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Hope, Sense of Equality and a Lot of Desi Music: Lockdown Spawns MP’s First All-Girls Band

As Covid-19 restrictions are still not over completely, the group presently performs online and streams it live on its Facebook page.

As Covid-19 restrictions are still not over completely, the group presently performs online and streams it live on its Facebook page.

The troupe has 15 members and has made it a point to choose Kabir's couplets, Hindi poetry, Bundeli and tribal folk songs to make a mark for itself and also preserve the region's rich heritage, avoiding popular film music.

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Vivek Trivedi

As the depressing times of the Covid-19 lockdown pushed people inside their homes for weeks, putting a stop to routine jobs, work and outings. Indulging in any art and culture was almost a luxury.

However, as often the worst of times lead to positivity of some sorts, the lockdown has offered Madhya Pradesh its first all-girls musical band in Jabalpur city. The troupe, Shri Janki, has 15 members and has made it a point to choose Kabir's couplets, Hindi poetry, Bundeli and tribal folk songs to make a mark for itself and also preserve the region's rich heritage, avoiding popular film music.

The music band also has managed to turn heads by blending desi songs with Western musical instruments.

"We were basically a theatre group, also having keen interest in music since 2012," said Davinder Singh Grover, head of Loknatya Sanstha, the inspiration behind the band. "As the lockdown had forced us to remain indoors, it wasn’t possible for us to rehearse, as for doing so, we need to be at one place. But as we also had some members who took care of music in our theatre plays, we started rehearsing online."

As the lockdown restrictions were eased in June, the group had some musical performances on June 5 (on Kabir Jayanti), June 21 (International Music Day) and other days. The troupe was struck by the idea of picking those who were into music and forming an all-girls band.

"We wanted to propagate our culture and also wanted to convey the message of humanity and peace. And for doing so we picked works of Kabir Das and Rabindranath Tagore," said Grover, who leads Natyalok.

The group also felt that as the folk culture of states like Punjab and Rajasthan is famous across the world, why not give the culture of Bundelkhand an identity and a platform.

Besides, the troupe also includes folk songs of tribals in its performances to help them preserve their heritage.

"We have also picked up works of poets like Subhadra Kumari Chauhan, Shivmangal Singh Suman, Bhawani Prasad Mishra and others," said Grover. "We also want the younger generation to learn about the literary works of these legends. For instance, when someone takes the name of Subhadra Kumari Chauhan, instantly we link her to Khoob Ladi Mardani, but she also has other pieces like Kadamb Ka Ped, Veeron Ka Kaisa Ho Basant, etc, and we are using such works in our performances. It will be good if our kids sing these poems instead of catchy raps."

As Covid-19 restrictions are still not over completely, the group presently performs online and streams it live on its Facebook page. The group had recently performed in front of Shankaracharya Swaroopanand Saraswati in Jhoteshwar, Narsinghpur and has an invitation from Punjabi Sahitya Akademi Bhopal to perform in the city.

Dr Shipra Sullere, a music instructor at Bal Bhawan in Jabalpur, who is in-charge of this band, recounts how the lockdown had made all the music students disenchanted and despondent.

"As the restrictions eased in June, we started gathering in small numbers and soon had the idea of forming this all-girls music band. It wasn’t a difficult task for us as we keep a record of poetry, songs and Kabir’s works for our plays," she said.

"As fusion is the buzzword in music these days, we always wanted to stay original with our folk culture and poetic work of legendary poets and we managed to come up with a rare combination of music with western instruments like guitar, cajon, djembe, etc."

She added that the response has been good from the girls and their families as well who are impressed with the work of their daughters.

As the group used to rehearse at Shri Janki Raman College, they named it after the institution which had been extending support to it for years.

Most of the girls in the troupe are either studying or have completed their studies. However, for most of them, the band has given them something meaningful in life and a sense of equality as their families no longer put extra restrictions on their venturing out and keeping away from home.

One of them, Anjali Soni, who had lost vision in 2013 due to alleged medical negligence, is now an integral part of this band. The newly attained identity has not only helped Anjali regain her confidence but also feel a sense of equality in society.

“It was my friend Anamika Kashyap who had inspired me to join the group and be a part of the band,” Anjali told News18 over the phone, saying the band has given all the girls much-needed confidence and purpose in life,” said Anjali, whose vision has been partially restored over the years.

"We always wanted to stay away from loud hip hop music so we chose folk songs and poetic works so that the new generation also connects to our culture," added Anjali.

The group, happy with the recognition locally in Jabalpur, hopes that it gets more and more chances in future to perform in front of bigger audiences as lockdown restrictions go away completely.

Another group member, Anamika Kashyap, told News18 that it had all started with the thought of engaging in creativity amid depressing lockdown times. "It feels good to have an identity in front of our families who are now willing to offer us more freedom to express ourselves."

(With inputs from Pawan Patel in Jabalpur)


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