Invocational Performance Art
Spiritual teaching can be conveyed through the spoken and written word, but there are other forms of expression such as music and art that communicate in a visceral way beyond mental understanding. Through song and movement, Western Baul performance art can evoke higher feeling states and the stirrings of truth that lay hidden within us, even for those who have not come into contact with spiritual teaching. Eastern and Western Bauls bring together music and performance art with the intention of creating a mood which enlivens the being and attracts and invokes the presence of the Divine. The Baul performs as an expression of his or her own practice; there may be an impact on others which is useful, but the aim is to open to the Divine regardless of the setting or the listeners. This occurs as a reciprocal process with the participation and attention of those who witness it.
It is understood that teaching is encoded in the words written by a Baul Guru, whether the subject matter is mystical or about ordinary experience. Musical and theater performance has been an integral part of Western Baul teaching since 1985, with the inception of the Living God Blues Band, which became Liars, Gods and Beggars (the LGB Band) in 1987. Subsequent projects have included the Baul Theater Company, the Shri Blues Band, Attila the Hunza, the Denise Allen Band, the Lee Lozowick Project, and Small Change. These projects have predominantly been focused on performing original music that was composed with lyrics written by Lee. His lyrics and the music continue to communicate his realization today.
Western Baul music and theater looks outwardly the same as other types of performance art, but the aim is thoroughly different. The idea is to praise the Divine rather than to glorify the individual performer or performers. Baul music can elicit a sense of joy and freedom that is not based on the dreams and fantasies of a separate ego. Music from this context can also provoke powerful energies associated with money, fame, sex, and power that can address us “where we live.” Western Baul performance art does not consider sophistication and polish as the goal; it is a humbling affair of standing in one’s spiritual work and acknowledging one’s insubstantiality and need for the Divine.
Despite cultural disparities, it is the essence of the inner work which informs Baul practice East and West. Eastern Bauls have used the one-stringed ektara and duggi (drum), among other instruments, to perform their songs since the 14th century. Western Bauls use guitar, bass, drum, keyboard, and harmonica to express their practice in today’s western world. The group work in arranging and following packed gig schedules, and in relating with disparate personalities in close quarters while traveling on tours, has been part of the practice for Western Baul musicians and support crews.
Click on the drop-down menu above to listen to musical selections from CDs by the bands (LGB, Shri, Attila the Hunza, Denise Allen Band, Lee Lozowick Project, Small Change) and the Baul Theater Company, which has performed two original rock operas.