Bhawaiya

Bhawaiya is a genre of North Bengal folk songs sung primarily in the Rajbanshi dialect of Bengali. The subjects are closely interwoven with the Rajbonshi community’s rural life. The songs reflect their joy, sorrow and the experience of living in harmony with nature.

Bhawaiya Artists

Nazrul Islam

Najrul Islam is an accomplished Bhawaiya artist and composer as well. Singing from a very young age, he trained under veterans like Subhash Chandra Das, Kumar Manabendra Narayan and Alauddin Sarkar. In 2002, Najrul won the state-level Bhawaiya championship for Chatka and Dariya. He also stood first in Bhawaiya at a state-level folk music competition in 2001. Nazrul has many music albums including Bhaber Bhawaiya, Bhabnadir Bhawaiya and Moner Ayna. In 2016 he worked as a playback singer in a Rajbanshi film.

Bijon Roy

Bijon Kumar Roy is a highly revered traditional Bhawaiya artist and son of legendary Bhawaiya singer Biren Roy alias Kana Biren. Playing the Dotara (a traditional string music instrument) since he was barely seven, Bijon continued to pursue music with utmost dedication even in the face of great economic hardship. His repertoire includes songs written by his father on the natural features and social dynamics of North Bengal. He along with his wife Kaushalya are a popular duo of Bhawaiya music.

Himadri Dewri

A young and promising Bhawaiya singer from Tufangunj in Coochbehar, Himadri has performed all over West Bengal and several other states of India. He stood first in West Bengal’s state-level Bhawaiya competition thrice — in 1994, 1997 and 1999. Himadri is a regular radio and TV artist. He was invited to perform in the United States by The Bangladeshi Community of New York in 2007. Himadri has music album including Bhaber Bhawaiya and Bhabnadir Bhawaiya.

Pradyut Roy

Pradyut Roy is an accomplished Bhawaiya artist who trained under renowned exponents like Dhiren Roy, Harinath Roy, Nirmal Barman and Anil Majumdar. Singing since he was a teenager, Pradyut bagged many awards in his early years and went on to stand first in Folk category of Chhatra-Yuva Utsav 2016-2017, organized by the West Bengal Government. His songs are part of two critically acclaimed albums ‘Sonar Nao’ and ‘Bhaber Bhawaiya’. Pradyot regularly performs at events across West Bengal.

Dhaneswar Roy

Dhaneswar Roy is a living legend of Bhawaiya music. He was born in 1934 and lost his mother when he was just 4. But even in those early years of his life, he got attracted to the melodious recital of the religious texts by his mother. He trained in music under Sudhir Chandra Dey, and then Sudhir Chandra Lahiri initiated him to Classical music, Nazrulgeeti and Rabindrasangeet. At the age of 14, he started learning Bhawaiya music from Naren Roy. He has performed and has been felicitated in various programmes and famous festivals of Kolkata. Dhaneswar Roy has presented Bhawaiya music in various television shows. His first gramophone record came in 1962 when he passed the audition from Kurseong Radio. He was awarded Bangaratna from the West Bengal Government. He is now a renowned Bhawaiya Guru and has taught numerous students. Dhaneswar Roy is a great composer and has composed many famous Bhawaiya songs.

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Kaushalya Roy

Daughter of singer parents, Kausalya has Bhawaiya in her blood. Her first appearance as a Bhawaiya performer was at the age of 8. The mellifluous voice of Kausalya impressed Biren Roy, a legend in Bhawaiya music so immensely that he got her married to his son. She has been awarded at Block level at the State Bhawaiya Festival. Overpowering the financial issues, she along with her husband, have made their presence felt in the world of Bhawaiya songs.

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Sukheswar Dewri

Sukheswar Dewri is a Bhawaiya Guru and and activist working for the revival of the genre. The practice of Bhawaiya music runs in his family, but his father did not want him to take up singing due to financial issues in the family. The love for the music did not deter him though. While in college, he set up theatre groups with his friends and included Bhawaiya songs in the presentations. That was the time when popular film songs were driving the traditional Bhawaiya to a back seat. The plays performed in the regional dialect, with Sukheswar in the lead role, attracted common people to the then declining Bhawaiya. Sukheswar Dewri has trained and initiated many next generation singers in the tradition and his son Himadri is one of them.

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Kumar Manabendra Narayan

Kumar Manabendra Narayan is an acclaimed Guru of Bhawaiya, from Tufangunj, Cooch Behar and a descendant of the Cooch Behar royal family. He got attracted to Bhawaiya songs by listening to the same being sung in between his father’s productions of Pala Gaan. Manabendra Narayan’s initiation to Bhawaiya was at the age of 10, from his father Manindra Narayan. He has done numerous performances and has composed many Bhawaiya plays like Nithua Pathare Kajol Bhoromora, Ei Juger Daini, Sonar Songsar, Kokilar Kandon based on the life of the king of Rajmahal Lakkhin Narayan. He has been performing at the local Radio since 1972. Manabendra Narayan’s first record came out in 1980. He is a famous teacher and teaches Bhawaiya in 17 schools. Bhawaiya singer Nazrul Islam is also his student.

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Tumpa Barman

Tumpa Barman is a young and promising Bhawaiya singer. She grew up in a musical environment. Her grandfather used to sing songs of the Padma Puran (a religious text drawn upon the snake goddess Manasa), her mother and elder sister were Kirtan singers and that is where she draws her influence from. She was famous in North Bengal as a child artist. She met Sonatan Barman during a performance, the intimacy grew from the acquaintance and then they married. She trained under Sonaton after marriage and now Tumpa is a noted exponent of Bhawaiya music in North Bengal.

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Abinash Roy

Abinash Chandra Roy is a leading exponent of the Dotara string instrument in West Bengal. Born in 1968, he started playing Dotara at the age of 16. He was inspired by many local musicians but was groomed by the Late Gangadhar Das. Abinash is a regular artist of All India Radio for over 25 years now. He also plays regularly for the Doordarshan television channel. Abinash has performed across India, in Delhi, Rajasthan, Pune and Tripura, apart from Bangladesh. He also performed at the Sur Jahan World Peace Music Festival in Kolkata. He has played for many albums, including a series on Bhawaiya folk songs.

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