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Himachal Pradesh

Samadhe Khan and Group

Music is in their blood

 

You return to those lines, and they hold the song in place. That’s what a song is mostly.

The songs of Samdhe Khan possess such captivating powers. This eminent artist is from Sam, Jaisalmer who is carrying forward his family tradition of folk music. He has been learning and performing music from a very young age. He plays the harmonium along with singing. He was studying till 10th standard and after that, he learnt music.  He sings songs of love and betrayal, birth and death. He says, “Such is the juxtapose of artists. We delve into anomalies.”

He is a father of a young boy and a girl, with whom he every day tries to make the cultural heritage. He is very fond of singing traditional old songs about love, lovers, etc. With this he started his song;

Baage baage hazari gulro phool

(As you go towards your in laws’ home)

Koyal chaali mhaari baaga mein

(We’ll miss you our beloved daughter)

Ithro re jaajo maata ji bhalwo sa rolaad

(Your mother loves you and she will miss you)

Ithro re jaajo bhai re bhalwo sa rolaad

(Your brother loves you and will miss you)

Sakhra re sohan mhaari laad

(Your father loves you and will miss you)

Baage baage hazari gulro phool

(As you go towards your in laws’ home)

Telling more about the song he mentions how the emotions and love of a young lady is beautifully portrayed in this folk piece. No wonder that artists, who render these beautiful lyrics day in and day out, get influenced by their spirit too. He says, “I see my children and I think that I am not able to give them all that deserve. Folk musicians struggle for a living. This is a hard reality. I am sending them to school now, but I don’t know till when I would be able to take care of them. It makes me sad sometimes.” Samdhe Khan is from Sam village in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan. He has been following the tradition of singing his folk from the very beginning. He says that they after taking birth their parent’s hand over them with different instruments and thus they learn them without any formal training. Such is the music of Jaisalmer, embedded in its golden sand dunes and engraved in every stone of the majestic living fort-city.

Manganiyaar communities like that of Samdhe Khan have kept their tradition alive through all these years through Guru-Shishya parampara, (teacher-disciple tradition). They have been entertaining the royal families since generations and their contribution to musical history is as vast as the Thar desert itself. The elegant use of poetry and numerous metaphors is what makes them different. Every nook and corner of Jaisalmer is filled with several Samdhe Khan who is trying to carve a niche with their individual uniqueness. His voice is jewelled with the gems of semi-classical tone. He sang for us another beautiful song to cover his melancholy with a big and warm smile. This was the song of welcome. Such is the warmth of the Manganiyaar tribes. Perhaps, such is the life of these artists who translate their pain into beautiful folk songs. This beautiful song also talks about the warm welcoming culture of Rajasthan. Samdhe Khan puts this in his melodious voice and sings other songs of royalty, bravery, love and pain. His songs touch a chord strongly but they reach where they are supposed to.

The music is infinite, and the possibilities of his melodies are endless. The music itself is so vast that it cannot be confined to a textbook and standardized, as there are no set standards for learning music which is imbibed in his blood through generations. India is known for its colours and various layers of culture and the culture of Jaisalmer is rich enough with harmonious melodies promulgating in unforgettable renditions. He sings all kind of songs and all the ragas, amongst which is favourite is Kalyan raag which is the mother of all six the ragas. Samdhe has performed almost everywhere in the country in most of the major cities. He wishes to go out of the country and spread the invaluableness of his culture in the world. He wants to make his country proud. He dreams of taking his community and the talent in them to the world and uplift them. He also sings Sufi and hopes that his songs of prayers reach the one. Someday, he will shower his love and kindness upon him, he says with a great belief. He calls himself blessed to have performed all across the country. But when it comes to making a living, the struggle still exists. It is not easy. Money is an issue, an impediment. But the hope is that people will find them someday on the internet; that someone will notice them, and launch them. He will always sing. Whether it’ll give us anything or not. But you do few things because you are born to do that. Music is that for us, Samdhe says.

Babu Khan and Party

BABUKHANGROUP.COM

A musician leading a generation

Drenched in the Sun of Jaisalmer’s golden city Babu Khan and his group sat down with their instruments to play the tunes of their music. For them, music is their lifeline. The group leader Babu Khan is a modest person who believes in hard work and disciplined life. He is someone who had been acquainted with music since he was a four-year-old kid. He says that he never sat down with anyone particularly to learn music, whatever he knows till date is all because of his father and brother who used to sing every day.

