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Veer Teja Alghoza Party

Keeping alive the oral traditions of Veer Teja Katha

The enchanting call of the Alghoza led us to Ram Narayan Chaudhary and his group, a kind-hearted man whose presence made our documentation effortless. On that memorable day, this ensemble of eight musicians transported us into a mystical world with the mesmerizing sounds of the alghoza, heartfelt vocals, and rhythmic manjeeras and the dholak.

Their harmonious melodies recounted the captivating tale of Veer Tejaji, a revered figure born in Rajasthan’s Nagaur district. Veer Tejaji, considered one of the 11 major incarnations of Lord Shiva, is celebrated throughout Rajasthan. What’s fascinating is that in many eastern regions, his stories are intricately woven with loud singing, and with the accompaniment of instruments such as manjeera, dholak, and alghoza.

Notably, the alghoza in eastern Rajasthan possesses subtle differences from its western counterpart, primarily in its slightly shorter design.

Veer Tejaji, a legendary folk deity, symbolizes valor and righteousness. His tales, narrated through the beautiful notes of the alghoza, are a cherished part of Rajasthan’s musical storytelling tradition. He was not just a local hero but also a warrior and poet known for his extraordinary courage and commitment to justice. His story, characterized by selfless sacrifice and defense of people’s rights and dignity, finds its perfect expression through the alghoza.

This double-flute instrument, with its soothing melody created by simultaneous flute play, transports listeners to an era of bravery and chivalry. The alghoza’s unique sound beautifully complements the heroism embedded in Veer Teja’s narrative.

Through the power of musical storytelling, Veer Tejaji legend continues to thrive, passed down through generations in Rajasthan. This art form stands as a testament to music’s ability to preserve and transmit cultural heritage, ensuring that the memory of this revered hero remains vibrant and inspirational. Veer Teja’s story, told through the melodious notes of the alghoza, continues to captivate the hearts and souls of Rajasthan’s people, reminding them of enduring heroism and the pursuit of justice.

On another note, the escalating energy of Ram Narayan Chaudhary’s group lighted us all up and gave us the energy to document that day. Post their recording, we also joined them informally and danced a few steps to their energetic tunes.

Hrisha Rashmi (Volunteer)

Gulabo Sapera And Group

 Documenting the Kalbeliya queen – Dr. Padmashri Gulabo Sapera”

The heart of Rajasthan’s cultural legacy beats strong in its eastern realms, where traditions and stories come alive. In this vibrant world, our journey begins with a luminary, a visionary – Dr. Padmashri Gulabo Sapera. To witness her dance is to be transported to a realm where art becomes an experience, a story that unfolds in every graceful movement.

Hailing from the Kalbelia community of Rajasthan, Dr. Gulabo Sapera has etched her name as an icon, a torchbearer of the revered Kalbelia dance form. Her performances are not just dances; they’re a portal into the very soul of people who’ve embraced their roots with a vibrant energy that resonates across the world.

Kalbelia dance, an art form intertwined with the community’s nomadic heritage, encapsulates the harmony of culture and nature. The Kalbelia people, once snake charmers and healers, have seamlessly blended their intimacy with nature into this captivating dance. In modern times, this artistry has evolved into an expressive dance, a reflection of their deep affinity with the world around them which birthed into the form “Kalbeliya.”

The rhythm of Kalbelia dance finds its counterpart in the melodies of traditional instruments. The vibrant notes of the “been,” the pulsating rhythm of the “dhol,” and the soulful cadence of the “dholak” weave an auditory tapestry, accentuating the elegance of the dancers’ movements. This union of dance and music mirrors the Kalbelia people’s age-old kinship with the serpents that inspire their art.

Dr. Gulabo Sapera’s impact transcends the stage, stretching across cultures and continents. Her recognition as a cultural ambassador underscores the universal language of dance. Her performances not only showcase the Kalbelia community’s authentic expressions but also bridge global divides, fostering appreciation for Rajasthan’s cultural wealth.

