Moushumi Bhowmik

Arts Research and Documentation

Grant Period: Over two years

Moushumi Bhowmik is a singer and songwriter. Her songs are usually considered to belong to the "adhunik" ("modern" song) type. Her albums, including "Ekhono golpo lekho" and "Ami ghor bahir kori" enjoy great popularity in Bengali-speaking areas of India and in Bangladesh.

Moushumi Bhowmik, a writer and performer of contemporary Bengali songs, has been consistently collecting, listening to and teaching herself biraha songs, reading about various forms of biraha in music, speaking to singers, scholars and collectors and also travelling to areas where biraha songs are still a part of the musical fabric.

Despite her subjective approach to songs of biraha and the personal journey she wished to undertake, Moushumi referred to a range of texts and disciplines in order to locate her work within the larger context of history, folklore, anthropology and ethnomusicology.

Moushumi’s research addresses questions of origins of musical forms. Her work also throws light on questions of the sacred and the mundane, the configuration of ‘high’ and ‘low’ cultural forms, gender and sexuality and the woman’s voice with regard to the biraha repertoire.

In her extensive travel within West Bengal, Bangladesh, parts of Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura, Moushumi recorded songs, and interviewed artists, collectors and researchers. The project also involved research in libraries and archives. The outcome was a travelogue in Bengali and English, and a corpus of songs and stories that, she believes, will inspire other researchers to explore biraha. The field recordings of songs and interviews have been housed in music archives and selections from the field recordings will be made available to a wider audience, through some dependable and ethical publisher and distributor of music. Moushumi hopes that this personal journey will also lead to new songs in her own repertoire and collaborations with folk musicians in the future.