I have wonderful memories of my holiday in the mesmerizing state of Rajasthan. The landscape, the pristine desert of Jaisalmer, the lip-smacking food, the hospitality of the people, the jaw-dropping beauty of the palaces and most of all, their music which is as colourful and appealing as their attire.
Being a singer and musician it becomes second nature for one to be drawn to any kind of music and then imbibe and explore the nuances. It was a cold winter evening in front of a bonfire when an evening of entertainment was arranged by our hosts. If any of you have been to Rajasthan and witnessed their musical performances or even watched a television show about this state, you cannot miss the quintessential Kesariya Balam Aavo ni, Padharo Maaro Des song. It is one the most famous folk songs that has been sung generation after generation. Do you know that this song belongs to a particular style of folk music?
Every state has diverse styles of music depending on the region, dialect, community and so on. The above song belongs to the Mand style and is considered one of the most sophisticated styles of folk music. Made popular by legendary folk singer Allah Jillai Bai (Maand gayaki), this style of singing is also very popular in Indian Classical Music (ICM). Raag Maand evolved from this folk style and is known to be a spirited raag that brings forth the mood of warmth, romance and cheer.
ICM and folk music have more such associations in the form of raags that have been inspired by the music of the locals. Raag Pahadi, as the name suggests, originates from the mountainous regions of the Himalayas. It has a reflection of Raag Maand as well as Raag Pilu. It is an evening raag that exudes both playfulness and pensive moods.
ICM and folk music have differences in terms of the way they are learnt and then practised. The main difference is that folk music is a part of life for every individual in that community as opposed to a chosen vocation and passion for ICM singers and musicians. Folk songs, meant for every occasion in life, from birth to death, are learnt and sung without any formal training. They are performed in groups for public and society gatherings by people who are otherwise engaged in their respective fields of livelihood — farming, animal husbandry, fishing and so on. They have special songs for seasons, festivals, marriages and religious occasions.
Ashwini Narayangaonkar-Kamath is the eleventh generation of her family to be dedicated to the ancient art form of Indian classical music. She has performed in India and abroad, has music albums to her credit and successfully runs her classical music academy all over Mumbai.