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Folk music of India can simply never let a traveler ask “Is that it?”. That’s because we have too many languages, cultures, music and incredible faces of the village and rural life. Every state always has something unique to offer. I recently visited Gujarat this summer; you guessed it, Rann of Kutch. It was totally unusual, but since that is what I do, I thought it would be a remarkable experience to visit a desert at a time when people hate to take chances. The sun was harsh, the body loses water too fast and the hot winds across the vast lands install fatigue at an incredible level. But the idea is to keep going: keep going unless you find what you are looking for! 

1. Gujarat

 

The most cultural part of Gujarat has to be Kutch and one can’t miss out on Kutch the while discussing the traditional music of India. The Rann Utsav or the Kutch Mahotsav that takes place in February-March every year has gained so much importance over the years that a city like Bhuj, which is located in the middle of this desert looks much more than a tourist spot. Staying and traveling becomes expensive and the salt desert rises up from the dead. But culture is not something that comes seasonally. It is true that festivals do, but they wouldn’t have if the culture not been practiced and remembered. And when I talk about the culture in Gujarat, apart from handicrafts and art, its music is the least sought for and one of the most difficult to discover.
I am intrigued by soulful music, and Gujarat gives you just that. As I moved towards the northern side of the state; till the border of India and Pakistan, the influence of Sufi music increased. When I asked a native from a border village in north-western Kutch, he said that these were the places from where Sufi music got their stories from. And these stories have been sung for hundreds and hundreds of years and passed from generation to generation. The jurisdiction of this kind of folk goes deep into Pakistan and continues till Punjab. Sufi music is soulful because it tells us stories of love and devotion. Sadly, it is on the verge of extinction at major regions due to the rising advent of radical Islam. But you can still find some traces in the following places!

Where to Find Music?

  • Dholavira
  • Greater Rann
  • Bhirandiyara
  • Nakhatrana
  • Bhuj

Musical Instruments Used :

  • Sundari
  • Bhorrindo
  • Surando
  • Morchang

Folk Music Festivals :

  • Rann Utsav : February, 2018, Venue : Rann of Kutch

2. Rajasthan

 

On the other hand, the folk music of Rajasthan focuses very much on beats as this music is largely used in dance forms. Rajasthani folk, unlike Gujarati folk, is the most sought after thing in Rajasthan. Rajasthan is a tough topography, but the culture of this state is shaped so beautifully around its topography that the strongest reason why travelers visit this state is to have a glance at its culture. Since this state lives on tourism, the people of Rajasthan have given everything to ensure that travelers get what they have come looking for from all over the world. The festival which a traveler must never miss is the Jodhpur Riff that happens from 5th – 9th October this year. Just visit their website and learn everything about it. Meanwhile, here are a few places to find authentic Rajasthani folk music!

Where to Find Music?

  • Ajmer
  • Udaipur
  • Jaipur
  • Jaisalmer
  • Jodhpur
  • Pushkar

Musical Instruments Used :

  • Ravanahatha
  • Kamaicha
  • Sindhi Sarangi
  • Morchang
  • Ektara
  • Khartal

Folk Music Festivals :

  • Jodhpur Riff : 5th – 9th October, 2017, Venue : Jodhpur
  • Desert Festival : 29th – 31st January, 2018, Venue : Jaisalmer
  • Pushkar Fair : 28th October – 4th November, 2017, Venue : Pushkar
  • Mewar Festival : 18th – 20th March, 2018, Venue : Udaipur

3. Maharashtra

 

When one comes to Maharashtra, the culture displays a significant shift. The Marathas have always been proud of their agriculture and lifestyle. This pride is reflected in their music as their folk music mainly focuses on daily life in the villages of Maharashtra and harvest seasons. As their poets fathered verses telling the world about their unique lifestyle, these poems became the stories among the common people and got played by their people. Lavani and Povada are the most well known folk songs that engage the town folks in Maharashtra. Bhaleri, another folk-song, is sung to cheer the farmers working in the field. They likewise sing unique songs during the harvesting season. Folk music is defined by the impact of it at remote levels like families and small communities. Palane is a children’s song in Maharashtra to put a youngster to rest. Artya is the folk song that conciliates the anger of gods to protect from maladies like smallpox, plague and so forth and the list goes on.
The most important festivals that a traveler should be present at are, Ganesh Chaturthi that happens in August throughout Maharashtra and Nag Panchami that is celebrated in July in the whole state. Apart from these, have you ever heard of the town called Miraj? It is the town in Maharashtra (Sangli District) where the sitar is manufactured and the craftsmen of this town have been practicing this art of making sitars for generations. No wonder it is called the “Town of Music”.

Where to Find Music?

  • Malvan
  • Miraj

Musical Instruments Used :

  • Dholki
  • Dilruba
  • Ektara
  • Sarangi

Folk Music Festivals :

  • Ganesh Chaturthi : August, Venue : Throughout Maharashtra
  • Nag Panchami : July, Venue : Throughout Maharashtra

4. Goa

 

Goa is a place where there is exceptionally skilled and aesthetic individuals with a rich cultural union mixing East and West generally innovatively. Not with standing the traditional style, distinctive types of music have developed. Music frames the very fibre of provincial Goa. Each event and district has its particular structures. The urban territories, however, have adjusted to present day and mainstream music styles.

Where to Find Music?

  • Panaji
  • Velha
  • Siolim

Musical Instruments Used :

  • Dhol
  • Mridanga
  • Tabla
  • Ghumat
  • Dholak
  • Kasale
  • Shehnai
  • Tambura

Folk Music Festivals :

  • Lokotsav : January, Venue : Panaji

Since folk music is unique and regional, folk music festivals have to be regional as well. Likewise, the Indian folk musical instruments come in a myriad of varieties different states and so are their folk artists. If you sit and listen to the difference in folk music as you travel from one corner of the country to another, you would find that the Chinese influences in tunes of folk music in the northeast is not very strong. This is because the folk culture of the north is made mostly of tales of the religious lifestyles, both Buddhism and Hinduism. But when you come to the west, you find no trace of the previous culture as you enter a new realm which has been following a culture that doesn’t even resemble an ounce of the previous one which is just a little more than a thousand kilometers north. That is the unparalleled beauty of India!
To read more on the regional folk music in India and where you can listen to them, check out the links below :

  1. North Indian Folk Music
  2. East Indian Folk Music
  3. South Indian Folk Music

Tune in for more tunes! 

 
 


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