Translated from Kokborok by Bibhuti Debbarma
Culturally-rich indigenous people always have a treasure trove of songs, dances, drama, and many other such art forms. It is through their art that they express an array of emotions such as love, happiness, sadness, and pain.
One versatile form of musical instrument that has existed for a long time is the indigenous bamboo flute of Tripura. Its music is considered to be very melodious and is known to evoke deep-seated emotions among its listeners. Tripura has many flautists who have mastered the art of playing the flute and are an essential part of any traditional music band.
Making a flute requires a species of bamboo called “Wathui Wa”. This bamboo is thinner than the other local species. After the bamboo is cut from the grove, it has to be dried for a few days to make it stronger. Once its colour changes from green to yellow, the exterior is cleaned and polished till it starts to gleam. The bamboo is usually 13 inches in length. The artist makes six holes for the tuning and one hole for whistling.
The tuning holes are made one inch apart on one half of the bamboo whereas the seventh hole is made towards the edge of the other half. There has to be a gap of 3-4 inches between the whistling hole and the tuning holes. The holes are made by heating a small iron rod and pressing it into the marked positions.
Tripuri songs are incomplete without the sound of the flute. One of the most popular and ancient song forms of Tripura is the “Jadu Kolija”. They are usually sad songs that are accompanied by the deep tunes of the flute. Whereas the flute music is melancholic in a Jadu Kolija, it bursts out in happy energetic flow in the harvest songs where singers sing about the joy of the newly harvested fields.
The skill of making bamboo flutes and the art of playing it should be preserved. The bamboo flute is a big part of our musical history and culture and if the music starts disappearing, so does the knowledge and culture passed down through the songs.
This article is created as a part of the Adivasi Awaaz project, with the support of Misereor and Prayog Samaj Sevi Sanstha.