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USE OF FOLK ARTS IN MASS COMMUNICATION 1 

Rajesh Cheemalakonda
 

USE OF FOLK ARTS IN MASS COMMUNICATION

FOLK ARTS AS MASS COMMUNICATION MEDIA

Origin of Folk Arts

With the creation of living things the art of communication started. The animal
expresses its feelings of pleasure, anger and hunger through their own means of sound and
other sense organs. The primitive people with their nomadic culture were concerned more
with food rather than shelter and clothing. They moved from terrain to terrain in search of
roots, fruits, and beasts to prey upon. After toiling from dawn to dusk, either they relaxed in
the shades of trees or on the banks of rivers to relieve themselves from the ordeals as they
encountered. When they found the area ideal for habitat and learnt the art of agriculture and
cattle rearing, they settled there and began to put up huts on the ground with wood and other
materials at elevated places in order to escape from the fury of nature and animals. Later they
moved to plains and slowly learnt the art of building houses, which withstood the onslaught
of weather. Men lived in groups though many houses were built each adjoining the other.
Thus, human habitation came into existence and later it took the form of villages.

The village people of those days spent their times usefully and purposefully. The
labourer in agricultural fields and in rural industries sang songs to overcome the weariness of
their work. These are known as Folklore. Folklore is a medium through which the soul of a
people expresses itself colourfully. In such creation, they find an artistic fulfilment and
entertainment combining with dance that is called Folk arts. Folk art differs from primitive
art in its outlook and character. It comes into being after a culture begins to sophisticate,
taking shape in various styles and techniques. It does not involve any formal training. The
children pick up the song and dance as they pick up their language. The needs and peculiar
problems of the village people's life find an expression in folk art. Their daily life is full of
religious customs and ceremonies. Myths and legends are required to be illustrated
interestingly and conveyed to the public.
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Children require toys and dolls to play with. Changing tastes of women are to be
satisfied with new types of ornaments. Shrines and idols are to be built. While satisfying the
needs of the people, folk art attains a certain aesthetic level. Folk art has its own individuality
and character and it exists by its intrinsic merit i.e., flight of fancy of the artist, its
symmetrical form, rhythm of design and efficient workmanship. Materials used in folk art are
local and not imported from outside. Folk art is closely connected with the soil, linked up
with the customs and belief of the people. It is in no way art for art's sake. It is utilitarian in
outlook and is based on the socio-religious life of the people. It is anonymous and its origin
cannot be traced to any particular period of time. Over all, Folk art is a higher form of culture
in comparison to primitive art.

Folk Arts as an Effective Mass Media

The word 'Tradition' implying customs, habits and way of life existed in a society for a long
period of continuity from time immemorial and practised from one generation to another. It
can be transmitted through written scriptures or by word of mouth. The nomadic primitive
people sharing a common cultural heritage based on oral tradition are generally said to have a
folk culture. Folk implies the people's participation and spontaneity.

Folk culture in a society is seen in four different forms:

1. Oral tradition: These include mostly verbal arts or expressive literature consisting of
spoken, sung and voiced forms of traditional utterances like songs, tales, poetry, ballads,
anecdotes, rhymes, proverbs and elaborate epics.

2. Material culture: These are visible aspects of folk behaviour such as skills, recipes and
formulae as displayed in rural arts and crafts, traditional motifs, architectural design, clothes,
fashions, farming, fishing and various other types of tools and machinery.

3. Social folk customs: These are areas of traditional life, which emphasize the group rather
than the individual skills and performances. They include large family and community
observances and relate to rites of passages such as birth, initiation, marriage and death or
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annual celebrations, festivals, fairs, ritual and ceremonial gatherings, market occasions and
rural meets.

4. Performing arts: These consist of traditional music, masquerades, dance and drama.
Among these, the Oral tradition and the Performing arts appear to be the main media of
communication.

Storytellers, singers, minstrels and other kinds of folk entertainers have acted for
centuries as sources for the transmission and dissemination of news and information through
face-to-face live communication. Families, social groups and community gatherings served as
the main flora of communication and sources for feedback for the folk performers. The
values, attitudes, beliefs and culture of the people are propagated, reinforced and perpetuated
through these folk forms. The issues in a society are depicted in the form of satire by the folk
artists for curing societal evils.

