At 26, he’s on the mission of his life.
Narendra Bahadur Singh wants to record all Bagheli folk songs and adages that are on the verge of extinction, so they aren’t swept away by the sands of time. And considering that the youngster has already documented as many as 5,000 tunes and thousands of sayings, he is already halfway to his goal.
Singh says the idea is to save the songs for future generations. “I never thought I will ever able to acquire so much material. But, to my pleasant surprise, I discovered that Baghelkhand is very rich in folk songs and culture,” he gushed.
This is a unique venture, considering that Bagheli songs and adages are traditionally passed from one generation to the next in the oral format. Singh is probably the first person to have documented them for posterity.
Singh, who hails from Lakhoda village in Sidhi district, is a graduate in theatrical art and a post-graduate in folk music. It cost him over a year’s hard work to pick folk songs and adages from the Gond, Kol, Ahir, Panikkar, Vasudeva, Kumhar, Harijan and Basood communities – among others.
“When it comes to the Bagheli dialect, every community has different songs for various occasions. For instance, the kahaars (potters) have songs for every stage of their life, and that’s different from what’s sung by other communities residing in the region. I travelled through Baghelkhand, meeting more than 3,000 local folk artistes and recording each and every song. Most of the songs were known to just two or three people, and almost on the verge of extinction,” he told HT.
Singh’s cultural quest took him through as many as 115 villages in the last 18 months. “Once I have finished collecting all the songs and adages in the Bagheli dialect, I will publish them for the generations to come,” he said, adding that he was helped immensely by his friends – Niraj Kunder, Raushni Prasad Mishra and Drevendra Patel – in tracing people with knowledge of the Bagheli arts.
Santosh Dwivedi, a poet and journalist from the Baghelkhand region, was all praise for Singh. “He has done a great service to our culture by documenting songs that were otherwise present only in oral form. I believe such efforts must be replicated in other parts of the country too, so future generations don’t forget their cultural moorings,” he said.