Saturday, August 10, 2013

Paichhmahi, Birhain and laments of a young married woman

Imagine – a young married woman goes to her husband's house, she feels like visiting her parents but is not allowed to leave the place. I captured the feelings of a lass like her in the Paichhamahi sung by Bauwa Lal Thakur. Paichhamahi is a folk song sung during the night time by the Tharus and others in the Eastern Nepal districts. It is also sung during the Dhumra Naach shows.

In Nepal and many South Asian countries, a bride has to leave her parents' house forever after marriage. She becomes a permanent part of the groom's house. The couple visit the bride's house once or twice a year.

When I urged Bauwa Lal, in his late sixties, to sing the song, he enthusiastically started singing. Though I could not make out the meaning of most of the singing at the beginning, rewinding the recording several times, I was able to translate it into English.     

The young lady requests to let her visit her parents, laments and sings. 

Taihiya se piya mora ho
Ho daiba re delakai re sinurawa ho Ram
Taihaya se yaba ho piyawa
Ho piyawa nahira ho sapanama
Abe jaihaya se aba ho piyawa

She says, "Since you put sinur (vermillion), visiting my parents' house has turned into a dream." While marrying, the groom applies vermillion to the bride's forehead.

Are goraha ma lagiyo daiba re
Ho daiba re nanadi ke bhaiyaba ho din chari aba ho piyawa
Ho piyawa jaye de ho naiharawa abe din chari aba ho piyawa

"O my sister-in-law's brother, let me visit my parents' house for four days only," she adds.

Hai sawan bhadob ke daiba re
Ho dhani he umarlai Jamunawaba abe kaise didi aba he dhani
He dhani he jayeba he naiharawa abe kone didi aba he dhani

The groom says, "It's rainy season (August) and the river (Jamuna) is flooded. How will you be able to reach there?"

Abe sikiya me kirikiri
Ho daiba re bunalaho bakhariya wahi chari aba ho piyawa
Ho piyawa ho jaye deho naiharawa abe wohi chari aba ho piyawa

The bride replies, "I will weave a boat of siki (a wild grass used to weave baskets) and cross the river, please let me go."

Ha tuti jeto berawa saraki jeto batiya
Ha dhani he dubi marabau wohi majhadar abe dubi maraba he dhani

The groom says, "The boat will capsize and you will get drowned, you will die."

Ha abe Chaitaname tikala girahe
Paradesename piya baithi rahe

Paradesename piya baithi rahe
Hiya amuwa majare jamuwa gujare
Amuwa majare jamuwa gujare
Us baganame koiliya kuke
Us baganame koiliya kuke
Ha piyawa jaye deho naiharawa din chari aba ho piyawa

The bride then talks about the green mangoes in April, mango flowers, blackberries and the cuckoo singing in the orchard. She insists to let her visit her parents' home for at least four days.

Now listen to the song in Bauwa Lal's voice.

Like PaichhmahiBirhain is another folk song sung by Tharus during the day time. Though it is sung during the day time, I requested Bauwa Lal to sing it after he sang the Paichhmahi. This song also talks about the feelings of the bride. While the Paichhmahi is about her laments to visit the parents' house, this song is more about how she feels at the groom's house during the day time.    

Re khopawa ye banhala chikan dhani ho
Aba barahe jatan san

Ye wohi khopa lubu dal rasilba ho
Aa khopa ba re bayari bhelai

She talks about doing her hair, making a bun. She says that the same bun has turned into an outsider to her.

Ha re ye sinur
Ha ye pinhala chikan san ho
Aa barahe jatana san

He laye darapan surati niharbai ho
Amurukhi ye murukhi kahatai

She has applied vermillion carefully. Married women wear vermillion in their forehead as a part of make-up and letting people know that they are married. She talks about bringing a mirror and see how she looks so that others don't consider her as a fool.

Ha re ye sasura ke ya yelai ka hutiya ho
Aa dina mare sudin bhelai

Ye maye baap bhelai hai re nirmohiya ho
Aa dina mare firaye gelakai

Her days have changed. Her mother and father have been like outsiders since she came to her husband's house.

Ha re yada gam lage mora leke naihar ho
Aa yada gam ye sasura

Ye kaise kerakhabai duwo kula apan ho
Apa he sare umata bhelai

She remembers her parents' house and ponders how she will be able to keep relations with both the homes.