Anthropologically, India is divided into tribal (12%) rural (75%) and urban (13%).
Due to vast geographic disparities, rural settlements and lack of modern education, folk
cultures abound in India. Indian society with its complex family system, classes, ethnic
groups and clans has not fully emerged out of the deep associations of the folk culture. In
remote villages and in tribal communities, indigenous strands of basic Indian culture persist
through the use of oral and functional role of folklore. This emphasizes the strong links the
Indian society has with the past. This aspect of cultural perpetuity is discernible in our
attitudes and taboos, in spite of the acceptance of modern innovations. Hence, the folk arts
have been used for moral, religious and socio-political purposes in India right from ancient
times. Rarely have they been resorted to for pure entertainment alone. Indeed, there have
been schools of learning, courts of justice and discussion forum. It must be noted that folk
forms have specific, religious, communal, caste wise and linguist dialects and bear values and
associations that need to be taken into account. Thus, the folk arts preserve and disseminate
in a lively manner, the tradition and culture of our forefathers, since they are deeply rooted in
the social mainstream. Folk media are relatively inexpensive and easily accessible which
adds to the popularity of the folk media in rural areas. Their highly spontaneous, participatory
and involving quality makes them the media par excellence for any powerful and effective
communication.
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Folk Dances

Folk dances are a spontaneous human expression of the joy of living. The forms may change
from place to place but the rules, or the lack of them, in this field, are guided entirely by the
spontaneity of the moment. Every country has its own variety of folk dances. Folk dances in
India have always had a spiritual purpose and religious background and through them the
fundamental principles and philosophic truths of the dominant religions in our country have
been enabled to permeate into the minds of the masses. At the same time, they have been the
most convenient means reflecting the community life and belief, the social customs and
manners, and the hopes and aspirations of the people at large. Unsophisticated simplicity,
spontaneity and gaiety are the characteristics of folk arts. Karakam, Kavadi, Nayyandi
Melam, Puravi Attam or DummyHorse Dance, Villupattu, Kaichilambu, Oyil Attam,
Bommalattam, Therukoothu Peacock Dance, Thola Bommala Kama, etc. are the popular
forms of folk dances of India. Thus, the folk dances play an important part in the life of
people.

Folk Music

Music appeals to the physical, intellectual, emotional, moral and spiritual instincts of man. A
child is contained by the soft strains of music though it does not understand the language and
meaning of the song. The smoothing tones of the lullaby have the power to put the baby to
sleep. Adults find rest and relaxation at times of stress and worry by listening to rhythmic
music. In all spheres of life - private or public, in villages and in towns, in times of peace and
in times of war, in social and religious functions and in the life of the individual - music is
absolutely essential. In India, more than anywhere else, music is inseparable form of all these
various activities. Music is remembered more faithfully because to the folk singer the whole
meaning of the song is emotional rather than logical. The appeal lies in the elemental
simplicity of the musical styles that make the people involved in group behaviour. In tribal
societies or societies other than urbanities, folk music plays a main role in the daily life. Most
of the activities of the members of these societies revolve round the rituals and festivities
associated with their traditional music. The music functions as a communication device when
it is employed through the language and accepted melodic patterns of a community. Folk
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musical styles supplement the speech communication with patterned vocal sounds, i.e.,
musical styles of modes. "Like the forms of Language" Alain Danielon writes, "the musical
modes are permanent marks of the tradition to which people belong".

Folk Songs

The foresters of the woods, hill-men of the mountain ranges, fishermen of the seaside, the
dwellers in the river basins, boatmen and the mariners all these follow their own traditions.
They are humble and contented. Their family ties were fostered by age-old customs and they
had supreme faith in an all - powerful providence. Often, this faith of theirs in a Superior
being manifested itself in their love for a tree, a stone, an animal, a river, a hill, a forest, or
even an idea. Until they developed agriculture, the main occupation of the people was
hunting and food gathering. Later they came to occupy with tilling the land, after converting
it into small plots for ploughing and working hard to reap a seasonal harvest. Agriculture
demanded their full attention and they were kept fully occupied while sowing and reaping. In
between, there was leisure and rest from the basic demand of the tiller's life-hard manual
labour. This was the time for recreation for song and dance to lighten their lives. When they
had satisfactory harvest, their feeling of joy and exhilaration found expression in song and
dance. Social and family gatherings and celebrations also gave rise to song and music. There
are the folk songs that colour and reflect the lives of the peasants in all their variety and
fullness. The anonymous folk songs are rich miniatures representing the lives, the joys and
sorrows of the village folk.
These songs and dances convey to us the aesthetic sense of people. The unique feature about
them is that they belong to the community. The authorship of the songs is not of our concern
because they are preserved by oral tradition. In cultured societies, a song may be
distinguished from music. The functions of the two artists, i.e., poet and musician are quite
different here. However, among the common people, they are one; song and music go hand in
hand. Apart from entertainment, folk songs are sung to teach the child to walk, to dance, to
drink milk, to eat food, to play, to count, to be industrious and good-natured. The child
receives home education through folk songs, which are unforgettable and everlasting.

The spirit of singing is the source of folk poetry and music is its very soul. The intensity of
emotion, which the oral repetition imparts to the folk song, is its heart beat. The peculiarity of
the folk song lies in the fact that every member of a community takes a more or less active
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part in its ceremonial function. Though everyone may not exactly sing the song, the song is
known to and enjoyed by all to the heart's content. Their active participation is in contrast to
the passive hearing of an audience assembled in musical and literary gathering in a city
nowadays. In a folk song, we have only the singer. He may sing alone or in a group with or
without the accompaniment of musical instruments. It is believed that the folk feeling and
melody are inseparably intermingled in a folk song.

