A large number of uprooted families arrived in Kankurgachi, Kolkata, after the partition of Bengal, from ‘the other side’. They left their home, their belongings, whatever they had and brought with them haunting memories and often strains of music, bhatiali and bhaowaiya tunes, verses from aul-baul, fakiri-darbesi and sahajiya-marfati songs. Some of them could play the saringa, dotora, banshi and the dhol. Of them Shibabrata Karmakar, Dilip Karmakar, Sambhunath Das, Kalachand Saha and their friends got together and in 1962 founded a group named Bhramara that would soon become popular for its authentic strains of countryside music. Gradually the group emerged into an Institute of Folk Culture.
Bhromara spent more than fifty years singing, gathering countryside singers from remote regions along with urban artists who could never on their own showcase their unique talents. There is Srishtidhar Badyakar from Birbhum who plays on the bisham dhol and sings songs of Bisahari, moving around with his basket of snakes, Binoy Roy, the landless peasant from the village of Topsikhata in Alipurduar who sang in a matchless powerful voice, artists Dokori Chowdhuri and Tarapada Sarkar from Malda who contributed to the perpetuation of the gambhira tradition of performance, Paresh Roy, a cyclerickshaw puller from Siliguri who sings the bhaowaiya, Santosh baul, the Sarinda player who has to move along with Kirtan singers for his living and who seldom gets the chance to peform the bhatiyali songs of which he is master and Salabat Mahato, the splendid jhumur singer who is also a fine composer. These are just a few of the names. There were many others who came together to forge a kind of community whose sustainability was perpetually at stake because of the harsh conditions of life in which most of them lived.
Bhromara conducted field surveys and collected songs from some of the finest musical traditions of rural Bengal and Assam and tried to disseminate them to the best of their abilities. They were sometimes financially assisted by the Ministry of Culture, India and the Sangeet Natak Akademi. They held training programmes throughout the year and sometimes organised workshops, dialogues and conversations with artists and people. Bhromara also worked with the Department of Comparative Literature, Jadavpur University and the Central Institute of Indian languages, Mysore. It received the Pete-Seeger Award 2003 from Smithsonian Folkways in 2003 for collecting, preserving and disseminating folk songs of Bengal. Some of the trainees in Bhromara have also received grants from the Government of West Bengal and India. Annual or biannual performance programmes of Bhromara in the city of Kolkata are popular.
Bhromara has to its credit a series of casettes/cds with booklets entitled “Sikorer Sandhane”. Besides, it has a vast treasure of folk-music collected over the years along with a repertoire of musical instruments that have either gone out of use or are seldom heard. This website is the first step in trying to preserve what the institution has collected over the years under the guidance of Shibabarata Karmakar and his team.