Kangra Songs

narayan-cover_revised-everydayWelcome to the online extension for Everyday Creativity: Singing Goddesses in the Himalayan Foothills . As my Kangra mentor Asha-devi says, “Songs are beautified by their melodies.” So though the book carries translations of many songs, this site carries offers a few musical examples. To beautify the book’s images, these are reproduced here in color, along with a few more photographs.

Women’s songs are thought to bring good fortune to celebrations in Kangra. When a celebration is underway and women assemble to chorus together, their songs are gifts of goodwill. Most of these folksongs are already known within a group of singers. Anyone can lead, and women take turns for different songs, moving through verses as others follow along. The repeating melody and often repeated lines allow even someone listening for the first time to join in and sing along. Yet these almost hypnotic waves of repetition without instrumentation can,  from the perspective of younger generations, seem less entrancing than songs with jaunty musical variation and a strong beat. The sorts of long songs retelling episodes from mythology that I’ve focused on in the book are now rarer than when I first began writing songs down in 1980, and Kangra too has changed so much that many of photographs here bear witness to an bygone era.

Many women in many different Kangra villages have been my benefactors through the years: allowing me to record at celebrations, sharing their favorite songs in the course of informal meetings in their homes, and discussing songs’ meanings. Like the book, this site is just a partial glimpse of all they have so generously shared. It is also still under construction as more of my jumble of 90-minute cassette tapes is digitized and ordered.