Monday, June 22, 2009

Folk beats of Bengal

On December 30, the walls and ceilings of Nat Mandal theatre in Dhaka University quavered with drum beats of Bengal. The programme held was a demonstration by participants of a 10-day workshop on ‘Raibeshe’ and other folk dance forms of Bengal.
This workshop was conducted by Sutopa and Dr Tarun Pradhan of Sarabhuj, an international dance theatre troupe folklore research institute. Everything was arranged by ‘Shadhona’, currently a very well known cultural organisation in Bangladesh.
‘Raibeshe’ is a martial art form of Bengal, and means ‘royal bamboo’. This is a martial art that was used by ‘lathiyals’ who used to be used by feudal lords to defend their little fiefdoms. It was first documented by Gurushodoi Dutta an IAS officer in the last century, who came across this art form in Birbhum in West Bengal in India. He collected the ‘bolbani’ of ‘raibeshe’ from East Bengal.
The other dance forms that were performed during the demonstration are ‘paik’ which is another martial dance and ‘pata-nach’ which is danced by womenfolk and is named after the ceremony called ‘shoi-patano’ or bonding with girl-friends.
The participants also demonstrated a dance based on ‘lathi’ and ‘dhal’ (stick and shield) used in ‘lathikhela’ all over Bangladesh, which was taught to them by actual ‘lathiyaals’.
The participants in the demonstration included students of various dance institutions from all over Dhaka. The participants’ teachers also came to see the programme, and were mesmerised by the richness of Bengal’s folk culture.
This being only the starting, writers and researchers, who have been trying to revive the almost extinct folk culture of Bengal, say that this only the beginning of what is to come in the future.
Putting aside the serious significance of this demonstration, the participants truly enjoyed themselves, being able to dance to the drum beats of Bengal. The fast and upbeat rhythm was truly intoxicating, and makes one imagine how our ancestors danced and thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

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