Drumming up a new rhythm

Gaurav Das

GUWAHATI: To give the 'khol', a folk drum of northeast India, a much-needed fillip, Dipak Borah, a Majuli-based Sattriya exponent is on a mission to put together every vital aspect relating to the instrument into a book.

The 'khol' forms an intrinsic part of the indigenous Sattriya musical culture. It is in a state of utter neglect and could well be erased from collective memory if not revived in time.

The traditional use and grammar of the khol have been passed from one generation to another through oral rendition. The written records are mostly vague, many have been misplaced, or preserved within the confines of the Sattras.

"The 'khol' is an essential element of the Sattriya music culture. It is unfortunate, though, that it is fast receding into the background. The 'khol' has no musical grammar. Therefore, what I am planning to do is to form the grammar of the instrument and unify the component with other conventional musical instruments. At a session held at the Barpeta, Borduwa, and Kamalabari Sattras, I had put forth this idea and there was a general consensus," said Borah who is also a teacher.

Speaking further, he added, "I want to compile all these aspects into a book and this will take some time. I have framed the outline, though, and am clear about what elements will go into it. The idea is to propagate the 'khol' among a new audience and use it as a single entity for performances."

Borah attended a seminar on Sattriya music in the city a few days ago and presented his expertise on the 'khol' through 'Possibilities of Further Extension in Khol Playing Repertoire'. Borah also said that in the making of the 'khol', scientific measurements must be taken into consideration. "The 'bol' or the 'dhwani' of the 'khol' varies from place to place. I want to bring a unification of the different variations so that there is no confusion. There should be an attempt to further develop the 'khol' and take it forward to the younger generation," said Borah.

The 'khol' is made from wood, a concocted mixture of 'bora saool' (a distinct type of Assamese rice) and iron. The two sides on which it is beaten are made from goatskin. Sattriya culture was propagated by Srimanta Sankaradeva, the 16th century Vaishnavitte social and cultural initiator. Sattriya culture is composed of dance, music, art, drama and also literature, all forming one distinct culture. Sattriya music comprises both vocal (Bargeet, vocal rendition of spiritual songs) and instrumental rendition.