Brief

Saurav Moni is an Indian folk singer and music researcher who specialises in the traditional folk music of Bengal. Best known for his vocal archiving of the rare folk genres and in narrating bygone tales of Bengal’s riverain culture; his work has been appreciated globally. He hails from Hingalgunj; a sleepy river village in the southernmost West Bengal, Indo-Bangladesh border. He came to Kolkata for pursuing higher education- when he felt the tug of his roots and pulsed the need of disseminating, researching and vocal archiving the rare folk genres of his countryside like Bhatiali, Baul, Murshidi, Marfati, Sari, Jari, Islami, Dhuaa, Bhawaiya; moribund village hymns (Pallygiti) and transcendental verses. The work is bridging the gap between the age old tradition and new interpretations - opening a threshold to a global audience, to whom this traditional music was largely obscured. Saurav has carved a niche in the hearts of national and international audiences through his illustrious performances in the Coke Studio @ MTV, Jaipur Literature Festival, Celtic Connections festival, Scotland; Sound Trek @ Fox Traveller, Guest performance @ 57th Idea Filmfare Awards, Alchemy festival, London; Les Orientales festival, France... .
He came to Calcutta in the late 90s for studies but a desire to go back to his roots made him embark on a journey from which his music took off. Since then he has remained connected to the soil in every possible way - traveling among the boatmen, peasants and wandering minstrels of the two Bengals, often collecting lost songs and forgotten melodies while constantly striving to retain the purity of timbre, tune and diction. Saurav’s straddles the genres of Sari, Jari, Murshidi, Marafti, Bhawaiya and Baul among others although Bhatiali is his primary genre of work. Bhatiali comes from the word Bhata that means ebb or downstream in Bangla. Boatmen sing these traditional boatsongs while going down the streams of the river. Saurav’s expertise lies in telling the tales of the meandering river as it goes from upstream to downstream and along with it the tales involving the endless journey of a man on a boat that serves as a typical metaphor of life. This project in itself is not entirely new but there are two major things that contribute to Saurav’s singularity as a singer-narrator-storyteller. Firstly, his voice internalises the innate vibrations of the river giving his renditions a particularly haunting quality that is only found - and that too rarely - in a people who are often forced to travel on the river for earning their livelihoods. More importantly, he is endowed with an ability to map the ever-changing rhythm, form and visuality of the river and its environment on to his musical journey with a skill that leaves indelible impressions even on uninformed listeners. His narrative, thus connected by rivers, takes a shape and intensity that never seem repetitive because of his capacity to constantly innovate and change. He is extremely young and is fully dedicated to the cause of exploring the endless possibilities of building upon this narrative. Even as he takes his music to the cities of Calcutta, Mumbai, Delhi and beyond, performs in front of large, uninitiated audiences of Europe, tries to bridge the gap with a generation in the sub-continent that is only communicable through the urban niches and networks like MTV, his voice never wavers from a deeply melodious, soulful tonality. Thus, by now, he has mustered the very hard technique of communicating his intricate, deeply local art to a metropolitan, or more accurately, a cosmopolitan audience. His formal education (an M.A. in history from Jadavpur University, Kolkata) has facilitated him greatly in his pursuit. Other than being a singer-interpreter-researcher he is also a well-known vocal archivist that has added significant value to his mode of region-specific genre singing. The sharp ability to compare older and newer methods of performing the same songs, the metamorphoses in rhythm, forms and rendition of those, the specific ways of discovering their roots have been acquired by Saurav through his involvement in vocal archiving. It is only rarely that one comes across a singer-archiver-interpreter of Saurav’s talent and mooring. By Rongili Biswas Folk Singer Researcher & Daughter of Hemango Biswas