Music Colloquium: Reflections from Bengal and beyond

Music As A Translator’s Art: Reflections from Bengal and Beyond.A presentation-performance by Moushumi Bhowmik, with Oliver Weeks.

The speaker is Moushumi Bhowmik (Independent artist; doctoral student, Jadavpur University, Kolkata)


All creation involves a process of translation. In the art of music, we translate thoughts and feelings into sound, while writing music/about music involves translating sound into text. Furthermore, the matter of learning, teaching and performing music, whatever the tradition might be, involves other modes of translation: translating signs into sound, or listening into utterance. Then, when it comes to communicating with the audience, sometimes we need to engage in the obvious acts of translation and interpretation, especially when the language of a song is unfamiliar, or the time, place or culture from which the music arises. And, every act of translation results in some ‘loss’, of course. Or should we see it more as change, as transformation, and not loss?

Moushumi Bhowmik, Bengali singer, writer and music researcher, who lives and works between India, Bangladesh and the UK, will dwell on her own experiences as such a ‘translator’, while also interacting with British composer and multi-instrumentalist Oliver Weeks, with whom she has been collaborating for over a decade and a half. Moving from her compositions to the art and folk music of Bengal, through field recordings and archival research to songs and stories gathered from the road, Moushumi will present ‘translation’ as a complex process, intrinsic to her own art practice. She will weave recorded sound and image into this presentation, while in their live performance, Moushumi and Oliver will be joined by Matthew Pritchard and Lara Wassenberg of University of Leeds.

The speaker

Moushumi Bhowmik is an Indian Bengali singer and songwriter whose music draws its repertoire both from her own compositions and the rich folk heritage of Bengal. In her work, music and poetry mingle to become song, which she performs in her own strong and subtle style. Her longtime collaborators in music are Satyaki Banerjee (Calcutta) and Oliver Weeks (London).

Moushumi has composed for Bengali documentary and art cinema, most notably for Tareque Masud (Bangladesh). She has also collaborated with artists across disciplines, including Sunil Shanbag (theatre), Dilara Begum Jolly (visual art), Ronny Sen (photography) and Cathy Lane (soundart). Currently she is collaborating with Welsh poet Sophie Mckeand and Bangladeshi filmmaker Leesa Gazi.

In 2003, Moushumi began The Travelling Archive, recording and documenting the rich and varied tradition of folk music in West Bengal and Bangladesh. This project (, co-created with audiographer Sukanta Majumdar, explores new avenues of research and dissemination through working with archival material, writing and publication, exhibition, presentation-performance and lectures.

Moushumi’s writing has been published at home and abroad and she is now completing her doctoral thesis on the ethnographic field recordings from Bengal of Arnold Bake, at the School of Cultural Texts and Records, Jadavpur University.