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Sounds of the night, Somewhere in Bihar

In Bihar, a rich tradition of folk music permeates the land. Its performance cuts across the state's rigid structures of class and caste - indeed, it is perhaps one of the rare binding factors for an otherwise segregated society. For instance, there is the chaita, which can be heard everywhere at the beginning of the chaith (a month in the Indian calendar) which begins from the midnight of the festival of Holi, fagua on the other hand starts from Vasant Panchmi when the Godess of Knowledge Saraswati is worshipped, it is sung throughout Fagun and culminates at the midnight of Holi, which is also known as Fagua in Bhojpuri. 

This video was shot somewhere in Bihar, on the highway that leads to Siliguri, West Bengal. During a halt in the bus journey, I encountered this visually impaired singer who performs alone. The instrument he plays is called the gupgupi, a form of ektara prominently used by folk singers of Bengal. The single-stringed instrument features a unique sound and I wish we were better prepared with a proper sound recorder. The song he is singing is a brilliant condensation of the cycle of life in some ways. The lyrics go, 'Jeete LakdiMarte Lakdi, Dekho Tamasha Lakdi Ka', which translates to, 'you have use of wood while living, and use of wood when you die'. In these parts, where the predominant population is Hindu, the whole of human life somehow revolves around wood. The song reveals allusions to various traditional, mythological and religious uses of wood, or in other words, trees.