Category

Himachal Pradesh

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.

Bhuvnesh Katoch and Group

Bhuvnesh Singh Katoch was born on 15th Nov 1977 in a small village called Mehla in Chamba, Himachal Pradesh. He liked singing while he was a child and used to actively participate in school competitions. Further his interest in music got converted into his profession. He comes from a family which had singers and musicians which in a way inspired him throughout his life. His mother used to sing and his father was a folk dancer. His grandfather was also a great dancer locally and he inspired him to follow art. Further, Katoch claims that his guru is A N Sharma, a retired lecturer in Himachal Pradesh who was also a singer.

Five years back, Katoch made a group of 2-3 members. Today, it has 6 young members, all passionate and driven for pahari folk music. His group members are Rakesh Saniyal, Pradeep, Ajay Kumar, Rohit and Palak. Bhuvnesh and Palak are vocalists. Palak, 25, was born in Mehla in Chamba. She realized that she is meant for music in her childhood when he heard songs from her mother who was driven for pahadi folk music. She has a degree in music and a post-graduation in theatre and is now working with the National School of Drama. She believes in the originality of the music and disapproves of the idea to mix music to further develop it. She likes how pahari music vividly describes the beauty of nature, which makes her curious to know more about it. Rakesh Saniyal, 43, is a Dholak player and a singer. Although his main source of employment is singing, he also works an electrician to supplement his earnings. He also works in an NGO.

He had been interested in music since childhood. He first played dholak when he was in third class in school. His inspiration is his parents who were deeply connected to music. It had been 10-12 years that he has been singing and playing dholak. He wants to safeguard pahari culture and the tradition of singing folk music by transmitting it to the younger generation. He also likes to write songs. He has composed a few songs which he performs in cultural programmes. Ajay Kumar, 22, was born in Chamba. He has been playing dholak with the group for 5 years. He learned to play dholak from his paternal uncle who was a singer and was connected with music. Pradeep, 28, was born in Chamba. He plays table in the group and it had been 4 years since he is playing with Katoch’s group. He learned tabla when he was 15 years of age. He earlier uses to sing in jagratas, weddings and festivals. Rohit, 18, plays the harmonium in the group. He joined the group 5 years back. He was interested in music since childhood and has a degree in Music.

He sings songs about love and other things about life, saying so he began with :

Amma puchandi sun dhiye meriye

(A mother aksks her daughter)

Dhiye bhala dubli tu kiyan kari hoyiho

(How have you become so thin?)

Dhiye bhala dubli tu kiyan kari hoyiho

(How have you become so thin?)

Parli bhaniya mor je bole ho

(The peacock in the forest screams)

Parli bhaniya mor je bole ho

(The peacock in the forest screams)

Amma ji ini more ninder jagayi ho

(And it doesn’t lets me sleep)

A song is about a conversation between a mother and a daughter. The mother seems concerned about the daughter at first, asking her about her health and why she has lost so much weight. She moves on to talk about a screaming peacock that doesn’t let her sleep at night and she might get him hunted due to all this anger. Later on, she explains how her love is just like the moon and the stars that vanish as the night ends.

Rajinder and Shakuntala

A duology of Music

While searching for a beautiful location in the midst of hills, we found a beautiful guesthouse. It was highly generous of Aunty ji to let us shoot in the yard of the guesthouse. The guesthouse was very artistically designed. The yard overlooked the skies and the hills. Very soon, the artists came. We were shooting Rajinder and his wife. The couple had been singing for 20 years. They are basically from Bharmour but they live in a small village called Mangla with their family. They belong to the Gaddi community, a community well known for their art and culture in Himachal.