This dance form has earned a coveted spot on UNESCO’s intangible heritage list, an acknowledgement of its cultural profundity. It’s more than just a dance; it’s a bridge between generations, a canvas painted with threads of tradition, expression, and an enigmatic spirit that whispers of the Kalbelia people’s enduring connection with their heritage.

In the heart of this narrative, Dr. Padmashri Gulabo Sapera’s journey stands as a testament to art’s potency to preserve and propagate cultural legacies. Through her performances, Kalbelia unfurls its captivating tapestry – a world where tradition, expression, and nature converge in graceful harmony. As we celebrate her legacy and the Kalbelia community’s contributions, we invite you to immerse yourself in the rhythm, grace, and enchantment of Kalbelia, Rajasthan’s living masterpiece.

Hrisha Rashmi (Volunteer)

Pooran Yogi And Group

The Nose Flute and Jogiya Sarangi: Musical Magic in Eastern Rajasthan

Have you ever witnessed someone playing the flute? No, we don’t mean your standard flute; we’re talking about a flute played through the nose. Yes, it exists, and it’s a testament to the extraordinary musical talents you can discover when you delve into Rajasthan’s rich cultural tapestry.

Our journey led us to the heart of Eastern Rajasthan, where we were to meet and document the artists of the Jogi community. Among them was an artist of remarkable skill—a singer, a flutist who could even play the flute through the nose, and, last but certainly not least, a master of the mystical Jogiya Sarangi.

The Jogis, primarily found in the eastern part of Rajasthan, are revered for their ability to weave enchanting melodies on the Jogiya Sarangi. This beautiful string instrument serves as a storyteller in its own right, allowing these artists to narrate a diverse array of folk tales. From the tales of Bharthari and Gopichand to the legends of Gorakhnath and the divine stories of Lord Shiva, the Jogiya Sarangi breathes life into Rajasthan’s folklore.

Recording these artists was nothing short of exciting and uplifting. With the lyrics of these tales coursing through their veins, they effortlessly launched into the epic saga of King Bharthari. It was a performance that transcended mere music; it was an immersive journey into the heart of the folk lore.

But it wasn’t just their musical prowess that left an impression. Meeting these artists was a humbling experience filled with laughter and joy. Their warm and friendly nature made the documentation process effortless, transforming it into a shared celebration of Rajasthan’s artistic treasures.

In the world of music, Rajasthan continues to surprise and enchant. The Nose Flute, the Jogiya Sarangi, and the captivating tales they bring to life are a testament to the region’s musical magic. These artists are not just musicians; they are custodians of Rajasthan’s rich cultural heritage, sharing it with the world one soul-stirring note at a time.

So, the next time you hear the haunting melodies of the Nose Flute or the soulful strains of the Jogiya Sarangi, remember that you’re not just listening to music; you’re embarking on a journey through Rajasthan’s history, stories, and the enduring magic of its musical traditions.

Hrisha Rashmi (Volunteer)

Raju Yogi And Group

“Mashak Melodies Echoing Tradition in Every Note.”

In the enchanting eastern landscapes of Rajasthan, where one’s eyes meet the rugged terrains, one discovers a unique treasure of musical heritage – the mesmerizing “Mashak.” Nestled under the category of wind instruments, this extraordinary creation finds its voice in the hands of the Jogis, who employ it to serenade tales of Lord Shiva, local heroes like Bharthari, Gopichand, and Gorakhnath, and a tapestry of folklore that breathes life into the region.

Our journey led us to the talented Raju Nath Yogi, a resident of Mehangi near Jaipur in Rajasthan, who stands as an exceptional Mashak player. Together with his group, they embarked on a musical odyssey to perform the “Shivji ka Bhyavwla,” a composition that unfolds the divine marriage of Lord Shiva. Their instruments of choice included the evocative Mashak, the chimta, harmonium, and the rhythmic heartbeat of the dholak. Against the backdrop of Mehangi’s beautiful mountains, our recording experience transcended mere documentation; it became a vibrant and soulful celebration of Rajasthan’s rich cultural diversity.

