Call it the influence of western music or the attraction towards Bollywood, the popularity of folk music is fading away. There is thus a need to incorporate such art forms in students’ syllabus to attract them to it from a young age, says Vijay Verma, the former curator of Mehrangarh Museum and Additional Chief Secretary of the Rajasthan government.

At the ongoing Rajasthan International Folk Festival (RIFF) 2016, being held amid the rustic environs of the Mehrangarh Fort here, IANS met the 81-year-old, who was one of the hosts of a storytelling session at the event, and discussed about how folk music could be preserved for future.

Talking about the relevance of festivals like RIFF, Verma told IANS: “They serve a purpose, but not the whole purpose. All folk art, whether it is in India or west, particularly in eastern Europe, they are in crisis. The crisis is the environment which allowed all these things to brought up and bred, is now disintegrating.

“That matrix is falling apart and unless we have no new audience or a new clientele, all this is doomed in my own view. It is another 40 to 50 years when the real thing will vanish.”

A retired IAS official, who is an Ex Registrar General and Census Commissioner, has written books on the culture and legacy of Rajasthan.

He feels that because the urban population is at large interested in fast music, fast food and fast entertainment, they neither understand, nor do they have the time to understand the meaning of folk performances.

“You take for reference some performance, but audience doesn’t know what is being sung, what has been illustrated. Earlier, there was reciprocation. But now, the audience is sterile,” he said

Verma feels that the need of the hour is to promote these forms in huge way.

“What is needed is that one should do such programmes (like RIFF) in villages and in the tribal areas to create new audience, new patronage. There, the audience will reciprocate. Here, it is more or less one-sided. Generally, the urban audience comes here (to fests like RIFF) for the sake of fun.

“The generation over 60 is the last repositories of your folk tradition. Such programmes are good, but it is not the whole remedy. The only remedy is again make the villagers and the tribals interested in their tradition. They alone can take it forward or we teach urban students these things as an art. As we learnt classical music, we have to learn folk instruments in the form of syllabus,” he said.

Verma, who was associated with RIFF in its previous editions too, says the young population is getting modernized and alienated.

“I was personally not very hopeful about future of folk artistes because of young generations being mislead… The Mumbaiya thing, film line, TV… They are more attractive, more paying. So unless we create a right environment, unless we start teaching (folk forms) in schools, nothing will happen,” he said.

But isn’t film music also promoting folk music in someway’

“Yes and it will help in a way. For instance, ‘Nimboora nimboora’ (which featured in ‘Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam’. This song is sung by women and then men started singing ‘Nimboora’. Although the film is showing it in the changed form, but that has to be done on a wonderful scale,” he said.

(The writer’s trip is at the invitation of RIFF organisers. Nivedita can be contacted at [email protected])

By Nivedita