Rajinder was having his ruvana on his shoulders and a bag on the other, which presumably contained the gaddi costume and other instruments. Anyone could have easily seen the excitement in his eyes. We were busy preparing for the photoshoot. We were adjusting microphones, cables, cameras, and other devices so that there wasn’t any mess during the shoot. After a while, we asked the couple to handle us their instruments. The couple was apparently reluctant to give their instruments, initially. We found it quite strange. After some chit chat, Rajinder told that his ruvana is nearly a hundred years old and he seldom gives it to anyone outside his family. He gave the ruvana and other instruments to us and left to change into traditional costume. We too were excited to learn about a new instrument. Ruvana is a string instrument which is usually played with a dafli-like instrument called khanjari which is made up of leather. Both of them are rare and are played only by the Gaddi community in Himachal Pradesh. Even though the art form is getting depleted day by day. Playing Ruvana is a tough cookie because one has to play it with one hand while playing khanjari with the other and sing simultaneously. It is simply fruit of diligent hard work that Rajinder learned to play the instrument. We enquire more about the rare instrument. Rajinder tells, “ye ek prachin yantra hai sudama ka, jo ki shri krishna ke bhakt aur dost the. Wah ye bajate the ”

(It is an ancient instrument by Sudama, ardent devotee and friend of Lord Krishna. He used to play it)

“Mene gaana tab se sikha jab me 10 saa ka tha. Phir 9 saal ke lagadaar kadi mehnat ke baad, maine kisi tarah gaana aur ruvana aur khanjari bajana sikha”

(I started learning it when I was 10, then only after nine years of continuous hard work, I somehow learned to sing and play ruvana and khanjri.)

His parents were a constant source of inspiration and it took it years to learn it and start a practice to sing and play during events. Music runs in Rajinder’s family and it is tough for him to get away from this art form.

“..Ji ye kala humne apne pita se sikhi aur unhone unke pita se. Ye aise hi chala aa raha hai” 

(I learned this art from my father and he learned it from his father. It goes on this way)

Rajinder and his family are dependent on music for their livelihood. The couple goes to villages far off to give their performance and get money out of it. Apart from singing and playing music, he writes songs as well. All his brothers sing and music is generally the main source of income in the house. He got married 25 years ago and after their wedding, Shakuntala entered into the world of music. Rajinder taught her to sing and play music. Twenty years of singing together is clearly visible in their performances. One can easily hear the sweetness of the music in their songs. Simple, sweet and adorable is what they describe their style of music and we can’t help but agree to it, after hearing them for the first time. Initially, they proclaimed that they were a bit intimidated by seeing such huge cameras and other instruments but when they started singing, it was like they got transported into another world. Their whole heart and soul were in their singing and they didn’t care much about who or what else was around them. It explains that they clearly feel what they sing in each and every performance.

Rajinder generally performs Musada Gayan. It is like a jagrata in which chapters of Ramayana, Mahabharata and Shiv Purana are sung overnight. The first song they sang was, “Hari Om Namah Shivay!” (Oh, Lord Shiva! I bow before you!) After chanting the shiv mantra, they sang the first song, Shiv Darshan. In this hymn, there is a vivid description of the physical attributes of Lord Shiva. The Lord of the Lords is wearing wooden slippers, skin of a leopard around his waist, rudraksha garland around his neck and Ganga is running out from his hair. The hymn describes the mythical tale of how Lord Shiva dresses like a monk and pretends to ask for offering in the street of Gokul in order to see the infant Krishna.  The conversation between Lord Shiva and Mother Yashoda is intricately discussed.

“..Baalak Darshan ko aya Yashoda, baalak kyon chupai” 

(came to see the infant (Krishna), why are you (Yashoda) hiding him?)

When Lord Shiva comes to visit Yashoda’s home dressed as a saint, Yashoda, being a possessive mother, doubts his intentions and doesn’t let him see infant Krishna. 

During this time of rapid technological advancement and westernization, people don’t give much acknowledgment and appreciation to folk music as compared to western music. Due to this Rajinder faces a series of problems. People insist him to sing on different topics rather than religious folk tales. Rajinder and Shakuntala can’t help but write and learn new songs as demanded by the people. The second song he sang was called “Thekedarni”. The song is based on the sarcastic and humorous conversation between a couple. A young man goes to his lover’s home as a guest and asks her to serve him and take care of him.

“inna badhiya jo tudka laya ho thekedarniye”

“as khayi piye mauj manana ho thekedarni ye”

He wants to take rest, feast till late at night and have a tight sleep on the bed in the courtyard of his lover’s home. He teases her by saying that then they have the night, only God knows when else can they enjoy a night like that.

Meeting this couple elated us. There wedding has a strong bond by the virtue of music. 