Actually, the text of the song and its melody do not form an integral unit and the bond
may be broken. The same song may be sung in different tunes in different parts of the country
or even in the same locality. This is corroborated by the fact that the singer forgets the basic
melody and sets the song to his own melody. The tunes may change from age to age or from
one person to another. There is no fixed notation of music or asset tune though it becomes
difficult to find out the basic melodies. A few melodies in comparison with a large number of
texts testify to this fact. We find different versions of the text and melody prevalent in a
country. One tune of the text expresses joy and another tune of the same text sounds sad and
depressing. The tie of the musical features with the emotional aspect of the song seems
strong. But it is not always inseparable. Folk people are unable to express a mood or emotion
unless they make use of musical terms of city usage.

Folk Theatres

Primitive man began to express his thoughts and views by way of raising some alarming
sound to convey fear, trumpeting his success in war with animals and fellow being and by
crying to express his loss and grief. The signs of bodily expression and vociferous expression
of human beings have been pruned, polished and changed as architecture. Refined forms of
such sounds are classified as lullabies, dirge, music and songs. The raising of voice with
physical expression became the art of folk. When folk arts were staged as entertainments,
they became folk theatre. Folk theatre performances are closely associated to celebrations
such as birth, marriage, death etc. There are a number of fertility rites linked to food
gathering, the earth, the sun and the moon. In these, the immediacy of life experiences is
recalled in sound, rhythm and movement.
Dramatic action with the form of spoken words and gestures makes its appearance. Since
Indian society was nurtured in the oral tradition where the bulk of learning was transferred
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through the narration of stories, myths, hymns, and songs; it is only natural that one of the
ways through which they expressed their feelings about social problems was the theatre.

Folk theatre emerged as a powerful means of social communication in traditional


societies. Man utilized his talent in folk arts and theatres not only as a mode of entertainment
but also as a source of conveying information. The folk dramas that originally yielded
pleasure to the villages and the town people alike were transformed into stage. These stage
plays have descended into street plays, which deal with the day to-day problems of people.
The street plays being realistic are devoid of the traditional make-up, costumes and screens,
and the characters are more lifelike. Their sole aim is to communicate to the people, which
they understand easily and encourage them. These street plays reach people at every nook
and corner. The feedback will be immediate. The language employed by these media is the
common idiom of the society. Hence, it is easily comprehended by both the educated and the
uneducated audience. Therefore, the folk dramas were very popular from the medieval period
and they are being used as a good media system even today. The folk dramas staged by the
rural troupes in all the stages help in promoting mass communication.

Review of Various Folk Art Forms Used for Communication

Folk is an ornament of our cultural heritage. Every region of the country has its own
distinctive features. India has a great treasure of folk and traditional art forms right from
Kanyakumari to Kashmir and Maharashtra to Northeast. These show its socio-religious and
philosophical dimension woven artistically and aesthetically into a life experience, presented
in a creative and innovative manner. India is a land of innumerable folk / traditional arts.
Some of them are Alkapa, Ankia Nata or Bhaona, Bahuroopi, Bata Lavane, Baul, Bayalata,
Bhagavatamela, Bhaironji Ke Bhope, Bhakha, Bhanda Pathera, Bharuda, Bhavai, Bhootam or
Bhootaradhana, Bidesia, Bihu and Deodhani, Burrakatha, Chhakkari, Chhau, Dasakathia,
Dashavatara Kala, Datti Kunitha, Devotional songs, Doddata, Gaulan Kala, Ghanta Patau,
Gondhal, Gondhaliga, Gopala Kala, Irular Dramas, Jagarana, Jatra, Kabigana, Kankali songs,
Karakam, Karma Dance, Karyala, Kavada, Kavadi, Khana or Khanera Gana, Khyala,
Kinnarijogerahata, Kolattam, Koodiyattam, Krishnanattam, Kuravanji, Lalita, Lavani, Macha
or Mancha, Mahobia, Nandibaila, Naqala and Bhajata, Nautanki, Oja-Pali, Palatiya,
Pandavani, Phad, Povada, Puppets, Rai Dance, Ramakatha and Harikatha, Ramalila,
Rammata, Ranga Panchala, Rasadhari, Rasalila, Sampoorna, Sannata, Sarpantulla and
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Sarpankali, Shrikrishna parijata, Sidi Dhamara, Sri Jatra, Svanga or Sanga, Tamasha, Tarka,
Teratali, Therukoothu, Theyyam, Thottam, Thullal, Turra-Kilangi, Vasudeva, Veethi
Natakam or Gollakalapam, Veshagararu, Yatrakali, etc. Among these, some are very
powerful and effective means of communication that are described as follows:

Alkapa is social satire and is a popular rural drama among the West Bengal Muslims. Its
themes were secular and social. The messages of women's emancipation, anti-dowry attitudes
and higher education for women are quite successfully enacted in Alkapa.

