Parvathy Baul, taken in at the age of 16, is one of the youngest practicing bauls as well as one of the few women who are taught the art. Her music combines recitation, dance, and a one-stringed intstrument called ‘ektara’ – that she plucks with one hand as she drums with the other and whirls around onstage, bells jangling around her ankles. She describes the song and dance of the baul as “meditation in motion.”
The Bauls are a group of wandering mystic musicians from Bengal who can trace their roots all the way back to early Sufism through contact with Afghan and Pakistani travelers. However, the Bauls are culturally more Indian and closer to the traditions of Buddhism than Islam. This being said, Baul is not a religion, but rather a philosophy in practice aimed at ‘union with the eternal beloved,’ ‘the man of heart.’
At this year’s 16th edition of the Festival de Fès des Musiques Sacrées du Monde, I had the opportunity, alongside the wonderful Indo-Parisienne Priyanka Singh, to interview Parvathy Baul after her enchanting performance in the garden of Musée Batha.