The Mashak itself is a testament to the region’s artistic ingenuity. Crafted from goat skin, this instrument finds its existence deeply intertwined with the very land it hails from. Its distinct presence and profound melodies echo through the eastern corners of Rajasthan, capturing the essence of a musical tradition passed down through generations.

The heart of their performance, “Shivji ka Bhyawla,” offers a melodious narrative that transports listeners into the mystical verses of devotion. Gora Bai, an embodiment of the divine Goddess Parvathy, gracefully entreats the revered Brahmin priest to arrange her sacred union with none other than Lord Shiva himself. The divine backdrop for this celestial matrimony is the majestic Kailash Parvat, the abode of the Lord.

As the harmonious notes of the Mashak blend with the chimta’s rhythmic chimes, the harmonium’s resonance, and the dholak’s heartbeat, a vivid story unfolds, painting a picture of divine love and devotion. It’s a musical journey that resonates with the ears, connecting us to the spiritual essence of the Jogi community.

The Mashak, with its evocative melodies and cultural significance, remains a treasured part of Eastern Rajasthan’s musical heritage. It embodies the region’s creative spirit, weaving tales of devotion and divinity into every note.

Hrisha Rashmi (Volunteer)

Wangla Group

A sight of Wonder – The Warrior dance of Wangala Festival

Our documentation in Meghalaya was a truly special occasion as it marked our first time capturing the essence of folk music here. 

Meghalaya became our home away from home, where everything was so fresh to the eyes. The place, the weather, the people and above all, its music. 

We discovered that Meghalaya is extremely culturally rich, and music embodies their culture; it speaks both in the shade of pure traditional folk and, of course, for rock and roll, as we know Shillong being the rock capital of India. 

Meghalaya comprises three main tribes: the Khasi, Jaintia, and Garo. 

Our recording journey of Meghalaya’s folk musicians commenced with the Garo tribe, focusing on the captivating “Wangala dance.” During our conversation with the group’s leader, Jingjang A Sangma, he provided us with valuable insights into the grandeur and significance of this Garo dance form.

Performed joyously on the occasion of the 100 drums Wangala festival, this festival is of immense importance for the Garos, often accompanied by a series of rituals and, of course, music and dance as a part of the celebration.

The Wangala dance holds significant meaning in the Garo culture. It serves as an expression of gratitude to the harvest god, Misi Saljong, while also issuing a challenge to potential adversaries, showcasing the valour and bravery of the Garo people. 

The Wangla dance is a spirited celebration of the harvest season. During the Wangala dance, the Garo tribe designates the “nokma” or village headman as the priest, leading the ceremonial proceedings. The men showcase their musical talents by playing the horn and lok drums, while the women gracefully form formations around the nokma, paying homage to Misi-Saljong (Sun god), the revered deity.

 Jing also mentioned that traditionally, in a few villages of West Garo Hills, offerings and rice beer are presented to the village chief, “Nokma,” before everyone embarks on a cheerful procession from house to house, exchanging wishes for a bountiful harvest. The chant of victory, “Awhowe,” resounds, met with a chorus of “awhuhu” from the participants. This vibrant cultural tradition takes place in October or November and encompasses approximately 52 different elements within the Wangala dance.

The distinctiveness of this form lies in its reliance on Garo chants and slogans rather than traditional song formats. These chants are accompanied by various instruments, including long-shaped drums (Dama), gongs, buffalo horns, and more.

Jing’s dance group members showcased vibrant and captivating costumes and accessories, adding to the overall appeal of their performance. Their attire not only represented their Garo tribal identity but also set the tone for their expressive dance. The girls skillfully portrayed meaningful actions, such as gracefully turning banana leaves, serving rice beer, and gesturing towards the moon. Meanwhile, the boys rhythmically danced alongside their drums, chanting with joyful enthusiasm, perfectly complementing their partners’ movements.

The group was adorned in colourful garments like dakmanda, daksari, or gando, accompanied by feathered headgear known as do’me. Led by Jingjang, the group consisted of one male as the warrior, three skilled boys playing the Dama (drum), three graceful girls as dancers, and two talented instrumentalists on the Rang (gong) and the Adil (wind horn) instruments. Recording their captivating performance atop a hill during sunset welcomed us into the enchanting musical world of Meghalaya. The perfect alignment of that moment, coupled with the group’s remarkable precision in their art form, left us truly impressed and in awe of their commendable talent.

