There are many kinds of folk songs from the area, including ceremonial mandals, martial panwaras and melancholy khuded, thadya and jhoda.
Musical instruments used in Kumaon music include the dhol, damoun, turri, ransingha, dholki, daur, thali, bhankora and masakbhaja. Tabla and harmonium are also used, but to a lesser extent.
The Music and its development have seen various phases of growth and have undergone lots of transformation during the course of time.
The earliest of the singers who left never ending impressions on the folk music of Kumaon were :
1.The most famous personality associated with Kumaoni Folk Music is Shri Mohan Upreti, who is known for his Nanda Devi Jagar & Rajula Malu Shahi Ballad.
He is famous for the great Kumaoni song Bedu Pako Baro Masa which for many years the identity of the hills of Uttarakahand. It is said this song was also a favourite of Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru who heard it in a band march as this song is also apopular marching song.
2. Shri Gopal Babu Goswami who is considered to be a legend in Kumaon for his melodious voice.
His songs on the life of the members of the armed forces and their families like Kaile baje muruli , Ghughuti na basa and many others are legendary, it is said that when these songs were transmitted on All India Radio women could not help but weep when they heard the soul touching voice of Gopal Da as he was lovingly called.
3. Shri Heera Singh Rana is identified as a singer and asocial activist whose songs tell the tale of the pain of the people of the hills .
Some of the hit songs / albums being Fauji Lalit Mohan Joshi's "Maya Ki Yaad", "Tak Taka Kamla" and many other hit albums / songs
Jagara, tales of bravery is most important culture in Kumaon since Katyuri period. Shri Jhusia Damai of Baskot of Baitadi District (now in Dharchula India) is famous Jagar singer.
DancesThe folk-lore of Uttaranchal, indeed the lives of the people are filled with dancing-it is as important for them as wearing clothes, a must for life. For them the Gods can be influenced by dances not to fail man. The art of dancing also owes its inspiration to the fascinating mythical dancing damsels who dwell on snow-clad peaks and are variously described as Ancheris, Kecharis or Paries.
"They are fairies or women who move in the firmament, young women of surpassing beauty, sumptuously clothed and supposed to belong to the court of Indira. His dancing girls, they are said to fly or float along the sky without any visible wings".
Some believe they are the souls of spirits of young unmarried girls who died with no funeral rites; they are the daughters of Ravana who offered them to Lord Shiva as his hand-maidens. The most popular version makes them part of the Krishna legend and lore, making them into the Gopis who dance the 'Dance Celestial' with their Lord.
Chholiya or Chhaliya - The Sword Dance
Main article: Chholiya dance
Kumauni Traditional Choliya danceDating back to over a thousand years, the Chholiya Dance has its origins in the native warring Kshatriyas,-the Khasas when marriages were performed at the point of the swords. They were united by the Chand kings who arrived' on the scene in the 10th century. Flux of immigrants Rajputs who made native kshatriyas a small minority also took on the hill customs and influenced pahari culture with their traditions & language.
Ramola - Folk Dances of Kumaon One day Sidha played his flute, while resting under a tree of rhododendron; fascinated by his music the dancing fairies from Indira's court descended on earth and carried away his soul to Heaven. Meanwhile his wife, Brinjamati, sister of Krishna, had a premonition in her dream, and aroused, she went in search of her husband. Her worst doubts became reality, when she found her husband dead. In her agony she went to her brother in Dwarka, Krishna, who already knew what had happened, promised to help her.
Krishna went to the banks of the Mansarovar and played his flute like he had never played before, putting in his playing his entire heart and soul. The enchanted fairies forgot to keep an eye on their clothes. Seizing his chance, Krishna whisked them all away and climbed atop the tallest tree on the shore. He kept on playing. The fairies entreated him to give back their clothes, but Krishna, in all his willy wisdom, refused till they promised to free Sidha and give him back, alive to his wife. The fairies got their clothes and Krishna's sister, her husband.