Talking about the music and traditional folk, he says that he sings songs in all kinds of Ragas like Khamaj, Bhairavi, Malhaar etc. Amongst these, his favourite is Khamaj in which he sings all the happy occasion songs. Babu says that they sing all kind of songs, for all the occasions they have traditional folk songs, right from birth to death. They are known for singing songs for all the auspicious occasions like childbirth, marriage, housewarming, etc. Since they are considered auspicious by their royal patronage, they are being called before every such occasion. They tell with pride that no happy occasion starts without their presence and performance.

When asked about the group’s future, Babu thinks of his kids and says with a smile, “ bachche hain bhavishya, inhe hi seekha padha rahe hain ab to sab inke haath mein hain, barbaad karein ya abaad karein (these children are the future of our traditional heritage and we are doing our duty by keeping it alive through teaching these children, now everything is in their hands to save or to destroy.).” He told that the children in his family have very much keen interest in their traditional folk music but he makes sure that they are studying also with sincerity. He recalls his time of life when he was a child and left his studies for the sake of focusing on only music. He feels that he should have completed his studies at least till class 10th, then he wouldn’t have to face unpleasant situations in his life and thus he will put in all the efforts to make his literate.

Babu Khan and his group’s music speak for themselves. They then sit together to perform, binds the atmosphere with a magical aura that mesmerizes the audience. The group sings all kind of songs, especially the one which are original authentic folk songs. The group is known for singing songs which are very rare to be heard and thus there are few songs that only they sing and no one knows such songs. The group is one such group of Rajasthan Manganiyaar community that has a treasure of age-old traditional folklore. They are trying to pass on this traditional heritage to their next generation and have all their faith in them that they shall carry forward with them to give to their next generation. He sings:

Ram kisi ko ni marte hain,nai hatiyaro ram

(Ram never killed anyone, he is not a murderer)

Aapo aap mart hain karkar khota kaam

(One dies when he commits wrong)

Sadhu ki sangat bhali ,phit papi ka naam

(It is good to be in a company of a Saint, that is why early in the morning no one takes sinner’s name)

Moorakh se gadha bhala bhookh batawae gaanv

(A donkey is better than a stupid fellow, but at times because of a hungry donkey an entire village can be in peril)

This group is all about passing on the fire of traditional heritage from one generation to another, which has actually become an exercise drill to make it survive anyhow. The new generation in their group is also very serious when it comes to learning and the old traditional folk songs. They say that it is easier for them to learn them with their studies as they have interest in both of them. They, just like their elders have dreams of taking forward the legacy of their forefathers to a wider audience and global platform. They want the world to know Rajasthan because of them and want to become an epitome of the great music of Rajasthan in the world.

The seasoned artists in the group are responsible for the teaching and guidance of the younger artists present in the group. The group sings mostly authentic original songs of their traditional heritage which has been passed on from their forefathers to them which each generation. The group performs at various occasions like childbirth, wedding, house warming, etc. at their patronages’ houses. The group earns their living out of the live performances they give at various different places. Apart from the music they literally don’t have any means through which they can earn.

These group of artists don’t dream of going to Bollywood and collect fame, rather they and the world to know Rajasthan and their singing is known by their music. They want to make their country proud and carry forward their legacy from one generation to another. For them all they know is music and they can never get apart from it and thus for them it a not just music it is their way of living their lives.

Dev Ram and Group

Bhagya bhala jana satguru mileya padya samand mon sheer

(We were lucky to meet Kabir Das as he is a sea of knowledge)

Hans hoye chugli ji re naam amolakh heera gun gayi le

(And we imbibed his knowledge like a swan swallows pearls)

Harira gun gaile jab lakh sukh shareer

(Till the time our body is fit and fine, till then we should take God’s name)

Peechhe ghano pachhtais panjare me wapela peed

(Later on, one will regret when the time has gone and there is nothing left in hand)

The artist, Dev Ram, fondly known as Bagge, belongs to the famous Manganiyar community of Rajasthan. Manganiyars are Muslim communities in Sindh and Rajasthan areas and are famous for their classical folk music. They are the groups of hereditary professional musicians, whose music has been supported by wealthy landlords and aristocrats for generations. In 1978, Jodhpur-based musician Komal Kothari provided the Manganiars with institutional support, allowing them to sing outside the state for the first time. Currently, several Manganiar groups tour internationally. Dev Ram(49) has been in Jaisalmer ever since he was 20 and members of his community were have been singers in the royal court since centuries. Their music genre mainly comprises of Bhajans and Sufi songs, which are based on verses composed by various mystics like Meerabai and Kabir.