The group comprised a collective of young and immensely talented performers, each radiating an artistic spirit. Witnessing their unwavering support for one another throughout the performance was truly heartening. Their shared dedication to safeguarding and promoting Garo culture across the nation left us profoundly inspired. Engaging with these performers was a delightful experience, as their youthful and infectious energy effortlessly lifted our spirits.

Meghal Sharma (Research Fellow)

Pranita Baishya Medhi And Group

Singing to a bird, a Songbird herself: Kamrupi Lokgeet

A true songbird, a  household name from Assam, Pranitha Baishya Medhi’s voice is a melodious and soothing delight. She is widely recognized as a pioneer of Kamrupi lokgeet, showcasing her exceptional talent and leaving an everlasting impact on the folk music scene.

Pranitha’s Kamrupi Lok Sangeet group was a refreshing oasis on a sunny day in Guwahati, awakening our senses with its energizing and soothing melodies.

Talking Kamrupi Sangeet, it holds a significant place in the cultural fabric of Assam, specifically originating from the Kamrup region, which encompasses parts of present-day Assam and neighboring areas. The Kamrup region, historically known as Kamrupa, has been a hub of cultural and artistic activities, contributing to the diverse musical heritage of the region.

The history of Kamrupi folk music traces back to ancient times, with influences from various sources. The assimilation of tribal melodies, Vedic chants, and regional customs has shaped the unique musical landscape of the region.  

At the core of Kamrupi folk music lies a deep-rooted philosophy that celebrates the interconnectedness of nature, humans, and the divine. The songs often convey spiritual themes, portraying a harmonious relationship between individuals and their surroundings. These musical narratives serve as a medium to explore the human condition, philosophical concepts, and societal values, while also preserving cultural heritage.

The songs of Kamrupi culture also embody a remarkable specialization in the art of storytelling. Through poetic verses and melodies, the folk music tradition carries forward oral histories, mythological tales, and everyday experiences. This oral tradition has been passed down through generations, keeping the culture alive and thriving.

This folk music showcases the region’s diversity, with different subgenres representing various communities. Bihu, Goalpariya, Kamrupiya Lokgeet, and Ojapali are some of the prominent styles that highlight the cultural vibrancy and social fabric of the Kamrupi people.

One notable aspect of Kamrupi folk music is its enchanting fusion of traditional instruments, which adds a captivating flavour to the compositions. Instruments like the dhol, dotara, pepa, flute, taal, and khutitaal create a soul-stirring and distinct sound that transports listeners to another realm. 

The group members skillfully employed these instruments, evoking the vibrant essence of nature and uplifting our spirits. As the sun set, their mesmerizing melodies had a profound effect, soothing us with the richness of their voices and the harmonious interplay of their instruments.

Their first song, called “O Phuleswari” “is a heartfelt Kamrupi folk song from Assam, India, narrating the tale of a village girl named Phuleswari. 

With the lyrics that goes like –

“O Phuleswari Bukure Lagori”

(Oh Phuleswari, companion of my heart)

“Kenke jao ghuri gaonor maya ari”

(Leaving the daughter of the village behind, how can I return,?)

The song encapsulates the emotions and sentiments surrounding her departure, evoking a profound sense of longing and addressing the deep connection she shares with the protagonist. Through vivid imagery and reflections, the song portrays Phuleswari’s innocence, vulnerability, and the impact of her departure on loved ones. “Oh Phuleswari” beautifully captures the universal experience of love, longing and the lasting impact individuals leave on their communities.

While the second song is truly a heartwarming one called “O Shalki”, Shalki refers to the bird Myna. The lyrics start off with – 

O Shalki suti Salki

(Oh myna, … my little myna)

Kon dexe jabi

(Where are you flying away?)

O Aamar dexe jabi salki

(Do fly along our way oh myna,)

Aaike lag pabi

(You’ll meet my mother there.)

