Bradford and Keighley are set to witness a revival of Baul music, thanks to the efforts of Manningham Housing Association.

The association has successfully secured funds for a project aimed at preserving and promoting the unique art form originating in Bangladesh and the neighbouring Indian state of West Bengal.

Baul music, popular during the 19th and early 20th centuries, encompasses not only a style of folk music but also a profound philosophy of life expressed through its melodies.

The term “Baul” finds its roots in the Sanskrit word ‘Batul’ or ‘Baur,’ which refers to a devotee capable of merging with divinity through the medium of music.

While the Bradford district is home to numerous talented Baul music writers, their exceptional work has largely remained unpublished.

However, thanks to generous grants from the Leap Pioneer Programme, Bradford Council Arts, Culture and Heritage Fund, and the National Lottery Heritage Fund, this situation is about to change.

Under this initiative, over 100 original Baul songs will be promoted within local communities.

The lyrics will be translated into English, and the sheet music, along with the accompanying translations, will be compiled into a book that is scheduled to be launched in Bradford later this year.

Moreover, a selection of these songs will be performed by professional musicians at a grand community event.

Expressing his enthusiasm for the project, Sadar Uddin, the Community Partnership and Investment Manager at Manningham Housing Association, stated, “Baul music writers who reside and work in the Bradford district consider themselves ordinary individuals. However, at Manningham Housing Association, we recognize them as talented individuals deserving of recognition.”

Uddin further explained, “This project aims to raise awareness about Baul music and motivate individuals to learn, compose, and showcase their work at public events held in venues easily accessible to local communities. Over the years, I have met numerous highly skilled Baul songwriters who have managed to publish some of their works. However, there are many others within the Bradford and Keighley communities who have spent their lives crafting beautiful Baul folk songs that have remained hidden from the public eye. We aim to rectify that.”

Ulfat Hussain, Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Operations at Manningham Housing Association emphasized the cultural significance of this non-housing project. He noted, “The project will target beneficiaries residing in hard-to-reach neighbourhoods, which often face multiple forms of deprivation and disadvantage. Nearly 99 percent of the participants we are targeting come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, unemployed households, or low-income families.”

Hussain further revealed the association’s long-term vision, stating, “Our ultimate goal is to develop this project into a learning hub for Baul music, creating a vibrant forum for writers and enthusiasts alike.”

Barrington Billings, Chair of Manningham Housing Association, commended Sadar Uddin for his unwavering dedication in securing the funds necessary for this exciting endeavour.

Billings expressed his enthusiasm, stating, “This project will introduce Baul music to a wider audience, fostering unity among different communities in Bradford and Keighley. At Manningham Housing Association, we pride ourselves on doing things differently, and we warmly welcome the faith placed in us by the Leap Pioneer Programme, Bradford Council, and the National Lottery Heritage Fund, who have supported us in this venture.”