Community radios are reviving folk traditions

Community radios connect well by playing local folk songs which are not played by other media platforms

Community radios nurture the development of cultural traditions and facilitate a resurgence of pride in local traditions in the face of globalised knowledge systems, helping communities reclaim their cultural identities. In doing so, it has helped to enhance cultural identity and community pride. Let us demonstrate this with examples of some community radios operational from different regions of the country. Alfaz-e-Mewat, a community radio station based in Mewat, Haryana, caters to about 225 villages in its catchment community. In the Mewat region, traditional folk singers known as the merasis narrate the history and folklore of the region through their songs. Unfortunately, the number of traditional artists is dwindling in the region and this musical tradition is slowly disappearing. In a bid to preserve it, Alfaz-e-Mewat has archived several kisse (stories in a musical format) with local artists and is encouraging new artists to come to the station and record songs from merasi tradition which are dedicated show called Kisse Kahani (Stories and Songs) which is broadcast daily. The station plays songs associated with the seasons of the year known as mausam ke geet (songs of the season) and sawan ke geet (songs of the monsoon). Another community radio in Haryana, Gurgaon ki Awaaz which caters to migrant communities from Bihar and Garwhal has built a large archive of local folk songs from Haryana called raginis. The station also meets the need of its migrant communities by playing Bhojpuri and Garhwali folk songs as well as Bagheli folk songs from Kanpur. Listeners are free to call and request songs from any of their collections in their show Apni Pasand, where the song is played along with the name of the person who requested it and the details of their native village. In Orrcha, Madhya Pradesh, Radio Bundelkhand has built a significant archive of Bundeli songs through a programme called Bundeli Idol. The programme encouraged people to record a Bundeli song and send it to the radio station; these songs were then played on air, and listeners were asked to vote for their favourite song/artiste and one with the maximum number of votes was declared Bundeli Idol. Through this programme, Radio Bundelkhand was able to build a repository of over 950 folk songs and promote over 150 local folk singers.

Over the years, many community radio initiatives were launched to fulfil the need for the promotion and preservation of local art forms and knowledge. Coming to South India, Sangham Radio, started in 2008 in Machnoor Village in Medak District is run, primarily, by Dalit women from the region, and was set up by the Deccan Development Society (DDS). Way back in 1996, at a consultation with the Regional Communication Adviser from UNESCO, the women from the sanghams expressed their interest in running a radio station to articulate ‘locally relevant issues, in their language, and in their own time’. It is also the first community radio station to be run entirely by women in Asia. The sanghams emphasised and worked towards autonomy in several areas such as food production, agriculture, seeds, natural resources management, market, health and media In Mananthavady, Wayanad, Radio Mattoli broadcast to communities who speak several diverse languages in their listenership zone. Radio Mattoli caters to roughly 19 per cent of Adivasi communities in Kerala who live in Wayanad. Apart from Malayalam, Adivasi communities such as Paniya, Kurichi, and Kattunaikan speak their language; many of these languages, like Garhwali, do not have a written script and are to a large extent preserved, orally. Radio Mattoli broadcast shows in multiple local languages spoken by the communities in the catchment area. These shows produced and anchored by community members from the Adivasi communities in the region, facilitate the creation of a constantly evolving, oral repository of the languages spoken in the communities. For community radio stations, local language and cultural traditions are inextricably linked to the idea of selfhood. Their work on local cultural practices is located on the desire to provide a platform for how people from the community see and experience the world. Local cultural traditions are not featured in deeply embedded ways that offer insights into how communities interpret their worlds. Emphasis on local cultural traditions is part of their focus on the knowledge systems of community members. The language in which community radios broadcast and the idioms and tropes employed in the programmes are an integral part of the cultural fabric of the community. The intersection of technology with existing traditions across communities allows for new forms and methods of articulation and helps in providing a platform for cultural forms and traditions that are not featured on other  media platforms.


(The writer is a senior journalist and Chairman of the Panwar Group of Institutions, Solan, Himachal Pradesh)

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