Imagine a large group of male musicians wearing turbans and white robes and sitting in the dark on the floor at different levels. Suddenly the background lights come on illuminating these men. As your eyes marvel at the startling silhouettes in front of you, haunting music seeps through your other senses as many voices and instruments blend in an enchanting melody. The Manganiyar Seduction, a group of nearly forty musicians presenting the folk music of Rajasthan continue to make waves since their first performance many years back. Episode 3 of RaagTime features them and other folk musicians from India.
Folk songs showcase the rich cultural diversity of India. The theme of folk songs ranges from everyday problems of the people to deeper philosophies of life. Some of the songs are poetic expressions of mystics such as Kabir, Chishti and Kuvempu while some like the bhangra, dandiya and kolattam are dance-oriented set to a beat. Folk songs highlight the traditions of different regions of the country and are handed down from one generation to the next.
When Rabindranath Tagore, the Bengali poet and patriot penned the verses of the song Jodhi Tor he was talking about a simple philosophy of life – ‘when a person gets no support from his friends and family, he must continue his journey alone and eventually it would all work out.’ The song sung by Kishore Kumar became a big hit.
The songs of the fisherfolk are essentially a call to nature. Mee Dolkar from the western ghats of the country is a famous folksy tune of the Koli fisherfolk in the region.
In India where arranged marriages are common, the bride entering her husband’s home is believed to be a significant step in her life. The quirky folk song Sasural Ghenda Phool from Chattisgarh talks about this challenging scenario where the new bride learns to adjust to her in-laws.
Qawwali is a form of Sufi devotional music popular in southern Asia. Runa Laila from Bangladesh was a popular qawwali singer of the 1960s and her song Dama Dum Mast Kalandhar was a tribute to the Sufi saint Hazrat Lal Shahbaz Qalandar.
To listen to all these wonderful folk tunes of India, click here for RaagTime Episode 3 – Folk Music of India. Every episode of RaagTime begins with a peppy movie song and this episode features Vele from the Hindi movie Student of the Year.