Bhojpuri Folk Songs
Hindustani Classical Music is one of the many forms of art music that have their roots in particular regional cultures. Classical music of India take their roots from the Vedic literature of Hinduism and the ancient Natyashastra, the classical Sanskrit text on performance arts by the Great Sage Bharat Muni.
Thus Sangita became a distant genre of art in a form equivalent to contemporary music. The Samveda composed thousands of years ago are entirely structured to melodic themes, they are in fact, sections of the Rig Veda set to music.
The folkloric songs Geet Gawai have their origin too in the gathas sung by sutas or folk singers since the early Vedic period. In the Rig Veda, gathas are ritual songs and are mentioned regularly not only to create an atmosphere of gaiety but also to conjure charm, a spell and magnetic auspiciousness at the time of weddings.
During a ritual known as Indrani Karma, women singers in the Vedic period were enjoined to sing and dance to keep Indrani the Goddess of Earth and fertility happy and descend and give her blessings to the bride. The kathaka samhita says that eight women whose husbands are alive should sing appropriate songs to the tune of the dholak and the veena known in Vedic period as vana and four women may also dance. It is incredible that this ancient tradition has been preserved down to the modern age not only in India but in the plantation girmitiya diaspora countries such as Mauritius.
The sanskar geet in Mauritius have taken a very unique pattern in that groups have grown up sustained by the fervor and vigour of the geetharines themselves who despite obstacles and hardships for 183 years have passed on the knowledge and skills of this great oral tradition through time.
The recent workshop organized by Bhojpuri Speaking Union to show the relationship between Hindustani Classical Music and Bhojpuri Folk Music and the tremendous impact of Bhojpuri Folk Songs on Bollywood/Hindi Film Music proved a resounding success beyond expectation. Conducted by Benaras based Consultant, Vocalist Dr Nishi Gupta, adept in Classical Hindustani Music but also with a thorough blend of depth, range and striking resonance of Bhojpuri semi-classical genres such as Thumri, Dadra and Chaiti, the workshop empowered the Geetharines further in what they are masters in – the Geet Gawai, which they have preserved orally for almost two hundred years since crossing the Indian Ocean from Bihar and Eastern Uttar Pradesh to make of Mauritius a home away from home.
The Geetharines have done an extraordinary job in safeguarding the transmission of Geet Gawai from generation to gener
ation, through the Dadis, Nanis, and Phouphous to conserve intact the Sanskar Geet associated with rites of passage such as the Vivah Sanskar, birth and other genres such as the Shram Geet – Jatsar while turning round the millstone known as Janta, the harvest songs and others like Godna (Tattoo songs), rain songs Harparawri. They have done so as tradition bearers preserving in their throats this wonderful folk tradition which UNESCO has placed on the list of intangible cultural heritage of humanity on the first of December 2016. The spontaneous and melodious Geet Gawai is rooted in the lives of the performers and tradition bearers, the Geetharines.
Following this inscription, Mauritius which was the second country in the world to ratify the 2003 Paris Convention of UNESCO on 4th June 2004 has the moral obligation as a State Party not only to protect, preserve and promote the Geet Gawai but also to transmit it to the younger generations. The obligation is not only to conserve and protect the Geet Gawai in its original ensemble but to promote also simultaneously the vehicle of the element which is the Bhojpuri language.
It is in this context that the Bhojpuri Speaking Union called upon the expertise of Dr Nishi Gupta accompanied by her tabla player, Lalit Kumar, Lecturer at Mahila Maha Vidyalay of Benaras Hindu University to provide the Geetharines of the Bhojpuri Speaking Union Geet Gawai Schools with a good knowledge of classical musical background. The aim is to create awareness of the rhythms, melodies, different styles of singing, techniques of performance, voice modulation, stage presence, skills in rendering as well as a good information of different genres of Bhojpuri music other than what they are familiar with. As they are increasingly called upon to give public renderings, locally and abroad, the grounding in Hindustani Classical Music has given them added musical knowledge.
The Hindustani Classical Music in its pure form is hard to be accessed to by the common public. Thus the great sangeet Gurus borrowed from traditional folk music and created the semi classical music more reachable and easy to appreciate and renowned for its sweetness. It is thus that developed such great folk genres related to the 12 months of the year and which have given such melodious and catching tunes as Dadra, Chaiti, Kajri, Thumri, etc. There are other types such as the Hori, Dhamaal, Chowtal songs associated with Phagun or Phagwa. Others still such as Birha associated with cowherds or Alha Uddal type of ballad patriotic heroic songs, Sohar associated with birth rites have enriched Bhojpuri folk music.
The popularity of Bhojpuri folk tunes worked on the imagination of great Hindi film music directors and lyricists. They borrowed heartily from them and sensing their immense and immediate popularity as film songs based on Bhojpuri folk became an instant hit, they used more and more Bhojpuri folk music in their composition.
Film songs like those of Baiju Bawra, Pakeezah, the old Nadiya Ke Paar of Dilip Kumar of 1948, Barsaat – Hawa mein udta jaye mora lal dupata… Madhumati and such modern ones as Dabang, Bunty aur Babli or Bol Bacchan (Chalao na nainon se ban re) are indeed eternal hits.
Using these known examples Dr Nishi Gupta was able to draw the attention of the participants to focus on the depth, richness and nuances of Indian music.