State of Bengal Vs Paban Das Paul, 2004
'Tana Tani' plunges Paban into the dub-heavy melee of the British Asian breakbeat scene, where his ecstatic, smoky vocals soar over juddering beats and squelchy basslines, and his urgent and hypnotic rhythms mutate into frenetic drum 'n' bass breaks.
The collaboration began in Zaman's home studio in Upton Park, east London in December 2002 and continued to grow at Paban's Paris home. During the sessions Zaman began working around Paban's strong, timeless melodies and haunting lyrics, building up each song organically. Often Zaman's syncopated beats were unfamiliar to Paban, and essentially they had to learn each other's music. Both Zaman and Mimlu Sen (Paban's partner and collaborator) made suggestions, and Paban experimented by fitting more familiar rhythmic patterns like the dhrupada of the jhaptal into Zaman's syncopations.
'You can take a Baul to a track,' explains Mimlu Sen, 'but you can't make him synch unless the approach is organic and interior.'
As well as singing, Paban is a virtuoso of the dubki, a small but loud tambourine around six inches in diameter set in a deep wooden shell. He also plays the dotara - a small, fretless banjo-like four-string instrument made from a hollowed out gourd, which Paban tunes to resonate with the frequencies of his voice; the ektara, a one-string instrument set into a gourd; a high-frequency bell called the kortal which is used to maintain the music's pulse; and a pitch-shifting drum called the khomuk, often called the 'dog drum' because the plucked animal skin strings can sound like a barking dog.
Zaman - who has collaborated with many South Asian musicians, most memorably the celebrated psych-rock sitar maverick Ananda Shankar - was keen to push Paban. He didn't want to fall into the trap of always compromising on Indian terms like so many overly-deferential East-West fusions. 'I want to feel that I'm moving things on, not just regurgitating music that's being played for centuries,' he says. 'I'd occasionally ask Paban to experiment in areas where he wouldn't naturally work.'
Paban is used to working with old folk songs which have been handed down for generations, so it was something of a liberation for him to write his own lyrics. The title track 'Tana Tani' translates as 'pushing and pulling'. 'It's to do with the tension between the rhythm and the bass line,' says Zaman, 'but it also serves as a metaphor for the whole project.' Elsewhere, Paban sings 'Dohai Allah', which Zaman says loosely translates as 'God eat my head'! 'In fact the more figurative meaning is God, feed me, feed me with your spiritualism.'
The guest playing on 'Tana Tani' is also exemplary. The sessions feature Asian Dub Foundation's Aniruddha Das on bass guitar (Dr Das' former ADF bandmate Deedar is Zaman's brother) and New York jazz drummer Marque Gilmore playing his unique drum 'n' bass percussion - replicating the rippling junglist hi-hats and stuttering kick drums on a more-or-less acoustic drum kit. Other players include guitarists Matt Mars, Yann Pittard and Qwami Boaten.
'Paban's music is the soul of itinerant India,' says Mimlu, 'that which lives below the bottom line. Sam's tracks lead us to the nocturnal soul of London, its sacred dancing, its hip hopping streets. Sam has made a confluence - the Thames flows into the Ganges!'