Ballads - The range of folklore presented in the common Indian story telling forms in the
ballad styles is extensive and as full of variety as the country itself. These storytelling forms
have been effectively used by political parties as well as the sales promotion agencies in
North India. In Tamilnadu there is such a form named as Villupattu, in which a big bow that
is struck with painted sticks as it rests on the neck of a large earthen pot. It provides
accompaniment to the ballad singer. The Villu singers indulge in musical question and
answer contests. This folk form is also made popular in the cities by N.S.Krishnan and
Kothamangalam. Radio, Television and even Cinema have adapted this to preach national
reconstruction.

Bauls are wandering minstrels preserving the Sahajiya tradition of mysticism in Bengal. It
is widely used as a medium of communication especially in rural Bengal by politicians and
development workers for disseminating their ideas.

Bhavai is a popular folk theatrical form of states Rajasthan and Gujarat. When the Bhavai
Theatre came down to the village square from the temples it became a highly popular form of
entertainment for the rural communities. The looseness of the structure of the Bhavai gives
tremendous latitude to the performers to improvise situations and dialogues incorporating
materials from current events and literature. A performance of the Bhavai at any particular
time tends to become a mirror of the prevailing society. A particular incident is transformed
into a Vesha. As the performance goes on improvising according to the age and audience, the
Vesha continues expanding and transforming itself. Thus, the Bhavai, over and above being a
religious offering and a theatre activity of entertainment, is the carrier of information from
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village to village. In the absence of other media, the Bhavai functions powerfully as a creator
of public opinion in the life of the village people.

Burrakatha is a traditional form of performing arts from state Andhra Pradesh. Its skilful
with a perfect performers blend of dance, music and enactment, having social consciousness
have been using the Burrakatha form to spread the messages.

Dasakathia is a storytelling form of state Orissa and is a popular form with development
workers because it is possible to interpolate contemporary sub stories in the main narrative.

Jatra is a powerful theatrical form in states Bengal, Orissa, Assam and Manipur. It has
always been a powerful medium of expression and entertainment effectively used by
religious and political leaders and social reformers for dissemination of their ideas. During
the Swadeshi Movement, in the hands of Mukund Das, Jatra became an instrument of social
awakening. Recently Utpal Dutt, a famous playwright and film actor, wrote Jatra plays like
Rifle, Jalianwala Bagh, Neel Rakta and Jai Bangala. In the process of utilizing folk forms,
Utpal Dutt introduced Path Natika - impromptu playlets on day-to-day topics for playing at
village markets, street corners, industrial areas and other crowded places.

Keertana / Harikatha / Harikeertan / Ramakath is a kind of concentrated drama, a


monodrama in which one gifted actor enters swiftly followed by a whole series of characters,
moods and manners. It is a common sight all over the country. The use of Harikatha is
traditionally associated with the Bhakti-adorationor devotion that has been the inspiring
element behind many of the performing artforms. Its use as an instrument of social and moral
change is not new orunfamiliar in the Indian society. The puranic and epic stories as such
help indisclosing common ethics of the people. The audience feels a sense of familiarity with
many of the epic characters and incidents. The stories are communicated to the people in
many forms - narratives, dramas, temple carvings, printed pictures, scrolls, books, films,
radio programs and bhajans - which also express the social belief and practices of the people.
Harikatha integrates the people because it includes songs and different languages which by
and large help them in extending their cultural understanding beyond their own language area
and the region. The reciters of Ramakatha or Harikatha are being used by politicians and
development workers as agents of change. It is such a potent weapon in social education that
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Lokmanya Tilak is reported to have said that if he were not a journalist; he would have been a
Keertankar. Harikatha is exploited by the Central and State Governments to educate the
masses on family planning, developmental activities, democratic values and national
integration with the help of Kathakars or Keertankars. All India Radio and Doordarshan too
are using the Keertana form for broadcast beamed at industrial workers and rural audiences.

Karyala is a traditional theatre of state of Himachal Pradesh. They take contemporary


themes such as vulgarity of films and effectively criticize it through folk songs and folk
dances.

Kavada is from state of Rajasthan. The narrator of the Kavada gives lessons on moral and
ethics through his stories. Thus, it is a medium of instruction and communication.

Nautaki is a North Indian folk drama form performed on an open and bare stage Nautanki
has simple dramatic structure comprising small units linked by a Ranga or Sutradhar, the
narrator. These dramatic forms can easily be adapted to make social and political comments
on contemporary events and leaders.

Phada is a picture story narration from Rajasthan. This form is being used by development
agencies for narrating their own messages.

