eJournal | Impact of public presentations of Adivasi (Santal) music – West Bengal

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Adivasi music and the public stage
By Jayasri Banerjee

These days, no festival or utsav is considered complete without some sort of folk music or dance. The idea of presenting the music and dance traditions of the Adivasis in a public forum is generally well-meaning—to create general awareness among the urban/rural public about

Adivasi lives and to generate a sustainable development of Adivasi art forms. Unfortunately, these good intentions are far removed from reality, as I found in the course of a two-year study I conducted in the Burdwan and Birbhum districts of West Bengal.

This article examines the impact of public presentations of Adivasi (in this case Santal) music and dance upon the distinctive traits of such traditions. Public presentation here refers to the presentation of the music and dance traditions of the Adivasi communities outside their everyday lives and natural performance contexts; that is, outside the context of their parav (festivals), rites and rituals. […]

It is by now common knowledge that Adivasi artistic-creative traditions have been organically interwoven into a total way of life, which has, over generations, been developed on the basis of an eco-centric world view that considers the human world and nature as parts of the same continuum. Such traditions, whether wall/floor decorations, iconography, fine and/or performing arts, are deeply related to one another, and all of them are related to the everyday Adivasi way of life. […]

In the course of my study, I found a large corpus of songs on literacy and family planning, which were first written in Bengali and then grafted on to Adivasi, mainly Santal, melodic and metrical moulds of different musical genres. This distorts the formal structure of different genres of Santal songs, since melody and language are integrally related in Santal music. Multiple song texts are seen to be set in limited, genre-specific melodic moulds. Since, in Santali tradition, tune/melody “provides structural values to its text”, the imposition of Bengali linguistic tendencies is deeply disturbing. This not only changes the formal structure of Santal music, singing and dance, it affects the instrumental accompaniment, which closely follows the melodic and metric moulds of the Santal songs. […]

Jayasri Banerjee is an independent researcher and is working on folk and tribal performance genres of the Jungle Mahal.

Source: Indian Folklife, January 2002, Vol. 1 Issue 3 January 2002
URL: https://indianfolklore.org/journals/index.php/IFL/article/viewArticle/646Date Visited: Sun Jun 03 2012 16:31:59 GMT+0200 (CEST)

Jayasri Banerjee is an independent researcher working on folk and tribal performance genres of the Junglemahal. She is a musicologist and educationist by profession.

Description: Musicologist Dr Jayasri Banerjee will study and document the musical traditions of the Adivasi communities of Junglemahal in West Bengal. These communities have traditionally understood their environment and music to be intimately related to their everyday existence and worldview and, therefore, integral to their identity.

Once closely linked to ritual, the instruments and the music itself are now under immediate threat. Rampant deforestation in the area, single species planting and unsympathetic laws governing the use of forest reserves has ensured that the community is deprived of the wood and bamboo from which the instruments are made. But more importantly, as Dr Banerjee notes, the thoughtless parameters of ‘development’ may pose a far greater danger to their music and everyday life. She argues, the government regularly organises ‘music competitions’ and awards prizes, imposing dominant cultural norms and tastes in the area.

The government’s programmes ignore the essentially oral traditions of the Adivasi, and contribute to an erosion of musical knowledge, forms and genres. Literacy campaigns, Dr Banerjee holds, erode the space to retain and transmit traditional musical skills. In the process, the Adivasi were shaken from their cultural moorings and cut off from their past.

Dr Banerjee expects to document myths, legends and other relevant narratives necessary to an understanding of the symbolic underpinnings of the traditional music of Junglemahal.

Her project will attempt to put younger members of the community in touch with their music again and create avenues for income generation for instrument makers.  She also hopes to produce resource materials for use in the ongoing government literacy programmes in the area, and conduct workshops and training programmes to sensitize its personnel to local musical and other cultural traditions.

Source: Jayasri Banerjee | India Foundation for the Arts
Address : http://www.indiaifa.org/grants-and-projects/jayasri-banerjee.html
Date Visited: Fri Jun 28 2013 12:50:46 GMT+0200 (CEST)

[Bold typeface added above for emphasis]

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