Played on simple instruments like “Tandura” (a five-stringed instrument resembling Veena) and Harmonium, Dev Ram’s songs speak about humanity and love. Most of these songs are composed in “Chautaal” or a 4 beat cycle. According to Bagge Khan, they experiment with various ragas like “Bhairavi”, “Surth”, “Jog” without losing out on the essence and spirit of the song. As Dev Ram quotes the famous poet Bulle Shah “Love is of two types, one is the unending love for Allah and one is the love which we share with each other”. And this love can be best expressed through music, as Shakespeare said: “If music is the food for love, Play on”.

Taking spirituality to another level, Dev Ram lovingly known as Devu is ground to earth person with a mesmerizing voice. His life is as simple as he is, the only thing he knows is to sing bhajans which he has been singing since he was an eight-year-old kid. He is carrying forward the generation-old legacy with such dedication and faith in his heart for the beloved Almighty. He states that while he sings his bhajans he gets connected to the Almighty and through that he has realized that there is just one Being and each one us constitutes it. He believes in the theory of One Soul – One Universe. Dev Ram has learned from his father who likes him used to sing bhajans just like his previous generations. During the process of learning bhajans, he learnt to play Tandoora which adds beauty to his voice. Tandoora in looks resembles Veena as it sounds like it and has five strings. It is played with equipment which is a ring-like structure known as Nakhli (worn in right hand’s index finger). Hearing Dev Ram takes you to a phase where you feel lost in the moment and could connect with your innersole.

Dev Ram belongs from Meherwal caste, the people of this caste are have been indulged in performing bhajans from the very beginning of their inception. From his ancestors to the youngest child of his family are all fabulous folk musicians. None of the musicians in his family have taken training or formally learned about music, music and its sense comes naturally to them. Dev Ram has performed in more than 30 countries but his most favourite is Paris which organised his first-ever international performance. For him, city, time, people or any other thing doesn’t cause any difference in his performance. According to Dev Ram, a person who has well depth and knowledge about music is the most learned person as he has a way to communicate with his inner self and with Almighty.

So if one meets this legendary bhajan singer, he or she will figure out that this man is all about music and Almighty. Dev Ram and his group are as old as his learning in music. The group consists of a small five number of people who have different and meaningful roles to be carried out. In the group, we have a main vocalist Dev Ram on Tandoora, 2 backing vocals with Manjira, 1 musician on Dholak and one on Harmonium. Each of these musicians is amazing performers who together take the group forward in achieving its objective of transcending from the crowd to focus on oneself. They all are Manganiyars from Meghwal caste, which has a background history of folk musicians singing bhajans written by Kabir, Meera, etc.

All these folk musicians have learned music just by listening from their fathers-grand fathers and yet they are so perfect at what they do. All they wish to do is to collaborate and play music with musicians who have learned music as formal education and that is their dream. The group is all about spiritual indulgence and want to remain the same for their entire life. They follow the path of peace and kindness. Their wish is to construct a training institute for the next generation where they could guide and teach children about their culture and tradition with formal education. They would like the Government to recognize them as an authority such that the trainees who come from faraway lands could trust them more and feel their creditability. The performances by these groups are so wonderful that one feels like listening to them throughout.

Raj Himahcali and Group

Taking inspiration from the likes of SD Kashyap, Raj Himachali and his group of Nati dancers and musicians are quite a sight to watch. As a musician and a singer, Raj Himachali and his group have made tremendous progress in the field through their melodies. Raj  Himachali has become a phenomenon in the region around Kullu and writes as well as performs songs for the traditional Nati dance of the region.

This dance form is known as Kulluvi Nati and is only one variant of at least 12 different types of Natis which are native to the state. This intriguing form of dance is performed by the native people in a visibly delightful manner. The meek flow of the dance along with  colorful dresses made from yak leather and other local fabrics makes for a mesmerizing and exquisite sight. The dance has also earned a listing in the Guinness Book of World records for being the largest performed folk dance of the world when over 9000 women participated at the International Kullu Dussehra event which was dedicated toward spreading the message for empowerment of women and girls, across the world and to promote Himachal government’s campaign of “Beti hai Ammo” which translates to “Daughters are priceless”. The people of Himachal Pradesh began to call this event “The pride of Kullu”.