Puppets have different names in different parts of the country. In India, there are four
main types of puppets such as String puppets, Rod puppets, Shadow puppets and Glove
puppets. In Andhra Pradesh it is called Bommalatta, in Karnataka Gombeylatta, in Kerala
Pavai Kuttu. The word Tola is added before all these names if they are leather-puppets. In
Hindi-speaking regions the puppets are known as Kathaputali, in Maharashtra Chitra-Kathi-
Pinguli, in West Bengal Putula-Nacha, in Orissa Ravana Chhaya for leather puppets and
string ones are called Sakhi Kandhai. Puppetry is known all over the world as an effective
medium for entertainment and communication. Like the film, puppetry is equally popular
among the rural masses in India. The medium of puppets is so flexible that it is being used for
various purposes. Many educational, developmental and communication agencies have
successfully used puppetry to serve their purpose. Puppets are being used for formal and non-
formal education by the government and non-government organizations for many years.
Centre and Cultural Resources and Training, an autonomous body under the Department of
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Education organizes workshops for 6-8 weeks for school teachers of the primary, middle and
high schools. They develop themes based on their syllabus, be it science, mathematics,
history, geography, or languages. The basic concepts are taught through the medium of
puppets. The Union Bank of India and the Life Insurance Corporation of India have used the
medium of puppetry in the state of Uttar Pradesh to arouse the interest of the rural folk in
Bank savings and Insurance policies. A pilot study by the Indian Institute of Mass
Communication on the comparative effectiveness of puppetry and a documentary film in two
villages near Delhi showed that the cheaper traditional medium could be as effective as film.
Women in particular responded more favourably to the puppet shows than to the films. That
finding has led to the Film Division and the Children's Film Society going in for puppet film.
Doordarshan too capitalizes on the puppet figure in programs for children.

Riddles - The dialects of our rural folk abound in popular wisdom expressed through
proverbs and riddles. Prototypes of the various kinds of riddles popular today are found in the
Mahabharata and Jataka tales. This form usually is employed in talking about taboos or
dangerous objects. For example a tiger is called 'the hornless bullock' when spoken about at
night. Verrier Elwin noted that among Central Indian tribes, a betrothal is never conducted
with the sophisticated vulgarity of ordinary speech. A sort of riddle is adopted. No one would
say straight out; "Sir, I have the honour to ask you for your daughter". No, the suitors say that
they are merchants and hearing that a beautiful cucumber is growing in the house, they have
come to buy it. Or, they say, "We are thirsty, give us water and gourd to contain it". If the
girl's parents are unwilling, they reply, "Where can we get water in this dry land? Go and
search where there are good streams and rivers". In this way, folk sayings and riddles are also
used widely for communication.

Tamasha is the most popular folk theatrical form in the state of Maharashtra combining
dance of a crisp and exotic type with Lavani singing and impromptu dialogues often of
humorous nature. It has absorbed strands of cultural influence from several art forms. Social
and political awareness in any community never fails to express itself in its art forms. This
quality gives the Tamasha theatre a contemporary ring. It was once banned by the
Government of Bombay for being used as an instrument of anti-government propaganda by
certain parties. In the British regime, popular leaders of Maharashtra exploited Tamasha for
mass movement. With the upsurge of nationalism, Tamasha was again used to mobilize
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public opinion. It is still growing stronger and being used in various forms for
communicating with the masses. The governments are freely using Tamasha for the last
twenty years for disseminating Five Year Plan messages and developmental themes among
the rural masses.

Therukoothu is a street play from the state of Tamilnadu bringing together dance and the
classical literary form - prose, music and drama. It is believed to have evolved from
Villupattu and Nondi - Natakam. In recent times, the form has been turned into a musical
play, Sangeetha Natakam, both on stage and screen. The form is operatic and acting is highly
stylized. Being a street play, it has an opportunity to establish direct link with the audience.

Theyyam is a ritualistic dance form from the state of Kerala. This frenzied dance form
works as an important channel for releasing the tensions of the economically and socially
deprived and oppressed community of the society.

Thullal is an interesting blend of Kuthu, Koodiyattam, Kathakali and Patayani and is a


solo performance relating to current and local situations and gossip. Thullal instructs and
delights the audience at the same time. This form can easily be used as a powerful satire on
social and political evils. India is the land of villages and eighty percent of our people live in
the villages. Therefore, any economic development in India depends upon rural development.
Integral to any rural development programmed is the need to devise simple, cheap technology
based on local system and geared to local needs. The traditional folk arts can be effectively
used as media for rural development.

Impact of Folk Arts on Various Movements

The collective memory of an era, the folk culture adopts a form and action and thus
assumes a new meaning. The macro text of the epic is brought down to micro situation when
it is made relevant to the contemporary society. Traditional folk arts have been carefully
cultivated by various movements.

