Bastar Band from Chhattisgarh

Bastar Band, a music and dance band from Bastar, Chhattisgarh, which was formed two years back aims at taking different tribal dance forms and music to the doorsteps of the urban folk. The band is touring different parts of the country in an attempt to showcase the beauty of tribal dance forms of tribal people living in Bastar and also to create interest in it so that the dance form is passed on to the next generation.

In a programme organised by Nirantara Foundation and Rangayana, the Bastar Band performed in Mysore on Friday. Over 40 tribal musical instruments were used for the performance and a majority of them were percussion instruments. The dancers wore uniquely decorated headgears of peacocks’ and cocks’ feathers. Some of them even wore headgears made of horns of stag and bison. Each of the several dancers who enthralled the audience with their exceptionally beautiful performance wore one or two bells round the waist and ankles. The music was mainly provided by the drums though in all around 40 instruments were used.

In fact it took over 22 years for Anup Ranjan Pande, a theatre personality, to form a group of tribal artistes to perform across the country.

Against the backdrop of unpretentious and mellifluous music scores, the song-dance performance enchanted the audience. The Bastar Band got a standing ovation from the audience in appreciation of the extraordinarily great performance.

Anup Ranjan Pande, a theatre personality, formed the Bastar Band by involving people of several tribes like Gonds, Marhias, Bisonhorn, Halba, Bhatra, Parja Murias, Dorla, Abujmarhias and Dhurva. Each of the tribe has a unique dance form, which Mr. Pande is trying to showcase for the benefit of the urban citizens in India. He has been working for the cause of protecting and promoting tribal dance and music forms for over 22 years.

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Bastar district in Chhattisgarh is a land of natural resources and tribals. It is one of the poorest districts in the country. Caught between the ethnic way of life and the trappings of what the world deems “development”, the tribal population is making every effort to protect their cultural roots. One such attempt is the formation of the Bastar Band to showcase tribal dances at different places in the country.

According to Mr. Pande, each tribe has its own history, social and religious customs and a distinct musical tradition.

Dance is an important part of tribal culture in Bastar district. There are various forms of tribal dances in Bastar, which include Saila, Suva and Karma dance. All the folk dances involve complex footwork and are characterised by the robustness and earthiness.

Participants wear scintillatingly colourful costumes, ornaments and headgear, which form the most important characteristic of the tribal dances. To add more charm to already colourful dance performances, ghungroos and tiny tinkling bells are tied to body, which create a heart warming musical sounds making the environment livelier.

Mr. Pande told The Hindu that many musical instruments are disappearing because of the impact of modernisation. He said he has spent over two decades to collect the musical instruments which the tribal people have used for ages and protect and preserve them for the posterity. “This is one of the humblest attempts to protect the dying Bastar tribal art”, he said.