CD “Tribology” showcases tribal customs, rituals and music – Odisha

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“Tribology”, a CD that captures the life, customs, rituals and music of tribal India

A RECORDING is in progress. But, suddenly, some members of the group are worried and talk animatedly among themselves. Something is wrong. The fuss is about a missing morsing. Immediately, a boy finds a foot of bamboo and carves three tuning forks out of it, which they call gungunung, the equivalent of morsing or the Jewish harp.

The members of the group belong to the Bonda tribe of the Koraput region in Orissa. And the recording is for “Tribology”, a 3-CD compilation. The music has a pristine quality, so untouched by the popular genres that rule the charts today. It is raw, natural, with a distinct style, yet the underlying melody comes out strong and clear.

But how many of us get to hear the song of these tribes? Often, many unusual sounds are lost since there are no platforms to showcase them.

Trying to bridge this yawning gap is “Tribology”, which was released at the recent World Social Forum in Mumbai. Produced by the Integrated Rural Development for the Weaker Sections in India (IRDWSI), based in Semiliguda, Koraput, Orissa, the CD is a tribute to the six Adivasi groups — Bonda, Gadaba, Kondh, Koya, Porja and Didaya Porja. These are the tribes that WIDA has been traditionally associated with.

A combination of song, photographs and video clips, the CDs capture the life, customs, rituals and the music of these tribes. The 10-year-long project also introduces some interesting instruments such a gungunung, the mauri, a reed instrument with a wood pipe and ornate brass base, and the dola or a wooden drum.

The project itself is “in the narrow sense”, the brainchild of M.V. Bhaskar, a Chennai-based copywriter/designer. Bhaskar put together the CDs with help from A. Sarangarajan, director-cinematographer and Madhu Viswanathan, a sound engineer.

Talking about the genesis, Bhaskar says, “I would say the project got itself done. In July-August 2003, William Stanley, director, IRDWSI, told us about the World Social Forum (WSF) in Mumbai while we were filming a documentary on child labour in Koraput. He wanted us to generate ideas that WIDA could implement at the forum.

“I felt that WSF was the right place to release the music of the Adivasis that Sarangarajan had recorded partly out of personal interest and partly as part of the job, every time he found an opportunity. When I suggested it, every head nodded in approval.”

He continues, “Back in Chennai, we roped in Madhu Viswanathan to produce `Tribology’. As we had plenty of pictures and hundreds of hours of video in our archives, we decided to add two more CDs with images and video clippings, to give the music visual support.”

But it was not a smooth operation for the team. Madhu’s independent audit discovered that there were only three songs in the entire collection that were market-ready, from a technical point of view. So the team headed for Orissa once again and each tribal group was recorded at the WIDA training campus for six days. Says Bhaskar, “After recording, we went by the ear and chose the best hunting song out of all the six tribes we had recorded, the best lullaby, the best marriage song and so on and thus `Tribology’ was born.” […]

But what was the reaction from the tribals, one wondered. Bhaskar says, “The Adivasis thought it was a wonderful idea and that it had to be done especially because their cultural identity had to preserved“.

“Working with them was a learning experience. The people are still so innocent. I remember, we asked a Kondh woman to sing a lullaby for the recording. She asked us, `How? No babies around.’ Then one of them gently beat on her left shoulder as though the shoulder were the baby, while giving us the best lullaby we had heard from among all the tribes!”

Source: “Tribal song” by Savitha Gautam, The Hindu, Sunday, Feb 29, 2004
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