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7 Apr 2017

Govt, UNESCO to start documenting folk culture of the Hills in May

Amitava Banerjee| MP| 6 April 2017 | Darjeeling: The "Murchunga" a folk instrument played in the Darjeeling Hills and Nepal becomes the "Morchang" in Rajasthan. "Mouth Harp," the international avatar of Murchunga, is played in 17 different countries across the globe including Italy, Spain and Brazil. Tung Buk — a string instrument of the Lepcha community is similar to the Dotara popular among the Bauls or the wandering minstrels of Bengal. The same Dotara becomes the "Dutar" in Iran and "Dutor" in Uzbekistan.

Come May, the Bengal government, along with the UNESCO will start documenting the rich folk culture and tradition of the Hills in order to trace their roots and preserve such valuable information for the coming generations. "We expect to launch this audio-visual documentation by October this year" stated Amitava Bhattacharya, founder Director of banglanatak.com, a social enterprise working as partners of UNESCO and the implementing agency of the project.

The Micro, Small, Medium Enterprise and Textile Department of the government of Bengal and UNESCO had developed 10 rural crafts hubs across 11 locations from 2013 to 2016. 

The aim of the project was to demonstrate how traditional art can be the epicentre of self sustaining eco-systems.

Immense success resulted in the scaling up of this project to "Rural Craft and Cultural Hub" which added 12,000 beneficiaries involved with handicrafts and folk performing arts across 15 districts of the state. Around 600 folk artistes from different communities along with handicraft artisans have been selected for this project from Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts.

"This project focuses on developing skills of traditional performers and also provides direct market linkages. Preservation of the art forms through documentation and providing exchange collaboration are key aspects of the project. There are around 12 performing groups from different communities from the hills of North Bengal. We provide them with costumes and instruments' support as well. The groups have already staged more than 20 performances in different places including Kolkata and Goa," added Bhattacharya.

As part of this project, a two-day long Darjeeling folk festival was staged at the amphitheatre of the Darjeeling Chowrasta. With the ongoing tourist season, the festival attracted both tourists as well as local residents.

Folk songs and dances of different communities including Lepcha, Dhimal, Tamang, Sherpa, Mangar and Tibetan communities were staged by 10 teams. The two-day festival concluded on Thursday.

"The folk artistes proposed that we should have a museum to showcase and preserve the rich and unique folk culture of different Hill communities. We will put forward a proposal to UNESCO and the state government as part of this project. It will definitely be an asset, especially for the future generations," added Bhattacharya.

The festival drew in a massive crowd. "The festival showcased the rich culture and traditions of the Hills. Darjeeling is truly a melting pot of different and unique cultures and traditions," stated Monoranjan Das of Assam.

"A two day Bhawaiya festival will be held at Majidkhana school in Alipurduar on April 8 and 9," stated Nirmalya Roy, the manager of the festivals. 

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