Category

Himachal Pradesh

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

Saroj Mahila Mandal Group

Dolma Ji is the leader of Mahila Mandal of Chhanni Kod, a village located near Manikaran. She is wonderfully playing the roles of a wife, mother and responsible leader. Dolma’s interest in music was inspired ever since she was a small girl in his village. Dolma grew up listening to folklores in her villages sung by her mother, grandmother and neighbouring ladies. Dolma formed her group in order to make the ladies in her village to develop an interest in music for women and youngsters around. She along with her team motivates and inspires other women in their village to join them and follow their passion for music. 

Dolma with music along with her household also takes care of farming. She has a small family of five people alongside the cattle. She and other women’ family in her Mahila Mandal are extremely supportive of their women following their passion for music. They make time to perform at various events that happen on the district and state level. She happily responds to her first-ever performance as s group at Kulla Kala Kendra, Himachal Pradesh in 2002. According to her, that was the happiest moment of her life since she was able to perform with her entire group after so many rehearsals and their dance came out to be very fine. Since 2002, the group has been performing every year in the Kullu Kala Kendra.

Most of the time the budget of the show is not enough to pay the groups with an adequate amount of money but still, the group never loses hope and continues to perform giving their best with lovely smiles on her face. The group wishes to showcase their talent across the globe, promoting the Himachal Pradesh folk culture. The group has performed at many places in Himachal for weddings and religious festivals and events. They mostly sing songs which have sung from generations old. Dolma is very proud of her group and feels that she is lucky to be able to present her valuable culture to other people. 

Due to lack of education, she cannot write and read properly, therefore she doesn’t prefer writing and composing new folk songs. She says she feels an insane amount of calmness with the age-old songs that they have been performing. Like other groups in Kullu, Dolma’s group has dance along with their singing and instrument which they play along. The group has always felt happiness in entertaining people rather than earning money out of it. All the women in the group are housewives taking care of their families and households. The Mahila Mandal group is accompanied by instrumentalists who are all male. They play instruments like Shehnai, Dhol, Nagada and Karnal.

 These women have been performing to celebrate happiness, spread awareness about social issues using slogans like ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’, etc. They wear a beautiful dress which has a salwar kameez on top which a traditional wedding shawl, patani is worn as wrap-around. On top of the shawl, they play their jewellery which is basically silver Chadrahaar and heavy anklets on their ankles. They do the traditional ‘Kulvi Nati’ which is famous in the world. They start with dance on a very slow beat and eventually increase the beat as they complete one circle in it. 

Baldev 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. Baldev and his group are a bunch of youngsters who are still in college but are die-hard passionate about their cultural music and dance.

Baldev belongs to a Rajput Thakur community of Kullu, Himachal Pradesh. He recently completed his graduation and obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Commerce. He always felt the strong connection with folk music and dance because of his teacher Ram Singh who made sure that their Pahadi tradition is imbibed in him. Baldev believes to save their tradition from getting faded away, it is important for the youngsters in the valley to initiate and take up folk music as their passion and understand its value. The group strongly believes that music can spread messages which will reach the people in society in the best way.

Baldev likes to write new folk songs which are mostly stories which he has been listening to from his elders in his village. He likes to portray those stories in the form of songs and make people listen to them. Along with a group of instrumentalists who are experts at playing instruments like Dhol, Nagada, Karnal, Shehnai, etc., he makes beautiful and refreshing entertaining songs. He wishes to make a fusion of folk songs because he believes these days and in coming days people would like to listen to folk songs in a contemporary form.

The group has performed at various competitions like International Kullu Dussehra as well as Winter Carnival Manali and won various accolades and trophies for the same. They want to start their own institute to teach music and help the younger generation of artists. Baldev and his group wish to go on national and international tours to showcase their enriching cultural and folk performances. The group together showcases the traditional ‘Nati’ folk dance which is originally a cultural dance form of Kullu, Himachal Pradesh. [Nati refers to the traditional folk dance of Kullu, Shimla, Sirmaur, Chamba and Kinnaur districts of Himachal Pradesh. The dance is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest folk dance. It is quite popular in the whole of Himachal Pradesh. Dance is also popular in Chandigarh where Himachali youth perform this on cultural programmes.]* 

All the members in the group are involved with some of the other professional activities in order to make their families survive. Puran Chand isn’t just a musician but also a farmer and carpenter for over two decades and he aspires to perform and promote his culture through the means of music and dance. Pradeep who plays Karnal is still in his school completing his studies. Deen Dayal, the Shehnai player, earns a living through professions such as sewing and driving a taxi but carries his love for music forward. Chaman Lal plays dhol, also works as a farmer for his livelihood and is the only person in his family who has decided to pursue his passion for music. 

We reached Peej in the just before the dusk and set up the documentation equipment for the group, with a smile on his face, Baldev hinted the group to make their dance formation and began with their song:

Yuvraj Kullu and Group

 

Wandering in Kullu in our search for the sweet and melodious folk groups, we discovered this young fellow who had set up his own small recording room for his passion for music. Yuvraj is merely 24 years old, he loves to write his own folk songs and compose them too. His songs are mostly about love in which he romanticises nature. For Yuvraj, music is his passion and the best way to connect with people. He wants to write good songs and make people happy with them. 

Yuvraj has 3 other artists in his group like, Roshan Lal ji who is an extraordinary dholak player, Thirath Ram who plays the big round Nagada and Om Prakash ji who plays a folk instrument Karnal which looks like a long trumpet. The group has been together for almost a decade now, performing at different places in and around Himachal. They mostly play during various competitions held in Kullu and occasions like weddings. Each one the members are passionate about their folk music but due to less opportunity in this field, none of them follows it as full time. All the group members have other jobs which fulfil their hunger and make them survive in life

In spite of music being their passion, farming is every members’ primary source of income as they don’t get enough money to survive upon performances. All the group members belong to the Bajantri (instrumentalist) community of Darth village in Kullu, Himachal Pradesh. The group together displays a beautiful amalgamation of folk instruments of Kullu. They perform mostly at the Jagratas and wedding ceremonies. “We are considered very auspicious, so people call us for all the good occasions in the family to commence the functions.”, pointed out Yuvraj with a lovely smile on his face.

As per tradition, the group leads the procession of series of Gods which is carried before every marriage function in order to seek blessings of all the gods in the valley. We found a beautiful spot near an old temple commonly known as, Bijli Mahadev. As we completed our set up, upon the cue Yuvraj started off with his own composition, Jhurri teri yaad which is about a man who is missing his beloved in the valleys. The wordings of the songs goes like:

Khokhe bhi holi Jhurri,

Where are you my beloved,

Dutt ke sauns ke?

Where have you been all this while?

Khokhe holi ateria ghere waqt,

I am wondering where you are right now,

Yaad bhi aandi teri uthte beshde…

I miss you every time, all the time….

The group believes in saving their rich traditional culture for which they are ready to put all their efforts, especially when it comes to writing new folk songs. Yuvraj has a beautiful collection of folk songs which he has written while he was growing up. When you listen to this young man singing his own songs in his melodious voice with his group supporting with the same enthusiasm make one feel proud to see this generation doing their bit.

The instruments played in the groups are Karnal, Nagada and Dhol. Karnal is a long brass trumpet-like, it has to be set up before performing, initially, it is divided into 3 parts. Nagada and Karnal are drum instruments which one plays with hands or sticks. Together, the group wishes to play at various platforms across the country and globe with their tradition and music. It’s their dream to make Himachal feel proud with their new folk comes which they have been working on for so long.