Roshan and Kanchan

Hymns from the Hills

Roshan and Kanchan are yet another captivating gaddi music couple hailing from Bharmour. We came to know about Roshan from people who live in Chamba. Roshan is a local legend in Mangla. He is the first person who comes into the mind of people when a musada gayan has to 

be done or a religious event or a wedding has to be done. after meeting roshan ji it appears he is  as gooda human as he is a singer. Roshan sings and plays ghungroo, ruvana and khanjari. Hsi wife kanchan sings and plays kensi or cymbals besides him.

“Ye hmari paanchi pidhi hai jo gaa rahi hai”

The ruvana which he uses to lay music belongs to his grandfather and is 150 years old. He wants to pass this heritage to his children. He is tensed that what will happen after no one in his family pursued music. He even wishes that the government shall put a scheme to help folk musicians like him. He is even trying to teach his kids this art but somewhere he feels that they alone won’t be able to handle this great art form. The reason why he says the saem is beacuise is because tiem ahs change. Now people are inclined towards westernb music and western culture. Folk music might be the last thing people want to listen, understand and learn about. Eh explains that folk musicians earlier played a significant role in the society. Since those times there wasn’t any tv, ardio, internet and people were not literate, folk musicians played a quintessential role to spread the message of God. as people of himachal were religious from early, they use to listen to chapters of ramayana, mahabharat, shiva purana and others. What folk musicians used to do was to learn each chapter, understand it and tell or sing it to the masses during musada gayan which is like a jagrata. After each chapter the musician use to explain it to people. But with the advent of television and people becoming more literate they don’t depend on musicians for religious sermon. Alsp due to westernization, people are more into western music and disco and other things. Another problem is people like to make new music by emerging folk with western music which he frowned upon and also the elders of the family don’t like it.

Music of chamba is based on nature,. Weddings, seasons, relationships among people are common topics. Folk tales which are ancient are important ingredients of chamber music. Due to the rain there were some problems on how will we shoot and would it be possible to do it today. We tried to make good use of time. We conversed with the folk musicians in detail to get to know about their lifestyle and their  culture. It was a two way road. We also talked about how our ngo works. It was a great chit chat followed by a small music ajm which we did together. They told us about their music and folk songs in the most intricate details. While we were talking about songs we also came to know about personal life about the couple. Kanchan helps Roshan in every aspect of life. She sometimes counsels ehr in problems. Eh talks about teachings which eh got from his father and forefathers. He also took a teacher cum mentor who taught to play ruvana. Since they follow guru shishya parampara he is also supposed to give him guru dakshina.

“Paramparik geeton ko paramparik veshbhusha ke sath hi gaya jata hai”

Due to drizzle the river bank became even more beautiful. We could hear the sound of the wind whistling around and the waters flowing in the nearby stream.We were thrilled to hear the first song which was “chamba aar.’ Chamba aar ki nadiya paar talks about a romance between lovers. The young man asks his lover what does she needs as he is going to Chamba. He beautifully describes the beauty of Chamba, its rivers, its wealth and everything else.

The next song which they sing was on traditional religious singing called Musada. They sang “hawkeye jogiya”d and this song is sung during weddings, the ritual associated with it is that during the wedding, the groom is supposed to dress like a monk and ask for offering. This is with respect to the hindy myth in which Lord shiva, when he was getting married to Sati, dressed himself as monk and asked for offerings.teh song details about various pilgrimage sites present in the country.

In the song it is asked which all pilgrimage sites have you visited and the groom or Lord shiva answers that I have visited gauri kund, shiva stotra, manimahesh, badrinath, kedarnath, yamunotri, gangotri, etc. Lord Shiva mention that if someone goes to these sites than all his sins will be forgiven.

Roshan’s love for music could be seen by his love for his musical instruments especially his ruvana which is 150 years old and belonged to his father. Ruvana is made up of chir or as locally called khumani. The strings were earlier made up of goat’s intestines but now they are made up of nylon. It is a belief that Lord Krishna made it and gave it to Sudama who played it. He says that there is a belief of tying sacred threads or dori at the end of ruvana during puja and asking prayers while the musician plays. It is a wish which one makes to Lord Satya Narayana. Apart from ruvana which is a string instrument, he plays khanjari which is a small dafli like instrument and ghungroo, which he ties on his left wrist. Khanjari is made up of walnut wood. Kanchan accompanies Roshan by singing and playing kalsi or cymbals. Apart from the musada gayan, the songs they sing are about Nature, mainly emphasizing on rivers and mountains, different seasons and lives of people. Apart from this, Roshan also writes songs. The main inspiration for writing songs is Nature. He writes how he feels and what emotions goes through him when he travels through the hills or valleys. The couple belongs to the Gaddi community. The people of the community were historically shepherds and used to graze sheep and cows in high altitude pastures of Himalayas. It is believed that a lot of compositions were made by people while grazing their animals. They are avid worshippers of Lord Shiva and their devotion is visible in their songs. The community has a rich culture, from bright costumes for both men and women to cultural festivals like Basua or Baisakhi, Minjar Mela, etc. 

