A sound Folk tradition

Living Traditions is an ongoing series highlighting Folk culture from across India, and showcases the nuances of cultural diversity. In this edition, Maharashtra’s Folk musical heritage comes into focus with screenings and a musical performance

In 2009, the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) started Living Traditions, a series that highlighted the Folk traditions across the country. So far, it has put the spotlight on the traditions of Rajasthan, Assam, West Bengal, Kutch and Goa. This edition, the focus is on the Folk forms of Maharashtra, including powada, bharud, gondhal, lavani and other forms associated with day-to-day life of the community.

Vijay Chavan
Vijay Chavan, dholki player

What’s in store?
As part of the event, on March 13, there will be two documentary screenings — Setu: Selective introduction to the vast and varied heritage of Indian Folk music (1987) and Folk Songs Of Maharashtra (1955), which give a broad perspective of the varied heritage of the state. On March 14, an ensemble led by Dholki player Vijay Chavan will perform various Folk drums of Maharashtra.

A still from the documentary Folk Songs Of Maharashtra
A still from the documentary Folk Songs Of Maharashtra

Dr Suvarnalata Rao, Head – Programming (Indian Music), NCPA, speaks about the event: “India is one of the most musically diverse countries. Each region has its distinct legacy of artistic and cultural traditions. The regional Folk melodies and rhythms, which are vibrant and thrive among India’s rural masses, have had an influence on the evolution of Indian Classical music.”

Dr Rao adds that Maharashtra is well-known for its diverse Folk traditions that emanated from the agrarian community though urban audiences are not fully aware about them. Some of these traditional art forms are even fading out as little has been done to revive them.

“Performance of these forms is restricted mostly to rural and interior Maharashtra. This festival’s objective is to showcase them to a metropolitan audience,” she shares.

The performance will include 100-year-old compositions sung by devotees to Lord Khandoba of Jejuri. pic/getty images
The performance will include 100-year-old compositions sung by devotees to Lord Khandoba of Jejuri. Pic/Getty Images

Drum up a storm
Vijay Chavan (55) will take to the stage on day two of the event. He has been playing the dholki for over three decades, and also teaches the art at the Lok Kala Academy, University of Mumbai.

Born into a family with strong traditions of Indian Folk drumming and singing (his mother is Sulochana Chavan, the Marathi singer famous for singing lavanis), he is one of the leading exponents of the dholki, the premiere Folk instrument of Maharashtra.

Interestingly, he is self-taught and practised the art initially by playing on benches and drumming empty dabbas. He has performed with maestros like Zakir Hussain, Trilok Gurtu, George Brooks, Giovanni Hidalgo and Frank Zappa, and has worked extensively with music directors of the Hindi and Tamil film industry.

During the event, Chavan and his group of 10 musicians will perform with a range of instruments such as the dholki, dimdi, sambal, dhol, pakhawaj, chondke, tasha, tal, manjira as well as other instruments like tutari, lezim and ghungroo.

“The event will also feature traditional songs or Loksangeet that includes 100-year-old compositions sung to Khandoba of Jejuri, and goddess Tulja Bhavani, compositions by writer Annabhau Sathe, and Eknathi bharud (dramatic poems) which talk of religious harmony. We will also be performing Mumbai Lavani, a non-commercial version of the music, based on the historic theme of the Samyukta Maharashtra Movement,” Chavan reveals.

The artiste rues that nowadays, everyone wants instant fame: “In our time, we were lucky there was no media coverage. So, whenever we were called for recordings, we had to give our best performance in order to get selected. In any field, if you worship Saraswati (knowledge), and not worry about Lakshmi (wealth), your hard work will turn Saraswati into Lakshmi, and you will end up with both,” he philosophises.

On: March 13, 6.30 pm (documentary screenings) and March 14, 6.30 pm (Folk music)
At: Little Theatre and Experimental Theatre, NCPA, Nariman Point.
Call: 22824567

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