Bengali folk music is greatly influenced by its environment and the occupation of its people. The different forms of folk music represent the people who sing them, the region they come from and the type of work they do. Lōka explores the experiences and music of the Bengali workers who migrated from rural Bangladesh and India to work in the factories and mills of the UK in the 1950s. This journey is told sonically through the transformation of a variety of folk songs and instruments, field recordings, archival material, historical narratives and oral histories into an immersive 8-channel composition.
Part I: takes inspiration from the soundscapes and folk songs associated with the livelihoods of rural and urban Bengali workers, who work as farmers, boatmen, fishermen, cartmen, weavers and rickshaw pullers. It follows the journey that workers took into the cities of India and Bangladesh, having to leave their loved ones behind in search for work.
Part II: is informed by the experience of workers in the mills and factories of Lancashire in the 1950s, and the under-representation of the significant community of migrant workers from South Asia who also worked in the mills. The folk songs they played allowed these workers to bond as a community, sharing the feelings of parting, loss and exploitation that they faced. It also draws comparisons between the Lancashire folk songs from the time which sing of similar tales of misery with industrialisation and the shift from rural to urban work.
With thanks to: Anindita Ghosh (historical narrative), Masih Alam & the Krishno Chura ensemble (Bengali folk music and instruments), Les Cartes Postales Sonores (archival Bangladeshi field recordings), Jennifer Reid (Lancashire folk songs, clog dancing and narrative), Manchester Central Library Sound Archive (‘Sounds of the Lancashire Textile Industry’) and Quarry Bank Mill for allowing me to record their machinery.