Excerpts from February 2013 report
As I already planned to continue fieldwork in the month of February, I started it right away from at a Bodo speaking village under the Rowta area of Udalguri district, BTAD (Assam). The aim of this fieldwork was to see the role of Siphung in the marriage custom of the Bodos. There is a traditional way of welcoming the bride and groom to the wedding mandap. While welcoming them the traditional kherai music is played. I recorded the moment when bride and groom are welcome. After welcoming them to the wedding mandap some wedding formalities are done and then two to five Bathou Arojis sung in form of worshiping the Bathou deity. I recorded two Bathou Arojsongs. However, it was a nice experience for me to observe an important social ritual like a wedding.
Then, I went to Debargaon area of Kokrajhar district of BTAD to observe the 11th Bodoland Day celebration on 10 February. It is the Bodoland Territorial Council Accord Day (10 February, 2003). I observed the same last year also. From my experience in last year I could see the diverse cultural programmes organised there including varieties of Bodo folk songs and dances. So, I planned to observe the same this year also. But, as it did not include any cultural programme this year, unfortunately, I could not collect any field datum from there.
One the same day, I travelled back from Kokrajharto Guwahati to collect some data from Shankardev Kalakshetra premises. I could hardly manage to observe the cultural event held there.
I am fascinated with this kind of work, but the burning situation in the Bodoland Territorial Area makes it very much difficult to go places to places as no one can predict about when the area remains bandh (general strike), sometimes until unknown point of time. Bandh has been a culture in the area due to mass clashes. So, going and roaming in the area concerned has been very much risky and difficult. Still I think it is not that unmanageable thing to do my fieldwork.
The work on Bodo musical instruments and performing art need to be included in the resource for folkloristic research of the community concerned as well as other tribal communities of the North-East India. While doing fieldwork on Siphung, a traditional musical instrument of the Bodos one can witness the rich music-dance culture of this community in rituals like religious, marriage, seasonal, etc. The kind of work I have done in my fieldwork covers the traditional customs, ideas, and social behaviour of the Bodo people of North-East India.Thus, the results of my fieldwork can make one of the good resources for Bodo folklore.
The Bodo people make use of the accompaniment of the music of almost all the five traditional musical instruments, viz., khaam, siphung, jathaa, serja and tharkhaa along with other additional instruments at the time of almost all the religious, marriage and seasonal festivals. Amongst them, khaam, siphung and jathaa are the integral parts of all forms of traditional music in Bodo. But, in some traditional songs like some folk songs and some typical Bwisagw songs tabla is also played as a substitution of khaam. The most common musical instrument that played in almost all traditional cultural occasions is siphung which can substitute even a song. Thus, while going to work on siphung, almost all traditional song-dance occasions are observed. So, my fieldwork would help in scholarly research in the field of the song-dance tradition of the Bodos.
For this month, i.e. February, I had a plan to continue fieldwork in some rural areas where the Bodo people live. But, as only few traditional cultural occasions are found to be observed, I could not collect enough data from the fields I visited. And, as my community elder is not much familiar with Bodo traditional instrument players, it was not so easy for me to select some other community artists in the concerned field of work. Moreover, due to his old age, my community elder does not have enough strength to collaborate in all the work I use to do for my project. So, has been so much difficult for me to arrange to visit different fields of my work myself. However, I have taken help of my local guide Dr. Anil Kumar Boro in choosing different areas to collect data for my project. And, in most times I arrange to take help of a few community consultants.
My collaborator is very experienced and knowledgeable in traditional cultural song-dance area. But, as he is too much old to evoke his knowledge about the Bodo folk music and dance, it is not easy for me to have timely interactions with him. The other reason is that he is staying with his ill wife, which makes him take all the care of her and himself. Another problem is that I cannot come into contact with him over phone as he does use mobile or landline phones as he his hard of hearing. So, though I visit his place frequently I hardly meet him once or twice a month. However, he is a very nice person to work with and he is well informed. As par I know about the Bodo traditional music, he has extensive knowledge about the musical instruments of the Bodos, how to make musical instruments, how to play them, when to play them, etc. It is worth mentioning here that only a few artists know about the 18 types of Kherai Dance and fewer artists know how to perform these different types. I am very much fortunate to have my community elder/artist of the second category.
My community artist is still attached with the cultural group he established and handed it later to his daughter. So, he often keeps visiting places to places across the states of Indian nation to accompany his group.
In the typical Bwisagw songs, the Bodo people use other musical instruments- Harmonium and Tabla. It would make another sense with the accompaniment of the music of Siphung.This period of seven days’ time is celebrated as the New Year Days in North-East India when almost all hearts and minds of the tribal people of North-East India including Assamese people are set with the colours of newness. This celebration is also known as Bihu in Assam, which is known as the JatiyaUtsav of Assam.