On the whole, ease in playing the percussion instrument to folk-song draws the interest of folk-singers, because singers themselves are mostly players. While singing, the solo singers try rhythmic swings; along with groups of vocalists the refrainers play percussion instruments like cymbals (kartal, kansar, mandira etc.) and add more to the original swing. It will be observed that the rural listeners do not merely listen to singing, but they submit to the swing of rhythm and try to follow the song with their entire being.
Hence the loud percussion instrument dominates the folk-music, whereas fineness of tune is hardly looked about. Rather, the divisions of tolas are stressed and heterogeneous vocal sounds are produced along with rhythmic swing; and thus excess in vocal sound production, abounding with mannerisms, do not matter much. Sometimes, the active vocal chord of the singer is observed to complete strenuously with the loudness of tala playing, khol and kartal or dhol and kansar are often found to make loud preambles to some groups songs (like Gaura-candrika, of padavalikirtan, often imitated in folk-songs).
The madal of different sizes, used by Santals, Mundas, Oraon, Bhumij and other people of the Austric group, may perhaps be considered as one of the most primitive percussion instruments in use. History suggests that Gandharva music of the old age (second century A.D.) accepted all types of local musical instruments from the people for utilization in the old theatre. This is how the impact of general music spread gradually and imperceptibly in the rural areas. Since the origin of the form of rhythm has undergone transformation due to the impact of general music of India, it seems that the possibility of ethnic investigation of the general tala system is hardly profitable now.
It is also a fact that tala patterns of folk-songs could not have been classified and described earlier, since there had never been a chance of methodical study of folk-music, i.e., folk-song, in the past. It is purely a move of the modern age. A methodical study needs a scientific attitude for analysing the basic principles, and that attitude is alien to the study of folk-music. Forms of folk-music develop certain limitations of self-devised system of its own based on impromptu, spontaneous and vocally transmitted character of music.
The basic elements of rhythm are the same everywhere, whether general or folk, though the musical system of folk-music may be defined separately, and finally separate codes may be established for its study. Rhythmic patterns of folk-music are constituted of "mora" of verse or the time unit known as matra, the beat. When several groups of time units combine in a bar, it is called tala, the rhythm. The combined units or groups are repeated continuously converting the music into a complete rhythmic form. The course of continuity establishes the tala pattern. The starting matra of each tala contains an accent, while each group starts with a stress which is indicated by clapping or other symbol. The first accented beat is significantly called sam or sama, the unity of time. In a regular tala, the accent is unique in producing unity required every time, and it is improvised and ornamented with different types of swings or jerks before the accent is reached or the sama is specifically enforced. The detailed process of rhythmic forms, its innumerable varieties and its methods of multiplication of the time ingredients is an elaborate scientific subject which need not be outlined here, because, here we are concerned with the interpretation of rhythmic expressions which are free and spontaneous, moving and swinging, repeating and shifting from regular tempo as necessary.
In folk-music, groups of combined or composed matras are very simple and regular. Two matras of two beats make a unit or a group. And these groups of two beats are arranged in regular movement with accent at the beginning of each beat. It would appear that stress is given on each beat, as on each step during dance. This happens to be a peculiar feature of rhythm in folk-music. The rhythm in popular music or raga-sangit stands on the grouping of matras in various sections, that is, the first beat of each tala is accepted, and initial beat of each group is stressed to mark the division. But the accent on each section of two beats, which characterizes the peculiarity of folk-song, must have originated spontaneously, or it might have occurred in analogy of the diversity of forms and structures as in vogue.
Rhythm in Indian music, as agreed by the eastern and the western musicologists, is the most developed feature which made direct impact in all parts of the country. For instance, the instrument dhol, which spread widely in parts of the eastern region, has developed a technique of playing that has found acceptance among all sorts of people. This is proved by observation of the method of dhol playing in Assam, Manipur, Tripura, West Bengal, Radha, Orissa and so on. And dhol happens to be one of the basic percussion instruments played to folk-songs of West Bengal. Dholak is played to a few types of songs under influence of songs of western India.
On the whole, the particular percussion instruments of Bengal producing rhythmic accompaniment to songs are mainly dhol, khol, khamak along with metal cymbals of different types. The modes of playing of metal cymbals have given rise to some techniques. The use of dugi is marked in Baul songs. It is from about the third decade of this century that folk-music has been urbanized, and there has been a development of musical elements with the intervention of tablet. Tabla has now been a familiar accompanying instrument to folk-music, since tabla players are able to produce miscellaneous musical effects by way of creating effect of locale in music. But, on the other hand, use of tabla is also a problem challenging the appropriateness of its use to original folk-music. It may also be observed that these instruments are generally accompanied by others, though in many instances even today singers are the players of instruments. The use of musical instruments like harmonium, bow-instruments, flute and dotara in a balanced method stands acceptable. Along with these the use of tabla does never stand as a problem now-a-days.
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