Roshan lives with his mother and his three children, all of whom are studying. He wished his sons to continue his legacy to spread traditional Pahadi music. Although their village has all the basic facilities and infrastructures like electricity, schools and healthcare, their lives are difficult at times during extreme weather conditions. So he and his brothers made a house in Mangala in Chamba where they shift during the winter months. Singing is the only source which brings finance to their home so they do it with utmost passion and love. Very occasionally they go to Bharmour for farming and grazing cattle when they don’t have any other means to generate money. 

Pawan and Nirmala

A Love Affair on Hills

Pawan Singh and Nirmala Ji belongs to a small village called Jawa in Chamba in Himachal Pradesh. They belong to the Gaddi community. Pawan’s parents as well as grandparents were singers and musicians and therefore Pawan was born in a musical atmosphere. It was unlikely for him to not pursue music. The family supported his musical career and wanted to make him a singing star. His interest in singing was further developed when he started participating in singing competition in school. Somehow in the midst of his career, he left singing and tried working other jobs like farming, animal husbandry and mason. He continued it for years and lost touch for music. But eventually eh return back to it. Since he lost touch to music, he forgot to play his khanjari and ruvana and it was a tough time for him to learn it again. He says that he didn’t lose hope. He kept on playing and singing till he eventually learned it. Today he is an able singer and plays his instruments very well. Pawan now sings and simultaneous plays ruvana, khanjari and ghungroo. He got married with Nirmala, who hails from Bharmour and taught her singing. Nirmala also goes to several villages with him and sings by his side.

The main source of income for the group is music. As passionate and driven he is for music, he doesn’t deny the fact that one is not able to completely pay his bills through music. He has worked for years in musica nd faced a lot of difficulties. Sometimes, they don’t get enough shows and there are months in which playing music or singing is strictly prohibited so they have to see other jobs. Pawan works as a mason and a farmer to get the work done and get money for his and his family’s livelihood. He likes to sing a variety of songs. Songs which are based on topics like nature, cultural lives of people. Festivals, life of people, Gods and goddesses,etc. His favourite songs are religious songs which are dedicated to Gods and Goddess. He considers himself as a devotee of Lord Shiva, just like most of the people of Himachal Pradesh. He talks about the importance of guru in singing. No one can learn without a guru. “Gru toh har cheez ke liye dharan karna padta hai aur maine taya ji se guru path sikha hai”

His father and grandfather was into this job of music and they wanted someone to pass on their torch too. As Pawan’s siblings don’t follow music and are working in different fields, he became the sole torch bearer and holds this responsibility on his shoulders to bring forward their heritage to the future generation. “Kaam khud sikha deta hai aadmi ko. Galat hoga pehle lekin dheere dheere sudhaar hoga”. It is clearly visible that it is difficult to play ruvana. It is even more difficult to play in synchronization with khanjari and singing. It comes only through practice. When we asked him what he feels about women pursuing a career in music. He said that it is completely fine for women to play instruments and sing. He doesn’t offer any resistance to it and no one else does, but it requires a lot of hard work and training since childhood. It is difficult for nirmala to sing because she doesn’t come from a musical background. She learned music only after they got married and it is difficult to get people practise to sing while performing daily chores. Plus if seen technically it is difficult to follow a music by women because musada gayan has been designed in a way in which firstly the men sings and the women follow. It can’t be vice versa s women have shrill voice. Moreover, it is difficult for women to stay out of their homes to sing during the night time and travel to villages as it could be unsafe.

