Goalpariya Lokgeet: Journey of a Genre Blog 5: the journey so far..

Goalpariya Lokgeets have travelled from the forests of Goalpara to mainland Assam and beyond; have come out of the forests and Mahuts. They have now reached other parts of Assam and established itself as a popular song genre in Assamese popular culture; enveloping throughout its journey changes at various aspects – singers, themes, communities, musical instruments, performance spaces and so on. The journey started….!

These songs were studied, documented, in other words, bought out of Mahuts to the commoners, and the pioneer in bringing out these was Niharbala Barua, a member of the local Royal family of Gouripur, who was an avid collector and scholar of folklore and folk music of Goalpara. The beginning of the journey of Goalpariya Lokgeet was also enabled by the intervention of another daughter of the royal family of Gouripur. She was Pratima Barua Pandey(1934-2002) who wanted to portray the songs as the reflection of the culture and identity of Goalpara region. In her desire to promote Goalpariya Lokgeet, Pratima Barua wanted to perform on AIR – All India Radio, the Government national radio, which has local stations that represent local culture and issues. She was told that she would have to sing them with lyrics translated into Assamese as the songs are sung in a language similar to Bengali. It is believed that she refused to do so, and would only sing them in their traditional form. It was at this stage that the major intervention came in the form of Bhupen Hazarika-a legendary musician, poet, writer, composer and film maker of Assam.  He championed the cause of folk music basing many of his compositions on the melodies of traditional tunes. He for the first time included two Mahut songs in his next upcoming film – Era Batar Sur (1956). In his next film, Mahut Bandhure (1958), 6 tracks of Goalpariya Lokgeet were added. All the songs were sung by Pratima Barua. This proved to the be the turning point for Goalpariya Lokgeets and after that many films, documentaries have started including Goalpariya Lokgeet. The journey continued beyond Pratima Barua or Bhupen Hazarika. Gradually these songs are now sung by performers of any caste or community or religion. Songs are performed in stage; included in short video films; documentary films were created on lives of Mahuts, on Pratima Barua, Popular singer Papon sung Goalpariya Lokgeet at Coke Studio.

The journey still continues! However, the debate over here is, what has lead the current popularity of the Goalpariya Lokgeet; what leads to claim the ownership of these songs by Goalpariya people even after the songs have been accepted as part of popular Assamese culture; besides the existence of one elements of identity or ownership, it is still to be investigated what lies beyond!

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