Themes of Folk Music of Medinipur
One of the basic and most popular aspects of folklore is the songs associated with childbirth. The Shashti Puja is performed on this day for the well-being of the child. Apart from the various traditional rites which are performed during such an event, there is a night long singing of Shashti Mangal songs that follows. These songs recount the songs narrating the tale of a childless King who was blessed with a beautiful son. The story goes that Shashtidevi in order to fully reveal her power and glory blessed the childless king Mayuradhvaji with a son.
In the wider areas of rural Bengal, there is also a strong unity of feeling which is woven around the legend of Lord Shiva. Here, Lord Shiva is seen as a poor but spiritual cultivator who accepts all the hardships of life with childlike joyousness. The day of Chaitra Sankranti is observed as the day of the marriage between Shiva and Parvati, and is the day of the Gajan Utsav of Shiva. Songs sung during this day present a true and intimate picture of peasant life. The richness of the peasant life and its simple charm is captured in the various songs. One of the popular folk songs of this type is the 'Dhan Bhanar Gan' which is about husking. It is usually sung by a group of three women who imitate the rhythm and movement of body and feet as the husking ram rises and falls.
Dialect of Folk Music of Medinipur
The Shashtimangal Palas are typically composed in Mednipuria, which is a mix of Bengali language and Oriya language dialects. This language is actually mainly Bengali with rather strong Oriya overtones. On some occasions, the songs are even accompanied by translations in pure Bengali. These folk songs of childbirth are collected from the Brahmin who performs the duties of the rural priest. The date of singing the songs is fixed after 10 betel nuts and a rupee are presented to the leader of the folk singers. The songs commence after traditional homage is paid to the Goddess Durga, Goddess Kali, Goddess Saraswati and Lord Ganesha.
Performance/ Instruments of Folk Music of Medinipur
The songs are generally sung and performed by the women. The songs are accompanied by instruments like Mridanga, Manjira and more recently, the Tabla and the Harmonium. The lines of the songs are first uttered by the leader of the group and these are repeated by the rest in chorus. The songs which are sung during this time are in essence about the entire duration of the pregnancy and a day-to-day account of the queen's condition and desires during this time. In some areas, songs satirising the pregnant woman and her poor helpless husband are sung by 'sangs' or roving jesters. Some portions of the song are unbelievably rich in their graphic descriptions of the joys and fellow-feeling and sympathy with the would-be mother.
In some other songs of the region, one can find a moving description of a father bidding goodbye to his daughter after the marriage ceremony. The songs capture the pain of separation and the apprehensions of the new bride when entering a new life. She is deeply attached to and missing the love and care that surrounded her in her home and wonders if she will get the same in her new household.
This is a brief review of the folk music of Paschim Medinipur District. The songs, like most other folk songs, are an expression of community feeling at the various events of life, and the kind of lifestyle that the rural people live.