The song tells a heartfelt story of longing and the desire for family connections. It follows the journey of a myna bird, symbolizing a messenger, encountering various characters along the way. The lyrics evoke emotions of sadness, hope, and anticipation, capturing the ache of separation and yearning for loved ones. The song beautifully portrays the universal human experience of longing for family, belonging, and the warmth of home, emphasizing the importance of these deep bonds.

As mentioned earlier, Kamrupi songs have a unique storytelling quality, where the lyrics encapsulate a wide range of emotions and come to life with heartfelt expressions. The way these songs were delivered by the group left us completely enthralled, as their performance was an exquisite blend of emotion and melody.

In a nutshell, Pranitha’s group wove musical spells that embraced our hearts from the very first note, entwining us in their melodies until the very end. Their songs became delightful earworms, gracefully dancing in our minds and surfacing in moments of joy. 

The group had Pranitha Baishya Medhi on vocals, Kanak Medhi on the dotara (string), Rajkumar Rabidas & Nikunja Medhi on minor percussion instruments and Nikunja Pathak on the bansi (flute). Together, they created a magical soundscape that shall assuredly resonate with anyone.

Meghal Sharma (Research Fellow)

Nadiram and Group

The Soulful Journey of Tiwa Music in Markang Kuchi

So far, we have had the good opportunity to meet and document the folk music of major parts of North India, and this time, the beautiful Northeast awaited us. We were to embark on a journey in search of folk music, folk wisdom and folklores of the region and were excited to start in Assam.

Assam, the gateway to the northeast as it is popularly known, truly reflects the land’s lush tea plantations, the enchanting Brahmaputra river and the vast green paddy fields in its tropical tapestry. Apart from its eye-pleasing landscapes also lies its diverse musical traditions ranging from folk to fusion to everything in between. 

On our voyage through Assam’s rich folk music, we went to a nestled village within its cocoon called “Markang Kuchi” from the Morigaon district near Guwahati. 

Little did we know that on our way from Guwahati on a slightly rainy day, we were about to be enchanted by the symphony of Assamese folk music.

We were warmly greeted by the gracious artist Nadiram Deuri, a folk musician from the Tiwa Tribe in Markang Kuchi. As we arrived, the surrounding greenery and the playful drizzle of rain set the perfect backdrop for our recording session with the village’s folk musicians.

Upon our conversation with Nadiram and his group, we learnt not only about the culture of Tiwa music but also about the determination to find a purpose for the community and the culture’s welfare. 

In the Tiwa tribe, also known as the Lalung tribe, music beats at the core, resonating through their festivals, rituals, and ceremonies, shared Nadiram. These melodies are more than just tunes; they carry the wisdom and stories of generations which are passed down orally. Through Tiwa music’s lyrics, traditions and values are passed down to the young, teaching the importance of hard work, honesty, and respect for nature. It mirrors the Tiwa people’s daily lives, reflecting their struggles, dreams, and celebrations. With each song, wisdom travels across time, connecting the past with the present.

Nadiram grew up in a musical background since his childhood, and he started pursuing music on his own. The music of his tribe always intrigued him, and the result of that is the heritage of the Tiwa tribe that we see today. From writing songs, articles and books on the Tiwa tribe to teaching various Tiwa art forms, Nadiram became the first artist to create the first-ever cassette recording of Tiwa songs.

As the group were dressed in their traditional attire, Nadiram also told us about the attire they were wearing when performing.

The men wear Paghuri around their heads, Thagla as a jacket, Pagha around their necks, Thana as the lower and Nara as the waist tie-around.

They performed a song called “Langkhôn ”, to which the “Langkhôn Misawa” (Langkhon Dance) is performed for the “Langkhon Phuja” festival. Observed in the Ahin and Kati seasons (October-November), this song is a heartfelt prayer of farmers for a successful harvest.  Accompanied by the rhythmic beats of bamboo stamps of Bijuli Bamboo named “Langkhon”, the dance symbolizes their hopes for a fruitful yield. Rooted in the agricultural practices of the Hill Tiwas, the Langkhon Puja festival centres around worshipping rituals devoted to appeasing the Ramcha God and Mother Bijuli. It is widely recognized as the ‘Langkhon Puja’ due to the prominence of Langkhons in this festive dance.

