“Decoding the unorthodox with exuberance.”
Folk music has been the traditional way of expressing various emotions that one feels during occasions of each kind; love, wedding, anniversaries, celebrating childbirth, or even mourning the death of a loved one. The melodies that are sung by the common folk have been passed on to each generation since humans began to form communities.
Similar ways of communication have been observed in the state of Uttar Pradesh, which is seen as the cultural capital of the country due to the rich history that it has seen over the centuries passed by. As previously ruled by the Hindus and eventually getting accommodate into the Mughal dynasty when they ruled over the Indian lands, the culture here has been a mixture of various flavours and this can be observed in multiple forms of folk music that has developed during these historical developments. Within the borders of this state lies the city of Kashi, or as it is commonly known nowadays, Banaras. This city is a mesmerizing overlap of many cultures and various art forms that represent these cultures and it is bound to create artists that are talented and masterful in their display of these art forms. One such artist is Bablu Bawra from Mirzapur, who is one of the most versatile artists and cheerful human beings that one can have the opportunity to meet during the exploration of talents within Uttar Pradesh.
Bablu Bawra, along with his group of various talented instrumentalists, agreed to meet us at the Gurudham Temple, which is an amazingly designed structure built in 1814 by Maharaja Jay Narayan Ghoshal, who used to rule the Bengali Empire during the early 19th century. This intelligently designed temple has eight courtyards that surround the temple from all directions and has eight different entrances. This made it incredibly easy for us to find picturesque locations within the confines of the temple to record the musical performance of his group.
Bablu Bawra is a highly open-minded and creative artist who does not shy away from portraying unorthodox characters that have the potential to blow your mind and make yourself move along with the beats of his music and his awe-inspiring vocal ability. His ability to capture the attention of his audiences through his expressive ‘ada’ or style during his performances is something that helps him deliver in an outstanding manner. We were moved by his unbelievably encapsulating display of transgender dancers that visit one’s place after a child is born in order to celebrate the birth.
“Mukh dekh khush Jaso maiyya,
(Mother Yashoda’s filled with joy the moment she caught a glimpse of Kanha)
Te janme Kanhaiya”
(Kanha has taken birth)
Under his leadership came six brilliant and highly experienced instrumentalists who displayed unwavering finesse with their respective traditional instruments. These multitalented artists possess great vocal and musical abilities, especially the Dholak artist, Subhash Ji, who is also a farmer. Despite having to handle a farm of wheat and different kinds of vegetables, he has never let himself get distracted from practising music. This kind of commitment can be seen in other percussionists such as Daroga Ram, Lavkush Prasad, Ashok Kumar, and Santosh Kumar, all of whom can play each and every percussion instrument required to play their songs. These instruments include simple-looking yet quite technical instruments like Khartaal, Manjira, and Jhaanjh.
All of them come from humble backgrounds and earn very little through their performances even though they are recognized by most of the organizations that conduct folk music festivals. Bablu Bawra himself is one of the most humble artists within the region and shows incredible promise while portraying different characters in his performances, engaging the audience in the most vivid fashion. Such remarkable abilities of this group caught our eye once and forever and we couldn’t fathom what we were experiencing without moving with the music ourselves. One of the most awe-inspiring displays of unorthodox characters being acted out during a musical performance was observed and being the forte of this group, they truly have a long way forward within the folk music spectrum.