Understanding the Indian Folk Music and Musicology

Folk Music and Musicology

The forages of folk music into musicology make it desirable to demarcate their spheres and also make it more flexible to understand the essence of numerous variables happening in folklife.  In India, too, some commendable work has been done by western scholars, especially on the anthropological aspects of folk music. Search for folk music in India was initiated from various quarters during the last century. This search created interest in folk music. The tunes generally impressed poets and versifiers who utilize them in their compositions. The use of tunes is not, however, considered by musicologists as the chief criterion for the evaluation of musical forms. Poets assess the worth of it in their own ways. Before Tagore, it was the poet journalist Ishwar Gupta who made a straightforward attempt to revive some popular songs of the past which includes quite a number of folk –songs. His attempt ushered in the revival of songs of Ramprasad and Nidhubabu and created interest in the role played by Kavi-Walas in Bengali songs. In fact, songs of Kavi –walas fostered combined music of folk and other popular from of those days. Folk instruments were widely used in these songs and unsophisticated tunes were featured.

It was towards the later part of the last decade of the nineteenth century that Tagore traveled in villages on the bank of the river Padma near his camps at Silaidah and Patisar. He came to close contact with rural singers. Tagore’s experience of some years in these areas resulted in the growth of ideas on musical peculiarities of Bengali folk song.  Rightly does Tagore state that folk music may give voice to the inarticulate soul to the masses and secondly, he holds that the limitation of folk- music rest on a  narrow field, but there it nits the neighborhood in the intimacy of the relationship and sends forth echoes in thousand hearts. Thus Tagore’s ideas demand that the folk music system should be separate study distinct from classical music.

These endeavors, however, relate to an instance of some Indian thinkers' concentration on folk music during the last century when western musicologists adopt a technical approach to primitive music and later on to folk- music. The modern technologist is interested in both the subjects, primitive music, and folk music. These two inter-connected disciplines are but two ends that are not in conformity with each other in respect of composition and performance. There is uniformity in various types of folk music and certain items of the so-called folk forms nowadays tend to shape as a form of art of a particular type. This will be evident from a current study of professional folk singers who generally, perform and improve a type of folk music. Primitive musical forms are generally located in particular areas of the country, preserved by certain groups of men staying together but living away from the civilized population. The musical melodies system of India is deeply rooted in folk songs and also in many sections of primitive music; again folk music has intemperately connected with the primitive forms and more so classical music and the raga system of Indian music influenced folk music through the ages.

It is observed that the musical scales of the heterogeneous tribes of India can be followed appropriately through the basic principles of Indian music, because the primitive people of this country, with the exception of a few tribes, maintain still now the Indian characteristic of their music. Each group of them has evolved some peculiar melodic system that is familiar to Indian ears. True, scientific appreciation of their music depends on an understanding of scales and the dissemination of patterns of musical phrases. There are various other factors relating to musical sense that developed in Indian Society.

Understanding of the music of the tribes and folk, people need application of Indian musical principles of various human races and the impact of the music system of each one fell on the other and the influence of the raga system on the unsophisticated aboriginal music. The musical melodies and the variation of monotonic and a diatonic scale with different combinations of major tones and semitones generate the entire attire of folk culture with social attachment and the beauty of human emotions, expression of whispering through voice and literature. The pentatonic scale of the Folk genre of entire Indian Sub-continental music is the resemblance of heavenly beauty either of Baul of Bengal or the Kajrai of Banaras or the Mand of Rajasthan or the Pahadi of hills. From the religious to the romantic music of society is the social intimation between the people irrespective of caste, creed, or ethnicity.


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