Most of the folk music of India is dance-oriented. This means that the songs that are sung are usually accompanied by some dance form, typical to the region in which it is being performed. There is no definite system of education that is imparted in the genre of folk music. It is a style that is picked up and followed and thus the tradition of folk music has mainly been aural. 'Desi folk', as it has been termed, is viewed as a classical art form where in the midst of dance, mime, lasya and natya the symbolic attributes of traditional Indian culture finds a definite diction.
Themes of Folk Music in India
Folk music is an indispensable part of functions such as childbirth, wedding, engagement etc. There are a number of songs for such occasions. Due to the nature of their lifestyle, and the priority of agriculture in the lives of the rural people, there are a number of songs associated with agricultural activities like planting and harvesting. The villagers give vent to their hopes, fears and aspirations by means of these songs. Folk music is also sometimes employed for educational purposes, such as instructing a girl about womanhood.
Instruments used in Folk Music in India
The kind of musical instruments used in folk music are quite different from the type used in Indian Classical Music. They are not as refined as the ones used in classical music. The most distinct feature of these instruments is that they are usually crafted by the singers themselves. They use commonly available materials such as bamboos, coconut shells and pots to make these instruments. Usually, cruder forms of instruments like dholak, dhaf, nal etc are used. In the places of classical string instruments like the sitar and sarod, much simpler versions such as the ektara, dotar, saringda etc are used. Apart from these, there are also a number of instruments which are used only in particular styles of folk music. Most of these instruments have their own name in the local dialect.
Though folk music in India had undergone a decline with the arrival of movies and pop music, cheaply recordable music has made it easier to find and helped revive the traditions. Folk music has influenced Classical music to a great extent, though the latter is viewed as a higher art form. The various styles of folk music and the various instruments used have impacted classical ragas. Many well known singers also prefer to sing Thumri, which is semi-classical in nature.
Folk music, thus, with its brilliance and artistry has redefined the very structure of Indian music and made it much more colourful.