Photos and information courtesy Dr. Ruchira Ghose and Project Management Unit, National Museum © 2015
Cadence and Counterpoint: Documenting Santal Musical Traditions
On view at the National Museum from 15 April till 17 May 2015
Exhibition catalogue of the same title by Dr. Ruchira Ghose and Dr. Marie Eve Celio Scheurer (eds.)
The exhibition – a collaboration between National Museum, New Delhi and Museum Rietberg, Zurich and Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya, Bhopal – was an eye into the world of the Santal community, its rich culture and musical traditions. It was curated by Dr Ruchira Ghose, Dr Marie-Eve Celio-Scheurer and Dr Johannes Beltz. It brought to public view aspects of the intangible and tangible heritage of the Santal community in India, especially Santal musical traditions.
The Santals comprise the single largest tribal community in India. Though spread across the eastern states — Jharkhand, West Bengal, Odisha, Bihar and beyond — they form a distinct geography and culture.
The Santals are best known for their rich traditions of dance and music, especially the latter, which has influenced mainstream music in India. Their very distinct culture has attracted researchers, scholars, travellers and explorers into their midst, who have brought back Santal stories and objects.
The exhibition presented three types of objects related to the Santal musical tradition. The first are the musical instruments, amongst which is the most important Banam. A bowed monochord and the only Santal instrument to be categorized as a chordophone, the Banam is carved out of a single piece of soft wood.
Also displayed were the drums, the Tamak and the Madal, and different flutes, of the Santal community.
The third set of objects in the exhibition was the Jadupatua, or scroll painting. While these paintings are not made by the Santal, they are made for them by another community.
An important part of the exhibition was the documentation of Santal traditions over time. Photographs, some taken by well known musicologists such as Alain Daniélou and Deben Bhattacharya, document the Santal community from 1950s onwards. Original audio records from 1914 and videos, from the late 1960s up to the present time, were also part of the documentation.
The exhibition also featured the lively but languishing art form of the Santal community, the Chadar Badar. This is a unique form of puppetry done on a set with a long pole as base. Rows of beautifully carved wooden puppets dance in formation with the pull of a string and attached mechanism. This performance closely resembles the actual folk dance of the Santal.
Date Visited: Sat May 16 2015 19:27:48 GMT+0200 (CEST)