Dalbar Singh and Group

By August 1, 2018 August 3rd, 2018 Punjab


Imagine, you are sitting on a cot, in the middle of a mustard field in Punjab, and you are floating in the cool breeze, humming along with the birds. There is a group of men who have just finished cutting the crop, the harvesting season is over and men are celebrating by doing the giddha. What a treat to the eyes!  Different from its counterpart, Malwai Giddha has been a different form of folk dance, especially.

Boliyaan- folk poetry at its best, satirical verses, fun, teasing, and an exhibition of exuberant Punjabi lifestyle- all this composes the essence of Malwai Giddha.

Initially performed by veteran bachelors, has now taken the shape of a folk dance exclusive to the Malwa region of Punjab. Dalbar Ji, who leads one such Malwai Giddha group, is a 69 years old Giddha performer and hails from Chattha village in Sangrur, which his famous worldwide for this native art form of Punjab. He leads the Malwai Giddha group of fifteen to sixteen people and plays the Sarangi to give melody to the ‘boliyaan’ sung during the performance. He belongs to a Jatt Sikh family in Sangrur and has done M.Phil. He retired as a school teacher in 2009. He has been exposed to the rich cultural art forms of Punjab since childhood. He used to listen to the famous Daddh groups, and Tumbi-Algoze groups, especially from Maler Kotla, in the fairs and festivals organized in his village. He liked Giddha the most amongst all the folk art forms. He, along with his senior, Satbal Sharma, took Giddha to the stage for the first time in November 1976. Dalbaar Ji is an extremely humble person and enjoys playing the Sarangi to the fullest. He performs Giddha on various occasions and shows, with his entire group. He and his children are involved in farming. He takes pride in the richness and variety exhibited by the vibrant culture of Punjab, which dates back to the times of Harappan and Mohenjodaro civilization. He was inspired by his elder brother, who was also a Giddha performer and learnt this art form by observing the art form in fairs and festivals.  

The Malwai Giddha group from Chattha village in Sangrur is one of the oldest Giddha groups in Punjab. It is headed by Dalbar Singh Ji and has 15 other members who perform the different folk instruments, which are- Chimta, Sapp, Iktaara, Tumbi, Bugchu, Sarangi, Algoze, Dhad, Dhol, Gharha, and Dande. Giddha includes dance steps by those who play the Sapp; beats by the dhol; and ‘boliyaan’ or ‘tappe’ sung by the folk musicians. Malwai Giddha comprises all the three types of Giddha- all male Giddha, all female Giddha, and both male and female Giddha. The name arises because this art form is specific to the Malwa region. Punjab state is divided into three major regions on the basis of culture and geography: Majha, Malwa and Doaba. This division of Punjab is basically due to the rivers Sutlej (or Satluj) and Beas flowing through the land of Punjab.

  • Majha: Between Ravi and Beas
  • Malwa: South of Sutlej
  • Doaba: Between Sutlej and Beas

The group performs in marriages, community fairs and festivals, and some art and cultural shows organized by the Government in Punjab, Delhi Rajasthan and Mumbai. They have also performed in front of Rajiv Gandhi in November 1985. The major breakthrough for the group was during a performance in Chandigarh in 1988, after which they started getting a good number of shows regularly. The ‘boliyaan’ sung during Giddha are used to express the feelings of the people in the community. The shepherds used to perform Giddha for their entertainment, and sing ‘boliyaan’ after taking out the cattle for grazing in the fields. The ‘boliyaan’ have a high quotient of fun and teasing attached to them.

The most exciting thing about Dalbar Ji’s group was a 90-year-old Giddha performer, Sadhu Singh Ji. He performs with the Malwai Giddha group till date, without letting his age becoming a barrier. His passion for the native folk art is his strength. He plays the ‘Dande’ in the Malwai Giddha group and enjoys playing ‘Tumbi’ equally. He belongs to Chattha village near Sangrur. Since childhood, he was deeply interested in this folk art form, and he mastered it gradually by observing different Giddha groups in the local fairs and festivals of his village. He started performing Giddha and playing Tumbi and Chimta when he was as young as 14. He devoted all his life to this art form. He also used to sing ‘boliyaan’ in the same group. He also does farming. He has 4 sons who are involved in farming with him. He has won many accolades and has been awarded by the former Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh. He picked up this art on his own listening to the community singers. His children also learn boliyan from him. He composes his own ‘boliyaan’ as well. Sometimes, he spontaneously sings ‘boliyaan’ while performing, which have always accorded a dynamic touch to his performance.  He plays the traditional wooden folk music instrument, ‘Sapp’, which is native to Punjab. It is also referred to as ‘Kato’ and is played by expanding and collapsing the instrument with both the hands. Dedicated fully to this art form, Malwai Giddha performers never forget to enjoy each and every performance that they present.

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