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Baul music set to reach new audiences in Bradford and Keighley

Manningham Housing Association (MHA) has secured funds for a project to revive, preserve and promote the writing of Baul music in Bradford and Keighley.

Originating in Bangladesh and the neighbouring Indian state of West Bengal, Baul music was especially popular in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

As well as a form of folk music, it is a distinct philosophy of life embedded in music.

The term Baul is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Batul’ or ‘Baur,’ meaning a devotee who could merge with divinity through music.

Bradford district is home to numerous writers of Baul music, but most of their work has never been published.

The grant support from the Leap Pioneer Programme, Bradford Council Arts, Culture and Heritage Fund and National Lottery Heritage Fund will now enable this to happen.

More than 100 original songs will be promoted in local communities by translating the lyrics into English and incorporating them and the accompanying sheet music into a book due to be launched in Bradford later this year.

Some of the songs will also be performed by professional musicians at a large community event.

Sadar Uddin, MHA Community Partnership and Investment Manager, said: “Baul music writers who live and work in Bradford district class themselves as ordinary people.  At Manningham Housing Association, we see them as talented people who deserve recognition.

“This project will increase greater awareness of Baul music and motivate individuals to learn, write and perform at public events in venues easily accessible by local communities.

“I have met with several highly qualified Baul song writers who have published some of their works, but there are many others in the communities of Bradford and Keighley who have spent most of their lives writing Baul folk songs which have never been shared publicly.  We want to put that right.”

Ulfat Hussain, MHA Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Operations, said: “This is a non-housing added value project with major cultural value.

“The project will target beneficiaries living in hard-to-reach neighbourhoods which face multiple deprivations and disadvantages.  Almost 99% of the targeted participants are from poor economic or unemployment backgrounds or low-income families.

“Long term, we would like this project developed into a learning hub for Baul music, creating a vibrant forum for writers and enthusiasts.”

Barrington Billings, MHA Chair, said: “I congratulate Sadar for his hard work in securing these funds which will allow this exciting new project to fly.

“It will promote Baul music to a wider audience, enabling different communities in Bradford and Keighley to come together.

“MHA likes to do things differently.  We warmly welcome the faith the Leap Pioneer Programme, Bradford Council and National Lottery Heritage Fund have shown in our ability to deliver by providing these funds.”

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Picture Sadar Uddin, MHA Community Partnership and Investment Manager (second from left), with songwriters involved with the project   About Manningham Housing Association Manningham Housing Association (MHA) has a proud track record of delivering homes and services to communities in Bradford and Keighley. It was founded in 1986 following a piece of research on the housing needs of Black and Asian communities in Bradford. This research proved that the needs of the South Asian community were not being addressed. With an annual turnover of £8.2 million and a staff of 42, the association now manages more than 1,400 homes for over 6,000 residents.  Around 75 per cent of MHA properties are large family homes with three or more bedrooms.  Over 80 per cent of MHA residents are of South Asian origin but the association proudly serves all of those in need. MHA holds a G1 rating for governance and a V1 rating for financial viability from the Regulator of Social Housing.  In addition to holding the Customer Service Excellence quality mark, MHA is the first housing association in the country to be officially accredited for its work in promoting equality, diversity and inclusion. In 2022, MHA won the British Standards Institution Users Award for Sustainability, the Northern Housing Team of the Year Award, the Northern Housing Tenant of the Year Award and the West and North Yorkshire Chamber Equality Trailblazer Award.

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