The second song, “Borot,” depicts the narrative of Khunguri, a virgin girl who fasts for the duration of the festival. This song is also known as Usha Barat. The main Barat festival is held on the full moon night in Magh Mah (December-January). Three hundred earthen chakis (oil lamps) are lit during this celebration, and young groups of boys and ladies sing the happy Godalboria hymn. This Puja is a kind of worship dedicated to the purity of a virgin.

With instruments in hand, the talented musicians of the group delighted us with snippets of their craft. United by a shared passion, they worked together to preserve and promote Tiwa culture, guided by Nadiram ji, their Guru. Accompanied by Mukunda Teron, 71, on the soothing Bansuri  &  Phêmba (Assamese wind instruments), Arun Chandra Patar, 38, on the beats of the Khrám (Assamese drum), Manjumoni Konwar, 38, on the vocals, the rhythmic songs of Tiwa tribe all composed by Nadiram Deuri were weaved together beautifully. 

Nadiram ji, a true artist at heart, aimed to empower his musicians to achieve recognition and acclaim, not just locally but on a larger scale. His dream was for folk artists to embrace their traditions and find stability through their art, inspiring others to follow suit and keeping the flame of folk music burning bright.

A whole new culture greets us wherever we go, and that day was no exception. The musicians were all decked up in their vibrant costumes, ready to enchant us with their seasoned melodies, presented with such humility and grace. 

They were gracious enough to share their tales with us, even down to the traditional clothing, festivals, and ideals they hold dear. They were with us, present in the moment from camera rolling to action to cut. 

Isn’t this what we learn from the beginning? To smile through it all, to make others feel attuned to our culture or music, and to share what we can with our fellow travellers on our voyage. As passengers on this musical train in Markang Kuchi, we witnessed their musical diversity and tradition. 

They came, they smiled, they performed, they smiled again, and they left us all feeling grateful to have met them.

Meghal Sharma (Research Fellow)

Manik and Group

Embracing Karbi Culture through Dance and Music

The Karbi tribe, also known as Mikir, has etched a mark on the northeastern state of Assam for centuries. As we ventured deeper into the cultural tapestry of Assam, our journey led us to Mikirkuchi, of Morigaon district, to document the folk music of the Karbi tribe.

Upon reaching the location, the doors to Karbi tribe’s culture were opened by Manik Teron, a folk musician and teacher from the region. It seemed as though Manik and his group eagerly awaited our presence, inviting us to witness the essence of their folk forms. The space exudes warmth, with the team dressed in vibrant traditional attires and beaming smiles. It felt like coming home.

Manik’s musical journey began in his childhood, immersed in the vibrant world of folk music that surrounded him. He has honed his skills in playing an array of instruments, particularly the traditional wind instruments of Assam like Bansuri, Phempa, and Morit. His ability to play other instruments and also sing as a vocalist further showcase his versatility as an artist. Music runs deep in Manik’s family, where despite their occupation as farmers, they share a profound love for folk music. Furthermore, he takes the tradition of Karbi music forward by teaching it to youngsters and adults alike.

Karbi music embodies a profound philosophy, connecting with the divine, celebrating seasons, harmonizing with nature, and reflecting life’s values. “Botor Kekur” requests divine rain for crops, while Rongker expresses gratitude and seeks protection from harm. These examples illustrate how Karbi songs intertwine spirituality, seasonal festivities, and a deep reverence for the natural world.

When we inquired about the uniqueness of Karbi music, Manik, with his distinctive Assamese-Hindi accent, eloquently expressed, “Jab bacha paida ho, toh ham karbi logo ke paas ek gana hai, jab shaadi ho toh bhi gana hai, aadmi ke janam se lekar maran har avsar ke gane hai .” Translated as, “From the moment a child is born to the final moments of one’s life, every event, whether grand or humble, is accompanied by a song in the lives of the Karbi people.” With this simple yet profound statement, Manik encapsulated the essence of Karbi music.

