‘An ‘authentic’ performance?: The cultural politics of ‘folk’ in Bengal and Bangladesh’ (part 2) - British Library Research Repository
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‘An ‘authentic’ performance?: The cultural politics of ‘folk’ in Bengal and Bangladesh’ (part 2)

30 April 2020


Folk performance genres have long been adapted to shorter formats for festivals, films, television and the new media. Contemporary practices of Kobigaan (a verse-duelling/song theatre genre) reveal how it functions differently for different communities relying on their cultural/collective memory of the genre. This section of the article first engages with fair and festival performances of Kobigaan by looking at three case studies- the Poush Mela of Santiniketan, the Hay Literary Festival in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and the Rajya Kobiyal Mela of Murshidabad, West Bengal. It argues that by focussing on certain components of the long rural version of ‘authentic’ Kobigaan, the performance, in its souvenir or vestigial format, offers further contestations in the idea of ‘authenticity’. In the second part, the article engages with a series of Bengali films between 1940 and 1980 to understand the role that Kobigaan plays in furthering this idea of ‘authenticity’ in relation to film sound. Prototypes of folk performances like Kobigaan and Jhumur have historically functioned to establish a sound chronotope for Bengali cinema where the imaginings of the rural landscape have aided the reception of folk sound. In continuation of this historical trajectory this article also takes into account television shows of the genre and its reproduction for VCDs wherein marginal performers view them as more sustainable means of livelihood, oral historical archives and a promise of continuation of their legacies.


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