NABC 2010: Sahaj-Ma and Utpal Faqir

Sahaj MaaFew months ago, I wrote my wish list about the kind of performers I’d like to see at the 2010 NABC in Atlantic City, and the one artist I mentioned specifically was Sahaj-Ma. When NABC 2010 committee announced the name of their foreign performers, I was delighted to see Sahaj-Ma and Utpal-Faqir’s name on the list. I am not sure whether the committee members actually read my post and felt inspired to invite the duo, or whether it was a sheer co-incidence – I am glad and thankful to the decision makers for giving us a chance to watch these amazing performers on stage.
I heard Sahaj-Ma first on ETV-Bangla on a show called “Baranday Roddur” conducted by the famous Bangla Band Bhoomi. It was kind of a mix of a musical and talk show, and Sahaj-Ma mostly talked about her musical journey. She mentioned about her early training in classical music from her mother and then from Pundit M.R. Gautam and Srimati Sunanda Pattanaik.  And when she performed, it was mesmerizing. She has a unique style and tonal quality that is very rare in a female Bengali singer. The next time I listened to her music was in another ETV-Bangla show, “Dada Didir Ganer Lorai”. In this show, whenever she went up to perform, it was almost magical. Although she mostly performs Baul and folk songs, but in this show she proved that she has mastery over all forms of Indian music.
During her talk with Bhoomi, she mentioned about how she became Sahaj-Ma from Sharmistha. When she and her husband Utpal went to Sadan Das Bairagya to receive “Dikhsa” (spiritual initiation), he said the name Sharmistha doesn’t go well with the Baul traditions. He then named her Sahaj-Ma, saying that I am giving you a great responsibility – to become Sahaj or “Simple” in this complex world.
Sahaj Ma and Utpal Faqir are not only house hold names in Kolkata, but also getting popular amongst the music lovers around the world. Her music (a collaborative fusion album with Bikram Ghosh) now plays on MTV.
The attached video will give you a glimpse of Sahaj-Ma’s performance singing her famous number “Allah Meherban”.

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