Hira ek samay ek phoola ke karan
Mai to gaye nandalal ke bari

Hira abe kach kali phoola toraliyai
Us phoola ke karan lakhan gari

Reminiscing the daily happenings, she talks about an incident when she went to her neighbour's garden to pick flowers. She picked a flower bud and had to listen to thousands of bad words for that. 

Now listen to Bauwa Lal rendering his voice to the lady's cause.

I am fascinated with soulful plaintive songs capturing the moods and feelings of a married young woman. I requested Bauwa Lal to sing a Parati which is sung in the morning time. But he said that he can't sing that song during the night as the feel and mood of the song can be captured only in the morning.

Till I catch up with him and record another beautiful song, listen to the Paichhmahi and Birhain, and spread the word.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Dhumra Naach – the Tharu dance with soulful songs

Men, women and chirpy children wait for the troupe of dancers to arrive. The surrounding is slumbering in pitch darkness – it's a new moon day and the load-shedding is on – the electricity will dazzle only at ten o'clock. Not even a single firefly shows up to light the environs. It is Shukrati or Deepawali, the festival of lights but you can feel the irony. The oil lamps have absorbed all the oil and even the candles have burnt down to the last strand of their wicks. As the clock strikes nine, a beating of mirdang (drum) is heard at a distance. The sleepy eyes of the spectators gleam with delight. Their wait is over – the artistes are coming to perform the Dhumra Naach.

Last year, the baby in the house had fallen ill. He was blue with cold, cough and fever. The couple went to the village community medical assistant (CMA); he administered some medicines but nothing happened. Then they made a vow to the Chora Devta, the mischievous God – if the baby gets well, they would organise a Dhumra Naach show to appease Him. Within hours, the baby started recuperating and returned to normalcy in few days.

In the earlier days, Dhumra Naach was the one and only form of entertainment during marriage, Ghar Dekh (literally observing the house, family and connections – of both the bride and groom – a marriage was consummated only after this ritual) and other occasions of merrymaking. Five to six members comprising a Nyak (leader), Natuwa (dancer), Chugla (clown), and others joining as chorus and musical instrument (Jhail – the cymbals, Mirdang – the drum and harmonium) players form the team. These days even a two membered team including a Natuwa and Mirdang player is rare to be seen. 

The troupe had performed the Naach at three other places before coming to the couple's place. "It is rare to find the Dhumra Naach troupes these days," says Sukhair Chaudhary, the Chairperson of Shani Community Forest Users Group in Saptary district of Eastern Nepal. The young generation enjoy listening to Hindi and Nepali songs and dance to the tunes of Bollywood rather than practising the varying pitches of singing.

The singing is an arduous task with the variations in pitch and long spells of singing dries off the voice of the lead singer, Nyak here. Even the songs for morning, daytime and evening differ in pitch, wordings and feeling.  

Long spells, deep meaning – that’s the special thing about the songs sung during the Dhumra Naach. "The one sung in the morning is called Parati, one sung in the daytime is called Birhain and the ones sung during the night are called Pachhimaihi and Shabad," says Bauwa Lal Thakur, a former Natuwa and an avid singer.

The Nyak starts singing and other members join him. All the members are male, including the Natuwa who has disguised himself as a female. If you are a first timer, you won't be able to differentiate – whether the dancer is a male or a female. The make-up, dress, ornaments and appearance of a Natuwa is so real that you will think he is a girl.

Now-a-days men feel shy to disguise as a girl. Earlier the Natuwa used to wear long hair and even pretended like a female – had all ornaments and dresses of a lady kept carefully in sandook, a wooden box.

While the troupe is singing and dancing, the clown is busy entertaining the crowd with his antics and messing around. The spectators are enjoying the show, however, I am not able to make out what they are singing. I am only enjoying the pitch variations and soulful singing.

All of sudden the whole environment is bathed in light – the much awaited electricity arrives. The artistes get excited and start singing more loudly. It's interesting, almost every adult has a mobile in his hand and many have mobiles with camera. Few start taking pictures and some start filming the show. Unfortunately, I don't have a mobile with high resolution camera. I miss the chance to capture the Dhumra Naach.

In the crowd I once again locate Bauwa Lal, the former Natuwa and singer. He narrates to me the meaning of the song. I am overwhelmed by the profound meaning. I take him to a silent corner and request him to sing few lines for me. He is singing with his soulful voice; I am enjoying and recording the song.     

Till I jot down the next post with the songs Birhain, Pachhimaihi and Shabad, enjoy the below video on Dhumra Naach posted by Subash Chandra Chaudhary in Youtube.