India has numerous slum children who are illiterate and poor. More commendable is
the work of Ravi Varma of Vikas Lok Manch who with the help of slum children has been
creatively interpreting social realities in a way that makes sense to the children. His theatre
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workshop for the slum children of Bombay normally begins with discussion on topics like
alcoholism, pollution, religion, inequalities of caste and class, communalism and so forth.
One of the group's street plays, Hame Jawab Chahiya (1985) on the Bhopal gas tragedy
began with the children peering together information and suggestions. The play reminds the
audience who are mostly children that the Bhopal incident is not a dead issue and that its
aftermath still haunts the lives of many. It makes the issues real for the children as it is
interwoven into the fabric of folk dances, choral singing and humour. Kerala Sastra Sahithya
Parishad (KSSP), a voluntary non-governmental organization in Kerala organized Science
Jatha (Science Procession) in 1977 to spread the message of people's involvement in the
development process. In 1980 and 1981, the Jathas used the folk arts as a medium for
conveying the message of science. The main themes were on education, health, environment
and social inequality. The repertoire consisted of songs, street dramas and other several forms
of folk arts. Since then there have been many such Kala Jathas, not only in Kerala but in
some other parts of India also where the local organizations and people have received
inspiration from KSSP and have started delivering messages through folk arts.

At present, this is being done in many states of the country to build an environment
for literacy. Other groups like Chipko and Apiko movements that say Ecology is Wealth and
create mass awareness about the fragile ecological balance among the villagers have also
been instrumental in creating a quiet revolution through the medium of folk arts. Folk Singers
of the region played vital role in arousing awareness among the villagers. They composed
songs in folk tunes and sang them in the street. The rural children picked them up
immediately and sang them all the time. Thus, they played the role of communicators.
Accepted religious books like the Bhagavadgita were interpreted in a different manner
through songs and stories to make the villagers conscious of their rights and duties. In the
south, The Save the Western Ghats (1985) campaign headed by Seva Sangh and supported by
a number of other activist groups also found environmentalists resorting to folk arts.

Rajasthan Adult Education Association (RAEA) had conducted an experiment in a


village Devakishanapura for bringing about a change by using the text of the epics in the
Present day situation. Ravi Chaturvedi, an ex-student of the National School of Drama
sponsored by RAEA had taken up the challenge of using theatre for change. Chaturvedi’s in
tasks were to be friendly with the villagers, observe the problems faced by them, draw up
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their priority in the terms of their adverse effect on their villagers and identify change agents.
Over a period, he could pin point three main problems such as Untouchability, Health hazards
and internal feuds. He selected some episodes from the epic Ramayana which had dramatic
elements and action and reinterpreted them in the context of the problems prevailing in the
village. The village youth decided to enact an episode of two monkey kings, Bali and Sugriva
in which the younger brother does not help the elder brother in his fight with the demon
because the relationship between these two brothers was strained. The elder brother dies in
the fight. The younger one repents later. Chaturvedi taught the boys to prepare masks from
old newspapers. They were needed for the make-belief context of the street play. Secondly,
the villagers may not accept their fellow-man as Lord Raman nor would the actor have the
courage to face the familiar faces in the audience when he is posing as a God. The mask
would hide his hesitation and the audience would also accept Rama with mask. The
enactment was successful. Only a storyline was given to the actors. They managed the rest on
their own. The musicians and singers played popular folk tunes. The play ended with the
famous Rajastani folk songs "Digipurika Raja, baje. Chhe nobata vaja".

Another experiment was conducted in the village Garudavasi of Jaipur district. The
whole village was devastated due to floods. The villagers were convinced that the floods are
manmade. Their anger was aimed at contractors and the government. After about a month's
stay in that village Chaturvedi conducted a folk theatre workshop as a therapy for
rehabilitation of the villagers. In the workshop some scientific reasons behind the flood were
explained. Their enactment was based on their problems sung and narrated in folk tunes. The
audience participation was hundred present. Even as the performance was on some people got
up from the audience, went up to the actor, whispered his grievances against the Patavani or
Tehasildara in his ears. The actor immediately interpolated those issues. Communication thus
was fast and effective.

There are many organizations all over the country which perform folk arts on topics
relevant to the society with the purpose of generating awareness for change. They use popular
folk form of dance, music and theatre. It shows that the importance of involving the mass at
the grass root level for any change oriented program is widely realized as inevitable. Even
political parties use this medium to impress upon the people.
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Advantages of Folk Media
The appeal of Folk media is quite personal and at an intimate level because it has got
direct influence on people. As in the case of colloquial dialects the familiar format and
content of mass media gives much clarity in communication. The numerous and different
forms of mass media can be exploited to cater to the needs of the people for immediate and
direct rapport. The folk media is so flexible that new themes can be accommodated in them.

Indian folk forms are a mixture of dialogue, dance, song, clowning, moralising and
prayer. Though the folk media attracts a small audience, the impact on them is at a much
deeper level inviting the audience participation. As the moral instruction campaigned is with
entertainment. Being dramatic and lyrical, it satisfies our innate need for self-expression. The
tradition and culture of ancestors are preserved and disseminated by the folk media in a lively
manner. From a century wide perspective the folk and traditional media are still the only
mass media in the sense that they have their routes in the tradition and experience of a large
majority of the population and also that they have a reach much more extensive than any of
the modern technological media.

