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The music of Bengal, also referred to as Bangla music, comprises a long tradition of religious and secular song-writing over a period of almost a millennium. Composed with lyrics in the Bengali language, Bengali music spans a wide variety of styles.


Bengal is today split between the Indian state of West Bengal and the independent nation of Bangladesh.

The earliest music in Bengal was influenced by Sanskrit chants, and evolved under the influence of Vishnu poetry such as the 13th-century Gitagovindam by Jayadeva, whose work continues to be sung in many eastern Hindu temples. The Middle Ages saw a mixture of Hindu and Islamic trends when the musical tradition was formalized under the patronage of Nawabs and the powerful landlords bAro bhuiyAn.

Much of the early canon is devotional, as in the Hindu devotional songs of Ramprasad Sen, a bhakta who captures the Bengali ethos in his poetic, rustic ,and ecstatic vision of the Hindu goddess of time and destruction in her motherly incarnation, Ma Kali. Another writer of the time was Vidyapati. Notable in this devotional poetry is an earthiness that does not distinguish between love in its carnal and devotional forms; some see connections between this and Tantra, which originated some time in the middle of the first millennium CE.

The Bauls (the word comes from Sanskrit batul, meaning "divinely inspired insanity") are a group of Hindu mystic minstrels from the Bengal region, who sang primarily in the 18th and 19th centuries. They are thought to have been influenced greatly by the Hindu tantric sect of the Kartabhajas as well as by Sufi philosophers. Bauls traveled and sang in search of the internal ideal, Moner Manush (Man of the Heart or the inner being), and descried "superfluous" differences between religions.Lalon Fakir, alternatively known as Lalon Shah, who lived in the 19th century in and around Kushtia, is considered to be the greatest of all bauls.

By far the most defining expression of Bengali music, with an ouvre of over two thousand songs, was Rabindranath Tagore (known in Bengali as Robi Thakur and Gurudeb, the latter meaning "Divine Teacher"). His songs are affectionately called Rabindra Sangeet, and cover topics from devotion, love, nature and seasons, and patriotism. Tagore's earlier works had been inspired by the lilas of Krishna while his latter works involved transcendentalism of the Upanishads. Some of the important Rabindra Sangeet artistes are Shantidev Ghosh, Shailajaranjan Majumdar, Hemanta Mukhopadhyay, Kanika Bandyopadhyay, Debabrata Biswas, Suchitra Mitra, Pankaj Kumar Mullick, Santosh Sengupta, Subinoy Roy, Chinmoy Chatterjee, Ashoketaru Bandopadhyay, Sagar Sen, Sumitra Sen, Ritu Guha, Purabi Mukhopadhyay, Purba Dam, Sushil Mullick, Mohan Singh, Sharmila Roy Pommot, Swastika Mukhopadhyay, Indrani Sen, Swagatalakshmi Dasgupta, Promita Mallik, Rezwana Chowdhury Bonna, Indira Bandopadhyay, Sahana Bajpaie, etc.

Another influential body of work is that of Kazi Nazrul Islam, which constitutes what is known as Nazrul geeti.Some of the notable Nazrulgeeti singers include Suprova Sircar, Dhirendra Chandra Mitra, Manabendra Mukhopadhyay, Dr. Anjali Mukhopadhyay, Dhiren Bose, Purabi Dutta, Firoza Begum, Anup Ghoshal, Sohrab Hossain.

Other Bengali music, shared by West Bengal and Bangladesh, is from the poetry and songs of Nidhu Babu, Kabir, Lalon Fakir, Atulprasad Sen, Dwijendralal Ray, Rajanikanta Sen and a large canon of patriotic songs from Greater India's Independence movement.

Beginning with the establishment of Hindu Mela in 1867, the concept of patriotism entered Bengali music. The patriotic genre was a major part of Bengali music until its independence in 1947.[1]

Modern Bengali music has been enriched by singers like Hemanta Mukhopadhayay, Sandhya Mukhopadhyay, Manna Dey,Kishore Kumar, Rahul Dev Burman, Sachin Dev Burman, Geeta Dutta, Dhananjay Bhattacharya, Shyamal Mitra, Tarun Bandopadhyay, Satinath Mukhopadhyay, Dwijen Mukhopadhyay, Robin Majumdar, Kanan Devi, Satya Chowdhury, Sudhirlal Chakraborty, Jaganmoy Mitra, Dilip Kumar Roy, Uma Bose, Kamala Jharia, Angurbala, Indubala, Utpala Sen, Gayatri Bose, Supriti Ghosh, Alpana Banerjee, Protima Banerjee, Sabina Yasmin, and Runa Laila. Pannalal Bhattacharya, Mrinalkanti Ghosh, Bhabani Charan Das, Radharani Debi and Gitashree Chhabi Bandopadhay were famous for their renditions of devotional songs, while Abbasuddin Ahmad and Nirmalendu Chowdhury were stalwarts in singing Bengali folk music.

Notable Bengali music composers include Ravi Shankar, Himangshu Dutta, Kamal Dasgupta, Rai Chand Boral, Timirbaran Bhattacharya, Kalipada Sen, Nachiketa Ghosh, Robin Chatterjee,Hemanta Mukhopadhayay, Salil Chowdhury, Sudhin Dasgupta, Rahul Dev Burman and Abhijit Bandopadhyay, while Ajoy Bhattacharya, Hiren Bose, Subodh Purakayastha, Pranab Roy, Sailen Roy, Gauriprasanna Majumdar, Shyamal Gupta, Pulak Bandopadhyay and Mukul Dutta were well-known lyricists.

In recent times, western influence has resulted in the emergence of the phenomenon of Bangla bands, both in Dhaka and in Kolkata, as well as songs reflecting the joys and sorrows of the common man, Jibonmukhi Gaan (songs from life). Some famous Bangla bands are Bhoomi, Chandrabindoo, Miles, Nagar Baul, Tishma, Feedback,Souls, Fossils, Cactus, Lakkihichara, Krosswindz and Insomnia. With her powerful rock vocal and unique style and stage performance, Tishma completely changed the path of Bangla female artists. At the same time, singers like Ajoy Chakraborty are working to bring back classical raga influence into bengali music.


  1. ^ Chatterjee, Gita. Bengal's Swadeshi Samgīt. Published in Banerjee, Jayasri (ed.), The Music of Bengal. Baroda: Indian Musicological Society, 1987.

See also




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