“Mene sirf ek mahila ko gate hue aur bajate hue dekha abhi atk”

Pawan was ready to teach us to learn pahari songs. He wanted to pass hsi torch. He has two daughters and a son. All of tehma re young and are studying. 

“Ham chacha taya ke bacche milakar 17 hai, lekin abhi keval em hi gana gata hoon. Keval menu hi gana bajana sikha aur abhi is waqt koi aur nhi jo is parampara ko age badha kar lekar jayega”

“Sharam mehsoos karte hai in sab cheezo me”

Pawan jai is saddened by the fact that no one wants to pursue music and feels ashamed of pursuing it. He is very stressed about who will be learning music from him to pass on this rich tradition.

“Iske liye mata saraswati ki den zaruri hai. Iska gila nahi hai, swar nhi hai, who raise nahi kar sakta. Swar zaruri hai”

Generally he performs musada gayan for which he has to perform singing and playing music  overnight along with his wife. For this it required massive training and experience. They have to learn and bye heart each chapter and it is very important. They should also know the meaning of it. As they first sing the chapter completely and tell the masses the meaning of the song. 

Bharmour is known as shiva bhumi which 4-5 hours away from chamba city. From bharmour, the beginning of manimahesh yatra begins. Pawan explains that living in bharmour is difficult. It is isolated from the world through mountains. There is a single road which reaches this place and afterwards the road ends. The place is not well connected. The climate is severe as well. People have to leave the place during winters as it snows a lot. People shift to places in chamba and kangra where most of them have different homes. During summers they come back again. As beautiful the way to bharmour from chamba is, it is extremely beautiful. We set up the cameras and other instrue,mnst on highlands which were at an altitude of 4500 feet. The place was near to the brahmani devi temple., we crossed bridges and alpine forest to reach this beautiful place. After setup we asked pawan ji to sing his first song. The first song he sang was shravan viyog which describes the ramayana tale when dashrath killed shravan while he was filling his pot to bring water for his blind parents and eventually dashrath git cursed from sharvan’s parents after they were heartbroken listening to the news of their son’s demise. The other song was a song depicting the cultural life of gaddi couple.

Kasmiri Lal and Group

A Magician on Hills

While we were searching for more folk musicians in the streets of Dharamashala, we asked local people if they know anyone. Some few of them proclaimed the name of Kashmiri Lal. After a few hardships we finally travelled from Dharamshala to a small village called Jia. When we first heard Kashmiri Lal, we all were completely spellbound. He can surely run circles around any other pahari singer. Jia is yet another beautiful village in the midst of hills. We finally reached Kasmiri Lal’s home. We chit chatted with him to know him better in his front yard. Because of his singing, he is known as a very respectable person in the village. It is very strange that in his close family, he is the only one who sings professionally. He is the only music lover in the family who sees music as a source of income. When he was 9 years old, he saw a spark for music in himself and developed an interest in it. And after that only he started singing and dancing. His guru Unnu Puran Ji hails from Chamba and taught him to play the ruvana and singing. He was born in Bharmour, a village in Chamba. His parents were labourers and had no interest in music. But while studying, Kashmiri Lal developed an interest in music and started learning it.

Himachali geet tukke ke upar nhi bane hai, har geet ke upar kuch na kuch kahaani hai

“Himachali music is not groundless, each song has a story behind it”.

Kashmiri further explains that each song has a strong emotion behind it and has a meaning associated with it.

“Aajkal ke log yahan wahan se jodkar kuch bhi bana complete dete hai”

“People, nowadays, make music out of anything arbitrarily…”

Kashmiri doesn’t like the direction where music is going and particularly worried about Pahadi music which is not followed by many. A reticent, by what he appears to us, Kashmiri Lal looks very cool minded, calm and collected. He looks very composed, albeit gives a terrific performance. He likes to sing different style of singing as well, let it be Kangra, Mandi or Chamba style. He understands the three styles profoundly as he has performed in the three areas. He says that he has now learned to sing punjabi songs as well as people demand him.

He has youtube channel and is quite famous in it which is why MTV featured him on their channel. He doesn’t have ego regarding the same and believes in humility.

