Importance of Folk String Instruments in Assamese Folk Songs

Gautam Saikia

Research Scholar, Department of Performing Arts

Mahapurusha Srimanta Sankaradeva University, Assam

Email: gautamsaikia1234@gmail.com

Abstract

Musical Instruments are the most essential elements of music. Different scholars and musicians have offered different views on the classification of instruments. Bharat Muni divides the musical instruments into four categories in the Natyashastra. Tata Vadya, Avanadha Vadya, Sushira Vadya and Ghana Vadya. String instruments play a vital role in the folk music of Assam. Folk string instruments of Assam such as Tokari, Dotara, Bin, Ektara, Anandalahari, Sarinda etc. These folk string instruments maintained the melody of the various folk songs of Assam, like Tokarti geet, Dehbisar Geet, Goalporiya loko geet, Kamrupiya lokogeet, Bihu Naam etc.

This research paper discusses the Folk music and musical instruments of Assam, the Importance of Folk string instruments in Assamese folk songs, etc. The main objective of this research is to study the importance and necessity of string instruments in the folk songs of Assam. This research paper has been completed through descriptive and analytical methods with the help of primary and secondary scores and followed by APA referencing style.

Key Word: Music, Instruments, String Instruments, Folk, Songs

How to cite this paper:

Saikia, Gautam. 2024. “Importance of Folk String Instruments in Assamese Folk Songs.” Sangeet Galaxy 13(1): 116-126. www.sangeetgalaxy.co.in

  1.  Introduction: –     1.1 Music and Musical Instruments:

Music is an art form that can express the feelings of one person to another through sounds, tones, melodies, rhythms, language, literature, poetry, etc. Many scholars have considered music to be the best of all art forms. The elements of music are Pitch, Rhythm, Melody, Timbre, Dynamic, Texture, Polyphonic, etc. Instruments are essential elements of music. It is very important for any analytical aspects of music because geet and nritya are incomplete without instruments.

Music is represented by sound. From the perspectives of music, it’s called Naad. We hear different types of sounds from different factors in the natural environment around us. For example, the roar of clouds, lightning, from rivers, rain, wind, the rustling of dry leaves, from animals and birds etc. By simulation these sounds, people try to create various types sound in different ways through different factors. When these are musically useful and the aesthetically sweet, the factors produce that sound is transformed into a musical instrument. Anything capable of producing musical sounds is an instrument. (Barthakur, 2017, p. 2)

  1.  Classifications of instruments:

Different scholars have offered different views on the classification of instruments. Bharat Muni divides into four categories in the Natyashastra. Dr. Lalmani Mishra mentioned it in his book ‘Bharatiya Sangeet Vaadya’,

“Tatang saibabanadhang cha ghanag sushiramewasa

Saturbidhata bigyayamatudyang lakhyamanwitanm।।” (Mishra, 2020, p. 42)

i.e., Tata Vaidya, Avanadha Vaidya, Ghana Vadiya, Sushira Vaidya.

Based on the use and playing of the instruments, Sarangadeva divides them into four different categories i.e., Suska, Geetanugang, Nrityanugang and Dyanugang.

“Shuska Geetanugang Nrityanugamanyade Dyayanugama

Chaturdhati Matang BadyangTantra Shuska Taduswate

Yadwin a Geetanrityavyang Tadugousthityisyate Budhe

Tatah parang tu Tritayang Vabednbrthanaamakam” (Srangadeva, 2006, p. 247)

      From the perspective of Western Music, musical instruments are divided into five categories due to the producing different sounds i.e.

  1. Chordophones (String),
  2. Aero phones (Wind),
  3. Membranous phones (Lather),
  4. Ideo phones (Metal),
  5. Electrophones.

From all the analytical discussion mentioned by various scholars on the division of instruments, Bharatamuni’s decision is considered to be scientifically proven.

  1. Tata Vaidya is a string instrument.
  2. Sushira Vaidya is a Wind instruments
  3. Ghana Vaidya is a Metal instruments or
  4. Avanadha Vaidya is lather instruments.

Tata and Sushira Vaidya (String and wind instruments) usually maintain the melody of a song. On the other hand, rhythm and tempo of a song is maintained by Avanadha and Ghana Vaidya (Percussion instruments).

  • Folk Musical Instruments of Assam
    • Folk Music of Assam:

The songs that have been originating and prevailing orally in the illiterate folk mass of Assam are known as the Assamese folk songs. The term ‘folk‘ represents the ‘general masses’. Music is the combination of three arts form like songs, dance and Instruments. Sarangadeva mentioned in his great Treatise ‘Sangeet Ratnakara’ that “Geetang Badyang Tatha Nrityang Trayang Sangeetam Utchyate” (Phukan, 2017 , p. 5)

            British archaeologist William John Thomas was first used the term ‘folklore’ on 1846 in the journal Athenaeum. Through the term folklore he described folk knowledge and folk experience.

