Music, Mobilisation and Identity: Understanding the Cultural Politics of Matua Kobigaan in West Bengal and Bangladesh

The Institute hosted a lecture by Dr Priyanka Basu from the British Library in London on 3 October 2018. She presented her work on music, mobilisation and identity, specially focusing on the politics of Motua Kobigaan in West Bengal and Bangladesh.

Kobigaan (song of the poet) is a verse-duelling/song-theatre genre practiced in West Bengal and Bangladesh. While regional and religious variants of this performance genre underline the broader cultural politics of folk, I choose to focus on the Kobigaan practiced by the Matua community in Bengal. Much has been written on the Matuas with regard to their history, and the politicisation of caste and Dalit movements in Bengal (Bandopadhyay 2011; Chatterjee 1997) with little but emerging trends in exploring the spiritual and cultural aspects of the community (Sinharoy 2016; Lorea 2017, Biswas 2017). Based on the fieldwork in West Bengal and Bangladesh, Dr Basu underscored the vitality of Kobigaan in asserting the Dalit identity of Matuas in Bengal.