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Folk Music


Folk Music songs and music of a community, uninfluenced by any sophisticated musical rules or any standard music styles. Bangladesh has a rich folk music which includes both religious and secular songs.

Folk music may be described as that type of ancient music which springs from the heart of a community, based on their natural style of expression uninfluenced by the rules of classical music and modern popular songs. Any mode or form created by the combination of tune, voice and dance may be described as music. Thus, the combination of folk song, folk dance, and folk tune may be called folk music. For example, baul songs are a combination of tune, music and dance.

Folk music has the following characteristics: (i) It is composed by rural folk on the basis of ancient rules transmitted orally; (ii) These ancient rules of music have not been influenced by classical or modern music; (iii) Folk songs may be sung in groups or individually; (iv) No regular practice is required for folk music; (v) It is composed and performed by illiterate or semi-literate people; (vi) It is a spontaneous expression in easy language, local dialect, and simple tune; (vii) Both words and tune are appealing; (viii) Despite its universal appeal it uses local dialect; (ix) It depends upon nature and the rural environment; (x) It is an explicit manifestation of the joys and sorrows of daily life; (xi) It uses simple and natural rhythms; (xii) It contains a strong emotive expression of human love and separation.

In Bangladesh folk music has great variety, with songs being composed on the culture, festivals, views of life, natural beauty, rivers and rural and riverine life. These songs are also about social inequality and poverty, about the material world and the supernatural. Mystical songs have been composed using the metaphors of rivers and boats. Since the country is basically riverine, the bhatiyali forms and important genre of folk music. Folk music is formed and develops according to the environment. Differences in the natural environment are reflected in the people of the different regions. The dialects too vary across the different regions. Bangladeshi folk music therefore varies from region to region. Thus there are the northern bhawaiya, the eastern Bhatiyali and the southwestern Baul songs.

The culture and the lifestyle of the different tribes have also influenced folk music. Tribes like the Santal, Garo, Hajong, Chakma, Manipuri, Tripuri, Marma etc. have interacted with ethnic bangali culture and lifestyle over the years. The interaction has been clearly reflected in the richness of folk music.

Folk songs may be sung individually or in chorus. Folk songs sung individually include Baul, Bhatiyali, murshidi, Marfati, while songs sung in chorus include kavigan, leto, alkap and gambhira. Some songs are regional in character, but others are common to both Bangladesh and west bengal. Similarly, some songs belong distinctively to one religious community, Hindu or Muslim others cross religious boundaries. Some songs belong exclusively to men, others to women, while some are sung by both men and women. Thus only women compose and sing vratagan and meyeli git, but both men and women participate in the 'roof-beating' songs that are sung while beating down and firming rooftops.

Different folk songs belong to different regions of Bangladesh and West Bengal are listed Like: Baul and spiritual songs- Birbhum and Kushtia; Jarigan- Dhaka, Mymensingh, Sylhet, Faridpur, Murshidabad; Bhawaiya- Cooch Bihar, Rajshahi, Dinajpur, Rangpur, Pabna; Gambhira- Rajshahi, Maldah;' Gajan-' West Bengal; Nil Puja-' Bangladesh; Wedding songs-' all regions; Roof-beating songs-' the northern regions of Bangladesh, Birbhum and Bankura in West Bengal; Sari-' the lower marshy regions of Sylhet and Mymensingh; Bhatiyali- nearly all regions of Bangladesh, the regions of Tripura and Shilchar; Pastoral songs- Dhaka, Mymensingh, Faridpur, Sylhet, Habiganj; Vratagan and Meyeli Git- both Bengals; Bhadu Gan- Bankura, Purulia, southern Birbhum and western Burdwan.

Folk music has a basic style of composition and can be classified into four groups: First, tunes consisting of 'Sa Ra Ma Pa', secondly, 'Sa Ga Ma Pa', thirdly, 'Sa Ra Ga Pa', and fourthly, 'Sa Ra Ga Ma Pa'. Folk music strictly follows this pattern which is followed only in classical music. Suresh Chandra Chakraborty has observed two aspects of folk songs such as: (i) lyric songs such as Bhatiyali, Baul etc, and (ii) songs like Bhater Gan which cannot even be properly termed as poetry. All folk songs in the world usually involve the pentatonic scale, which is found in Bangla folk songs as well as in Santal and Garo-Hajang songs.

The folk music of Bangladesh is different from other music not only because of its distinctive mode but also because of the richness of its seventh note. Apart from its tunes, Bangla folk music is also distinct in its rhythm. Many of the ragas in the classical tradition like Abher, Saveri, Malavi, Kanadi, Pahadi, Madh and Vabgal have been named after folk music. Classical ragas like Jhinjhit, Desh, Bhairavi, Bhupali, Vibhas etc resemble Bhatiyali which involves the use of a tune belonging to classical tunes such as Khamvaj and Pilu. Quite often it is similar to classical ragas like Bhimpalashri and Patadip. With regard to its style, Bhatiyali comes close to the classical tunes of Khamvaj and Kafi. The traces of Khamvaj or Pilu are also found in the Jhumur. Baul songs resemble the musical ragas of Vehag, Khamvaj, Bhairavi, Vilaval etc. In some folk songs both Bhimpalasri and Khamvaj ragas may be noticed. Two modes of Jhinjhit have been recognised. The first goes only up to the seventh pitch of Dhaivat in classical music. In the second the scale is as follows: Sa Ra Ma/ Pa Ma Ga Ra Sa Na Dha Pa/ Pa Dha Sa Ra Ga Ma Ga/ Dha Sa. In folk music Jhinjhit varies slightly: Sa Ra Ma/ Pa Ma Ga Ra Sa Na Dha/ Dha Sa Sa Ra Ga, Ra Ga Ma.

It should be remembered that in most folk songs the tune of the constant stave and the middle staves is nearly identical. For example, the first few lines of a famous song composed by Gagan Harkara, ami kothay pabo tare/ amar maner manus ye re (Where shall I find him, the man after my heartFoodgrain), illustrates the use of seven pure notes and sometimes the use of soft melody. The tune mostly used in the Bhatiyali, called Kashauli Jhinjhit, is as follows: Sa Ra Ma, Pa Ma Ga Dha Sa Na Dha, Dha Sa Sa Ra Ga, Ra Ga Sa.

An analysis of folk songs shows a variety of rhythms and tempo. Sari and Jhumur are sung at a quick tempo, and Bhatiyali and Bhawaiya at a delayed tempo. [Mridul Kanti Chakrobarty]

See also folk literature.