Group: Uma Shankar Sen and Group
51-year-old Uma Shankar Sen grew up in an environment of music right from his childhood in Kamal Khera, a village in the Mahoba district of Uttar Pradesh. His father had a taste in music and used to arrange shows and events for musicians to perform Alha, a folk genre unique to the Bundelkhand region. Uma Shankar grew inspired by them, started singing by himself, and slowly established himself as a renowned singer of Alha in the region. He claims to have earned a lot of money and fame because of Alha. Although he is also a farmer, he primarily identifies as a musician and is deeply grateful for the rich experiences life has provided him through Alha.
Alha is sung in many variations – Bundeli, Kanpuri, Rae Bareli, Unnaoi – and Uma Shankar performs them all. He also writes his lines to fit into the tune that praises Bundelkhand and the Bundeli people. For instance, he improvised this line for our recording – “Dharam dhwaja phairat jahan jal rahi jyoti akhand, aur raam siya bichhde Jahan bichhde pandav nand. Ye Bundeli dharti ajab niraali apni shaan hai, aur ken betwa Chambal nadiyan karti jiska gaan hai. Poorab disha me bana hua hai sundar qila Kalinjar hai, chandelon ki gaatha kehte yahan ke sail sanichar hain.” Aalha, for him, is the crown of Bundeli folk art and one that eloquently expresses the spirit of the nation and its history.
He and his group have been performing Alha for about 25 years now, and they have performed all around Uttar Pradesh, in Doordarshan, Bhopal and also at the Sangeet Natak Akademi. Aside from the group, Uma Shankar is also associated with four music organisations and is also a farmer. He is also teaching music to about 35 students, and his two sons are also Aalha singers.
- Uttar Pradesh