Tap your feet to the Bihu beat

If you’re one of those who have been planning a trip to Assam to learn more about its music and dance forms but haven’t been able to due to financial or time constraints, you should take a short trip to Goregaon today to catch a glimpse of this very culture. College students and children of the community based in Mumbai will get together to perform at the five hour-long cultural programme and perform traditional dances and songs to usher in Rongali Bihu, the Assamese New Year.

Folk dancers perform the Bihu dance at Surajkund in February this year. Pic/ Rajeev Tyagi

Bihu is the most important non-religious festival celebrated by the Assamese and among the three that occur during the year, Rongali Bihu or Bohaag Bihu is the biggest. “Dance and song form a large part of the Rongali Bihu celebrations and is generally performed in large groups, hence we’ve organised this event for the Assamese in the city to give them a platform to come together,” says Deepen Rajkonwar, General Secretary, The Assam Association, Mumbai.

The cultural programme will include Bihu dances by well-trained school and college children of the community and songs by professional artistes from the community who are based in Mumbai. “Traditional Bihu music and dance is still a very integral part of the Assamese culture. The artists who will play Bihu music on Sunday are Assamese who have come to Mumbai to make a full-fledged career out of their music,” says Rajkonwar.

Bihu music is made using very traditional instruments like the dhul (drum), pepa (instrument made of buffalo horn) and toka (one-side split bamboo musical instrument), which are not available in Mumbai. “This will be a good place for non-Assamese people in the city to see and hear authentic Bihu musical instruments which the artistes bring to the city all the way from Assam,” says Rajkonwar. The programme will also feature the Husari, which are carols traditionally sung by male singers who move from one house to another in the villages during Rongali Bihu.

The Assamese community in the city is very tight-knit and such functions serve to maintain their unity and provide a platform to come together and celebrate their culture. According to the Assam Association database, Mumbai has about 4,000 Assamese in the city and the members of the community even in Mumbai pass on the song and dance culture to the next generation just like they have been doing for decades in Assam.

“The children who will perform in the celebrations on Sunday learn the Bihu song and dance from women in the community. At least 90 per cent of the women in the community know the Bihu dance,” says Rajkonwar. “Knowing Bihu is the minimum criteria for a woman to be recognised as Assamese,” he adds.

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