 “The Grimm brothers used the term volk skunde to refer to the traditional folklore and archeology of the Germans. Volk means folk and skunde means experience or lore.” (Sarma D. C., 2015, p. 1)

Folklore is a part of culture. William John Thomas coined the term folklore and pioneered thought about folk culture around the world. Folk music and folk instruments are an important part of folklore.

“Folk songs are more valuable from a literary point of view. It can be divided into three main categories: – (1) Formal, for example: Bihugeet, Aai Naam, Biya Naam etc. (2)Belad, for example: Mani knowar geet, shanti Baramahi geet, Barphukan Geet etc. (3)Miscellaneous topic, for example: Nisukani Geet, Garakhiya geet, Nao khelua geet etc”. (Sarma D. , 2017, p. 20)

 Folk music reflects the simple feelings, thoughts, diet, lifestyle, dress, beliefs, religious beliefs, etc. of human life. (Baruah, 2019, p. 261)

The following are the various folk songs prevalent among the various communities living in Assam:- Aai Nam, Biya Nam, Bihu Nam, Tokari Geet, Dehbisar Geet, Kamrupi Lokogeet, Goalporia Lokogeet, Jikir-Jari, Nisukoni Geet, Haidang Geet, Diha Nam, Thio Nam, Belad, Juna, Mohoho Geet, Naukhelor Geet, Umola Geet, Ful Knowar-Mani Knowar Geet, Joymoti Geet, Moniram Dewanor Geet, Htikhujia Geet etc.

  • . Various Folk Instruments: –

Assam has different ethnic groups. i.e., Bodo, Rava, Kashari, Mising, Tiwa, Moran, Hajong, Deori, Dimasa, Khamti, Ahom, Kuki, Chutia, Tai phake, Tea tribes etc. Every ethnic group has its musical characteristics. Musical instruments are the main musical component for every ethnic group. Folk instruments of Assam are the instruments that represent the folk performing arts and are associated with the various ethnic groups of Assam.

There are many examples of musical styles and practices in Assam from ancient monasteries, inscriptions, copper plates, sculptures, paintings, and history books.

     In the ‘Kalika Purana’, a tantric text mentions various musical instruments. The writer Dharmeswar Duarah mentioned it in his book ‘Asomor Badyajantra’:-

“Xathi Lakhya bajonak niyujan kari |

Dhak dhul mridanga gumukh shankha Veri ||

 Bina benu doba kanh tabala  mandira |

Tanpura khyema aadi badya sutradhara ||” (Duarah, 2009, p. 33)

There are many musical instruments of Assam mentioned in the Ramayana by the Apramadi poet Madhava Kandali.

“Biro Dhako Dhulo baje                       Tobola dogoro dandi

Shabada Xuniya Kulahala |

Vemosa Khemosa Soy                              JhaJhara Remosi baje

                                 Ram taal aru Kara tala ||” (Dutta, 2017, p. 64)

  In the book “Babrubahan Yudha” the Pre-Vaishnava poet Hari Hara Bipra’s also mentions various instruments of Assam.

“Dhaka Dhula Veri Vemsi Dhumasi

Dagaru Maruka Bankhi |

Temosi Khikisi Madali Remosi

Tokari Maruka Kankhi ||” (Duarah, 2009, p. 34)

There are also some hints of musical instruments in the Bargeets of Sankardeva and Madhavdeva. These are Kingkini, Nupur, Xinga, Benu, Kartaala, Rudrakbilakh, Bipanchi, Rabab etc.

 ‘Dhuliya Oja’ is a folk performing arts form of Assam. In this tradition various ‘Malita and Oja Hat’ by playing the instrument Dhol. In the Dholiya Oja tradition The Oja’s perform the origin of various musical instruments through Badyo Buloni Hat. The Malita of Badya Buloni Hat is mentioned below:-

“Xuniuka Harbajana Amara Bachan,

Bady Bulanira Katha Karu Aramvana.

Sristika Srajiya Pase Deba Prajapati

Bishnu Xiba Swaraswati Anilanta Mati.

Aru Mati Anilanta Narada Muniray,

Badya SraJIBAR Kotha Kahila Bujai.

Vbi Guni Sari Jane Huiya Eka Man,

Chaturbidha Badya Mane Karila Sarjan.

