Assam, a northeastern state of India, has a vibrant and diverse music culture that is steeped in tradition and history. One of the most popular and well-known genres of Assamese music is Bihu music. Bihu is a folk musical form that has been part of Assamese culture for centuries and is widely enjoyed during the Bihu festival, which marks the agricultural New Year. Bihu music is characterized by its fast-paced beats and energetic rhythms, which are accompanied by the use of traditional musical instruments. In this article, we will explore the origins, characteristics, and styles of Bihu music, as well as its significance in Assamese culture and the efforts to preserve and promote this unique musical tradition.
Table of Contents
What is Bihu
Bihu is a festival celebrated in the Indian state of Assam, which is primarily an agricultural state. It is a series of three festivals that take place at different times of the year and is celebrated with much enthusiasm and merriment by the people of Assam.
Bohag, Magh, and Kaati Bihu
The three Bihu festivals are Bohag Bihu, also known as Rongali Bihu, celebrated in April; Magh Bihu or Bhogali Bihu celebrated in January; and Kaati Bihu or Kongali Bihu, celebrated in October. The festival is a celebration of the harvest season and marks the beginning of the Assamese New Year. During the Bihu festival, people dress up in traditional clothes, sing Bihu songs, and perform Bihu dance.
Bohag Bihu, also known as Rongali Bihu, is celebrated in the spring and marks the beginning of the agricultural season. It is the most widely celebrated form of Bihu and is associated with joy, love, and abundance. Magh Bihu, also known as Bhogali Bihu, is celebrated in mid-January and marks the end of the harvest season. It is associated with feasting, bonfires, and merrymaking. Kaati Bihu, also known as Kongali Bihu, is celebrated in the autumn and marks the end of the agricultural season.
Historical and cultural significance of Bihu music
Bihu music has deep historical and cultural significance in Assam. It is believed to have originated during the reign of King Bali in ancient Assam and was traditionally performed by farmers to celebrate the harvest season. Over time, Bihu music became an integral part of Assamese culture and has played a significant role in shaping the identity of the state. Bihu music reflects the rich cultural heritage of Assam and showcases the diversity of its people. It has been used to convey social messages, express love and longing, and celebrate the joys of life. Bihu music is also seen as a symbol of resilience and unity, as it has survived through centuries of cultural and political changes and continues to thrive today.
Some Latest Examples of Bihu Music with lyrics are, KazirangaBorDhuniya Lyrics, Phul Phulise Bokhonto Lyrics, etc.
Styles of Bihu Dance
Bihu dance is an integral part of Bihu music and is performed during the Bihu festival. There are several styles of Bihu dance, each with its unique characteristics and movements.
Jeng Bihu – This is the most popular form of Bihu dance and is characterized by fast-paced movements and energetic footwork. It is usually performed by a group of dancers in colorful traditional attire.
Husori Bihu – This form of Bihu dance is performed by a group of men dressed in white dhotis and samosas. It is characterized by slow and graceful movements and is usually performed during the Magh Bihu festival.
Bhortal Bihu – This form of Bihu dance is performed by a group of people seated in a circle, playing traditional instruments like the dhol, taal, and pepa. It is characterized by synchronized movements and foot-tapping beats.
Bardic Bihu – This is a solo form of Bihu dance, performed by a bard who sings and dances at the same time. It is usually performed during the Kaati Bihu festival and is characterized by slow and graceful movements.
Each style of Bihu dance is a testament to the creativity, artistry, and cultural diversity of Assam.
Traditional Musical Instruments
There are several musical instruments that are traditionally used in Bihu music. Here are some of the most commonly used instruments:
Dhol: The dhol is a double-sided drum made of wood and animal skin. It is the primary percussion instrument used in Bihu music and provides the beat and rhythm for the dance.
Pepa: The pepa is a traditional wind instrument made of buffalo horn. It is played by blowing air into the horn and produces a distinctive sound that is often associated with Bihu music.
Taal: The taal is a cymbal that is used to add a metallic tone to the percussion section of the music. It is typically played alongside the dhol.
Gogona: The gogona is a bamboo mouth harp that is used to produce a high-pitched twangy sound. It is played by placing the instrument in the mouth and plucking the strings.
Toka: The toka is a percussion instrument made of bamboo. It is played by hitting the instrument against the ground or a hard surface and produces a sharp, clacking sound.
These instruments are not only integral to the sound of Bihu music but also represent the cultural heritage and traditions of Assam.
Modern Bihu Music
Bihu music has evolved over time, and modern Bihu music reflects the changing times and influences of popular music genres. Here are some characteristics of modern Bihu music:
Fusion of traditional and modern music: Modern Bihu music often fuses traditional Bihu music with modern music genres like rock, pop, and hip-hop, creating a unique sound that appeals to younger audiences.
Use of electronic instruments: Modern Bihu music incorporates electronic instruments like keyboards, synthesizers, and drum machines, giving it a contemporary edge.
Collaborations with mainstream artists: In recent years, popular Bihu artists have collaborated with mainstream Indian and international artists, bringing Assamese music to a wider audience. Also, Zubeen Garg Songs are the most famous for Assam and its Bihu.
Modern Bihu music has played a vital role in keeping Bihu music relevant and accessible to new generations while preserving its cultural and historical significance.
Bihu music is not just a genre of music but a reflection of the rich cultural heritage and diversity of Assam. Its historical and cultural significance, combined with its evolving nature, has made it a dynamic and vibrant art form that continues to capture the hearts and minds of people, both in Assam and beyond. Whether it’s the traditional forms of Bihu dance or the modern fusion of Bihu music with other genres, Bihu music remains an integral part of Assamese culture, connecting people through the rhythms and melodies that celebrate the joys of life.