1. Beginning. The present Bangladesh is only a small part of the greater Bangla (Bengal) in terms of its history and culture. The prehistoric Bangla had a large portion of lands of the Indian Sub-continent. The ancient Bangla was included the present Bangladesh, Pashchim (west) Banga, Assam, Bihar and Orissa etc. The Historical fact is that Bangla was a paradise for primitive race for producing food and fishing. As a result, all most all the races, ie, proto-austroloid, mongoloid, dravidian, negrito, alpine, dinaric and armenoid, ‘a distinct sea-born race’ from Mediterranean and Aryans (Nordic group) once settled in prehistoric Bangla. They made it there home and in time developed there own culture. In this way Bangladesh became the land of diverse races. But as time went all these diversities were down towards a common race with a common ideal established by the religions. But one common language Bangla made them Bangali or Bangal. So, the folklore heritage of Bangladesh consists of varieties of elements. Folksongs are one of the branches of formalized folklore or folk literature of the greater Bangla. Folksongs are sung in colloquial languages by the people of different regions of this vast land.
2. Geo-physical influences. The geophysical conditions of the greater Bangla have influenced the demographic pattern and human nature. Its sub-tropical terrain visited by two periodical monsoons lending a lush green colour to its rich verdure and foliage. Except occasional calamities, the nature is bounteous, mild and helpful. This has endowed Bangalees or Bangals with a lyrical temperament, inherent tenderness and abiding faith in time-honoured values. The folksongs of Bangladesh owe their origin to the influence of nature which has endowed the people with an emotional and passionate temperament. This is considered as an essential ingredient for folksongs. The green fields, rivers and rivulets, verdure and foliage as well as the quick rotation of six seasons with their varying clouds and characteristics have made Bangali culture pre-eminently idyllic. With the change of each season, also is changed the mood of the people. This is manifested in various ways- in festivals, in private gatherings and collective life.
3. Inner spirits. The folksong of Bangladesh is simple, spontaneous and pastoral. The musicians are the illiterate village folks who work hard and rest sparingly. Like there simple and unassuming mode of living, their music is also devoid of any ornamentation. These songs communicate the mode of the life of the people, their pride and prejudices, their music and meditation, their hopes and aspirations without any air of pretension. Every folksong finds its echo in a heart either blissful or anguished, with a profession liked or disliked, with a local scene, gay or bleak, or with a social activity, festive or mournful. As they spring from the soil, they produce the beating of the heart and reflect the image of the unsophisticated mind and that is how they have become the living tradition of the people.
4. Singers & Songs. Folksongs express the elemental passions, impulses and emotions of such people as cultivators, fishermen, boatmen, weavers, potters and blacksmiths. These people compose tune and sing or hum the songs simultaneously while they work. The songs are either sung solo or chorus. Side by side the woman folk also compose and sing chorus while grinding or husking the paddy and in the different rituals of wedding ceremony. Besides, the devotees (faquir, mastan, boiragi) of the saints or darvishes and vaishnava monks compose and sing by chorus at their meeting-places or shrines known as Darbar, Akhra, Mazar, Khanka etc. The songs are composed verbally. So, it is difficult to take written notes. But the process of transfer is continuing since time immemorial from one mouth to another. Now a day, the researchers may use audios and videos to collect and preserve it.
5. Variety. Folksongs cover a wide field of variety. Folklore researchers classified it in different ways. Mobarak Hossain Khan, a renowned musician and music researcher narrated 35 types of folksongs and also made an account of 69 variations. Professor Ashraf Siddiqui classified it into 13 groups. Mostafa M, N, a researcher divided it into three broad categories: (1) Religious (2) Secular or Functional and (3) Romantic. Some of the popular ones are described in brief here:
a. Occupational Songs. Harvesters, bullock-cart drivers, palanquin bearers, labourers or construction workers, boatmen, shepherds etc sing at their respective job situations. The songs are known as Sari (harvesting), Bhwaiya and Chatka (cart drivers), Bhatiali and Ghatu (boatman), Rakhalia (shepherds), Patua (potters), Palta (construction workers) etc.
b. Ceremonial and Ritual Songs. The songs are connected with ceremonies like birth, marriage and festivals; and rituals like inviting rain during drought, new rice eating festival, subduing a snake, and birth/fertility or marriage taboos etc. The songs are generally sung in chorus by village womenfolk. These are known as Ghhara and Meyeli geet (in marriage), Nail (for rain), Beder gaan (snake charming), Bicchedee (in detachment) and panchali (in moonlight night) etc.
c. Religious and Mystic Song. These songs have mystic themes where the pages of human souls are depicted in deep ecstasy, devotion and love. This love is for all creatures irrespective of divergence in creed or caste. Normally sung with an Ektara or Dotara (one or more stringed musical instrument). Baul, Dehatatma, Kirtan, Marfati, Murshedi, Maijbhandari, Shyama, Kawali, Dhua etc. are mystic or religious songs. Lalon Fakir, Hason Raja, Madon Baul, Shitalong shah, Arkam Shah, Shah Abdul Karim, Monomohan Datta, Goura Nitai, Madhukan, Ramprasad are some of the famous composers and singers of mystic and religious songs.
d. Others. Besides, there are many historical folksongs of historical figures, patriotism, chivalry and heroic songs of romances and tragedies of heroes and heroines. These are Puthi, Jari, Baromashi, Jatra, GazirGaan, Palagaan etc.
e. Tribal Songs. Tribal people, our real ancestors live at their own vicinity in the isolated hills and valleys, are the part and parcel of our folk culture, particularly in folk songs. They are the Chakma, Marma, Kuki, Garo, Hajong, Monipuri, Tipra, Murong, Malo, Chaak, Shaontal and many others having their own style of living. But their songs are like ours one. Jhumur, Jhum, Khedda, Jag, Bhanjo, Royani, Hapu, Hudima, Holbol, Ahira etc. are a few names of the folksongs of the tribal community.
6. Characteristics. Our folksongs usually consist of two types of tunes: (1) short and (2) long. In the first one it is the words that matter. In the long measured group the tunes are half carved, long carved and sometimes full carved. In fine, it may be concluded that our folksongs flow in carves.
7. The bindings string of national feeling. Now, about 3 billions of Bangalees or Bangals live in throughout the seven continents of the world. They differ from each other in many aspects. But the sweet melodies and tunes of folksongs like Bhatiali, Bhwaiya, Baul, Murshidi and Shari are equally popular to each of them. They feel it as their own or native song. The musical function organized by them in the different corners of the world proves this fact. So, folksongs play the role of a string to bind all the Bangalees or Bangals together.8. Conclusion. In Bangladesh, rather in the greater Bangla, from kitchen to court, from rivers to restores- everywhere there is a song which expresses people’s desire in melody and tune. The single tune of a folksong can take one away from the maladies and the stresses and strains of life to a placid and tranquil corner bereft of din and bustle. Our folksongs recreate in melody rhythm the hopes and aspiration, weal and woes of the people. I am in doubt if any other people in the world have so much to say in music and on so many subjects.