Advantages of the Folk Media over the Electronic Media


The folk media have certain clear-cut advantages over electronic media. The
Familiarity, Personal contact, Common Language, Intelligibility, Credibility and Acceptance
make the folk media universally acceptable among rural folks. In the electronic media like
radio and television messages come out of an impersonal electronic box but in the folk media
there is contact between the sender of the message and the receiver. As the contact is direct
and personal, the messages in folk media are far more credible and acceptable than if it were
transmitted through the electronic media. Mr. S. Krishnan, Station Director of All India
Radio, Bombay, spoke on the effectiveness of the folk media, at a lecture at the Staff
Administrative College in Bombay in August 1983, "The effective method of communicating
with the backward population in rural areas is to talk to them in terms of myths and legends
which are a part of their religion. The tribes may have their own gods and goddesses and their
own myths which are modern in its appeal and if such myths were communicated with the
help of tribal artistes themselves in their own dialects, it would go a long way rather than a
performance by an urban troupe"
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In folk arts, audience participation is very important. In adult education, the emphasis
is given on an individual's transformation through his own active participation in the
development process. The folk media is more flexible, repeatable and reachable than the
electronic media. Repeating one particular message through the folk media is far easier and
far less expensive than doing so through the electronic media. The reach in terms of numbers
is greater through the electronic media but effective reach is far greater through the folk
media. The advantages of the folk media over the electronic media are several. Some of the
more important components are:

Component Folk media Electronic media

Investment (Finance) Negligible Very high


Power Not Essential Essential
Receiver sets not required Essential
Maintenance None Essential
Technical problems None Often
Interpreter Not Essential Preferable
Familiarity Familiar Familiar
Personal contact Always None
Language problems None Possible
Credibility factor Very high Lower
Audience participation Very high Seldom
Flexibility Very high Very high
Adult education More effective Less so
Repeatability Easy Difficult
Reactions Can be gauged on the spot cannot be
Reach Very wide Restricted
Intelligibility Very high Not comparable
Understanding Universal Isolated
Acceptance Universal Universal
Overall effectiveness Very high Not comparable
Programme designing Easier More difficult
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Compared to the amount spent on the electronic media, the cost of developing the folk
media into an effective mass communication tool will be negligible but the return is greater
and quicker. In folk media, the components such as power, transmitters, receivers,
maintenance and technical problems are not arising and this is a major cost saving factor. The
sudden realization that the folk media is the most effective form of communication in
developing nations has also dawned upon the governments of other countries. Recently some
developing Asian countries have come together and have started documenting and
researching folk traditions which they think may serve the development process of their
nations. Philippine is one of the centers where such work is being done.

It is a fact that the gulf between the electronic media and the folk media in terms of
effectiveness in the Indian media context will always remain wide. The lack of physical
contact and the absence of audience participation are the greatest impediments. Yet a more
judicious combination of the two media will certainly go a long way in enhancing
communicability and towards generating a more definite understanding and response among
the rural masses.

In India, folk traditions are used as a vehicle for mass communication. Even one form
like Bhavai shows different variations and colours in different parts of the same state,
Gujarat. According to the famous film maker Shyam Benegal, the government should bring
more authenticity to their efforts of using the folk media. Artistes belonging to the area where
the form is popular should be selected instead of asking staff members of the Song & Drama
Division to play a role. According to him the mass opinion created by Burrakatha a popular
folk form in Andhra Pradesh during the Telungana Movement is textbook case. People from
very remote village were motivated by Burrakatha professionals of individual communities.
Shyam Benegal feels that cultural organizations could play a large role in harnessing the folk
media to development. The message must necessarily be the same but the way it is conveyed
should suit the tastes of the local populace. So that the greatest number accepts it and tastes
like the numerous modes, vary so often within a territory. A sincere effort on the part of both
the government and the cultural organizations can set definite guidelines and see to the
implementation of the region wise development of the folk media as a mass media tool.
Studies done by Shyam Parmar and H.K.Ranganath underline areas where folk media scores
over mass media:
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They are local, intimate and establish immediate rapport with the masses in all the regions

of the country;

Their primary appeal is to the emotions rather than to the intellect and they have greater

potential for persuasive communication and instant feedback;

they belong to the community and not to any individual, state or public industry. There are
no organized institutions or persons to control either the quality or quantity of these media.
There are no authors, or copyrights but they remain anonymous and can be adapted at will by
anyone to suit a particular need; they use the language, idiom and symbols of the people.
Because of this they can be highly participatory and form part of communal celebrations
wherein everyone takes an active part;

they command an immense variety of forms and themes to suit the communication
requirements of the masses. Themes ranging from myths to current issues can easily find
expression through these forms. The use of these media to disseminate development
messages in newly independent countries is a case point.