Raj Himachali is a versatile vocalist who claims that he can sing in a woman’s voice also (“Lata Mangeshkar’s voice” to quote his words). His entertaining attitude and mind-boggling vocal ability are bound to leave you flabbergasted. Even though he is starting to gain  popularity in the region through “Youtube”, Raj Himachali still believes that it is hard to earn a livelihood for folk musicians and yet he wishes to pursue the path that fascinates him along with a well-trained group of dancers and instrumentalists. An artist with a multitude of styles and instruments at his disposal, Mani Ram, who goes by the alter ego Raj Himachali comes from the Koli community of Kullu district in Himachal Pradesh. Inspired by SD Kashyap who is one of the most renowned artists in the state, he has been focusing on his craft for more than a decade now.

Although music has become his predominant source of income over the years, he also handles a farm to earn a better lifestyle for his family and especially his children; a ten-year-old school-going son and a daughter who is even younger and is about to enter kindergarten. Being an ambitious individual, Raj Himachali intends to showcase his musical abilities around the globe and perform in front of celebrities as well as internationally renowned musicians, only to become one of them.  Raj Himachali is a versatile vocalist who claims that he can sing in a woman’s voice also (“Lata Mangeshkar’s voice” to quote his words). His entertaining attitude and mind-boggling vocal ability are bound to leave you flabbergasted. Even though he is starting to gain popularity in the region through “Youtube”, Raj Himachali still believes that it is hard to earn a livelihood for folk musicians and yet he wishes to pursue the path that fascinates him along with a well-trained group of dancers and instrumentalists. An artist with a multitude of styles and instruments at his disposal, Mani Ram, who goes by the alter ego Raj Himachali comes from the Koli community of Kullu district in Himachal Pradesh. Inspired by SD Kashyap who is one of the most renowned artists in the state, he has been focusing on his craft for more than a decade now.

Raj Himachali considers music as a gift of God and a source of tranquillity in his life. He is fond of writing songs and working on compositions in different styles like Taoli, Mujra Taal, and Trital. He has also expanded his horizon by learning orchestral music over the years even though his primary focus has been on traditional instruments such as Bansuri, Shehnai, Dhol, and Nagada. He has performed at various events like Chamba Minjar Mela, Mandi Shivratri, Shimla Summer Festival, and Kullu Dussehra.

Although music has become his predominant source of income over the years, he also handles a farm to earn a better lifestyle for his family and especially his children; a ten-year-old school-going son and a daughter who is even younger and is about to enter kindergarten. Being an ambitious individual, Raj Himachali intends to showcase his musical abilities around the globe and perform in front of celebrities as well as internationally renowned musicians, only to become one of them.  In the ned the happy – go – lucky Raj Himachali starts with his song:

Chaand bhi feeka pada sa teri soorata aage ho x2

(The moon seems flawed when I compare it with your face)

Soorta ge ritue teri soorta aage ho

(The moon seems flawed when I compare it with your face)

Teri ta shobli soorte kai dildu daage ho

(Your beauty has stained the hearts of many)

Dildu daage dildu kai dildu daage ho

(Your beauty has stained the hearts of many)

Tau bhali sooraj jawula sa  taare hausde laage ho

(The sun smiles when it looks at you and the stars laugh)

Hosde laage rituein taare hasde laage ho

(When the stars look at Ritu they smile and the sunburns)

I S Chandani and Group

Peej village is located in Kullu Tehsil of Kullu district in Himachal Pradesh, India. It is situated 5km away from Kullu, which is both district & sub-district headquarter of Peej village. This beautiful village is at the top of the valley in Kullu, with a marvellous view of snow-peaked mountains overlooking the field space with a majestic temple in between. The group had selected this place because of their strong belief and sentiments attached to this temple in the hindsight where they have been performing since they were kids. IS Chandini, the group leader is an experienced musicians with a bunch of youngsters who are still in college but are die-hard passionate about their cultural music and dance.

An experienced artist from Lag Valley of Kullu distA troupe of folk artists that is versatile in its own ability to entertain and amaze people with their exceptional musical talents, these artists bring a certain sense of enlightenment to the people of Himachal Pradesh. As a group, they seem to understand and catch each other’s rhythm well enough for anyone to assume that they belong to the same village and community, while the fact of the matter is that they have come from a variety of small villages in the Kullu district of Himachal Pradesh. Inder Singh Chandhani, the leader, has the experience of a lifetime of struggle and perseverance only to find solace in the traditional folk music culture of this region. Behind the leading vocals of Inder Singh, a diverse group of instrumentalists adds a magical vibe to the words that he muses. With their expertise in traditional instruments like Karnal, Shehnai, Dhol as well as Nagada, they make the serenity of the culture truly come to life. 

