It indeed are the artistic faculties that make cultures out of countries and civilisations. Pursuit of the arts isn’t just a form of expression, it also is as crucial a means of salvation for the soul. Because the soul does not hanker for the riches of life, it only is creative explorations that serve as its fodder and drive it to such fulfillment that enriches life. And music, being the universal language of the soul in all its reiterations, harbours a fascination in its artsy realms so entrancing that no soul can ever evade its strings of pleasant melodies.
No wonder therefore, music has been a way of life itself throughout the ages, so much so that they rest in a domain of their own even in common parlance. Popular as folk music and continuing since times immemorial, such melodies have been stirring also the Indian soul since ages. In their richness and tradition, these are the many types of folk music of India that defines our vibrant land in music and melody-
One of the richest forms of folk music India is resplendent in, Maand is the prevalent singing style of Rajasthan. In its quite sophisticated style not generally innate to folk music, maand carries with it the richness of its royal legacy and of course, the appeal of its musical heritage. In its many songs that sing praises of the heroes and lovers of this royal land, maand has evolved to be a diametrically diverse form of folk music that however retain the hauntingly captivating essence in its melody. Enriched in its soulful rendition and quite a rare delight in crossovering also to the realms of the classical, maand music definitely sounds like a lovely melody to soothe the ears- and the soul.
Among the myriad folk music that resonates throughout India, the Bihugeets of Assam deserve special mention. Utterly melodious and thoroughly captivating, these are songs that speak of spring and nature, of love and life, of dreams and hopes in a manner that presents a very vivid imagery of life in the beautiful land they stem from. The tune of these songs is what makes the festival of Bihu so much a livelier celebration in the north eastern state. Accompanied by folk instruments that resonate in unique sounds of their own, bihugeets are the identifying melody of the Assamese people and signify a whole world of joyous emotions for them.
Perhaps among the most popular of folk music from India, Lavani hails from the state of Maharashtra. Essentially accompanied by fast paced dance moves on its foot tapping beat, lavani songs tend to be mostly erotic and carry a satirical tone to them. Like its specific genre of music, lavani dance is also characterised by women dancers performing graceful yet energetic moves to the generally upbeat tempo the songs encompass. In their powerful rhythm, lavani songs really does capture attention with their deliverance. A very prominent form of theatrical performance, the basic essence of a lavani enactment is derived as much from its characteristic music as its defining dance form.
In its very name, the Pandavani style of folk music of India gives out the whereabouts of its existence. With the Pandava brother Bhima as the protagonist, this style of music is a composite narration of tales of the Mahabharata. A form of folk theater in its narrative essence, Pandavani is particularly popular in Chhattisgarh and some of its neighbouring states. Believed to be as old as the Mahabharata itself, this style of musical rendition of the epic can be interpreted more as tradition than as presentation. An interactive style of singing, or more appropriately narration, the charm of Pandavani lies in it being able to make intriguing ballads out of simple stories.
The folk music of Bengal, or more precisely of the boatmen of Bengal, Bhatiyali tunes out as a rather melancholic melody. With metaphorical and emotional verses conjuring up images of the life of the boatmen in the river, Bhatiyali music is essentially philosophical. Nature of course sums up the main element flowing through these restrained melodies even as there rests within the deep entrenches of the music a longing for a memory or rather, a life that used to be. In its pensive mood let out by equally pensive boatmen, Bhatiali has a distinct sad undertone to its music.
Another folk music of India that emerged as a practice of agrarian essence is the form of Naatupura Paadalgal native to Tamil Nadu. Though a lesser known and lesser explored genre, having been overshadowed by more prominent classical music forms, this style of music however became a way of life across the state in its commonplace origins. As the oldest genre of folk music in India, Naatupura Paadalgal is however not exclusive just to the southern state. It is also prevalent in parts of Rajasthan and are generally accompanied by traditional drums and dance performances.
