Maharashtra Heritage : Folk Music
What did people do before the television? What forms did entertainment take before the advent of electricity and all the technologies that came after it changed the way we lived forever?
The human mind needs to be fed just as much as the human body does. The food for the mind is song, dance and music. All of which is used in folk entertainment. Each region had its own typical folk music and dances. It is sad to say but these are all dying a natural death, as the younger generation grows up watching cartoons on TV and playing video games.
In my case I never encountered folk entertainment at all till I was in college and deliberately sought it out. In culturally rich states it is easy to keep your ancient folk entertainment alive. Rajasthan has done a great job of preserving folk entertainment and so has Bengal. Alas the same is not true of Maharashtra.
Strange to say that despite the number of talented artists and the booming theater and film industry, the Folk Entertainment is a dying art form in Maharashtra. What the folk entertainment consisted of is listed here.
A musical discourse by a priest or learned man. This is the most common form of entertainment and is not restricted to the state. Bhajan Mandalis or singers of hymns would be the norm for any state rich in Hindu Population. What may be unique to Maharasthra is the Bhajan Saptahs or week long continuous singing of Bhajans. The sound of the cymbals and mridangs would accompany the singer.
In most temples there would be a priest singing the Kirtan and then explaining what was said in the mythological story. Its relevance to human life and living would also form part of the sermon. The elderly would usually sit for these Kirtans on all days of the week after lunch till it was dark and time to return home for dinner. Discourses and debates were common after the main Kirtan was over.
A noisier version of the Kirtans. A troupe of trained musicians would accompany the entire community as they gathered to sing in the praise of the saints and gods. It was more of a collective activity than actual prayer. In fact it was reputed to be a noisy rather than a musical affair. There is even a colloquial saying in Marathi, "Gondhad karo Nakka", which literally translates to don't create cacophony.
Akin to the odes and ballads sung for heroes of the past in English, Povads were poems composed on the many Maharashtrian heroes. Most popular of all being Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. Povads would usually describe events in the life of these great leaders. The stories and situations were set to song and sung out with great fanfare.
Simply translated it would mean a musical drama, yet it was not simple. The drama would contain elements of Hindustani Classical Singing as characters would burst into song as part of the drama. I would compare it to the Opera. The folk version just had one flaw, with a number of encores being asked for and provided an regular 3 hour Sangeet Natak could last up to 5 hours. (My father attended one with his mother when he was a child. It took the better part of the night and they missed dinner.)
Tamasha or Launi
Moving on from the sophisticated man's entertainment to the masses. The Tamasha was originally a platform to show a mirror to society, but degenrated into a crude and erotic dance form. The movements and lyrics contributing to ribald fun. Very popular among the rural areas, it is one of the forms of folk entertainment that is in a healthy state even today. The Mahar and Kolati communities are traditionally associated with the Tamashas and Launis or love songs.
There may be other forms of folk entertainment that I have missed out completely. I am by no means an expert, but since I know something about the folk entertainment of Maharasthra I decided to share it with you. Do feel free to mention any performing art form that I may not have mentioned.
As you can imagine I've had a problem getting supporting photographs and videos. Even the renderation of this popular Launi was avaialble only in its movie avtaar.
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