AMRITSAR MARCH 2009—-
With Punjabi girls taking to playing the traditional “dhol”, yet another male bastion seems to have crumbled !
Apart from “dhol”, girls in Amritsar are increasingly taking on to other traditional folk instruments of Punjab which were hitherto played exclusively by men.
Balancing a heavy “dhol”, beating the “tili and daaga” (playing sticks) in perfect synchronisation with “bhangra” is not an easy task, says 18-year-old Niti Mahajan, one of the girls who has ventured into this field.
The efforts to revive folk music instruments of Punjab are in full swing. BBK DAV College for Women , Amritsar ‘s Head of Music Department, Ms Ritu Sharma, took up the formidable challenge to train college girls to play the instruments that had remained “taboo” for women. An eight-member band of women performers has emerged from her relentless effort.
These young girls won a string of prizes ……….
during the youth festival of the Guru Nanak Dev University three years back. They also won “Surtal 2002”, a state-level function organised in Patiala by ministry of cultural affairs. The team also played for various foreign delegations including for Pakistani and British delegations.
Melodious and innovative musical compositions, skillful renditions and numerous practice sessions have successfully honed the skills of these young women artists, says Ritu . Mahajan’s strong point is her “rhythm-control”. Who adds that “Initially, the ‘dhol’ felt very heavy and I was unable to balance it on my shoulders. So I rested it on a table to learn the beats. I often forgot the beats, and my teacher, Mr Baljit Singh, would hit the beats with the playing sticks lightly on my head to practically drill them into me,” she laughs.
Recalling her maiden performance Mahajan says “In my first performance on the stage, I used a stool. But later, rested the “dhol” on my shoulders like a typical Punjabi professional “Dholi ” that added a lot of color and rhythm to the performances .” To a question whether she has become “Jageero” of the “DHOL JAGEERO DA ” fame ..she laughs and tapped the dhol shaking a leg and her neck in rhythm mimicking the popular song in a mock demonstration .
Music is in the family of the teenaged sisters Simran Kashap and Satnam Kashap, nieces of famous ‘WADALI BROTHERS’ — Puran Chand and Piara Lal. ‘The girls’ father, a “hazoori raagi”, has been encouraging them, while their younger brother Gurinder Singh, a music composer, set many a tune for them, say the sisters.
Another girl Megha Bhasin, apart from being a “dhol” player is an accomplished “been” (instrument played by snake charmers and yogis) player. She also has the skills to play eight other folk instruments, including “nagara” (a war instrument), “chimta”, “ghungroo”, “sapp” (scissors), “bambi”. “It took me at least three months of breathing exercises to play the “been” that is one of the most difficult instruments to play,” says student-artist Ritu. Another artist Simran is an expert in playing instruments like “ektara”, “tumbi”, “daff”, “chimta”, and “sapp”. Ms Satnam shows her promise with “ghara”, “sarangi”, “manjari”, and “nagara”. In fact, one of the most breathtaking performances by Ms Satnam had her play a metallic “ghaggar” rhythmically on a dim-lit stage. Although she suffered blisters while striking “ghaggar” with metal rings on which small firecrackers were strategically placed, yet she was in high spirits.
FOLK MUSIC THROUGH DANCE AND WAR
Ghungroos, sapp and kato are used in bhangra, while ghaggar, dholki, ghara, bambiha are used by giddha dancers. Bambiha is also used for singing “jagao”. Dhaad and sarangi are used for singing of “vaars” (events from lives of Gurus). Nagara and shankh both are war instruments. Ghungroo or bells, vanjali or flute and been are musical instruments with a hypnotic effect. Shankh or conch and been are the most difficult instruments to learn. Both need breathing exercises and synchronisation. Surprisingly, conch-blowing does not need much effort, though it needs a specialised technique.
Khalsa College, Amritsar, here has its own plans for the revival for folk culture. It is all set for establishing Rs 2.75 crore project of “Guru Hargobind Singh Auditorium”. It would also be setting up a “folk museum” to house folk items, including folk instruments. These musical instruments would include both rustic and refined folk instruments.
VARSITY’S “HERITAGE VILLAGE” TO SHOWCASE CULTURE
The “Heritage Village” concept of the Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, may turn out as the biggest project for the revival of traditional folk culture and heritage. Conceived by Dr S.P. Singh, then Vice Chancellor of the varsity, it had Dr Gurmeet Singh as its Director. The blueprint of the project was been prepared by Dr Manjit Singh of the Town Planning Department here.
The foundation stone of the village was inaugurated on the day of Baisakhi 2004.
If all goes well ……The village would have “chappar” (pond), “khuh” (well) and dhabha. Many traditional folk music instruments would be displayed there. Other projects in the offing are the displays of folk art and craft, costumes, domestic items and utensils, architecture and landscaping, folk games, folk medicines.
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