Another genre of folk music native to Assam in north east India is popular as Goalpariya Lokageet. These are lyrical songs of the region of Goalpara in the state that which range from themes as love and longing to unfulfilled desire and extra marital affairs. A hitherto unexplored genre of music, Goalpariya Lokageets are almost exclusively marked by lyrical profoundity rather than any underlying exploration of musical nuances. Particularly depicting the emotions of the womenfolk, these songs make for a definitive genre of music on their own.
The Baul folk music of West Bengal stems from the namesake community that has considerably influenced the cultural heritage of the Indian state despite their small presence. In fact in bearing an identity that is synonymous with their musical legacy and their distinctive musical instruments, the Bauls have shaped themselves as a people immensely enriched in the cultural heritage of it. Baul music then is a genre of music that is deeply philosophical in essence, deriving also from divinity though they do not identify as particularly religious. Mysticism runs deep through the inner trenches of Baul music, that which also translates as being a medium of preaching.
As a form of folk music however, the melody strummed by the Bauls refuses to be static. In their spirituality and enlightened selves, the Bauls have allowed their music to be accommodating of the changes through time. Noted also in playing out their music to a wide variety of musical instruments, Baul music has emerged to be one of the most recognisable facets of melodies and tunes permeating the soul of India.
Kajari is another of the styles of music that is not exclusively folk, bearing also in definite classical notations. Originating from Mirzapur, this in fact is a genre of music that is somewhat seasonal. In being a derivative of kajal, kajari signifies the happy herald of a monsoon drowning out the scorch of the summers. There also is at play the melancholic longing of the maidens for their lovers at the dawn of the rains, shaping up kajari as a genre of singing steeped in the romance of nature and life without exclusively turning out as a love ballad.
From the happy premises of Goa emerges a genre of folk music that is characteristic of the way of life in this popular tourist destination in India. Popular as dulpod, this style of music encompasses quick rhythms and themes from everyday Goan life. Far less rigid than other varieties of folk music, Dulpod is also one of those Indian styles of music with definite western influences that stem from the cultural heritage of the state. As a cadence of melody that perfectly blends elements of western culture with the Indian traditions, Dulpod indeed is representative of the amalgamation of influences Goa is so celebrated for.
From the zesty land of Punjab flows the upbeat tunes of the Bhangra, the popular folk music of the state. Energetic in its every beat and peppy in its melody, Bhangra is very much representative of Punjab as a cultural identity. With the dhol sounding itself very prominently across Bhangra performances, this genre of music became easily discernible for its spirited, happy vibes. Originally a type of celebration pertaining to the identity of Punjab as an agrarian state, Bhangra has traditionally been more rooted in masculine power. Modern iterations however also encompass the women folk in bhangra performances that stems as a really enjoyable presentation of power packed dance moves complementing as infectious an accompanying music.
Among the folk music forms of India more celebrated for its eponymous dance form is the Garba style of Gujarat. While a complete Garba performance is noted for its clapping and stomping moves, it is also essentially these sounds that forms the composite of its music. The lyrics of Garba songs are also deep rooted in desi traditions, with love of the divine gaining stronghold over these songs that play out in celebratory and auspicious occasions. Known also for its swinging rhythms and accompanying beats of the dhol, dholak, tabla et al, Garba manifests itself as a rather energetic and enjoyable of the folk song and dance styles prevalent in India.
One among the different folk music genres of Kashmir, Chakri is a transcendental melodic delight resting in religious as well as romantic realms. Essentially accompanied by traditional instruments like the rubab and the geger as well as classical ones like the sarangi, Chakri’s dual undertones makes it an indispensable part of celebratory and auspicious occasions like the Henna Night (Ma’enzi raat) during weddings.
More a form of folk poetry than music, Phawar stems from the abode of the clouds, the mystical land of Meghalaya. A traditional Khasi poetic creation, celebratory and sung on special occasions, the Phawar however is a different exploration of artistic creativity. Often composed spontaneously, this impromptu expression of emotions render this of the genres of folk music from India a truly different artistic rendition of its kind.