Dan School adjunct faculty Golam Rabbani presented a paper at the Canadian Society of Traditional Music (CSTM) conference, titled “Musical Proximities.”

His paper examined the spiritual experience achieved through Baul music performed at Akhra spaces, where both performers and the audience must remain in close proximity. Bauls are itinerant communities, sometimes defined as “mystics,” in Bangladesh and West Bengal, India, who express their philosophy through music. Akhra is the traditional public performing space for Bauls to practice meditation and music, while a Baul guru also shares the philosophy of the songs with the audience. Akhra performances embody a significant part of Baul shadhana, the combination of music, philosophy, and meditative practices and rituals in Baul culture.

This paper explained the crucial aspects of proximity among the performers and audience and presents the philosophy of affect, the feelings, emotions, and spiritual elations expressed through songs at Akhra performances. While drawing a comparison with the notions of affect by Leonard B. Meyer (1965), Antonio Damasio (2018), and Rick Anthony Furtak (2018), this presentation concentrated on the stages of affect in Baul beliefs at Akhra performances. Through analyzing these stages, Golam explored how the relationship between proximity and affect during performances turns the Akhra into a therapeutic space for both the audience and performers. This paper also examined the non-materialist notions of Baul affective meditation that also turn the Akhra into a space of refuge for the audience away from the complexities of postcolonial and capitalist society in Bangladesh.

Video of this presentation will be eventually available on Youtube.