Tata Susira Abanadha Ghana Badya Sari Bidha

Pancha Deba Debi honte Voilanta Srajita.” (Duarah, 2009, p. 38)

 There are many folk instruments used in various folk and traditional festivals, folk songs, dances, and various folk theatres of Assam.

Different Assamese folk musical instruments are as follows:-

Tata Vadya:

Sushira Vadya:-

Avanadha Vadya:-

Ghana Vadya:-

  • Folk string instruments of Assam:-

 A string instrument is an instrument that produces a musical sound by striking on string through a solid object. It can be divided into two categories according to their playing style. One is played by striking through a small solid object like Tokari, Dotara, Vina, etc, and the other hand is played by rubbing with a bow like Violin, Sarinda, Serja, Sarengi, Bin etc.

The string instruments played an important role in creating and maintaining the melody of various folk songs of Assam. Any one folk instrument is used with two or more folk songs too.

For the convenience of discussion, how the different string instruments are being used with different folk songs is given in the following table-

Instruments         Folk Songs         
TokariTokari Geet, Dehbisar Geet,
DotaraKamrupi lokogeet, Goalporia Lokogeet,Jikir-jari
EktaraTokari Geet, Dehbisar Geet, Goalporiya Lokogeet, Jikir-jari
BinBihu Nam, Biya Nam, Fulknowar-Maniknowar Geet,
Ananda LahariDehbisar Geet,T okari geet,Diha Nam etc.
Sarinda or SerjaBorgeet, Bagurumba etc.
  • . Folk string instruments used in various folk songs of Assam

String instruments play a very important role in the folk music of Assam. Folk string instruments of Assam such as Tokari, Dotara, Bin, Ektara, Anandalahari, Sarinda etc. These folk string instruments maintained the melody of the various folk songs of Assam, like Tokarti geet, Dehbisar Geet, Goalporiya loko geet, Kamrupiya lokogeet, Bihu Naam etc.

  • Tokari: –

Tokari is a folk string instrument of Assam that is used with spiritual folk songs Tukari Geet. The song is called Tukari geet because it is sung by playing the Tokari instrument. This instrument is made from the branches of jackfruit, Neem or Gamari trees.

Parts of Tokari:-

 This instrument is the main instrument of Tokari geet. The instrument Tokari maintains the melody parts of the song. The singer tuned at Tokari in his Convenience. The player plays in tune with the song and shows the rhythm. Other melody instruments used with Tokari are flute and percussion instruments are Khol, Taal, Nagra, etc. It is difficult to say exactly when Tukari Geet originated in Assam, but it can be assumed to have been in prevailing since the pre-Sanskrit period. Traditionally, the strings of Tokari are known as Guna.  The names of these Gunas are Ingala, Pingala, Chitra and Sushoma respectively.

Tuning process of Tokari :-

  •  Dotara: –

Another folk string instrument like the Tokari is the Dotara. This instrument is played to create and maintain the melody of folk songs such as Kamrupi lokogeet, Goalparia lokogeet, Jikir-jari etc. Although the Dotara is made in the same way as the Tokari, it is made smaller than the Tokari. This instrument is used with different folk songs such as Kamrupiya lokogeet, Goalporiya lokogeet, Jikir and Jari etc. Though it is the same instrument, the performance technique will depend upon the folk song. The instrument is played differently with different folk songs. A common similarity in playing the Dotara is that the rhythm is occasionally shown in conjunction with the melody of the song. When played with Goalporiya loko geet, melody and rhythm are given equal importance.

  • Bin: –

Bin is a folk string instrument of Assam where attests only one string. It is usually made by attaching a piece of bamboo to the coconut shell and applying a beetle skin to the hollow part of the coconut shell. Instead of metal string, Muga Thread is used in Assamese Bin. Bin usually, a bow is made of pieces of bamboo, tied with long horsehair, and rubbed on Muga thread and played.

 The instrument Bin is used in various folk songs of Assam such as Bihu naam, Bia Naam, Phul Konwar-Mani Konwar Geet as well as in various ethnic folk songs of Assam. Being a single string, the singer tunes in the Sa swara according to his/her convenience.

4.0 Conclusion: –

Instruments is an essential part of music. The string instrument plays an incomparable role in various folk songs of Assam. The study of these string instruments is essential for the promotion of folk songs of Assam among the people. If we don’t know the correct playing methods of string instruments with every folk song, the songs will lose their existence and the quality of the songs will deteriorate. String instruments maintain the tone of any song, whether folk or classical.  Therefore, it is very important to learn string instruments correctly along with learning music.