The Dhaka Lit Fest 2016 will end with a “Tribute to Baul Ron Fakir” by Shikor Bangladesh All Stars, on Saturday 19 at the Bottola, on Bangla Academy grounds at 6:30pm. Simon Broughton, journalist and filmmaker, who is also participating at the Dhaka Lit Fest as a guest, wrote a piece on the Baul singer after his death. The writing is reproduced below with the consent of Simon Broughton, courtesy of Runi Khan, Culturepot Global.
Rob Fakir (1955-2016)
Leading Bangladeshi Baul musician
One of Bangladesh’s greatest Baul singers died in August, it seems from an asthma attack. Rob Fakir was a regular performer at the shrine of Lalon Shah in Kushtia, one of the important centres of mystic Baul music, where he lived. But he also performed abroad, most recently with the Shikor Bangladesh All Stars at the Songlines Encounters Festival and WOMAD in 2015. There are many great Baul singers in Bangladesh and West Bengal, of course, but when Baul music was added to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list in 2005, it was his picture on the web page.
I saw him perform in Kushtia in November 2014 (Postcard, #106). A charismatic bearded figure with an intense vision, he was one of those musicians who lived what he preached, but with a sparkle in his eye. Lalon’s songs are all about breaking down barriers and recongnising people’s humanity and it was that simple but profound message that he gave when he picked up his dotara, with it’s curved peacock neck, and started plucking out a melody. He knew over 500 Lalon songs.
In 2005, Rob Fakir was invited to perform with one of Bangladesh’s most popular groups, Bangla, and he was a key performer at the Dhaka World Music Festival in 2011. He visited the UK four times, playing on the last occasion with Bengali-Cuban fusion band Lokkhi Terra at WOMAD. Bandleader Kishon Khan says, “The Cubans in Lokkhi Terra joked that while we all got covered in mud at WOMAD, Rob, dressed in all white and in sandals, somehow came out totally unscathed. They convinced themselves that he floated around the festival.” About 1000 people gathered in Kushtia to celebrate his life on September 15.