The coming of Spring is a matter of joy to everyone, in Kumaon it is announced by. bards who, roaming from place to place, sing of its charms on a sarangi or dholak : "Oh my bee, oh my beloved, Spring has surreptitiously crept in. Quickly take to the valley of flowers where we will play 'Phag together."
Divergent currents from Tibet, Nepal and the Indo-Gangetic plains has given a unique flavour to Kumaoni music, oscillating between extreme simplcity to complex, high sophistication found in the ballads, ceremonial Brahmin-songs and the professional bards. The whole foundation of folk music in Kumaon rests on the ballads which are sung in fields, during the cultivation time, to the beat of a small drum, the 'hurka' - tlleseare the heroic ballads - the romantic ballads are sung anywhere, especially at night. The Malushahi describes the trails of a young Katyuri prince, Malushahi who is in love with a girl from the borders of Tibet-Rajula. The heroine flees to her beloved but is waylaid by an old Chieftain who presses his suit in most ardent terms. Refusing to see the light, he talks of his health, vigour and prowess. Failing all this he tries to impress her with intricate steps hoping he will win her by his skill as a dancer. The girl escapes as he is busy negotiating a difficult dancing feat.
At the Holi festival, forgetting their worries, the people join in festivity lasting more than a month and hundreds of songs of classical, semi classical, and folk variety are sung by both men and women to the accompaniment of the Harmonium, Tabla, Dholak and Manzira (cymbals).
Chhapeli - Courtship Dance
All over the world, in societies sophisticated or primitive, courtship dance portray in miniature, the customs of the people and country; it is not necessary that the couples participating in it be actual lovers though the initial cause was the pairing of, to increase the tribe. Danced by one couple or many, the female holds a mirror in her left hand and a coloured handkerchief in the other. The male has slung on his left shoulder a Hudukka, and playing on it, provides the rhythmic pattern for the drum. The mirror, the most interesting part, symbolises something vague or mysterious. The most popular form of singing and dancing, the Chhapeli, vying with each other in winning listeners to the group.
The tune is, bright and brisk, accompanying instruments are the Hurka, Manzira and Flute. The dance, a duet depicts the joys of love, beauty and romance. The woman partner (sometimes performed by a young boy), with a winsome smile on her face and graceful use of her waist, dances to the lines of the song, mostly in praise of her beauty and charm, sometimes mocking gently, her ways of making love. The song consists of solo chores and is sung by the Hurka players and their associates standing in a semicircle behind the dancers.
ChancheriChancheri dance form resembles with Jhora. A collective dance of Kumaon, danced by men and women, it is danced in a semicircle to a slow tempo, but follows the conventional group dance by joy unconfined. The Chancheri is most popular in the Danpur Patti of Bageshwar District, lying north near the Pindari Glacier.
JhoraA community dance, when all barriers of castes are thrown to the winds, except in the village, where the high and lower castes have separate Jhoras, it is danced at fairs to the accompaniment, of singing that grows with the dance.
Performed either in the morning or evening, they are danced at the coming of spring, mostly at fairs, but also to celebrate weddings. From the minimum, number, six, it swells to 200 at times, men and women both joining in. Together they move in a circle, holding each other's arms and slight1y bending their bodies forward as they move. On the first beat of the Hurka, the left leg crosses the right, striking the floor with the left foot. On the second beat, the right foot is thrown sideways with a slight jump and little dip and the performers return to their original standing pose, with the bodies swaying slightly to the back. The third and fourth steps are given to the left and right foot respectively. Each step is taken with a slight jump and the accompanying neck and shoulder movements. This completes one cycle. If the circle is big the Hurka players, accompanied by the cymbals and, flute dance inside the circle, singing and playing simultaneously, rending the air joyous with exhilaration. The men and women dancers, themselves provide the singing following the lead of the Hurka player-the women follow the men-the tempo remains the same neither very fast nor very slow.
Costumes are only worn at the fairs when the women turn out in their glamorous best. There is no time limit to the dance, going on sometimes, for 24 hours with new groups joining in while old ones retire. Sometimes, in extra exuberation, they may dance the Do Manjila Jhora-a Jhora with two storeys. The persons on top move automatically with the movements below.
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