It is important to note that the music of the Karbi tribe is inseparable from its dance. Like two sides of a coin, Karbi music and dance are intricately intertwined, with the rhythm and melody harmoniously complementing the movements of the dancers and the music of the musicians.

As the sun began to set, the artists’ enthusiasm soared, prepared to enthral us with their performances. Manik led the group of young dancers and musicians. With his flute and phempa, complemented by the vibrant beats of the Kham, taal & dhol and the melodic vocals of his fellow musicians, he skillfully guided us through two lively and rhythmic dance forms, filling the air with joy and rhythm.

Their song featuring “Lalilang” is a vital part of folk dance performed by tribes like Karbi, Bodo, Tiwa, and Koch in Dimoria, Assam. These songs, characterized by their sexual appeal, are akin to Bihu songs for their tribes and are often sung during the Uruka celebration of Magh Bihu. They accompany the fishing activities on lakes like Parkhali Beel and Bomani Beel, where the Dimoria people worship the “Bow” deity before fishing. The festive atmosphere is enhanced by the rhythmic beats of Dhol, pepa, and tal, creating a sense of mutual love and togetherness.

 One of the most enchanting moments was witnessing the young dancers, dressed in their traditional attire, gracefully swaying to the folk beats. Forming circles, both girls and boys moved rhythmically. Accompanied by the melodic verses of their song, the dancers exuded the spirit of celebration and abundance.

It was uplifting to witness young individuals joining the folk group, learning traditional dance forms and becoming torchbearers to preserve these artforms from fading away.

Manik Teron and the young performers demonstrated the resilience and beauty of indigenous cultures. Their dedication and passion showcased the importance of passing down traditions to keep them alive.

Meghal Sharma (Research Fellow)

Raju Devi And Group

The living Heritage of Pabuji ka Phad

Imagine purity personified – it would bear the names of these exceptional artists. Meet Raju Devi and her group, belonging to the revered Bhopa-Bhopi of the Nayak community, residing in the vicinity of Pushkar. For generations, they have passionately nurtured and passed down this cherished folk tradition within their family.

When they perform, something magical happens. Their voices weave a tapestry of beauty that transcends mere singing. Our encounter with these humble artists left an indelible mark, revealing their simplicity and unwavering commitment to what’s close to their hearts – a tradition they’ve lived and breathed.

Their artistry revolves around “Pabuji ka Phad,” an ancient storytelling tradition that has stood the test of time. In the heart of Rajasthan, Pabuji Maharaj is a revered deity, and his Phad narrates the epic of his life.

Now, picture this “Phad” as a scrolled cloth painting, meticulously portraying the events of Pabuji’s life. While the vibrant performances are executed by the Bhopas and Bhopis community, the masterful creation of the “Phad” falls into the hands of the Joshi community, predominantly located in the Bhilwara district of Rajasthan.

This epic, a deeply religious poem venerating Pabuji, spans a remarkable 4,000 lines. To recite it in its entirety demands unwavering dedication, spread across five consecutive nights, with each session stretching for a full 8 hours, commencing at dusk and carrying on until the first light of dawn.

During our encounter, the group graced us with two soul-stirring songs – “Pabuji ka Bhywala” and “Gogaram Ji Bhyawla.” These songs vividly depict pivotal moments from the weddings of Pabuji and Gogaram Ji, transporting us back to those historic events.

Traditionally, the Phad was performed in a captivating format: the Bhopa, with the accompaniment of a Ravanhatta, would sing, dance, and play the instrument, while the Bhopi held a diya (ghee lantern) and sang in unison. Our artists shared that “Pabuji ka Phad” holds a cherished place in Rajasthan’s culture, with people often inviting these priestly singers to recount the valorous tales of the king, seeking good omens and blessings.

