> Creative > Folk music  
Dr. Rashmi Sarmah
Date of Publish: 2017-01-28

IPTA's new experiment- Loka Manthan: A Folk Band of Assam


If Samudra Manthan, as Indian mythology states, was essential to churn out the pure and invincible Amrit, the drink of life to save creation; it truly calls for another Manthan today, to churn out the purity of human values imbibed in our folk tradition. ‘Loka Manthan: A folk band of Assam’, is a noble initiative by the Assam chapter of IPTA (Indian People’s Theater Association), to revive the fading heritage of unity and harmony amidst diversity in Assam.

When like-minded talents and thinkers come together for a magnanimous cause, what surfaces is indeed for universal good.  “In the recent times, what all of us have been experiencing on and off is, ethnic clashes and lot of disharmony among the indigenous people of Assam. What we aim through ‘Lok Manthan: The folk band’ is, bridging this communal and ethnic gap with music. We have been thinking on these lines for the last five years and slowly the team was also building up. Finally we approached Tarali Sarma, a gifted musician who works on folk music of different ethnic communities of Assam,” says veteran dramatist and IPTA member Naren Patgiri.

Photo- Lokamanthan

Senior IPTA member, artist Kiron Shankar Roy further adds, “We realised that a vacuum is being created in the society. The fading away of human values and the rise of materialism is causing more violence and ethnic clashes in the region. Lok Manthan is an effort to revive the cultural values and what better than folk can touch people. We hope for the return of the golden era of culture through this IPTA initiative.”

Along with Roy and Patgiri, theater personalities and directors, Mridul Gupta, Pobitra Rabha, Monimala, and other NSD graduates and artists have come together to work on the idea along with Tarali Sarma.  The advisory board of Lok Manthan consists of senior playwright and writer Arun Sarma, folklorist Birendranath Dutta, Bihu expert Anil Saikia, veteran musician Prabhat Sarma and former Vice Chancellor of Gauhati University and actor, recitor and playwright Dr. Amarjyoti Choudhury.

The workshop, ran through January 19 to 25, 2017, and saw folk artists from Darrang, Barpeta, Krishnai, Gauripur, Jonai and more come forward and teach their folk forms to the learning participants. While the Darrang artists taught Nageli geet, Ojapali and Dhepa Dhul, folk artists from Barpeta, a treasure house of culture, trained the participants in Thia Naam, Holi geet, Bia Naam etc. Gauripur artists contributed Kushan dance and Goalini Nritya while ethnic artists from Jonai trained in Mishing folk songs and dances. Rabha artists from Krishnai came to teach Farkatin and Hamjar. Tiwa and Bodo artists also shared their rich folk forms.


Photo- Lokamanthan

Tarali Sarma, the national award winning young voice of Assam, is looking after the music part of the forthcoming debut production of the Folk band. She recalls, “I still remember it was the day of Lakhi Puja, a few months ago, when Naren Patgiri and Mridul Gupta came to me to talk about this initiative taken by IPTA. As I am already doing work on folk instruments of Assam through my group ‘Debagandhar’ (A name taken from her father Prabhat Sarma’s folk orchestra), I travel to different parts of Assam, visiting people of various tribes, to collect instruments. I myself have observed this growing ethnic divide and the disharmony among people, and it hurts. So, the initiative taken by IPTA has given me a platform to do something close to my heart.”

A few, from among the workshop participants, will be selected for the folk band to be formed; this will perform across the state and the country in the coming times to showcase our rich folk heritage and unite people.

Photo- Lokamanthan

Tarali further shares, “Through ‘Loka Manthan’ we want to draw the attention of people on this growing regional divide and chaos. What political, or other social efforts have not done, we want to do through music and performing arts. Our production should touch all and revive the sense of unity and patriotism among people of Assam. The workshop itself is so fulfilling. As we hear the folk songs and instruments, and go deeper into it, we feel elated. The folk music of every tribe touches our hearts.” Tarali is soon going to start an Academy of Folk arts with both academic and performance oriented courses, for which her collaboration with IPTA will continue.

While January has been devoted to training, February onwards the rehearsals for the first show of the folk band will begin. Creativity shall be at its pinnacle for every performance with theatrical aspects coming into the dance and musical productions.

Photo- Lokamanthan

On March 19 Lok Manthan will have its Mega Launch, with the One and a half hour folk production in Guwahati. Ten shows are scheduled for the Assam tour this year, and then eventually other parts of the country.

Coming to participants, Chitralekha Bora, a singer by profession, enthusiastically chose to attend the workshop. “I wanted to know more about the rich and vast culture of our state and add on to my knowledge about the folk arts of different tribes. This is a fulfilling experience.

On the other hand, Pallav Talukdar, an engineer by profession but a musician by passion and choice came for this workshop as he feels this new kind of initiative, is worth being a part of. “People take time to accept something new, and they might take some time to come to terms with this kind of an initiative but I am sure it will be loved by all. I have been learning from Naren Da (Patgiri) since childhood and I know whatever he does is meaningful.” Archana Sharma a singer again, is in the workshop as she feels, “I sing folk songs but I knew that after attending this workshop I will be more aware of the nuances of our folk forms and learn the pure and original aspects from ethnic artists.”

Naren Patgiri winds up by saying, “We want to revive the golden era, at the same time move on with the modern times and changing tastes of people without harming the original essence of our folk traditions.  We are beginning with the message of patriotism and will eventually take up other social and environmental causes through the ‘Loka Manthan; folk band of Assam’.

Dr. Rashmi Sarmah

(Dr. Rashmi Sarmah is a Guwahati-based freelance journalist and communication researcher)






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