The Folk Music of Bangladesh

Bangladesh is country that has very deep traditional music roots. Music was not only used as a form of documenting the lives of people by writing songs about them, but it was a vital part of their prayers. With Hindu mythology playing such an influential role in folk music, many of the songs that were written include praise to their gods. Also, the songs were composed for different groups in the community, such as hermits, fishermen and cart drivers, each having specific songs relating to them.

As the world became more modernized, the music industry in Bangladesh also adapted and various genres began to emerge, such as the folk music genre called Sufi. There were a number of people who contributed to the popularization of Bangla folk music, such as Addas Uddin, Lalon Forkir and Ramesh Shill, and there are a number of different categories within the folk music genre of Bangladesh.

The Bhandari genre is mainly performed in the south of the country and is a form of devotional music; while in the north, in the Rangpur region, Gombhira, Bhawaiya and Gajir geet are more popular. Bhawaiya is the genre of cart drivers. Gombhira on the other hand is always performed by two artists, representing a man and his grandfather. This genre is a vehicle to discuss social issues with the audience.

Also from the north is Letto’s songs, a genre that is believed to have been greatly influenced by Nazrul geeti. The songs of the boatmen are known as Shaari; while the most popular folk songs fall under the Lalon genre. The greater parts of the songs within this genre were written by Lalon Fokir, a spiritual composer and writer. The sub-genre to Lalon is Baul. Baul was also influenced by Lalon Fokir, but more specifically by his way of life, known as Sufi, and this genre is mostly performed by hermits.

A number of artists, including Kangalini Sufiya, Fakir Alamgir, Kuddus Boyati, Momtaz and Firoz Shai, have taken it upon themselves to bring new life to folk music in Bangladesh. Westernization of music has crept into the Bangla music industry, but folk music is still widely popular, and now younger musicians are beginning to follow by the example set by these musicians to bring folk music back as a popular music genre.