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Life of a Folk Musician in India

August 14, 2017

Lets be honest!
How many times we have bragged about India's rich cultural heritage to our non- indian friends and strangers! And when we say "rich cultural heritage " it also includes Indian Folk music to a great extent. At the back of our minds we often project people like Mooralala Marwada, Noor Mohammad Sodha, Kalbeliya dancers et al while we speak of  how culturally rich our country is!  As Maati Baani, we have come in close contact with the lives of folk musicians in the last few years and this is what we have observed.
 

There are no Educational Institutes that teach Folk Music
We have schools with a syllabus for Indian classical music. One can also get degrees in classical music but there are no formal institutes that teach folk music in a country that is so diverse in its musical heritage! Educational institutes can not only help propagate the theory, etymology and help nurture more talent but it also allows folk musicians to interact with the world outside. Right now they only come in contact with the urban audience when they come to cities for shows. The institutes can also help generate income for artistes if they are able to teach their art. A couple of French lute players have learnt the technique of playing Jodiya Pawa from Noor mohammed Sodha by visiting his home. There is a demand to learn folk music, but there is no systematic way to learn it.
 

 

Illiterate or barely able to read and write 
The folk artistes often cant read and write. Because of this and because of lack of any agencies ( except for some good samaritans who choose to help them) representing them around the year, they often get paid less, have major obstacles in travelling for concerts, and accounting of taxes is a task. 

Language and cultural barriers 
At times the audience wants to have a hearty conversation with the folk artistes but a lot of times both the audience can not go beyond exchanging a few smiles. The folk artistes do find it difficult to fit in an urban setting . Its a challenge to make them feel comfortable.
 
Too naive and are often exploited
As people living in cities we imbibe the changes that have come with the advent of internet. These changes are too fast even for us as people in the cities! But the folk musicians are far away from accepting most of the new ways of processing the world.
They dont know how royalty works, what are the rights of their music? They often get exploited and are often paid much lesser than what they work for.

Lack of Motivation for the new generation

Because its not easy to get the right opportunities and get due remuneration, the elder generation doesn't insist on the younger generation to take up music. They often get them into business like driving auto rickshaws, handicrafts -something that guarantees an income.  

Whenever you come in contact with a folk musician, think of a way of supporting her/ him. 

Despite of all this, its the folk musician who gets to sleep under the open skies full of stars with the cool breeze putting him / her to sleep and take up a new day with a smile and a melody :)

-Nirali Kartik

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