Kashmiri Lal has been singing for 35 years and has gathered a lot of experience. Strong voice. Sweetness, fragrance of folk can be felt when he sings. He is also an avid writer and he sings the songs what he has written. He likes to sing religious songs very much. Most of the songs are dedicated to Lord Shiva. Earlier he used to sing with her wife just like any other Gaddi couple singer but due to some personal reason his wife stopped singing and he joined a group of folk singers and musicians to sing with. He used to sing along with the group and visited a lot of cities like Delhi and Chandigarh and performed there. Kasmiri Lal built his new home completely by his career on music and now he lives his life comfortably. But after singing with the group for almost 8 years he left the group. He found a new way to stay connected with music by forming a group with his nephews. Music is something which he can’t escape and he doesn’t feel like doing any other work except for playing instruments and music, so he started a new group himself. He taught his nephews and is a constant source of inspiration for both of them. He incepted this interest for culture of Himachal and folk music in their minds.

During the shoot we were worried how will it happen as it was drizzling and their wasn’t a suitable shaded area which could be used for shoots. Eventually after much strolling throughout locally, we found a small temple where we decided to shoot them. Kashmiri Lal came with his nephews Pawan and Sanjeev, dressed in traditional Gaddi costume. In the midst of the river flowing through the valley, hills touching the sky and clouds somehow penetrating through the snowy mountains was a glimpse of a lifetime. Plus 3 musicians dancing and completely lost in music with such a beautiful landscape was an eye candy.

Cutting off our desperation, Kashmiri Lal sang the first song Mahadeva. In this song, there is a vivid description of Mahadeva and his attributes. This is followed by miracles and creations of Lord Shiva. How beautifully he created the stars and the moon. He lives in his heavenly abode in Mount kailash and wears a serpenta round his neck. He takes care of his devotees and we all bow our heads before him. 

The second song was completely different from the first one. It is called “Kaisa laga Goriye”. It is a romantic song depicting the love between a couple. In this song, the young man asks his lover how do you feel living in the mountains of Himachal. The song depicts how virtuous the people of Himachal are. the song also talks about what are the difficulties faced by a couple when they decided to away and get married. The lady is not ready to elope and leave her family away but her lover serenades her and asks her to come with her else they will never be able to meet again.

Kashmiri Lal explains that he likes to visit places and give performances there. He has

 Given performances in Delhi, Mumbai, Chandigarh and other major cities in India. He has visited nearly all districts in Himachal Pradesh. He has participated in many governmental and non governmental programmes.

“Bhagwan ka diya sab hai aur sab badhiya challenge raha hai”

(Everything is given by God and everything is hunkydory.) 

This is his motive of living his life out loud. He was upset about how once a network channel came and recorded him and made a video out of him. They proclaimed that the money generated with it will be given to him. But after the recording, the people haven’t contacted him and didn’t connect to him in any way. He says that now he doesn’t trust people and emphasizes on the need to generate awareness among folk musicians.

Bishwanath and Group

Music from 8 to 80

As Robin William once said “You have got a little spark of madness, you mustn’t lose it.” During our trip to Himachal, we surely celebrated that little spark with a group hailing from Kangra. We met this group earlier in Dharamshala and aftera along conversation, we realized that they know a lot about their culture which dazzled us.  We were excited to document this group because we knew somewhere in our minds that we will do great and it they did. Almost ninety percent of the mebers in teh group were above fifty yaers of age. This group is led by Bishwanath. His group consists of both men and women, young and old, nut surely full of phenomenal energy. We felt grateful meeting such great people who have somehow dedicated their whole life to music. 

