Music, Songs and Stories: Archival Selections from India

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    • Narrative Traditions – Oral Epics and Ballads Vol. II: The Jagar and the Epic of Alha
    • Oral epics, ballads, and narratives form a major part of the background of rituals, storytelling, and local mythologies – all an important part of the intangible cultural heritage of India. The vast range of oral epics in India, most often sung, also contain recitation and prose that explain the text. The meters vary greatly, and they all have different definitions and terms. For instance, the meter and singing of the Alha is called Alha Chhand. A wide variety of types of performances and expression of this genre exist. Some stories are narrated with scrolls that illustrate episodes. Sometimes, they are acted out, and sometimes sung, as in the case of the paddanas, which are performed while transplanting rice. Stuart Blackburn and Joyce Flueckiger distinguish three kinds of oral epics in India: martial, sacrificial,
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and romantic. Some epics tell a story with multiple episodes and characters, and some are “multi-story” oral epics. Oral epics in India are very closely tied to communities, with performers, audience, and participants all belonging to the same community. Most oral epics are associated to rituals, the performance of some being the ritual itself. Caste also plays an important role in the performance or patronage of the oral epic traditions in India. The great epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata in some cases, enter the world of these local oral epics, where the performers are considered to be reincarnations of heroes and gods from these epics. According to Komal Kothari, an eminent folklorist of India, this phenomenon happens when the impact of the oral epic spreads beyond its initial local boundaries. Though we are not able to present full performances of all the oral epics, we believe that these recordings provide a good glimpse into the variety of meters, singing styles, and contexts that exist within these traditions. Three oral epics are presented in this volume. They are all part of larger collections, and each one is contributed by an expert on the genre who has done extensive research. The paddanas were contributed by Peter Claus, the Nanda Devi jagar by William Sax, and Alha by Karine Schomer. This album presents extracts from two kinds of narrative traditions that are part of the intangible cultural heritage of two very different traditions and regions of India.
1 Nanda Devi jagar
Performer: Sekhawati Devi and Janaki Singh Rawat Date of Recording: 29th January 1986 Place of Recording: Nauti village, Chamoli, Garhwal, Uttarakhand Language: Garhwali
31'53" PLAY
2 The epic of Alha
Performer: Parsuram Sharma and Sultan Singh Date of Recording: 27th August 1983 Place of Recording: Kharela, Hamirpur, Uttar Pradesh Language: Bundeli
34'58" PLAY