The three well-known forms of Bengali folk music are the ‘Baul’, ‘Bhatiyali’ and ‘Baowaia’, each having its own characteristics.
Baul is not merely a kind of music, but basically a Bengali religious sect. The members of the sect are themselves called Bauls, and the songs they sing are named after them as ‘Baulgan’ (Baul songs). The instruments extensively used by the Bauls are ‘Gopiyantro’ (often called “ektara”), ‘khamak’, ‘dotara’, ‘ghungur’, ‘nupur’ and ‘duggi’. Some of the well-known exponents of Baul music include Lalon Phakir, Naboni Das Khepa, Purno Chandra Das, Yotin Das Bau and Sonatan Das Thakur Baul.
Bhatiyali are folk songs that are usually sung by boatmen, mainly in the eastern part of Bengal.
Bhaowaia or Bhaoyaiya is the typical folk music form of the northern part of Bengal.