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Folk Music Of Bihar

The folk musicians of Bihar use musical instruments that are different from traditional classical musical instruments. Percussion instruments such as daf, dholak, and mridanga replace the tabla. The tanpura, sitar and sarod, commonly used in classical music are totally absent in folk music. Many times, instruments used in folk music are identified by their names in the local dialect.

Women sing during domestic chores and shepherds chant simple and charming tunes while tending cattle. The songs of shepherds grazing their herd, riders hauling produce or goods on their bullock-carts, men folk gathered under the shade of a banyan tree during the summer or around a fire in winter, fill the air with songs. Women, milling wheat or maize on a chakki (hand-mill) entertain themselves by singing.

Many songs are associated with seasons, festivals and rituals. During the monsoon, young women on their swing sing songs called Rajari, Jhumar, and Barahmasa. Chaiti and Baisakhi are songs of the summer. Folk songs are an integral part of Chhath festival during the start of winter. During the spring season, Holi is associated with its own raucous songs, the phag or phagua with the accompaniment of a huge drum, dhal.
A wedding is normally full of folk songs, each for a different stage of ceremony. Bidai songs sung at the time of the bride’s departure to her groom’s home bring tears to the eyes. A joyful folk song is the Sohar that celebrates the birth of a child.

Nagpuri is the music of the people of the Chota Nagpur of Jharkhand state. There are nine tribes in Chota Nagpur, each with its own music. Nagpuris are considered as the kings of music and masters of song. Their music is diverse is style, from the cry of shehnai and the sweetness of the bansuri (flute) to the insistent beat of the nagada and mandara drums and the powerful voices of singers like Mukund Nayak.

  • Encyclopedia of Hinduism Volume IV page 131 – IHRF
  • The Musical Heritage of India (1980) M R Gautam – Abhinav Publications New Delhi
  • Chant the Names of God : Musical Culture in Bhojpuri – Speaking India (1991) – Edward O Henry – San Diego State University Press.