Music, according to some theorists, began with singing, depending on "logogenic process" (word-born) originated from words or on "pathogenic process" (passion-born) based on sound production of man on account of feelings, exclamations, etc. Primitive man sings only when he has something definite to express. Since his singing produces the spontaneous expression of his thought, tune and speech are often mingled in the course of his performance. This is conditioned by his settlement in a locality or a land, the topography of which affects his habit. If he is influenced by the semi-civilized world, the primitive form changes gradually into folk forms. Hence classification of music of primitive and folk types according to particular areas, geographically classified, is consistent with the nature of this enquiry. Actually, in the eastern part of India, different language families have settled in particular geographically demarcated areas. This study, which aims at treating music of India, covers the states of Orissa, West Bengal, Assam, Tripura, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh.
Different human races of non-agricultural, food-gathering type entered India from the northeast and northwest, and settled in the plains during the prehistoric days. They were invaded by proto-Australoids of agricultural habit who settled in the plains, the previous nomadic groups being driven out to jungles and hills. Proto-Australoids brought their culture to the plains and extended up to the entire hill border of Assam. This was followed by further infiltration of Dravidian invaders.
The people of the Dravidian stock spread in the plains of Orissa and Bengal, and also in the Brahmaputra Valley of Assam from the south and east. The Sino-Tibetan language families of Indian population entered through the northern hills and dales, and settled all over eastern, north-eastern and northern sections of the entire region. This innumerable series of isolated families of language and dialect were posted in different parts and a heterogeneous human settlement was ultimately generated. Of these, the most mentionable were the Tibeto-Burmans who were divided into innumerable sections. Some of them spread out and dissolved in the population of that part of Bengal which has become Bangladesh.
Various speeches of Bodo tribes and others like Koch, etc., along with the language of the principal ruling groups of Assam, the Ahoms, were all assimilated in the Aryan language of Assam, Assamese of the earliest phase. It is also held that the Valleys of the Brahmaputra were occupied by Caucasoid Aryans. Consequently, the impact of the Aryan cult on the land and people was far-reaching.
The multilingual region of eastern India has been ruled by three major Aryan languages - Oriya, Bengali and Assamese - from the very time when languages were born. History suggests that the precursors of these languages settled in this region during or after the Vedic age. Those who lived here from prehistoric period were either integrated in the society or they shifted themselves to some areas where they lived in pockets. Then again, during and after this period, fresh infiltrators who came from outside, i.e., from the eastern countries across the borders found their abode near agricultural lands, forests, river banks, hills and dales and mountain slopes. They all had their own cells or were mixed up with the population already settled. Thus, Indo-Aryan cult predominated in the area.
Coming to the indigenous music again, those who remained segregated from the general population in the past are today coming near the centrally integrated folk-cult of India through varied urbanized organizations. Folk-songs in these three major languages - Oriya, Bengali and Assamese, divided and sub-divided into innumerable sections present colourful materials of full-fledged folk-music and also pretty varieties of primitive music. As for other languages and dialects of this region, numerous types of primitive and mixed (hybrid) forms may be observed to exist at the same time. Some of the subsections of music groups under major languages are soon to preserve old archaic forms which may be characterized both ways - primitive and developed forms. At places, old traditional primitive forms have been extricated and new forms introduced by external pressure.
The variety of folk-music of the three language groups of the eastern region of India and Bangladesh is the resultant of the Indo-Aryan culture which got mixed up with the culture of innumerable races of diverse origins at different periods of history. Therefore, the local characters of music differ in many respects.
The largest section of Indian population, having developed cultured languages living in different states, inherited a tradition from the past to prepare a common ground for a homogeneous culture. Along with these, the Adivasis and the tribes maintained their individual tradition of inherent cults. Instances of mutual intercourse in these matters are also extant. It is perhaps in respect of languages and dialects alone that the individual growth of a variety of musical cults had grown like unaccounted species of orchids. Folk-song, tribal music and primitive music are based on the mother tongue of groups of men settled in particular areas.
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