Bishwanath Ji was born in 1965, in a small village in Upper Kuhan in Kangra, Himachal Pradesh. He lives with his family; his wife; two children and four grandchildren. He has two brothers, one of them sings as well. He feels very proud of the rich cultural heritage of the state of Himachal and his own district Kangra but doesn’t deny that pursuing a career in singing in order to conserve heritage was and is still not easy. He learned to sing when he was a child, from his parents who were folk musicians and singers themselves. He says, “me apne pita ko ramayan aur krishna-leela ke natak prastut krte hue dekhta, bachpan me. isne mujhe haavi rups e prabhavit kara” (I used to watch my father performing dramas of Ramayana and Krishna Leela. That inspired me heavily) His family background was associated with music and therefore music ran into his blood from the very beginning. He further learned dancing and drama from his Guru Luku Ram Ji and singing from Kartal Ji. Both of them have played an instrumental role in the formation of his career. He talks about his childhood and teenage years which were too difficult for him. The major problem was poverty and lack of resources. Worship and Music were the two things which were the only source of income for his family, which was barely enough to meet both ends. He has seen tough times. Even when he wanted an instrument the family couldn’t afford it. Plus, living in a remote village in Kangra was tough due to the severe climate. It resulted in demises in his family which made it very tough for him. But Vishwanath Ji was always strong headed and always found ways to learn and found people who could give him the correct direction. “Me khud lalten banaata tha aur padhta tha, dusre se chize maang kar sikhta tha.” (I used to study by making lanterns of my own and borrow stuff to learn.) He used to go to dholru, which are similar to jagratas in Himachal and weddings, where his father was invited to play the shehnai. He used to play nagada with him at a tender age of 8. And then he started following singing and singing became his daily bread. He used to travel to different villages far off by foot to sing. On the way of travel, the leader used to teach them a song which the students used to rehearse the whole way to the next village. This was his life, tough but enriched experiences. Sometimes he used to feel that he didn’t get a platform to show his talents. He couldn’t ace interviews and audition due to several reasons but still, he is satisfied with his life everywhere he is. And for that, he thanks the almighty God.

It was a cloudy and a but windy as well. We chose a destination at the meadows of Khaniyara. It oversee the forests, valley and the city of Dharamshala. The group was all set. They were draped in traditional costumes, mostly in vermillion. We briefed them a bit of how things will happen. Next they sat on the location and the cameras were ready. They began their programme by lighting the lamp  which is their typical traditional way to bring good luck. The musical instruments which the group were about to use were Harmonium, Tabla, kansi (cymbals) and dholki. The first song they sang were “Thande thande paniyo de” The song explains the beauty of Kangra, its lakes, coniferous trees and awesome weather. It especially depicts the lives of people, for example, children playing on swings and women plucking tea leaves. 

The other group members were as hard working and dedicated just like Vishwanath Ji. When few were asked how did they learn music. They responded, “Ji hamne koi aise teacher ke under toh nhi sikha bas sunte-sunte, gungunate hue, sikh liya” (Yes, we didn’t learn it under a teacher. We learned it by listening to it and humming it.) While others learned it from their guru. Many of the group members were guided by Bishwanath Ji and Om Prakash Prabhakar Ji, who is the group in charge. Most of the members are above 50 years of age and have done numerous performance throughout their lives. A lot of father-son and father-daughter couples are also present in this group. It is truly delightful to see that there is more than one generation in a single group. Not only does the younger generation learn music and songs directly from their elders, but they also understand the values. In a rapidly changing world, such a system of transmittance of knowledge leads to close interaction which is very crucial to conserve the loss of traditions. 

The second song they sang was a traditional Kangra song depicting its culture. The song was highly energizing. At the end two of the chorus singers started dancing to the beats of harmonium and dholak. We couldn’t help but join the group. One of them said, “I am 70+ years old but still can’t help dance when I hear music.” This group proved that learning has no age and when someone is passionate about something, he can surely do wonders. Drieven by music, Bishwanath ji says,”sangeet ke bina kuch nahi aur swar hi ishwar tak pohochne ka saadhan hai” (There is nothinhg without music and words are the only medium to reach the Almight)

Rajinder and Kanchal

Musical Twosome

While searching for a beautiful location in the midst of hills, we found a beautiful guesthouse. It was highly generous of Aunty ji to let us shoot in the yard of the guesthouse. The guesthouse was very artistically designed. The yard overlooked the skies and the hills. Very soon, the artists came. We were shooting Rajinder and his wife. The couple had been singing for 20 years. They are basically from Bharmour but they live in a small village called Mangla with their family. They belong to the Gaddi community, a community well known for their art and culture in Himachal.