The songs are mostly made for performing their traditional folk dance which is called “Nati”. This dance form is a centuries-old tradition for the natives of the region. They perform this dance at every auspicious occasion or festivals like the International Kullu Dussehra and the new year of Himachal Pradesh known as “Losar”, which has its origins in the Tibetan culture and comes around the month of April. Almost everyone in the state participates in the different forms of this dance. There are at least seven different types of Natis like Kulluvi Nati, Sirmauri Nati, Lahauli Nati, etc. Different types of Natis are performed on different occasions and while most of these Natis begin with a slow tempo, the intensity eventually rises and the music is stopped only hours later when every dancer and musician is exhausted.

While artists like Chaman Lal and Puran Chand began to discover their interest in music as devotees in the temples, the others were just fascinated by the capacity of this art form in shaping the cultural structure of the society. All of these artists come together from different walks of life, with the same goal in mind, which is to improve their livelihoods and to support their community through the prosperity of the local culture and the state of Himachal Pradesh.

rict in Himachal Pradesh, Inder Sindh Chandani identifies himself as a Bajantri from the Thakur community. He is a vocalist and the leader for his group of highly skilled instrumentalists. He started learning music at a young age of 14 and has been singing folk songs for over four decades.

He took major inspiration from famous artists like SD Kashyap and Dharmendra Sharma in order to learn the art and compose his tunes, focusing on traditional folk melodies. Along with his group of instrumentalists he has written and composed various Bhajans (musical prayers) and folk songs about social issues, romance, and patriotism in Pahari as well as Hindi. He believes in keeping his music original and true to the culture of Himachal Pradesh. He also has two children; one posted in the army and the other trained in plumbing.

Inder Singh has performed in all districts of Himachal Pradesh and has expanded his horizons to many other cities in the country. His first performance was in the year 1985 at a party where he sang a farewell song and captivated the audience with phenomenal vocals. He has also displayed incredible versatility when he played at an international event with an orchestra in the year 1990. He aspires to make visible contributions to the folk music community through the means of an institute called Shri Krishna Kala Sansthan for all the artists and promote folk culture across the globe using his talent and resources.

Khekh Ram and Group

Last day of documentation was very memorable because of this sincere and innocent group of young men who invited us to their beautiful village of Fojal in the Kullu district. From its position and look, Fojal surely resembles a wonderland. Away from the crowd of Kullu Manali tourists, it is a place where one can relax and enjoy the beauty of mountains together.  The places hold one’s sight in a manner which cannot be explained. The snow-covered peaks around with the apple, peach orchards everywhere. One can not ignore the colours and freshness around. Khekh Ram and his group called us above at a spot which was the best spot to capture the beauty of the place and document the group. 

Khekh Ram, a 30 year old man who drew his inspiration to learn music from his parents. He is a singer and has a folk group in Pradi village, Kullu. He began learning music when he was 14 years old, a teenager, for him a career in music was his dream. As he grew up, he formed a group along with a few other men from his village. Khekh Ram recalls his childhood and gives it credit to the fairs and festivals that used to happen in his village, for his interest in music. His first memory of folk music was his elder sister’s wedding, where all the elders in his village came together and danced all through the night. It was then he got to know that it is a folk dance called Kullu Nati. 

For his melodious voice he gives credit to his father from whom he learnt the art of singing Kulvi traditional songs. His school also motivated him to participate in more and more school singing competitions after his first performance in 10th grade. Ever since, Khekh Ram has performed in several fairs, wedding, competitions in Himachal Pradesh.  

His group has a band of talented traditional instrumentalists who play Shehnai, Dhol, Nagada, Karnal,etc. The group proves to be perfect marriage between instruments and Khekh Ram’s voice. Together they mostly perform at wedding functions for which they are invited for 3 to 4 days. They wish to perform at an international level and make the village proud of them. Khekh Ram and others also handle their respective farms to support their families for living. With so many responsibilities, they still manage to perform and entertain people around them. 

Shiwani and Group

While searching for folk artists who need help, we came across a studio who recommended a girl who is in dire need of a platform. He told us that she is a wonderful folk singer but since she is young and has a lot of family responsibility thus never got a chance to help with her skill. She just wants a chance! We called up Shiwani and got to know that she works as a receptionist in the Kullu government hospital near Dushera park. She insisted upon a morning shoot time as she would be able to join once she gets done over with her shift at the hospital. 

