The voices of common Indians, of their aspirations, joys and sorrows find their expression in the soulful and rustic Folk music and dance of the country. Unlike the rigorous process of teaching, learning and performance of classical music, folk music is ubiquitous in the daily routines of individuals, in events right from birth till death and associated with festivals and seasons.
We present here the voices from Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Chattisgarh, Bihar, UP and Punjab.
S D Burman was one of the most respected and successful music composers For Hindi movies and a singer and composer. His son R.D. Burman also achieved great success as a Bollywood music director in his own right.
S D Burman composed music for 100 movies, including several Bengali ones. His compositions have been sung by stalwarts like Lata Mangeshkar, Mohammed Rafi, Geeta Dutt, Manna Dey, Kishore Kumar, Hemant Kumar, Asha Bhosle, Shamshad Begum, Mukesh and Talat Mahmood.
He also sang about 20 film songs (inclusive of Bengali films) for which he composed music though he may not have been the music director of the films. The hallmark of his melodious singing is the quality of ‘pukaar’ a kind of pulling force which brings us towards his music.
Pattammal was one of the most prominent of women Carnatic musicians of the last century. Born in an orthodox Brahmin family in Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu, she was named Alamelu but alfectionately called ‘Patta’ and that name stuck all her life. With no formal training in music, she was a prodigy.
At the age of 10, she gave her first radio performance for Madras Radio Corporation and her first public performance in Madras three years later. She quickly rose to stardom and her musical career spanned more than 65 years. She was considered an authority on Muthuswamy’s Dikshitar’s compositions and popularized kritis of Papanasam Sivan and poems of Subramania Bharati.
She broke several social barriers for respected women to take to music, as also what was considered male bastions like the technical sub-genres of Ragam Thanam Pallavi in Carnatic music. In the gramophone era, DKP recorded several nationalistic songs that spurred patriotic fervor and folk songs and also sang several songs for Tamil films like Thyagabhoomi, Nam Iruvar, Rama Rajyam and so on. She received the Sangitha Kalanidhi in l970 and the Padma Bhushan in I998.
Gangaram and Party
One of the greatest exponents of Chattisgarhi folk music, Gangaram and his fellow musicians Rekha Rama and Prabha josho present the ‘Bidai Geet’ or Farewell song for a newly-wed bride.
‘Geega, Ghadi ek soja re’ is a plea by a harried mother to her infant son to sleep a while, sung by Miss Sushila. The wails of ‘Geega’ (the baby) can be heard while mom is, singing bribes to the baby, reminding of the adversities she may face if grandmother or aunt awakens that night.
Miss Dulari was a Hindustani vocalist from Peshawar in today’s Pakistan who specialized in several genres of classical music and also folk music.
Tamancha is the colloquial word for a locally-made, illegal gun and so when a singer is named after such a gun, one can imagine what a sensation she must have created!
Tamancha jaan was the popular name of Gulzar Begum, daughter of accomplished tawaif singer Sardar Begum, who lived in Lahore’s Heera Mandi, in today's Pakistan. Heera Mandi nurtured several outstanding musicians like Noorjehan, Khurshid, Shamshad Begum, Mumtaz Shanti and others. In the pre-Partition era several film actresses came from the salons of Heera Mandi. These salons nurtured art music in Lahore, which was the veritable cultural capital of undivided Punjab.
Tamancha jaan was famous for her mellifluous singing as also her prowess with firearms! She was also a radio star of the 1940s.
Founder Trustee, Archive of Indian Music — Vikram Sampath