I first heard “Kon Ek Pakhi” in a record store and immediately asked the clerk “Who’s that playing?!” It didn’t matter that I don’t speak the language; the song spoke to me. “Kon Ek Pakhi” is from a collaborative LP called Tana Tani (Push and Pull) produced by UK producer and DJ State of Bengal and Indian musician Paban Das Baul. The entire LP, recorded in 2004 on Real World Records, is a hybrid of old and new, infusing elements of traditional folk instruments and synthesized drums and bass lines.
After visiting Bangladesh in 1987 and being exposed to traditional folk musicians, State of Bengal returned to the UK and formed the group “State of Bengal,” which is a collective of UK rappers, DJs, and MCs. His past work includes Asian Dub Foundation, Bjork, Massive Attack, and Ananda Shankar, and five studio albums.
Indian singer, Paban Das Baul, whose name is associated to a religious sect that weaves music and theory into poetry, has great vocal phrasing on this song, which gives example to the theory into poetry synergy. Paban has worked with musicians such as Archie Shepp, Ravi Magnifique, Sam Mills, and Miguel Fernandez. He also makes his own instruments such as the Dubki (tambourine), and the Khamak (a plucking drum).
Every time Paban sings, you are captured by the story, and when he pauses or breaks for the chorus, it leaves you wanting more. The instrumentation is heavily layered with bells, drums, which sound like a guitar, and the hard-hitting bass line compliments Paban’s unique voice without overshadowing the instruments.
Check out the tune below and let me know your thoughts!