The event was held with support from Manningham Housing Association (MHA), Bradford Council and The Leap. The project was the brainchild of Sadar Uddin, MHA Community Partnership and Investment Manager, as a vehicle to revive, preserve and promote the writing of Baul music in Bradford which will be UK City of Culture in 2025.
The district is home to numerous writers of Baul music – which originated in Bangladesh and West Bengal – but most of their work has never been published.
However, thanks to financial backing from the Bradford Council Arts, Culture and Heritage Fund, and the Leap Pioneer Programme, MHA has published two volumes of lyrics in both English and Bengali together with sheet music for local communities to access and enjoy.
The launch of ‘Baul & Mystic Songs of South Asian Heritage Volumes 1 & 2’ was the focus of a unique community gathering at Prestige Hall in Bradford attended by many of the contributing writers.
A selection of their songs was performed by professional musicians and a stunning cake closely resembling one of the books was cut by MHA Vice Chair, Rupert Pometsey.
The writers were also presented with certificates in recognition of their achievements by MHA Deputy Chief Executive Ulfat Hussain, who wrote the foreword for both volumes.
He said: “Among our pioneering initiatives, the Baul Heritage Project stands as a testament to our commitment to tenant and resident empowerment. As the first project of its kind by a social housing provider, this unique endeavour unites tenants and residents, fostering a collective of talented individuals eager to contribute to the broader community’s enrichment.
“We extend our heartfelt gratitude to Bradford Council and The Leap for their generous support which enabled us to showcase the remarkable talents of our songwriters, poets and artists.
“We sincerely hope to see their exceptional work form a significant part of Bradford’s tenure as UK City of Culture 2025 where it can rightfully receive the recognition and appreciation it deserves.”
Sadar Uddin, MHA Community Partnership and Investment Manager, said: “Congratulations to all the writers and artists who contributed to this initiative. This is the first ever project where Baul heritage music has been translated into English and into musical scores so that anyone from any musical background can play these songs.
“We are keen to promote this music to as wide a community as possible – not just in Bradford and Keighley, but beyond Bradford district.”
Sabir Musaji, Community Development Manager at The Leap, said: “I want to thank Sadar and his team for stepping up. They have a wonderful mindset which makes projects like this happen. Most of all, I want to thank them for a project that demonstrates full inclusiveness.
“We have a piece of work which is beautiful and made for generations of musicians to perform today, tomorrow and for years to come.”