The rustic charm of Bangla is Folk music. Folk music expresses diverse cultural aspects, including Theater performances, dance, music, philosophical opinions, religious practices, traditional features of rural life, the composition of ancient literature, prehistoric wedlocks, cooking art traditions, dialect, and a diverse range of functions and occasions.
Baul songs are highly practised in Bangladesh and the Indian states of West Bengal (Meghalaya, Tripura, Assams’s Barak Valley). These spiritual songs describe the beauty of Sufism and Vaishnavism. The legendary contributors of folk music are Fakir Lalon Shai, Hason Raja, Ostad Abbasuddin, Kangalini Sufia, Siraj Shai, Durbin Shah, Abdul Alim, Shah Abdul Karim, Abdur Rahman Boyati, Sheikh Wahidur Rahman.
Folk music has multiple subgenres, such as- Baul, Bhatiali, Bhawaiya, Dhamail, Gombhira, Hason Raja, Jari, Jatra Pala, Kavigaan, Kirtan, Lalon, Pala gaan, Sari.
Bhatiali songs depict the rural life of boatmen and fishermen. These songs originated from the Mymensingh, Tangail, Sylhet, and Cumilla regions.
Bhawaiya songs are mainly from North Bengal origin. These songs highlight the Rangpur district of Bangladesh and India's Koch Bihar district. Sir George Grierson was the first collector of Bhawaiya songs. The famous songs are- 'O ki garial vai,' 'Je jon premer vab jane na,' 'O ki o bondhu kajol bhromora re', etc.
Folk music has been enriched with some wonderful musical instruments for years, for example, Esraj, Shehnai, Nagara, Kashor, Sarinda, Mandira, Khemta, Esrar, Khamak, Murali, Kazhi, Narasingha, Rudra Veena, Ektara, Dotara, Dhol, Dugdugi, Bashi. However, some instruments are fading gradually. Changing preferences for music and technological advancements draw attention to electronic instruments, signifying a cultural shift and evolving customs that make these classic musical instruments less significant.
Emperor Akbar loved music. In his Court, Tansen was the most popular artist. Tansen's favourite instrument was the Veena. There are several types of Veena, like Rudra Veena and Saraswati Veena. But Rudra veena has become less popular and rare over time because of its large shape and complex playing method.
Esraj is one of the oldest instruments in the music world. Esraj was found in North India, but it was used in West Bengal, too. Because of cultural shifts and changes in social norms in the 1980s, this instrument almost lost its popularity and was nearly extinct. Only a small percentage of musicians now use it.
On the contrary, Nagara is another instrument, a huge, two-headed drum used in various ceremonial and folk music contexts that was once an essential instrument in traditional Bangla music. It has become rarer in recent years, and its use has decreased.
Alternative instruments have replaced Nagara: Dhol, Tabla, Modern Drum Kits, Digital and Electronic instruments, keyboards and synthesisers.
Pop and Rock music is playing a major role in the 21st century. The advancement of all modern musical instruments and diversified digital media is changing this generation's taste. On the other hand, the Joler Gaan Band plays a vital role in the current generation to hold the beauty of folk music. Their lyrics are entirely based on human stories.
Singers like Rahul Anand, Kuddus Boyati, Momtaz Begum, Salma Akhter, and Kangalini Sufiya are still singing and have given the folk music industry a new taste, colour and meaning.
In Bangladesh, several music schools like Bangladesh Academy of Fine Arts, Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy and Chhayanaut exist. They are also trying to save folk music's national heritage and natural beauty. That's why they keep organising folk music concerts and festivals to introduce the new generation to real beauty.