Folk music captures the soul of a culture
Growing up in the cosmopolitan milieu of Bombay in the 50's and attending a Catholic missionary school I considered myself suave and urbane. My friends and I listened to the Beatles and to Ella Fitzgerald. We danced to popular Western songs sung by Goan musicians in the fashionable coffee houses of Bombay. We watched Hollywood movies starring Rock Hudson and Doris Day while munching on oily potato chips barely understanding the American accents but feeling very sophisticated and satisfied. We discussed the movies in rapid fire English in a staccato accent as we rode home on the crowded local trains. We would not stoop to speaking in any vernacular language and enjoyed the admiration of our English speaking abilities by the wide eyed men in the crowd around us.
Now after 54 years of being American I am discovering the folk music of my ancestors. Our families became refugees following the partition of India into two nations in 1947. Our homeland of Sindh became part of Pakistan. Most folks of my parents’ generation adopted to their new home in India by learning to speak Hindi and communicated with their children in either Hindi or English. Fortunately my parents continued to speak our mother tongue Sindhi at home. Today the Sindhi language is dying off in India which is home to some 3 million Sindhis but continues to thrive in Pakistan where some 35 million Sindhis live.
Our families did not expose us to the culture and music of Sindh. Thus an entire culture was abandoned by that generation. There were a few occasions where Sindhi music was heard but otherwise our entertainment was either Bollywood movies and songs or Hollywood movies. Fortunately for us, our daughter who was born and raised in the US was taught to speak Sindhi by her maternal grandmother. With her insatiable curiosity and wide range of interests she is discovering the soulful haunting music of our ancestors. She forwards us links of the delightful folk music videos in our ancestral language like the one below. Her tenacious research into our roots amazes and delights us. A couple of links to Sindhi folk music videos.
Watching the youtube video of songs in Sindhi is an immense pleasure. I feel a subtle pull listening to folk music almost as if some close friend or relative is harking from the past. Perhaps the music is encoded in our genes and the sounds awaken the internal vibrations. Although not an avid fan of social media I recognize its power and immense reach that has brought me something valuable. Without the availability of platforms like youtube there would be no way for me to find and enjoy this haunting music emanating from my lost past.
I am also drawn to folk music in other languages including Hindi, Rajasthani, Arabic and Swahili. The simple rhythms accompanied by haunting melodies are notably similar in folk music from different parts of the world. Without understanding the words I still feel the resonance and an uplifting joy in hearing this music. My playlist is becoming quite eclectic as I continue to discover more folk music.