Hrisha Rashmi (Volunteer)

Jutimala and The Tai Folks

Of Unity, Love & Brotherhood – Tai Ahom

On our first day of documentation in Guwahati, we excitedly met with the talented group Jutimala and the Tai folks, ready to immerse ourselves in their performance. However, nature had a different plan, as the heavens opened up with a torrential downpour, forcing the set-up to be swiftly packed away. 

 Nevertheless, as our journey in Assam came to a close ten days later, we were fortunate to reconnect with Jutimala and the Tai folks on our last day, giving us a chance to experience their music and complete our documentation with their inspiring artistry. Leading to our time spent exploring the cultural richness of the Tai Ahom community.

Upon our conversation with Jutimala and the team, they shared that The Tai Ahom community of Assam possesses a culture that is on the brink of extinction. Their language, once vibrant and filled with wisdom, now faces the harsh reality of fading away. Sukaphaa, also originally known as Siukapha (Siu-Ka-Pha), was an illustrious figure, the founder of the Ahom kingdom and is considered the architect of Assam. All the Tai Ahom people revere him as the first leader who formed the Ahom community in the northeast region.

Jutimala shared that the Tai Ahom community worships their gods in nature and its elements, engaging in rituals like “Medam me phi ” on January 31st and celebrating the “Banfi” festival throughout the year. Jutimala believes that their language, written script, seasonal festivals, and ancient traditions are at risk of extinction and deserve protection and revival. With a history of 600 years under the rule of a visionary king, the Tai Ahom community has initiated revival efforts to reunite tribes and preserve their cultural heritage. Jyutimala’s advocacy aims to bring attention and respect to the overlooked traditions of the Tai Ahom community.

Listening to the music of Tai Ahom was truly an ethereal experience, with vocals and instruments that could only be described as divine. It felt as though we were transported to a realm where we discovered the inherent beauty of this age-old musical tradition.

Jutimala’s team mesmerized us with their rendition of two ancient songs from the Tai Ahom compilation. Her enchanting voice, accompanied by her talented group members, brought these songs to life.

Their first song, “Lai Lung Kham” was started by prayer as a sign of respect for their forest deity as it goes – 

“Chao fura chao tara

 Fura tara along sikia rani pan Boi mou 

Chao kao oi”

This song expresses that The Tai Ahom community holds a deep reverence for nature and worships the forest deity, “Pu Phi Su.” Their devotional song, “Lai Lung Kham,” is a result of the revival of the Tai Ahom language and culture by Damchao Junaram Changbun Phukan and Manchao Noben Mohan. This captivating composition serves as a prayer to the forest god, expressing the profound belief in the inseparable connection between music and nature. It beautifully captures the essence and origin of music, drawing inspiration from the symphony of the forest itself. 

The second song was The Tai Ahom Anthem, “Mo kham phan tai Moung”, which is all about love, unity and peace. 

 Their first king of Tai Ahom Chaolung Siukapha and his descendants united all the tribes and communities of Northeast India and created Bor Axom. This song is sung as a sign of brotherhood and sisterhood within the Tai Ahom community.

Some parts of the lyrics convey the following –

Rao Jin si hit daini 

(We are pacifists.)

 Rao Jen pin ou daini 

(We are artists. )

Jin si rang Roy Rao mai yam

( Our national flag represents peace. )

Jutimala Buragohain backed both of these songs on the vocals, gong and taal; on the Gong and percussion was Shantanu Gogoi, on the Pin nong Tau (Hulusi), Flute & Khim (string)  was Bhaskar Jyoti Konwar, and on the Traditional klong drum was  Akash Jyoti Das. 

The synergy of their presence of mind, heart, and music created a flawless fusion of melody, harmony, and rhythm. It wasn’t just the music itself that achieved perfect balance; our receptive spirits were fortunate to hear and immerse in the melodies of the Tai Ahom tribe.

As we listen to an artist’s music or have the privilege of meeting them, an overwhelming desire emerges to shower them with good wishes. This sentiment holds true for Jutimala and the Tai folks, whose remarkable work for their art and community deserves nothing less. As you read these words, let us collectively extend our heartfelt wishes to the team, wishing them the best of community culture and creativity.

Meghal Sharma (Research Fellow)