The next day she came over with her small group of two more members. It was not a usual sight for us to witness a group of three in Himachal. Most special thing about Shiwani’s group is that they perform all the Himachali folk songs but in a very conventional yet traditional way. They dress up like any other group but since they are extremely skilled yet new to this field they couldn’t afford more group members for dance. This situation made them change their way of presenting folk music to people. They use dholak and harmonium as instruments. 

Other groups members include Surender Kumar, a young man, 20 years of age. He is an extremely talented singer and musician who is at the beginning of his career to begin with in the music industry. He clearly remembers his first performance when he was in 5th grade and ever since his love with music and passion began. At present Surender is learning Harmonium and Flute from Sutradhar Kala Sangam. He dreams of becoming an established singer and a music teacher. Whereas Guddu Ram is the right hand of the group, he began to learn music at the tender age of 10. He is well versed and skilled at playing Sitar, Harmonium and percussion instruments like, Dholak, Dhol, Nagada and Congo. Out of all these his favourite is Sitar.Born in a Sainj village near Tirthan, he gets his inspiration from his father and the local people of his village. Guddu has learnt from Sitar from his Prof Mohini Sharma. Apart from the folk he also likes to listen and humm at Bollywood music as well. Out of these three musicians Guddu likes to write and work on new compositions, with which he is able to make his family  survive. He wants to make his career in the music industry and take his folk traditions forward across the globe. 

Shiwani’s voice is as beautiful as her heart, she sings with such dedication towards her love for music, it can be easily seen on her face. The advantage that this group has is the youthfulness of each member, they have a lot of potential for their growth and talent to become an established musician carrying the flag of their folk culture and traditions forward. All of them already have a keen interest in music ever since their early school days and their confidence is unshatterable. Thanks to the school performances that they have been giving from an early stage in their lives.  

The group is working towards their career to a great extent with determination and experience mentorship from Sutradhar Kala Sangam in Kullu. Each of them have learned the details and fineness of classical and folk music thouthly from  Sutra dhar Kala Sangam. They have a good amount of exposure with conventional as well as modern instruments. 

Shiwani, has won several accolades not just in the field of music but also as a strong contender in various beauty pageants that are organized in the region, makes for a strong leading figure in the group and one of the best young folk artists in the region.Shiwani along with Guddu Ram writes songs about the beauty of huge snow covered peaks in a poetic manner. Their songs are about the huge grandeur valleys and the mighty rivers flowing between them. In one of their songs they thank all the Gods for they bless the people around them and provide them with living resources. In one of her songs called “Thaara Kardu”, she also thanks the gods for her struggles that have shaped her personality and taught her the meaning of strength and fulfilment even in the midst of misfortune and setbacks. Such a mature approach toward creating her songs makes her music even more exciting and something we must all look forward to. The song “Thaara Kardu” is so melodious and the meaning is equally beautiful:

Sunder Singh and Group

There are very few groups left in Himachal who follow the folk traditions as they are, in their original forms. The folk music and dance traditions of Kullu engages more than twenty people together at once. It is always in group formations, which has half people who are singing and the other half dance in doubles. Something apart from the songs and dance that is mesmerising is the dress that they adorn while performing. Sundar Singh and his group is one of the rare and unique groups who have managed to keep the traditions alive till now. 

The dance that Sundar Singh and his group has mastered is known as Kulvi Nati. Kulvi Nati has 12 different types of Nati which are native to the state. This dance form is performed by the folk artists in a slow form in the beginning and pace gets faster with time and rotations of circles. This dance has also earned a listing in the Guinness Book of World records for being the largest performed folk dance of the world when more than 9000 women participated at the International Kullu Dussehra event which was dedicated toward spreading the message for the empowerment of women and girls across the world to promote Himachal government’s campaign of “Beti hai Ammo” which translates to “Daughters are priceless”. The people of Himachal Pradesh began to call this event “The pride of Kullu”.

The group members with Sundar Singh are highly talented and thorough with their music and dance. They have many years of experience in playing the folk instruments as they had started learning the same from a very tender age. The musical instruments used by the groups are Dho, Nagada, Narsingha, Karnal and Shehnai. The group is always up for wring new songs about nature, their surrounding and different situations and perform them at the local festivals and events. 

