Music of Uttarakhand

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Music of Uttarakhand

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Folk music of Uttarakhand refers to the traditional and contemporary songs of Kumaon and Garhwal regions in the foothills of Himalayas. This music has its root in the lap of nature and the hilly terrain of the region.

The folks songs of Uttarakhand are a reflection of the cultural heritage and the way people live their lives in the Himalayas. Common themes in the folk music of Uttarakhand are the beauty of nature, various seasons, festivals, religious traditions, cultural practices, folk stories, historical characters, the bravery of ancestors and love ballads.

Traditional musical instruments used in Uttarakhandi music include the dhol, damaun, turri, ransingha, dholki, daur, thali, bhankora and mashakbaja. Tabla and harmonium are also sometimes used, especially in recorded folk music from the 1960s onwards. In recent years, Uttarakhandi folk songs have undergone transformation. Generic Indian and global musical instruments have been incorporated in modern popular folks by singers like Narendra Singh Negi, Gopal Babu Goswami, Mohan Upreti, Chander Singh 'Rahi' etc. Modern themes include geo-political issues affecting the region, humour, nostalgia for the hills by the diaspora etc.

Traditional folk songs from the region, include ceremonial mandal, martial panwara, melancholy khuder, religious jagar, thadya and jhora.

Prominent folk artists of Uttarakhand

The earliest of the singers who left never ending impressions on the folk music of Uttarakhand are

1. Narendra Singh Negi : He has sung in every style of singing popular in Uttarakhand be it Jagar, Chaumasa, Thadya or Playback. He has sung in different local languages (boli) like Garhwali, Kumaoni, Jaunsari prevailing in the state. He started his music career by releasing "Garhwali Geetmala". These Garhwali Geetmalas came in 10 different parts. His first album came with the title called "Burans". Burans is a well-known flower found on hills.He has released most number of super-hit albums. He has also given his voice in many Garhwali movies like "Chakrachal", "Gharjawain", "Meri Ganga Holi Ta Maima Aali" etc. This renowned singer from Garhwal has sung more than 1000 songs till now. Although he mostly composes his music in the folk genre, his lyrics depict a huge range of anxieties, tensions and human insights of the people of Uttarakhand. His Song "Tehri Dam" and "Nauchhami Naraina" created a wave. "Tehri Dam" was the story of displacement of locals from their land and Nauchhami Naraina was a political satire on then Chief Minister of Uttarakhand Narayan Datt Tiwari. He is widely considered as an inspirational figure in cultivating and popularizing the sounds and rhythms of Uttarakhand.

2. Mohan Upreti: A famous folk-singer from Kumaon, Mohan Upreti is known for his Nanda Devi Jagar & Rajula Malushahi Ballad. His iconic Kumaoni song Bedu Pako Baro Masa is fondly referred to as the cultural anthem of Uttarakhand. It is said that this song was also a favourite of former Prime Minister of India Jawahar Lal Nehru who heard it in a band march as this song is also the official regiment song of the Kumaon Regiment of Indian Army. This iconic song has been covered by various artists and dance groups all over the world.

3. Gopal Babu Goswami who is considered to be a legend in Uttarakhand for his melodious voice. His songs on the life of the members of the armed forces and their families, like Kaile Baje Muruli, Ghughuti Na Basa and many others are legendary, it is said that when these songs were transmitted on the All India Radio, women with their husbands working far away from the Uttarakhand hills could not help but weep, missing their husbands when they heard the soul touching voice of Gopal Da as he was lovingly called.

4. Chander Singh 'Rahi' fondly called the “Bhishma Pitamaha of Uttarakhand folk music” for his deep devotion to the music of Uttarakhand curated more than 2500 folk songs from Uttarakhand and gave his voice to more than 500 songs of Garhwali and Kumaoni language. He was also a talented musician, poet, and song-writer. He is known for his Uttarakhandi songs including 'Sarag tara', 'Bhana hai rangeeli bhana', 'Sauli ghura ghur', 'Saat samundar paar', 'Hilma chandi ku', and 'Jara thandu chla di'. He was also the first singer to sing a ghazal in Garhwali language known as Teri Mukhiri'. Rahi has been an inspiration was for many later Garhwali singers. Garhwali singer Narendra Singh Negi has cited Chandra Singh Rahi as his inspiration. Rahi's popular songs Phyonlariya and traditional Anchari Jagar - Chaita Ki Chaitwali were remade by popular Garhwali singers in 2016 and 2018 respectively.

5. Basanti Devi Bisht is a famous singer from Uttarakhand specialising in Jagar music.

6. Meena Rana is the most recorded female singer from Uttarakhand.

7. Heera Singh Rana is identified as a singer and a poet of whose songs are known to describe the pain of the people of the hills.

In the past decade Uttarakhandi Music has seen a revolution as various Music Recording/Cassette Producing agencies such as Rama Video Cassettes, Neelam Cassettes and T-Series, provided opportunities for young talents from local areas, to make their own Cassettes and to get the songs recorded in the BIG BOSS digital sound recording studio (at Dehradun, Uttarakhand). This has led to a sudden surge in the number of young talents from various corners of Uttarakhand, which include famous personalities such as Lalit Mohan Joshi, Manglesh Dangwal, Kalpana Chauhan, Anuradha Nirala, Pritam Bharatwan, Gajendra Rana, Arvind Singh Rawat. All these singers have made their contribution to the Kumaoni / Garhwali Music through various hit songs / music albums over the period.

Some famous songs / albums from Uttarakhand include Fauji Lalit Mohan Joshi's "Maya Ki Yaad", "Tak Taka Tak Kamla"; Gajendra Rana's "Malu", "Rani Gorkhani", "Lila Ghasyari", "Pushpa"; Pritam Bharatwan's "Saruli", "Rajuli".

Also, with an advance in the technology and easy availability of video cameras and other recording devices, lots of talents have started producing music albums, which has further led to the popularisation of the various folk dance forms of Uttarakhand. In fact, Kumaoni / Garhwali songs have gained so much popularity over the years that they have become integral part of the DJ Music played during wedding and other functions.

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