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Soul of Bengal

by Shikor Bangladesh All Stars

supported by
Jonathan Clarke
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Jonathan Clarke Great collection, lovely musicianship throughout with some exquisite flute playing. Favorite track: Guru Choron.
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WIPP I lived in Dhaka for about two years when I was a child which left a positive impact on me. It made me fall in love with South Asian/Middle Eastern music and this one of the best modern Bangladeshi folk albums. This band's name lives up the 'All Stars' title. Favorite track: Jikir Koro.
  • Compact Disc (CD) + Digital Album

    Roots revisited album exploring the rich history of Bangladeshi music - Bangladesh is not only a land of Rivers, it’s a land of song. Ancient songs, full of poetry and spiritual meaning, can be heard everywhere. From popular boat songs to the great works of the mystic poet Lalon Shai, these are living traditions that continue to inspire each new generation.
    I wanted to present a ‘roots revisited’ album, filled with the sounds you hear across Bangladesh, but rarely on the international scene. With this in mind I approached Bangladesh’s top dhol maestro, and my personal friend, Nazrul Islam.
    Nazrul has performed and recorded with virtually every major artist in the country. From popular Bengali folk to Baul, Bangla rock fusion to Bangla Afro Latin jazz – he’s done it all, and is a living legend. I asked him to put together a super group, to represent the traditional sounds of Bangladesh.
    What he put together was a group of Dons – On flute Jalal Ahmed, and on dotara Mokaddes Ali – both musical heavyweights on the scene, zooming around on their motorbikes through bombs and hartals (political strikes) to get to our sessions. On Dupki and tablas is Bappi, forever smiling, and on Ektara, Biju, forever being mischievous. Directing proceedings from his dhol, the man himself, Nazrul.
    To sing, he chose a trio who are the finest in their genres, as well as long time collaborators on numerous projects.
    Baul Rob Fakir comes from Kushtia - birthplace of Lalon Shah. There’s a lot of talk about the Bauls, and how they follow the spiritual teachings of Lalon. Well Rob is the real deal. He has an incredible aura, befitting of a spiritual man, and a truly hypnotic quality to his singing, which can best be described as mesmerising.
    Representing the next generation is Labik Kamal Gaurob – multi- instrumentalist, singer/songwriter, producer, arranger, and also survivor (after blowing himself up in his energy-efficient car – gas leak).
    Completing the front line is the incredible Dewan Baby Akhtar – folk singer, violin player, incredible swing, consummate professional and also the wife of Nazrul - the real boss.
    Joining me from London to help produce was Tansay Omar, who also brought along a portable studio which we set up to do informal overdubs. Recording the main sessions in his new studio “Echo Bass” in Dhaka was engineer and fellow pianist Saad Chowdhury. Together the three of us were taken through a master class of Bengali sounds – travelling in the company of legends.

    Includes unlimited streaming of Soul of Bengal via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.
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  • Streaming + Download

    Includes unlimited streaming via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.
    Purchasable with gift card

