Would you believe me if I said that there are amazing similarities between the 21st century rap music and 16th-17th century Indian folk music? Centuries before hip-hop existed, West Africans were story telling rhythmically — made by a drumbeat. Flash forward to the 21st century — a new sound — battle rapping was growing in the alleys of America.
While Battle Rapping became popular in India only in the late 90s, back in the 17th century, Bengali folk music, Kavigan, was really a battle rap in a different avatar. The similarities were striking. Two poets, supported by traditional instruments and a team of fans would battle in rhythm and verse. Like in rap music, where battles were personal and directed towards each other, Kavigan was also known to be very personal in nature.
Bhola Moira, a popular and entertaining Kaviyal, could keep his audience mesmerised for hours on end. Philosopher and academic educator Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar complimented Bhola Moira and went on record to say, “To awaken the society of Bengal, it is necessary to have orators like Ramgopal Ghosh, amusing men like Hutom Pyaachand and folk singers like Bhola Moira.”
Who would have imagined that we have rapped our way to poetry before the world ever knew how it’s done. Wouldn’t it be fascinating to have Bhola Moira battle it out with Eminem for a change?
Well, the fact of the matter is that every form of music has its roots in a deeper cultural context, evolving over the years. Hopefully not into a generation, which is running out of ideas and resorting to pen drive music culture. It’s worth looking back at traditional music and seeking inspiration to bring about better music.
-Trigam Mukherjee (m firstname.lastname@example.org. Trigam is a music and radio expert. The writer’s views expressed here are in his personal capacity)