Sundar Singh sings a song about Kuvi Dussehra which has reference of beautiful scenic locations and thus tries to captivate all of that in his songs.  It brings out the beauty of the festival in connection to the families and friends and their unification at a social space , giving value to the society. The song somewhat goes like this:

 

 

Although the folk artists go through a lot of struggle at their end but still maintains the enthu for learning and exploring more at every point in time. This thought gave birth to the “Kashyap Narayan Yuvak Mandal ”, the name of the group which was conceived by them in their village Banogi, Kullu.Together they have performed almost everywhere in and around Himachal Pradesh. They have a favourite amongst them which is Kullu Dussehra and Una Utsav. Without fail they have been performing there for so many years. They wish to perform everywhere in the country and also international platforms.

A revolutionary vocalist from Banogi (a village in Tirthan valley), who unfortunately lost his father at a tender age of two and his mother during the early years of his school life. He moved in with his grandfather and began to take a deeper dive into the musical culture of Himachal Pradesh as he learned various forms of “Nati” (a traditional dance form that has earned a mention in the Guinness Book of World Records) from his guru, Balakram Ji. Inspired by the traditions of Himachal, he has played an instrumental role in the revival of folk music culture in the state and aims to showcase it across the globe. Sundar Singh began his journey in the field of music as a teenager and imbibed the skills from the elders of his village who would perform during various cultural fairs. 

Sundar Singh started a music club in Banogi called “Kashyap Narayan Yuvak Mandal” in order to support and collaborate with new and upcoming folk musicians in the region. His dream is to establish a music academy that specializes in traditional folk music and teaches the art to the youth so that the prolific musical displays of his culture never vanish into the western influence.

Vidya Sagar Folk Group

Himachal is home to so many tribes and their amazing folk music and dances. The people there wear beautiful crafted traditional attires and give dance performances to melodious music. It is extremely essential for the people of Himachal to preserve their folk forms as the youth there is drifting away from it. To maintain the melodious folk form in the region, Vidya Sagar had begun his quest to impart music knowledge to you under generation in his very early age. If one happens to visit Kullu, do enquire about the Sutradhar and visit them. Vidya Sagar with his team is evidently working hard with the youngsters to keep the Kulvi tradition alive by imparting knowledge how it should be. Vidya Sagar is 49 years old, born and brought up in Kullu. His father used to work in electricity boards and was very supportive of Vidya Sagar to pursue music which was his hobby as well. The inspiration of music has landed to Vidya Sagar from his father who passed on his skills of singing and playing tabla to his son. Vidya Sagar in today’s time is a great teacher and an artist himself. He takes singing classes in Kullu’s Sutradhar institute. For Vidya Sagar life is all and only about music, he has trained his son also into a professional Dholak and Tabla player.

Vidya Sagar, the leader and the Guru of the group has knowledge about Kuvi folk culture and traditions in abundance. He doesn’t restrict himself upon following only traditional Nati music, but also composes them on his own. There hasn’t been any state in India where Vidya Sagar has not performed with his melodious group. Apart from India they have travelled to countries abroad like Russia, Oman, etc. When asked what his dream is, with a faint smile he said, “This is my dream, teaching and performing, what else an artist could ask for more?”

Dussehra in Kullu is recognised on a global platform like UNESCO and for Vidya Sagar is like a ritual to prepare his children for Kullu mela and send them off to perform. His heart fills with pride when he sees his children performing on the representing him and winning accolades. The way his group functions is a perfect example of Guru-Shishya parampara, with respect and discipline.

The group enumerates all the qualities of a cultural folk group. They describe the lives of people in Kullu as social and religious, which is very interesting. They all have great faith in their God whom they move around during festivities in processions. They are very fond of festivals and feasts in which their music plays a very important part. During such festivals people prefer relishing the local delicacies while dancing to the rhythm of music played around them. The playing of instruments in an ensemble is of great importance in Kullu. All the instruments played by them compliment each other beautifully and thus are not very charming when played alone. Folk music of Kullu is a symbol of the collective experiences of its people, particularly those played during the ceremonies associated with the Devi- Devta.

For Vidya Sagar his group Dhol is one of the most significant instrument amongst others. It is made up of wood and copper shell wrapped in a goat or sheep’s leather called pura. These pura tied with cotton string or leather. Dhols depicts folk songs so gracefully, for instance:

Baaj dey dholiya dheeli nati

Hey dhol player, beat the dhol in slow rhythm,

Nauchna aasa dhiyadi rati

so we may dance through the night.