- World music's painfully broad parameters still manage to open minds and hungry ears at every turn. One of the recent best is State of Bengal vs. Paban Das Baul Tani Tani (Real World). State of Bengal has worked with Massive Attack and Björk but here lends programming skills to the lustrous voice of Paban Das Baul, a Bangladeshi mystic. The beats and loops are fresh, but SOB wisely lets PDB's buttery vox take centerstage. Austin Chronicle (USA)
- State of Bengal is the alias of Sam Zaman, unsung hero amongst the wave of Anglo-Asian DJ/producers who emerged in the mid-1990s. Here he's working with Paban Das Baul, younger Paris-based member of the centuries old Baul sect of Bengal mystic minstrels. This is not the first time that Paban Das has combined his extraordinary powerhouse voice with electronica. Almost a decade ago he collaborated with Sam Mills on Real Sugar, but Tana Tani has a sparser, more 'live' sound than that album. There are programmed beats but also real instruments: bass, drums, guitar and a variety of Asian strings and percussion. Amongst the highlights are the opening pair of Moner Manush and Kali and the brooding closer Tal Rosh, on which Baul's vocal gymnastics bring to mind the great Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. But everything in between is good too and the album will, I suspect, make it's way on to a few 'best of' lists at the end of the year. fRoots (UK)
- This is described as a folk culture over 500 years old meeting this digital soundscapes of the 21st century. The versus of the title suggests some sort of contest, but if the British Asian music scene has proved anything, it is that the subcontinent's rich and ancient cultures are ripe and durable enought for fusing. State of Bengal (aka Sam Zaman) is a leading DJ and producer in the Asian club scene, and Paban Das Baul is a singer from Bengal's mystical sect of wandering minstrels, the Bauls. While the album's shape and character comes from Zaman, it's felicitous details come from Paban's incantatory vocals and the traditional Baul instruments used on many of the tracks. The title track translates as "pushing and pulling", which could be a metaphor for the whole project. A fine release from the label that pioneered the historic Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan fusions a decade ago. Evening Standard (UK)
- Asian Fusion Disc of the Year So Far The result of this cultural meshing of streetwise dance production and ancient folk culture is remarkably cohesive, which bears testimony to Zaman's sympathetic production and Paban Das Baul's willingness to embrace Westernised dance sounds.....The album features Asian Dub Foundation's Aniruddha Das on bass, and renowned jazz drummer Marque Gilmour, who replicates drum'n'bass skittering hi-hats and kick-drum patterns to startling effect. The result is extremely funky... and deeply soulful, with Paban's soul-searching voice sounding marvellous throughout. The Asian-fusion disc of the year so far. Songlines Magazine 'Top Of The World' (UK)
- State of Bengal Vs Paban Das Baul - Tana Tani Tana Tani - meaning "push and pull", a metaphor for many things, as we shall see - is a brilliant serenade to what's quickly becoming known as Asian Chill... The very opener is destined for fame, certain to be picked up by more chill-out comps than Thievery Corporation and Groove Armada combined: "Moner Manush," the very definition of lie-back-relax-and-immerse-submerge-yourself-into-your-self-and-the-Self-we'll-take-care-of-everything. From there, it only gets better. "Kali," the black goddess, sees beautiful light as Zaman and Baul once again push/pull meaning into metaphor. The following tribute, "Radha Krishna," is a midtempo mindswirl, and by the time they reach the title track, you've been fully stretched, sedated and surrendering. Even when Zaman programs d-'n-b, as in "Tana Tani," "Ram Rahim" and "Al Keuto Sap," he allows spaciousness to exist. Much like the Baul practice of Aarope Sadhana - the yoga of breathing - Zaman lets his beats out for fresh air. He even steps aside, on occasion, and lets tradition be kept: the heartwrenching "Padma Nodi" and "Kon Ek Pakhi," a minimalist dream. The album's opus, in this journalist's ear, may very well be "Medina," with sounds mimicking the Australian digeridoo and Brazilian berimbau, laid atop an absolutely unbeatable (slightly) broken beat. Paban's voice continues its sensual voyage from headspace to heartspace, and you give in. There is no choice, really. Tana Tani is seductive, reels you in with delicate claws and rips away fragments of your being. When you recover, you realize it was excess dissolved, and you emerge with clarity, focused, inspired and content. ethnotechno.com (internet)
- State of Bengal Vs Paban Das Baul Sometimes getting spiritual while melting your brain appeals. When London's State of Bengal last passed this way, there was a short but memorable collaboration with Ananda Shankar, the psychedelia-minded sitarist. This time, they've teamed up with a leading light of Bengal's Bauls, a musical gypsy caste of minstrels, ascetics and devotees of tantric sex, to go to places others have ventured (Temple of Sound and Rizwan-Muazzam, Massive Attack's remix of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan) and update them for 2004. Mojo (UK)
- State of Bengal Vs Paban Das Baul Here Bengal mystic Paban meets up with Sam Zaman, a British Asian underground producer with a long-standing interest in the devotional music of Paban's outcaste group, the Bauls. The effortless grace and fervour of Paban's voice provide the heart of the album. While he has apparently adapted his singing, percussion and lute playing to Zaman's heavily syncopated grooves, the impression is that these elements more or less take care of themselves. Zaman, meanwhile, careers in and out of the back and foreground...the deeper Zaman pushes into the dark, rhythmically intense urban territory, the more interesting the album becomes. ... this is a lot more interesting and satisfying than most. The Telegraph (UK)