      £9 GBP  or more


Intro 00:42
Shaddhyo Ki re Amar (Fakir Lalon Shai) Night and day I try to Perceive the illusion of your beauty But have not the worthiness to do so The morning sun rises and sets The clock ticks away and so do I The day ends but I continue To grope around Searching in vain I cannot embrace you Nor am I aware of your beauty How can I find you In the midst of strangers And amongst the thousand who surround you? Now tired and in despair I while away my time In meaningless existence Better to die than live this life of emptiness Says Lalon
Bhandari 04:04
Bhandari (Dewan Baby Akhtar) A mela has been arranged .... So come ye all for worship and prayer at Babaji’s Darbar. Whoever Baba’s mercy touches, Can also be saved from drowning – so do as you will. Baba is all-powerful. We shall continue to call him in distress and seek his blessings. I will stay close to your heart with hands folded in prayer, my Lord. I live in hope for you to relieve me of the burden of my material existence Sings Baby Dewan in humble prayer.
Chatok Pakhi 04:15
Chatok Pakhi ( Fakir Lalon Shai ) – The chatok bird follows clouds as they move along as it only drinks rain water and no other. Delicious are the drops of rain, Like manna from heaven. To find these drops one needs to labour As does the Chatok Pakhi Simply yearning for it is not enough. The clouds play truant and hard to find But the Chatok is focused in his mind To quench his thirst he has to find The rain drops that hold his life Or else the Chatok would rather die. Fakir Lalon says - A mind is destined to roam all over It flows and moves as do the clouds But with perseverance and devotion You can give it direction And reach the destination of your desire.
Milon 04:27
Lalon Shah
Kon Kole 06:08
Kon Kol e (Fakir Lalon Shai ) What art form releases varied sounds What art form creates images that dance around Learn from the Master But think for yourself For when the Master is no longer there to guide Be not at a loss Dig deep into the meaning of your payers Pray not for the sake of praying Draw from the essence of what is taught Absorb, reflect and come nearer to the Devine. Lalon says – without this you cannot attain fulfillment.
Pre Dubaru 05:09
Prem Dubaru (Shiraj Shai ) In this poem the fish has metaphorically been bestowed by the power of love by God. Only when drowning in love Will the fish lie still in water Why not drown in the river of love And experience that ecstatic emotion. Fishermen from time immemorial cast their nets To angle fish in the flowing rivers The fish if spared the bait on offer Can live forever in the deep waters Floating in unending love. Those who are trapped in love Can be untangled only by Another who is love’s captive The power of love is a gift from the All Powerful So love truly and love will come your way effortless. Shiraj Shai says to Lalon – Now that this power of love is within you You need not search for spiritual guidance.
Guru Choron 03:40
Gurur choron (Fakir Lalon Shai) Stoop down and embrace the Guru’s priceless blessings Bind him with your love and devotion. The fulfilment of mankind’s earthly existence will be guided by the Guru’s wisdom. Jealousy and condemnation of others, will lead to you dying Before you are dead. Discard these values and Allow your journey to the other shore to be smooth, free of delusions and serene Compassion and thoughtfulness exudes Piety and humility For only then will the Guru fill the Lotus of your Heart with Virtuosity in its fullest measure. Folks from far and beyond ... listen Listen and trust your Guru, Lalon says - worry not for detaching yourself from material values and earthly existence.
Bhaab Toronge (Kobi Jalal) Come join me On the waves of emotions that Overwhelm us Let us talk about these endless emotions, Emotions that lie dormant or Lost in our children or Forgotten in friendships. Discard your holy robes! Adorn yourself with drunken abandonment and Fall into a deep stupor. Then flowers will blossom in your garden To welcome the New Year. Unlucky is the one Who is emotionless Like dark shadows across your forehead or Khol in your eyes - smudged all over. An empty heart houses evil thoughts... So says poet Jalal. (as the old English saying goes: An empty vessel is a devil’s work shop)
Shobder Ghorey (Fakir Lalon Shai) In this noisy world they remain silent Holding the keys to the world beyond. How can I access the treasures? When the keys that unlock the chest are Are in the hand of others! I am trying to unravel the mysteries To the world beyond With no insight as to what’s out there How do I then access the treasures? When the keys that unlock the chest Are in the hands of others! The world of mine Is full of riches Why should I then wish to discard my worldly comforts? Fakir Lalon says... Why look for useless treasures and earthly possession’s which no value measures.
Jikir Koro 05:12
Jikir Koro (Kari Amiruddin) Recite this may times over ... La ilaha illallahu ( God is almighty ) End your prayers chanting Allahu, Allahu. (The Lord) When in the morning you arrive, asleep on your boat Your friends will sail ahead leaving you alone. Successful traders will fend for themselves, When the time of judgment comes Success or failure, they will answer too for themselves Who cares for others....
Doyal 04:29
Doyal (Poet Kala Shai) O thou kind hearted With the power of your magic stone You have turned wrought iron into pure gold I recognised not this mighty power you hold. You have turned the gifts of nature And allowed it to nurture your body and soul Cleansing your ‘being ‘ of earthly cravings. When love blossoms in your heart You will be overwhelmed and bewildered with passion And nothing will hold you back From attaining salvation O kind hearted You have turned wrought Iron into pure gold O frenzied mind the mixture of innocence and guilt Has diluted the purity of your very ‘being’ Stepping into the world free of deceit Will cleanse your inner soul
Maya lagaise 04:50
Abdul Karim


