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When Music of the Hills comes Home

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By Roli S
All of us have grown up fantasizing about the beautiful hill stations in the lap of the Himalayas and the scenes in Bollywood movies with heroes and heroines running happily in the lush green mountain meadows, rolling in the snow, and playing hide and seek amidst tall, majestic pine trees and singing romantic songs. These images have made the connection between music, romance and the hills so strong in the minds and hearts of otherwise ‘living in the plains’ people of India that no one can take that feeling away from them.

Soothing melodies and Himalayan rendezvous have become synonymous at least in my dictionary and the feeling has grown stronger as I have grown older. What has made these high-altitude regions so harmonic and lyrical? To this I can say that nature and its beauty have their own way to inspire and motivate humans. The hills have inspired Bollywood producers and music directors for a very long time and the people living in the hilly states of India have kept the music alive because they also carry a very strong culture of music and dance.

Since the time Pawandeep Rajan of Champawat district of Uttarakhand has been winning hearts of the people of India in the music reality show, ‘Indian Idol’, I am convinced that people of the state have music in their veins. Music is a huge part of the cultural and traditional ethos of the paradise that is Uttarakhand.

Let me accentuate this by bringing out the fact that the Bajuband folk songs sung by the village women while performing their daily chores are so poetic that they have been compared with the words written by the great nature poet, William Wordsworth. These songs are generally very sweet sounding, romantic as well as mesmerising. If I was smitten by the Bollywood romantic numbers picturised in the Himalayan hills, then I must also mention here the extremely entertaining and romantic numbers sung in the Rawain region of Garhwal called Chhopati. In these songs, sung in ‘question and answer’ forms, some very pertinent questions are asked by men and women to each other, which are quite charming.

When folk songs are sung in any part of India, can the spirits and gods be left behind? One such folk song, Jagar, is sung in the form of chants by the people of the state. By doing so it is believed that the local deities and gods are awakened from their dormant state. How suitable is the name ‘Jagar’, which literally means ‘to be awake’. Yes, music has its other uses, and these folk songs tell us just that. One does not need expensive paraphernalia to generate melodies that are user friendly and are born sometimes out of necessity and at other times simply from the heart!

Flowers have inspired many influential people to discover meaning in their lives and improve the world because flowers do not worry about how they’re going to bloom. They just open up and turn towards the light and that makes them beautiful. During the spring season, when the hillsides get dotted with colourful high altitude flowers and plants, people individually or in groups burst out singing their favourite Basanti songs to welcome the season change from winter to spring. The songs are extremely cheerful, happy and clearly represent the blooming of the flowers that occurs throughout the hills.

We have a storytelling history and strong family bonds in our country, which combined with folk music give rise to folk songs like Chhura, when the shepherd folk of the hills sing songs in the form of advice that is being given from the older to the younger generation that is based on their life experiences and feel that it may come in handy for the younger lot while grazing sheep and goats and their other cattle. Sometimes, I imagine that is how probably our ancient rishis and sages created meaningful shlokas and chants. Can there be any better surroundings than sheep, goats, undulating expanse of meadows, cool mountain breeze and shepherd folks to give birth to some wonderful music? I don’t think so.

When I watched Jubin Nautiyal and Pawandeep Rajan perform together on the ’Indian Idol’ stage, recently, the melody and atmosphere that they both generated brought the magic of the musical hills of Uttarakhand and its natural surroundings to my living room. Pavandeep especially conveys the natural talent of the people of our hills so wonderfully because, according to him, he has not learnt any formal music – singing and playing instruments comes naturally to him. Musicians to me are like preachers, teachers, actors, mediators, who can transfer the energy of beautiful music to the others. This is when I believe that it is music that tells us that the human race is greater than we realise.

(Roli S is an Educator, Teacher Trainer, Author and School Reviewer based in Thane)