A taste of the Hyderabadi culture

The age-old tradition of women singing Dholak ke Geet while going about their daily chores is being revived thanks to the efforts of a few Hyderabadis, writes Asif Yar Khan

By Author  |  Published: 25th Aug 2019  12:40 amUpdated: 4th Dec 2019  5:35 pm
Hyderabadi culture

Before the filmy numbers came into the picture, there was a time when women sang folklore while going about their daily household chores in the Dakkani region.  The folk songs or ‘Lok Geet’ were popular as ‘Chakkhi ke Geet’, chakkhi – mill and geet – songs, as they were sung by when women used to grind grains on the mills.

With the passing of time, the tradition has slowly disappeared with the people becoming busier and joint families giving way to nuclear families. Also, the preferences during the ‘fursat’ (leisure or free time) have changed drastically. However, the silver lining is the ‘Chakki ke Geet’ have now taken a new avatar and developed into the ‘Dholak ke Geet’ and are sung by groups of women who have now taken it up as a profession.

Let the occasion be child birth, marriage, engagement, festival or other celebrations, the songs are sung across the households. These ‘Dholak ke Geet’ are classified into various types like satire, festival, special occasions and religious.

Sameena Begum, who had spent close to 10 years on research of songs belonging to this genre, says that across the villages of Telangana, parts of Maharashtra and Karnataka, women sang the songs, till recent years, regularly in their households. “With the practice of sitting in groups and doing household chores going away, the songs are restricted to marriages and ceremonies,” she explained.

Sameena dates back the songs to the early 18th century when a few Sufi saints, who wanted the women to avoid gossip or talking about anyone, found rendition of these songs as a way out. Also, in later years, it became a practice to tide over the time while doing strenuous works, she said.

But, what actually are ‘Dholak ke Geet’? So, they are the songs which mostly revolve around the daily life of the people and are not written by any professional writer. “Unlike ghazals or movie numbers, the lok geet are not written by professionals. Women, while humming the songs, add line after line to continue it and the result is a complete song. It is one of the reasons why the songs are not part of any written collection although there are lakhs of such songs,” Sameena explained.

Professor Mohd Naseemuddin Farees, Dean, School for Languages, Linguistics and Indology and Head of Department of Urdu, Maulana Azad National Urdu University, said that for some reasons, the ‘Dakkani Lok Geet’ popular known as ‘Dholak ke Geet’ were not popularised and no efforts were made earlier to pen them down. On the other hand, the Uttar Pradesh Urdu folk songs were penned down a decade ago.

“The Dakkani Lok Geet’ are all about the feminine idioms and lifestyle, customs and practices, beliefs and superstitions, emotions and feelings,” said Mohd Naseemuddin.

Dr Habib Zia, former professor, University College for Women, Osmania University, said that the ‘Dholak ke Geet’ reflect the culture of Hyderabad. “The essence of Hyderabadi weddings and traditions is imbibed in these songs,” she explained.

Taking folk tradition forward


A city-based research scholar Sameena Begum’s book Hyderabad Dholak ke Geet, a collection of 160 ‘Dakhini folk songs’, is yet another step in the preservation of the local folklore.

Till date, the songs were passed on generation to generation orally but now the younger generations who were not so lucky to hear them can read (about) them. The 160 songs are for various occasions like birth of child and related ceremonies, festivals, marriage and its connected ceremonies, and satire.

“It took almost two years for me to gather the songs from various sources. After managing to source them, I took the help of my well-wishers to categorise them. The songs in the book are categorised depending upon the occasion,” said Sameena Begum, who had compiled the book.

The songs are published in both Urdu and Roman English for readers to understand, along with the origin, and history of the folk songs.

Sameena Begum has presented papers in four national seminars on ‘Dholak ke Geet’. The papers were titled as ‘Nisai izhar Dholak ke Geetoon ke hawale se’ in a national seminar on ‘Writing of Women, Writing on Women’; another paper titled ‘Ali Sardar Jafri ke fikar vo Amal ka ek Posheeda Zavia (Serial Kahkashan ke hawle se)’ in a national seminar on ‘Sardar Jafri: Present and Past’; the third titled ‘Deccani ke Dholak ke Geet’ in a national seminar on ‘Dr. Zore Ke Baad Hyderabad Mein Deccaniyat Ka Irteqa’; and the last titled ‘Dholak Ke Geet: Daccani Adab Ka Ek Qeemati Warsa’ in a national seminar on ‘The Cultural & Literary Traditions of Asaf Jahi Period: Importance &Contemporary Relevance’.

A book Junoobi Hind Mein Dholak Ke Geeton Ki Riwayat was published in 2015 and the Telangana State Urdu Academy bestowed her with the Literary Award for this book.

Keeping the tradition alive

The dying ‘Dholak ke Geet’ are getting a new lease of life. Thanks to a few groups of women who have taken to singing the folk songs as their profession and keeping them alive.

Meet Hafeeza Begum, 54, of Karwan in Asifnagar of Old City, who, along with her troupe comprising five women, sings the ‘Dholak ke Geet’ at various functions across the city. “People invite us for marriage and its related ceremonies. Since the last few years, the practice has been revived with us being invited to perform at annual events at universities or government programmes,” she said.

Around three decades ago, Hafeeza Begum was part of the group who performed at mostly marriage functions in the city. Later, she herself started a group after training a few women in singing.

“People want to hear the filmy numbers. But, the Dakkani folk songs have their own taste and they revolve around the local practices, dialect, traditions and activities of a daily life in the city,” she explained.

Hafeeza Begum came into limelight when the Radio Charminar – a city-based radio station – recorded the songs and aired them over a period of time. Moreover, the songs went viral on social media platforms for the younger generations who, otherwise, hardly get an opportunity to hear them.

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