Gonds and their indigenous music

One of the houses at Road No. 3 Banjara Hills reverberates with a high-pitched melody as five musicians led by Kumra Lingu Birdyal sings Nathraade naa raja suna neka raja ropo ni aakara

The 65-year-old musician strings jatur, a traditional musical instrument while his wife Kumra Sonu Bai, son Kumra Raju and other musicians Marsakolla Prabhudas and Marsakolla Kalavathi sing along. This traditional Thoti music troupe has come to Hyderabad for ‘An Evening of Enchanting Music by Gonds’ show at Phoenix Arena, to celebrate the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. The event gave the audience an opportunity to discover the Gondi language and listen to a new kind of music.

Maruthi, a family member informs there are more attempts now to bring awareness on Gonds and their unique music and through this music and songs help the outside world discover their culture, language and lifestyle.

Prabhudas was initiated into this music by watching his family members and plays a small damru. Kheekri is like violin with strings.

In fact, Lingu shares that some community members feel the violin has been inspired by kheekri. With strings made of horse hair, jatur is an age-old instrument and has been part of this family for centuries.

The Thotis are one of the communities who recite stories and sing about the mythological tales of the Gonds. “Vamsa charithra, Adhyatmika vishayalu, mariyu Devudu ki sambandhinchinavi; rajya vamsha paramparyimu lanti vishayaalu untaayi paatalalo, (Aspects of family history, spirituality and God, family heritage are in songs),” points out Maruthi adding, “Some songs are also about death and what happens to souls after they leave the body.” These narrations are part of the 14 songs rendered that evening.

Sometimes each song takes at least three days to complete. Written by the family’s forefathers, these songs have been been sung by generations. Maruthi observes that even Telugu-speaking people can understand the gist of the Gondi songs. “All the Gonds understand the words and its meaning. However, there are some songs which deal with spiritual matters, about life and death, about how existence came into being. One can understand the essence of these songs.”

Kumra Lingu reveals he has been singing since ’74 and has participated in many programmes by zilla parishad public relations department. “In these events, the songs deal with topics like family planning, care for environment and the importance of clean surroundings and water,” he elaborates.

The community is god-fearing, respect elders and come what may, they always follow their customs and traditions. Sharing one of their customs, Maruthi states, “In our community, it is the guy who has to pay a dowry to the girl’s family in marriage.” One of their other important customs that men follow is to wear a pancha and tie a turban on the head. “This dressing is seen for important occasions and also when family members meet up for discussions.”

For this community, the source of income is an issue. “Earlier Raj Gonds used to help us. Our forefathers survived believing in this music and songs. Now with globalisation and the love for modern-day music, we realise our art is taking a back seat. That’s why we hope to introduce our art and music to the outside world and promote it.”

Source: music check

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