Monday, 25 November 2013

Punjabi Folk Music

The real spirit of a folk-song rests not only in its text but also in its tune. The popular tunes of Punjabi folk-songs ring with the heart-throbs of the simple, unsophisticated villagers. These melodies, characteristic of their deeply-felt emotions are absolutely in tune with their mode of living.

The rhythm and beat of Punjabi folk music is simple. The rhythmic patterns are determined by the day-to-day activities of the villagers, the sound of the grinding stone, the drone of the spinning wheel, the creaking of the Persian wheel, the beat of the horse's hooves etc. These rhythms refined into symmetrical patterns form the basis of the entire folk music of the Punjab.

 There is a widespread variation in the tunes and melodies prevalent in the different regions of the state. The folk tunes prevalent in the east of the undivided Punjab are different from those popular in the west. In the west specially on the plains of the Sindh Sagar Doab certain folk forms like Mahiya and Dhoola were very popular. Boli is popular all over the Punjab, though the eastern mode of performing it is different from the western one. Even in one area the same song is sung differently by different groups. This element of flexibility in Punjabi folk music adds a lot of variety to it.

Punjabi folk music is primarily vocal in character and is accompanied by instruments. It comes so spontaneously to the villager that when he is ploughing or digging his fields, driving his cart or walking homeward alone he just bursts into song in a full-throated ecstasy. When women get together and ply the spinning-wheel they sing alone, in twos and three's or in chorus. They need no instruments. But for songs which are sung on special occasions, the use of instruments is essential, particularly the dholak. The dholak is very popular with the Punjabis and is used on all occasions of social and festive significance. Innumerable memories are associated with its sound because all gaiety and celebrations of 
the family include the dholak as the basic and essential instrument. Sometimes if a dholak is not available, people improvise one, out of an earthen pitcher which they put upside down and strike with a stone to keep the beat. This improvisation is quite popular with young women who sometimes prefer it to the drum and achieve real perfection in it. Dholak has helped to preserve some of the most valuable traditional songs.
In the evenings, professional singers enliven village platforms. Bhatts and Dhadis entertain the audiences till very late in the night and keep men and women of all ages absolutely spell-bound with their ballads. These roving minstrels are sometimes accompanied by instrumentalists who carry folk instruments like an Algoza, an Iktara and a Dhad Sarangi and by playing on them add charm to the recital. 

There is an abundance of heroic, devotional and romantic tales in Punjabi folklore. Tales of Puran Bhagat, Gopi Chand and Hakeekat Rai belong to the devotional type whereas Raja Rasalu, Sucha Singh Surma and Jeuna Mor belong to the heroic category. Heer Ranjha, Sassi Punnu, Mirza Sahiban and Sohni Mahiwal are popular as tales of romance. These sentimental tales are always sung in typical strains. For every tale, the popular tune is different.

 Mirza Sahiban is sung in long wistful notes and the tune is known as Sad (call). It is a mournful tune and the singer generally puts one hand on his ear and makes gestures with the other while he sings.The tune used for Heer Ranjha is different form the one used for Puran Bhagat. The notes of Sindhu Bhairava raag can be traced in Heer Ranjha while Puran Bhagat is sung in the musical notes of Asavari and Mand. Sohni Mahiwal and Yusaf Zulaikhan are sung in Bhairavi raag but the tunes are different.

Mahiya, Dhola and Boli are the popular folk tunes prevalent in the Punjab. Today Mahiya is sung all over the Punjab. A triplet of Mahiya is called Tappa because it throbs with the heart-beat of the 
singers. Mahiya comprising triplets has its own special structure. The first line contains a pen-picture, a description or an illustration but sometimes it has no special meaning or relevance. The real substance is contained in the second and third lines. These two lines are very expressive and overflow with the most deeply felt longings of the people. They are very effective because they are deeply-felt emotions put into words. Every Tappa is an entity in itself.

Dhola is highly lyrical and sentimental in character and its chief contents are love and beauty. Dhola has a variety of forms.

The Pothohari Dhola is rather condensed in form. Each stanza consists of five lines which can be further sub-divided into two parts of three and two lines. The first two lines of the first part rhyme with each other while the third one is left loose. The second part which is a couplet, intensifies and polishes up the meaning of the first three lines. This couplet is a sustained part of the first three 
lines. This couplet is liberally used independently by the singers of Dhola. Dhola prevalent in Sandalbar has no fixed form, and its tune is different from that popular in Pothohar. The rhythm is different and it keeps changing according to the variety of emotions portrayed. Singers themselves are the folk poets of these songs.

Boli is the most popular form of folk music of the eastern Punjab. It is the most miniature form of folk-song. Boli is very deep, effective and interesting in its impact. It expresses a variety of emotions. A Boli may vary from one line to four, five or even more lines. The two famous folk-dances of the Punjab,  Bhangra and Giddha are danced to the accompaniment of this form of folk-song.

Loris or lullabies are sung in different tunes but the tempo is invariably slow. Every tune tends to create a droning, dreamy atmosphere which leads the child into the alleys of sleep. Its rhyme scheme is crisp and brief and takes the form of an address. At the end of each rhyming arrangement, plain and simple syllabic sounds are hummed. In the Punjab there are set tunes for typical dirges. Alahni and Vain belong to this category. The content is a sad and philosophic commentary on the transience of life. Mourning songs are generally sung as slow, dragging chants, punctuated by shrill and wailing cries.

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