Funkiwala Records presents the roots sound of Bangladesh – debut album by Shikor Bangladesh AllStars, “Soul of Bengal” – now available internationally on CD/download
Shikor means “roots” in Bengali.
The Shikor Bangladesh AllStars were put together by the country’s premiere Dhol maestro (percussionist), Nazrul Islam, to unite some of Bangladesh’s leading folk exponents in one group, and to take the music out to a wider audience.
Shikor hit the international stage at Womad2015 and Songlines Encounters Festival 2015, with no idea of how their music would be received by audiences who don’t speak Bengali. Here are just some of the reactions
“One of the highlights of the festival” Lopa Kothari, BBC Radio 3, Womad “seriously incredible rhythms, incredible vocals, and later (in workshop with
LoKkhi TeRra) awesome cross-cultural collaboration” – London Jazz, Womad review
“Considering they were totally acoustic, Shikor Bangladesh AllStars had plenty of power on the Charlie Gillett stage. Delivering traditional Bangladeshi folk songs with dhol drums, harmonium and other customary instruments, lead singer Baby Akhtar belted out some meaty vocals, but the really chilling element was the bamboo flute played with skill...” United Reggae, Womad review

“My next personal favourite was the Shikor Bangladesh AllStars – a tradional folk band from Bangladesh, dressed mostly in flowing white, playing an exquisite collection of traditional instruments – strings, large double ended and psychedelic coloured drums, flutes, bells and rattles – accompanied by soaring and emotive vocals and rhythmic beats and claps. The flutes seemed to transport you beyond – to a place of intoxicating enchantment – and complete with a female vocalists stirring incantations, were reminiscent of India’s devotional bhajan music” Life Arts Media
The band boasts a line-up of some of Bangladesh’s finest.
Nazrul himself has recorded and performed with almost every major star in the country, from the folk divas such as Mumtaz to the new generation folk-rock stars such as Arnob to backing the Baul community – he is on countless commercial mix-tapes found nationally and throughout the diaspora.
On Bamboo flute is Jalal Ahmed, widely regarded as the country’s best, as is Dotara player Mokaddes Ali. A trio of vocalists form the front line – Rob Fakir is one of Bangladesh’s most loved Bauls; Baby Akhtar is seen as one of the rising stars of the folk scene; as is vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Labik Kamal Gaurob, here representing the next generation keeping in touch with their roots.

“The group presenting this charming collection of Bangladeshi music lives up to its name .It is indeed an all-star cast....the resulting music is undeniably beautiful” Songlines
“performed beautifully and with exquisite taste” Dhaka Tribune

Also available from Funkiwala is the first of Shikor Bangladesh AllStar’s collaborations with acclaimed London fusionistas LoKkhi TeRra – EP “BanglaRasta” available on vinyl and download.


released April 13, 2017

Nazrul islam – Dhol, Harmonium, Mondira, Tambourine, Vocals Baul Rob Fakir – Vocals, Dotara
Dewan Baby Akhtar - Vocals
Labik Kamal Gaurob – Vocals, Khomok
Jalal Ahmed – Bansuri flute
Mokaddes Ali – Dotara
Anup Kumar Mandal (Bappi) – Tablas, Dupki, backing vocals Md Bazrul Islam Bizu – Ektara, backing vocals
Sarod – Yousuf Khan
Esraj – Asith Biswas
Backing Vocals – Sohini Alam, Aneire Khan, Aanon Siddiqua, Reaul
Karim Leemon, Navid Kamal Additional Tambourine – Tansay Omar Additional Harmonium – Kishon Khan
All music arranged by Nazrul Islam
Additional arrangements by Kishon Khan
Recorded at Echo Bass studios, Dhaka, by Saad Chowdhury
Additional recordings at studio 2(Emma and Shahed’s) by Tansay Omar Mixed at Hi Street Audio Studio, London, by Mauro Caccialanza Mastered at Fluid Studios, London, by Tim Debney
Artwork, Design and photography by Inshra Russel, Studio Inku
Shikor photo by Md Saber Ahmed Shibly
Translations by Selima Prodhan (Juthi)
Produced by Kishon Khan and Tansay Omar


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