Folk Music consists of songs and music of a community that is uninfluenced by any sophisticated musical rules or any standard music styles. Bangladesh has a heritage of rich folk music which includes both religious and secular songs.
Folk Music may be described as the type of ancient music that springs from the heart of a community, based on their natural style of expression uninfluenced by the rules of classical music and modern popular songs. Any mode or form created by the combination of tune, voice, and dance may be described as music. Thus, the combination of folk song, folk dance and folk tune may be called folk music. For example, Baul songs are a combination of tune, music, and dance.
Folk Music has the following characteristics: (i) It is composed by rural folk on the basis of ancient rules transmitted orally; (ii) These ancient rules of music have not been influenced by classical or modem music; (iii) Folk songs may be sung in groups or individually; (iv) No regular practice is required for folk music; (v) It is composed and performed by illiterate or semi-literate people; (vi) It is a spontaneous expression in easy language, local dialect, and simple tune; (vii) Both words and tune are appealing; (viii) despite its universal appeal it uses local dialect; (ix) It depends upon nature and the rural environment; (x) It is an explicit Manifestation of the joys and sorrows of daily life; (xi) It uses simple and natural rhythms; (xii) It contains a strong emotive expression of human love and separation.
In Bangladesh, folk music has great variety, with songs being composed on the culture, festivals, views of life, natural beauty, rivers, and rural and riverine life. These songs are also about social inequality and poverty, about the material world and the supernatural. Mystical songs have been composed using the metaphors of rivers and boats. Since the country is basically riverine, the Bhatiyali forms an important genre of folk music.
Folk music is formed and develops according to the environment. Differences in the natural environment are reflected in the people of the different regions. The dialects too vary across the different regions. Bangladeshi folk music, therefore, varies from region to region. Thus there are the northern Bhawaiya, the eastern Bhatiyali, and the southwestern Baul songs. The culture and the lifestyle of the different tribes have also influenced folk music. Tribes like the ‘Santal, Garo, Hajong, Chakma, Manipuri, Tripuri, Marma, etc. have interacted with ethnic Bengali culture and lifestyle over the years. The interaction has been clearly reflected in the richness of folk music. Folk songs may be sung individually or in chorus.
Folk songs sung individually include Baul, Bhatiyali, Murshidi, and Marfati, while songs sung in the chorus include Kabigan, Leto, Alkap, and Gambhira. Some songs are regional in character, but others are common to both Bangladesh and West Bengal. Similarly, some songs belong distinctively to one religious community, Hindu or Muslim; others cross religious boundaries. Some songs belong exclusively to men, others to women, while some are sung by both men and women. Thus only women compose and sing Bratagan and Meyeli Git, but both men and women participate in the ‘roof-beating’ songs that are sung while beating down and firming rooftops.