The dhol dominates over other instruments whenever ‘naati’ (folk dance) is performed. One who plays these instruments is called a dholi. The group has wonderful singers who put life in the songs with their melodious voices. Twinkle, born in a family with a long line of musicians and has always felt that she was genetically gifted with her ability to learn and emanate the art through her remarkable vocals. She took birth in a village called Chanaugi, situated in Kullu district of Himachal Pradesh and currently resides in the small village of Bhakhal in Kullu. She initially went to Dhara primary school and then moved on to Middle School Neoli. Eventually, she ended up in Kullu for her high school education from Govind Girls Senior Secondary School and her Bachelor’s degree from Govind Degree College.

She began to sing in middle school as her teachers would encourage everybody to sing a song in front of the class and started gaining popularity in school for her talent, especially among music teachers. This instilled strength and confidence in her character and she started taking more and more opportunities to perform her craft in front of larger audiences. Her high school teacher, Mrs. Prem Latta eventually suggested her to go to Sutrdhar Kala Sangam in order to learn about music and vocals from Pt. Vidyasagar Sharma, who is an established and renowned music teacher in Kullu. Twinkle then moved on to Govind Degree College to get her bachelor’s degree in music. Twinkle has won numerous accolades in the field of music during her time in school and even beyond that. Along with her group from Sutrdhar Kala Sangam, she won a gold medal at a national level event for classical music in Raipur, in the year 2016.She believes that she can make a difference to the folk community of Himachal Pradesh through her vocals and also wants to start her own Youtube channel based on her own music as well as Hindi songs from Bollywood.

Himachal Ekta Manch Group

People often talk about the simplicity and groundedness of people from the mountains. Deep Lal and his group members have exactly matched that profile. He with such profounded invited us to his village and arranged for our locations that are beyond words beautiful. With the Beas river flowing next to The Nirvana property, we started putting our setup. It was pouring heavily that day, in the midst of this non-season rain we asked the group to settle down at a place. Deep Lal, proudly calls himself Harijan (people of God), he happily states that with the music he feels closer to him. Deep being a musician himself always understands the need to push other musicians that he knows along with him. For him, that is the only way to uplift the society and that is the least one could do on humanitarian grounds.

Deep Lal, 33, has written and composed over 300 songs till now. He has been associated with with activities and events related to music ever since he was in school. With pride, he showed pictures of his accolades and medals which we won in the competitions from his school as well as national levels. He fondly recollects the memories when he was a small boy, he had to go to school early in the morning and dedicate the evenings for farm works. Deep is a versatile personality who excels in music, acting, dancing, etc. He completed his Master’s degree in music from Shimla University in 2007 and started a business for tents, DJ equipment, and filmmaking in the year 2009. Deep is very religious too and therefore most of his songs are about the gods as well as the daily quirks of life.

Deep and his group are well versed with the traditional Kulvi Nati, folk dance of Himachal Pradesh. The group has performed at so many platforms at international levels. The group’s most favourite performance of theirs was when Karan Singh, the brother of Raja Maheshwar Singh invited them for celebrations at his home. 

When Deep Lal was in college he got deeply inspired by Mr S D Kashyap, who is a very well known folk performer in Himachal Pradesh. The groups want to make way to the Bollywood industry and promote Himachali culture and traditions through them across the globe. 

Deep Lal ji has Sukhram and Kiran Joshi in his group who equally support him in his motives to uplift good music and musicians. Sukhram has a beautiful voice, which inspires so many other people to stick to their roots. Sukhram at one end has been blessed with one of the most melodious voices we have come across in Himachal while on the other hand, he has lost 75% of his eyesight due to a medical condition. But Sukhram is unstoppable. He has recently completed a professional course in music from “Sutradhar Kala Sangam” and recorded an album called “Bashkoli Dhamaka” with the assistance of Deep Lal. He has truly dedicated his life to refining his art and giving his service in the society in whichever way possible. Despite all the struggles, he has managed to stay passionate about music and aims to get better at it every day.

Deep Lal knows Kiran from his childhood times. He is still very young and has recently enrolled in a Bachelor’s degree. He has been into singing ever since he was 11 years old. He knows he is talented and thus feels motivated to go ahead with music in life. He has a very deep interest in writing new songs reciting the issues in society and wishes to make a difference with his music along with his group. 

Telling about their music and interest, they started with their 1st songs:

 

The instruments that Deep Lal and his group have been very interesting as they are being used every day in our life. For instruments, they use a Copperplate filled with some rice and a stick, Dholak, anklets, etc