Folk Music in JalpaiguriThe district of Jalpaiguri has a strong folk culture with their individual folk dance, folk song and folk lore which details their whole socio-cultural life. These songs narrate the emotions and perceptions of the folk communities through which they express and share their feelings and experience.
The different tribes of Jalpaiguri have a rich and variegated body of songs, which reflect its cultural heritage. These folk songs are sung for a variety of occasions like ritualistic ceremonies and folk-festivals. Many of them relate to agricultural activities or ceremonies, others are associated with mythology. Still others are songs of love and yearning, work songs and war songs. There are songs which celebrate new life and lullabies to soothe infants.
Bhawaiya Utsav in North Bengal
Some of the most popular tribal or folk songs of Jalpaiguri include the “Bhawaiya Gaan” of the Rajbanshis. These consist of both devotional and love songs and are famous throughout Bengal, North-east India as well as Bengladesh. The “Dham Gaan” is a very popular folk song of the Jalpaiguri tribes revolving around the fall and rise of mythological characters.
Folk Song of Jalpaiguri
- Rabha Songs - The oral literature of the Rabha tribe in Jalpaiguri is very rich with a large collection of songs. These are found within the subgroups "Kocha", "Maitory", "Rongdani", "Dahuri", "Pati" and "Totola". The oral verse narratives are usually sung during folk festivals and different ceremonies. “Baikho” is the largest socio-religious festival among the Rabhas when songs like “Sathar” are sung while dancing and merry making. These are characterized by energy and youthful exuberance. Many of the Rabha songs are associated with agricultural activities. Children’s rhymes and cowherd’s songs are also common. The Rabha tribe have a range of songs and incantations associated with worship.
There are numerous love songs in the Rabha culture of both sexes, whose lyric symbolizes the deep passion and yearning for the beloved. Since the Rabha society’s economic base is agriculture, they have a large repertory of work songs as well, songs which speak of paddy fields and hard labour. “Hamzar” is a variety of work song of the Rabha tribe which are sung during tilling land or burning forest for cultivation. Women of the tribe sing work songs while they prepare and preserve rice-beer, graze cows, collect vegetables etc. Lullabies are another popular form of folk song sung to lull and soothe the infant to sleep.
- “Bhawaiya” or Song of Rajbanshis - This form of song is sung by the Rajbanshis and are deeply emotional in nature. The songs convey a range of emotions from pleasure, love, exuberance to tragedy, longing and anguish. This musical form is popular in Jalpaiguri, Cooch Behar, Northern Bangladesh, parts of Darjeeling and Assam. The lyrics of the musical form are in Kamtapuri as these were the areas covered by the historical state of Kamtapur. Both solo and chorus are used for singing this folk song.
The main form of the “Bhawaiya” is divided into three sub-divisions- “Khirol”, “Dariya” and “Maishali” or “Soari” depending on their rhythm, style and tempo. Dariya involves tune which has long extended breathing, describing feelings of mournfulness, pangs of separation and sadness. It is central to the Bhawaiya form.” Khirol” also deals with tragic themes, and the name comes from the term Khirol, a rhythmic stroke on the Dotora player. “Soari” or “Maishali” tune is characterized by swinging rhythmic music which is caused when the singer is on a moving object like a bullock cart. There are also some light songs with brisk rhythms and expressions known as the “Catka”. They are based on a variety of subjects like contemporary incidents, social evils, political scandals and other issues.
Folk songs of Jalpaiguri beautifully render the tribes’ interactions and living with the beauty of nature. The song lyrics breathe fresh life into the dense forests, the miles of paddy fields, torrential rivers and narrow rivulets, the rainy season and overflowing riverbanks, the beauty of the sun and the moon, clouds, green fields, blooming white flowers of mid-August and September, the elephant, the crane, the serpent’s beauty, even smaller creatures of nature like the frog and mosquito. Most fundamentally, they speak of the universality of love and the transience of youth weaving magic through its soulful melody. They are a cultural treasure house.