songs from the Santhal Paraganas (Purlixa) erstwhile East Bengal and Kamrup regions. As always, the singer's renditions are not only pleasant but give athe listener a taste of the soil with lyrical completeness. The tunes are obviously all traditional except for "Dyesher badi" (lyrics and tune by Manoj Thakur) where the singer emphasizes his emotions and longing for his village home. "Sona bondhu" is in athe form of a letter.

Side 2 has the best songs complete with a Hasanraja number "Lokey bolely". There are taouches of Jhumur in "Aamar e nabo jouban" and "Basanta asilo sakhi" but the number tahat one likes to hear most is "Parnkrishna". It a Kamrupi folk, uncommon one, where Satyaabhama's anguish afterbeing hurt by Krishna (who presents Rukmani with a Parijat from heaven) finds exquisite expression.


Kathlo Kuthar Dotara (The telegraph Friday 16 June 2000)

Swapan Bose preserves his reputation as a leading folk singer here. The rhythm and simplicity of Bengali folk music has always made it tenjoyable and he is well supported by music arranger Durbadal Chattopadhyay.

Swapan offers quite a bit of variety from the different streams of Baul. There is hearty effort in the title song and Kothay pabitaare. But though the songs are lucid, they sound a trifle too 'sophisticated' some times.


Hari Hey (The Statesman Friday 20 November 1998)

Folk sings are in and have been "urbanized" with contemporary lyrics and electronic orchestration, but Swapan Basu's latest album, Hari Hey (HMV) retains the musical phrases and melodies of the folk and classical folk forms of undivided Bengal while offering a diversity in lyrics and tunes. He uses to advantage traditional instruments like the flute, sarinda and dotara, as well as the banjo and tabla in well conceptualized musical arrangements.

Except for the title number (written and composed by Salil Chaudhuri) which is the odd one out, the album is made up of traditional tunes and lyrics. "Aamar antaray" is a beautiful "pala gaan"with a strong "panchali" flavour while "Jhin jhin jhan jhan" is a wonderfully rendered "bhadu" song. Swapan Basu's articulation and rendition capture the nuances of the earthy flavour in this album and he is all excellence in "Bardaey bhabhire dichhe". His individualistic style makes a winning combination with the selectionof songs. Definitely a treat for folk song lovers.

Rooted in old Bengal (The Statesman Wednesday October 16 1991)

That the traditional can also be excitingly modern both in musical ideas and presentation is to be aptly found in the folk explorations of Swapan Basu. This young singer has been captivating connoisseurs and lay audiences alike with his lively and altogether original approach to the musical heritage rooted in old Bengal. His latest album, Pranbandhu Koi Go (Concord), is like a journey into the lives and experiences of the peasants, their jous and sorrows, their agonies and aspirations. The result is far from maudlin as it often becomes in the case of both Bengali folk and adhunik: the pain and poignancy are conveyed with a delicate craftsmanship.

The album of eight songs is enriched by a commentary by the singer himself and this gives the effort not only a sense of intensity and involvement but also helps communicate better with urban listeners. Swapan Basu puts athe lyrics in the local dialects. As in the opening number "Shonen re bhai samachar" which makes use of the typical rural fashion of making announcements to the local villagers. The song comes alive with his subtle tone and effective use of the dotara to underline the hardship caused by rising prices.

Issues concerning the lives of the villagers crop up in other songs as well. Such as the one rendered by the garden workers who lament that they have no means of finding a better livelihood. But perhaps the most significant number is "Taka khowa mukta", a take-off on the Ameena case in which the singer voices voice to the painful outbursts of the child bride sold to an elderly husband - a ritual in one of the North Bengal districts coming down the years.

The does not mean that the album is heavy with social comment. Some of the songs express simple love - such as the title song. The music and melody suit the longings of the female protagonists. Commonplace though some of the ideas are, the songs acquire a urbane freshness which makes Swapan Basu certainly something different and delightful on the folk scene.