On November 26 and 27, Bengaluru residents will get to take in some music performances by tribal artistes and see an exhibition of rare tribal instruments at the Echoes of Earth music festival.
City-dwellers, totally cut off from the traditional tribal cultures of India, usually encounter this rich heritage only in books or on web pages. The Echoes of Earth music festival is trying to bridge this gap by bringing soulful tribal music from across the country to Bengaluru.
The festival will take place at the Embassy International Riding School in Bengaluru and will feature a special exhibition curated by Vadya Vithika museum of Kolkata.
About 50 musical instruments from different parts of north-eastern India, including Sikkim and Assam, will be showcased.
For example, the Tiwa community of Assam is well known for its soulful music, varied musical instruments and lively folk dances. Instruments like Khram (a long cylindrical drum that typically uses deer skin as the playing surface), Pangsi (a flute made of Bamboo), Singa Pepa (another kind of flute made of the horn of Buffalo) and Taal (a rhythm instrument consisting of two metallic cymbals) are used to play foot-tapping music during festivals like Jonbeel Mela, Borot Utsav and the spring festival Sagara Misawa.
Besides displaying musical instruments, the festival will also host performances by artistes from different tribes like the Tiwa, Karbi, Garo, Rabha, and Bodo from Assam and Sikkim, and the Warli tribe from the coastal areas of the Maharashtra-Gujarat border.
“I feel this is the need of the hour. I hail from the village of Karwar in Karnataka and have seen a lot of people playing a variety of instruments growing up. But the musical culture is getting diluted day by day. We just don’t get to see all these traditional instruments anymore,” says Roshan Netalkar, the festival director of Echoes of Earth. “So we thought, if we are able to show some of these instruments to music lovers and host performances, it might actually inspire people to pursue these fading musical traditions.”
The exhibition itself is being put together by the Eastern Zonal Cultural Centre (EZCC) of the Ministry of Culture. The EZCC hosts Vadya Vithika, an archive of rare musical instruments at their centre in Kolkata.
The permanent collection of over 400 vulnerable musical instruments housed in Kolkata is overseen by Professor Omprakash Bharti.
“These instruments are vulnerable in the sense that due to modernization they have lost their originality,” Professor Bharti explained. “The wood and other animal raw materials have been replaced by modern substitutes. Moreover, they are used only by the tribes and communities and not by mainstream musicians.”
“Through surveys, we have identified such musical instruments and their gurus. EZCC organises different training programmes as well as musical instrument-making workshops to keep the art alive,” says Professor Bharti. “We are very happy to collaborate with Echoes of Earth, as this is the best platform to present these instruments to young musicians and music lovers who will be attending the festival.”
The Echoes of Earth festival will celebrate music from around the world while focussing on environmental conservation and sustainable living as well. The organisers want to have an ecologically-friendly festival, so they have introduced different environment-friendly practices like having the performance stage made of upcycled material, minimal use of plastic bottles at the event, and efficient waste management, etc.