Rajinder was having his ruvana on his shoulders and a bag on the other, which presumably contained the gaddi costume and other instruments. Anyone could have easily seen the excitement in his eyes. We were busy preparing for the photoshoot. We were adjusting microphones, cables, cameras, and other devices so that there wasn’t any mess during the shoot. After a while, we asked the couple to handle us their instruments. The couple was apparently reluctant to give their instruments, initially. We found it quite strange. After some chit chat, Rajinder told that his ruvana is nearly a hundred years old and he seldom gives it to anyone outside his family. He gave the ruvana and other instruments to us and left to change into traditional costume. We too were excited to learn about a new instrument. Ruvana is a string instrument which is usually played with a dafli-like instrument called khanjari which is made up of leather. Both of them are rare and are played only by the Gaddi community in Himachal Pradesh. Even though the art form is getting depleted day by day. Playing Ruvana is a tough cookie because one has to play it with one hand while playing khanjari with the other and sing simultaneously. It is simply fruit of diligent hard work that Rajinder learned to play the instrument. We enquire more about the rare instrument. Rajinder tells, “ye ek prachin yantra hai sudama ka, jo ki shri krishna ke bhakt aur dost the. Wah ye bajate the ”

(It is an ancient instrument by Sudama, ardent devotee and friend of Lord Krishna. He used to play it)

“Mene gaana tab se sikha jab me 10 saa ka tha. Phir 9 saal ke lagadaar kadi mehnat ke baad, maine kisi tarah gaana aur ruvana aur khanjari bajana sikha”

(I started learning it when I was 10, then only after nine years of continuous hard work, I somehow learned to sing and play ruvana and khanjri.)

His parents were a constant source of inspiration and it took it years to learn it and start a practice to sing and play during events. Music runs in Rajinder’s family and it is tough for him to get away from this art form.

“..Ji ye kala humne apne pita se sikhi aur unhone unke pita se. Ye aise hi chala aa raha hai” 

(I learned this art from my father and he learned it from his father. It goes on this way)

Rajinder and his family are dependent on music for their livelihood. The couple goes to villages far off to give their performance and get money out of it. Apart from singing and playing music, he writes songs as well. All his brothers sing and music is generally the main source of income in the house. He got married 25 years ago and after their wedding, Shakuntala entered into the world of music. Rajinder taught her to sing and play music. Twenty years of singing together is clearly visible in their performances. One can easily hear the sweetness of the music in their songs. Simple, sweet and adorable is what they describe their style of music and we can’t help but agree to it, after hearing them for the first time. Initially, they proclaimed that they were a bit intimidated by seeing such huge cameras and other instruments but when they started singing, it was like they got transported into another world. Their whole heart and soul were in their singing and they didn’t care much about who or what else was around them. It explains that they clearly feel what they sing in each and every performance.

Rajinder generally performs Musada Gayan. It is like a jagrata in which chapters of Ramayana, Mahabharata and Shiv Purana are sung overnight. The first song they sang was, “Hari Om Namah Shivay!” (Oh, Lord Shiva! I bow before you!) After chanting the shiv mantra, they sang the first song, Shiv Darshan. In this hymn, there is a vivid description of the physical attributes of Lord Shiva. The Lord of the Lords is wearing wooden slippers, skin of a leopard around his waist, rudraksha garland around his neck and Ganga is running out from his hair. The hymn describes the mythical tale of how Lord Shiva dresses like a monk and pretends to ask for offering in the street of Gokul in order to see the infant Krishna.  The conversation between Lord Shiva and Mother Yashoda is intricately discussed.

“..Baalak Darshan ko aya Yashoda, baalak kyon chupai” 

(came to see the infant (Krishna), why are you (Yashoda) hiding him?)

When Lord Shiva comes to visit Yashoda’s home dressed as a saint, Yashoda, being a possessive mother, doubts his intentions and doesn’t let him see infant Krishna. 

During this time of rapid technological advancement and westernization, people don’t give much acknowledgment and appreciation to folk music as compared to western music. Due to this Rajinder faces a series of problems. People insist him to sing on different topics rather than religious folk tales. Rajinder and Shakuntala can’t help but write and learn new songs as demanded by the people. The second song he sang was called “Thekedarni”. The song is based on the sarcastic and humorous conversation between a couple. A young man goes to his lover’s home as a guest and asks her to serve him and take care of him.

“inna badhiya jo tudka laya ho thekedarniye”

“as khayi piye mauj manana ho thekedarni ye”

He wants to take rest, feast till late at night and have a tight sleep on the bed in the courtyard of his lover’s home. He teases her by saying that then they have the night, only God knows when else can they enjoy a night like that.

Meeting this couple elated us. There wedding has a strong bond by the virtue of music.