The Braj Mandal Cultural Belt


May 16, AGRA, INDIA (TIMES) — Thriving CD centres in Agra boost folk music, bhajans.

Agra is breaking new ground in the production of musical CDs, not just pirated stuff but also original scores that have given a new lease of life to local folk music. A number of studios have been regularly producing CDs with traditional scores that are popular in the rural areas of Braj Mandal, the cultural belt including places like Agra, Mathura and Vrindavan that are associated with Lord Krishna.

While Mathura has been churning out mostly bhajans in the local dialect, Braj Bhasha, the flavour of the contents in Agra is also cultural and historical, with some nautanki items thrown in as well. The latest such CD to hit the market is called ‘Sudama ka shaap’, produced by Dilip and Kumkum Raghvanshi. Popular folk singer Komal Singh has lent his voice to the score by Dilip.

Jitendra Raghvanshi, the national vice president of the Indian People’s Theatre Association, said the latest electronic technology had made it possible to protect classical and folk traditions.

'The traditional media has not only survived but is kicking thanks to new technology which is cheap and convenient,’ he said.

With CD players being ubiquitous, local musical talents have a new avenue to project themselves. Priced at anything between Rs.25 and Rs.30, the CDs of a large number of singers have flooded the market. These are sold even at bus stands and pavements.

‘A CD is a cheaper alternative to audio cassettes and the quality of sound is also good,’ said Hari Das, who has a rich and varied collection of Radhey Krishna bhajans to offer.

The CDs are mostly produced by the singers themselves. There are around 50-odd CD producing centres in Braj Mandal.

‘When TV came to India, we feared that the days of the traditional media were numbered, but what we see today is a happy coexistence of the two rivals, one sustaining the other,’ says mass communication teacher Ajay Pratap Singh of Agra University.

Ram Charan, a shopkeeper outside the Sri Krishna Janmabhoomi complex in Mathura, said: ‘The Ras Lilas are always in demand. During festivals like Holi or Janmashtami there is a heavy demand for these CDs. Many have the swamijis and babas delivering religious discourses. All the current katha vachaks (those who recite scriptures) have their own CD producing units.’


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