Tuning with politicians, the folk way

The state has more than 22,000 folk art teams, each comprising at least 10 to 20 members, registered with the Culture department.
A troupe performing at a voters’ awareness programme
A troupe performing at a voters’ awareness programme Photo | Express

BHUBANESWAR: Come elections and traditional folk artistes along with politicians take the front row as far as campaigning is concerned. And the twin elections this year are no different.

With the elections a month away, candidates of different political parties have started campaigning during which, they are accompanied by not just their followers but also the folk artistes who are known to attract crowds both in urban and rural areas. Beats of ‘dhol’ and ‘mrudanga’ along with performances of Paika, Gotipua and Ranappa are just some of the scenes that welcome people to election campaigns these days.

The state has more than 22,000 folk art teams, each comprising at least 10 to 20 members, registered with the Culture department. While these groups remain busy at least six months in a year with cultural events and government’s IEC programmes, the elections bring them an opportunity to perform every day. They are also given food apart from the remuneration. Among the troupes, Jodi Sankha, Ghoda Nacha, Bagha Nacha, Gotipua and Paika performers are much in demand for campaigns.

“Generally, we seek Rs 500 to Rs 800 per performance but there are politicians who also pay us Rs 1,000 per performance during campaigns and road shows. We have to perform one to two hours during the campaign,” said Ramesh Behera, a Bagha Nacha performer from Berhampur.

Similarly, a team of eight Ghoda Nacha performers are being paid Rs 9,000 to Rs 14,000 per campaign. “It is during the election season, we get orders for performance everyday along with food and travel expenses. Sometimes, we just have to perform during the politician’s arrival to draw the attention of people. The money that we earn during these two months are sufficient to last for a year,” said a Jodi Sankha musician Mohan Kumar Sahoo of Balianta. Sahoo and his troupe have received orders for performances by two politicians in the capital city till the last date of election campaigns.

For voters’ awareness too, both traditional folk dancers and musicians are the first choice of district administration. During the Systematic Voters’ Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP) programmes in various districts, the authorities concerned roped in folk artists of various forms including Kirtan and Pala.

“In rural areas, voters easily connect with folk performers. These artistes integrate the importance of voting into their folk songs which are a hit among people,” said a CEO-Odisha official. Almost every district conducting SVEEP programmes is using folk artistes for the purpose.

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