The folk music of Bangladesh is deeply connected to the soul of this soil.
The simple yet deeply philosophical lyrics, tunes, and rhythms of Bangladeshi folk music contain strong emotive expressions, and eternal appeal to love, joy, sorrow, spirituality, mysticism and devotion.
Generations of rural poets and composers have enriched the tradition of Bangla folk music, of which Baul songs are the most remarkable.
Watch Story of Dukhi Majeda feat Baul Shamsu
These songs, predominantly composed by Fakir Lalon Shah, are a mixture of Vaishnavism and Sufism.
Baul songs originated from the Bauls – a mystical and unorthodox community of mostly itinerant singers and musicians whose music and way of life have a significant influence on the Bangali culture.
To revisit the rich legacy of Bangladeshi folk songs, Dhaka Sessions, a platform for artists, musicians, writers, and performers of Bangladeshi origin, presented 'Dukhi Majeda featuring Baul Shamsu' on May 22.
The fourth episode of season two of 'Dhaka Sessions powered by bKash' took place at Bookworm, a music-friendly bookshop in Dhaka.
This episode shed light on the story of a street musician who makes her living by singing Baul and folk songs for the entertainment of passersbys.
Her name is Majeda, but she calls herself Dukhi (sad) Majeda, as her life is full of sorrows.
Many shops and businesses are closed due to the ongoing pandemic, and the streets are emptier than usual, yet she sits on the footpath amid the scorching heat with her mandira (cymbals) and sings soulfully.
'Dhaka Sessions' invited her to tell her story and perform songs with her Guru, Baul Shamsu.
The featured singers performed raw versions of folk songs including the sub-genres Bichchhedi, Bhawaiya, Murshidi, Dehotattwa and more.
As a child, when Dukhi Majeda would listen to music, she would instantly start dancing. Everybody would buy her food for her impromptu performance.
Initially, she learnt music from Sriraj Daulat [of Jashore], who is an enlisted singer of Bangladesh Betar.
"Later I met Baul Shamsu, who is a great soul and started learning music under his tutelage. He is my Ustad and we perform folk songs together at places in and around Dhaka," said Majeda, who used to work as a cook at a residence in the capital.
"After completing my daily work, I would practice and perform music with my Ustad. With the outbreak of coronavirus last year, I lost my job. Now I am a full-time singer."
Her passion for music and perseverance for the art form have made her what she is now today. She finds solace in her soul while performing songs.
Her life story, as she shared on that day, was no smooth ride.
When she was 11, she was stolen from her paternal house at Keshabpur, Jashore and was brought to Munshiganj.
She was married off to a person living in Mymensingh. She went to her in-law's house and stayed there for four years. In the meantime, she conceived.
Her mother and other family members would cry for her, and at one point they quit hope of her returning home. "I did not know the way to my house, and my husband left me and married elsewhere. Being a single mother I felt scared and embarrassed to return home," she said.
"My life is full of sorrows! Music is the lone refuge in my dejected life. I find peace in performing music. This is the means for my living as well," she added.
Dukhi Majeda now lives happily with her son and two grandchildren.
"I perform various genres of folk songs like Murshidi, Shariyati, Marfati, Dehotattwa, Lalon, Bichchhedi, Bhawaiya, Palligeeti and more," she mentioned.
Asked about the songs she loves to performs, she instantly rendered 'mukhra' of several numbers – 'Hela kore bela gelo boiya', a Marfati song; 'Khatun-e Jannat mago', a Shariyati number; 'Ami duidiner lagia', a Dehotattwa song composed by Baul Chan Mian and 'Lok-e bole amar ghar naki chand uthechhe', a famous composition by Qwari Amiruddin.
She also sang 'Bhalobashi bole bondhu amay kadale', a composition by Jalaluddin Khan.
She loves to perform Bichchhedi songs, popularised by Nur Alam.
As Dhukhi Majeda found no peace in her conjugal life, she wrote and composed several songs shedding light on that aspect.
She soulfully performs Fakir Lalon Shah's songs like 'Dhonno dhonno boli tarey', 'Milon hobe kotodin-e' and Baul Shah Abdul Karim's songs 'Bonde maya lagaichhe', 'Bondhu rey koi pabo shokhi go' and 'Ami kul hara kalangkini' every now and then.
Her Guru Baul Shamsu is an enlisted singer of Bangladesh Betar, BTV, and BTV World.
Born in a famous Baul family of Bagerhat, he effortlessly performs different genres of folk songs with his dotara (stringed musical instrument). He learnt music from his paternal uncle Alekjaan Fakir.
"We perform music everyday and earn around Tk20,000 per month," said Baul Shamsu. "We are grateful to the organisers and very happy to perform live in the programme arranged by Dhaka Sessions."
Music lovers can watch all the episodes on the official YouTube channel of Dhaka Sessions.