Tana Tani

State of Bengal Vs Paban Das Baul

Released 11 April 2004

  1. Moner Manush
  2. Kali
  3. Radha Krishna
  4. Tana Tani
  5. Ram Rahim
  6. Medina
  7. Padma Nodi
  8. Dohai Allah
  9. Bolo Kotai
  10. Kon Ek Pakhi
  11. Al Keuto Sap
  12. Tal Rosh

Liner notes

‘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!’


Further Listening

  • Star Rise

    Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan & Michael Brook

    Released 05 October 1997

    From the Asian Underground, the new stars emerge to interpret the greatest singer of Qawwali music. This album features a series of remixes of songs which originally appeared on Nusrat and Michael Brook’s albums Mustt Mustt and Night Song.
  • Real Sugar

    Paban Das Baul & Sam Mills

    Released 24 March 1997

    Gorgeous melodies, the coolest contemporary arrangements - from sensual Bengali ballads to London drum and bass. Real Sugar is the result of a collaboration which began in 1988 on the veranda of Paban’s house in Calcutta. Londoner Sam Mills applied modern pop sensibilities to the rich music of the Bauls of Bengal.

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