Folk Arts in Modern Context

The influence of art, music, dance and drama, if rightly presented and practiced, can be of
immense help in developing creative genius. The use of art forms of the cultural development
of the masses and training of emotions has lately been experimented upon but they are
lacking in imagination, planning, and foresight. The drawbacks in the present use of the
traditional folk media for emotional education of the masses are:
1. The cultural groups used for such purposes lack the spirit of social service and social
welfare.
2. The folk items presented for the healthy entertainment of the people lack in authenticity
and depth.
3. The new themes given to these traditional forms such as dance, drama, and song do not suit
the purpose for which they are meant and the technique in which they are used. They are
either very unsuitable or too direct for assimilation and moral impact.
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4. The traditional forms used for mass communication are not properly assessed for their
suitability. Proper documentation work is not conducted before their use.
5. Various art groups working in the field of publicity under some governmental projects too
are of low calibre. The contents of their performances aim at publishing the governmental
achievements and not at developing the personality of men.

The use of a traditional folk medium for communication according to modern need is
a very delicate affair and only expert choreographers, educationalists and artists can
undertake this work. The Public Relations man can make clever use of traditional folk media
for his campaigns, particularly in the rural areas.

Conclusion

Being ancient forms of art, the folk media is very close to the heart of the people. Its appeal is
universal and its understanding is direct and at personal level. So the folk media can
effectively be used as mass communication among ruralities and urbanities. The folk media
have played a very important role in solving several emotional problems and channelizing the
destructive forces into constructive ones. In India folk music, folk dances and folk dramas
have always played an important role in combating destructive elements and in harmonizing
emotional outbursts relating to caste, creed, religion and language issues. Several folk forms
of entertainment prevalent in different parts of India were powerful media of public
instruction and unifying force for emotional integrity. Various organizations, movements and
government bodies can effectively make use of these folk arts for developmental activities.

The communication needs in India are much greater than the resources we have today
to meet them. While the mass media have been constantly expanding, the folk media have
been playing an important role in this field due to our peculiar needs. Apart from these live
programs in face-to-face communication, the folk forms have also been used in programs
over electronic media. India's roles in identifying folk media for communication purposes
have been quite positive. This experience can certainly be of some use to both the developing
and underdeveloped countries if proper assessment of these efforts becomes available
through scientific surveys.
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While folkway of communication dominates in remote and rural areas, they are
present in various forms in urban centers as well. One of the main problems and objectives is
to consolidate the relationship between the two forms of communication without disrupting
either the traditional roots or the necessary trend towards modernity. Outside its usual
context, folk media of communication have also been largely used during recent events
occurring in the political and social life of many developing countries. In the industrialized
countries, vestiges of folk communication survive in varying degrees.

Almost all of the developing countries show a mixture of traditional and modern
communication. There is a constant interplay and reciprocal influence between them. It seems
very important to maintain their co-existence and mutual relationship. As regard to folk arts,
it is very clear that the revival of such forms of arts can very well be utilized for
reconstruction of new ideas and building up of our nation in a better way.

Folk media are most effective in changing the unscientific attitudes, superstitions, etc.
inherited as a part of tradition by the people in rural areas. In the course of folk performance,
they transmit information and project ideas that may influence attitudes and behaviour as well
as entertainment. Thus it is a great revelation nowadays that the folk arts are quite sufficient,
as a medium to inform and disseminate people to safeguard against superstition and other
such beliefs.

The mass media face certain disadvantages in the use of folk forms. The live
programs of folk media cannot outlive their utility even with the full expansion of mass
media. Their effective use may emerge as an extension arm of mass media. The various
permutations and combinations of mass media and traditional media is a challenging task and
with proper facilities for training and research at the Centre and State level, this branch of
communication has immense possibilities of expansion. Studies have proved that the hold of
the folk media on the rural and semi-urban masses is still strong. Realizing the potentialities
of folk media, some State Directorate of Public Relations and non-official organizations
make imaginative use of the folk art, live entertainment movements has made several
experiments by employing many of these forms for dissemination of ideas and innovations.
Therefore, these folk forms should be kept up.
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Each folk art itself is a medium of communication because it is directly linked with
the psyche of its audience. It is flexible and it can be modified in regard to its functional
relevance to the society to which it belongs. That is perhaps why it survived. Folk media are
closer to the lives of rural audience. The countries like India, Bangladesh, China and
Indonesia have been used their folk arts forms to communicate development messages for
several centuries. With the advent of technology and other faster forms of communicating
media, the folk/traditional media have started decaying. At present, the rural audience of
India is receiving neither of them in adequate and effective proportion. With the slow
disappearance of the folk performing arts and the lack of new mass media in the villages, a
kind of communication gap has developed. The traditional media have become more or less
ineffective, no other medium is available for communication and even if it is available, the
people do not know how to use it. Therefore, it is essential to establish modern
communication media with an effective network covering rural areas and also to make use of
decaying folk performing arts for communicating the message and disseminating information
and knowledge.