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Traditional and folk media in development communication role

On a few occasions earlier we have mentioned about the need for utilizing all the types of media including mass media and individual-level personal media also for promoting the cause of development communication. Now one form of media which is gaining a lot of importance for the past few years in reaching out to the people, particularly the rural masses, is the traditional folk media. In this unit we will study about the role of traditional folk media in achieving the goals of development.

So, let us begin with a discussion on what is traditional folk media. This term refers to the performing arts which can be described as the cultural symbols of the people. Folk dance, rural drama and musical variety of the village people, all come under traditional media.

Traditional folk media is not just confined to dance and music, but also includes art and crafts. These performing arts pulsate with life and slowly change through the flux of time. In India folk performance is a composite art. It is a total art created by the fusion of elements from music, dance, pantomime, versification, epic ballad recitation, religion and festival peasantry.

It absorbs ceremonials, rituals, beliefs and of course the social system. It gives a glimpse of their style of speech, music, dance, dress and wisdom.

  • Similarly, its dynamic nature is also reflected in the fact that most of the folk and traditional media are responsive to the major events and happenings in the society;
  • It is true that the mass media of communication are a means of an improved organized society.

It contains a rich store of mythological heroes, medieval romances, chivalric tales, social customs, beliefs, and legends.

In order to understand the colourful diversity and unity of India, it is important to see the folk theatre in its natural settings. The folk art forms satisfy our innate need for self expression. The traditional forms preserve and disseminate the tradition and culture of our forefathers infusing life into them.

Using folk media in development programmes.

Every region has its own folk art from that is immensely popular and relevant in that area and Assam is no exception. Puppetry and street theatre are also quite popular. Again there are several types of variations of a single art from. Bhaona for instance is a classical form which is performed within strict norms in the naamghars. On the other hand in parts of lower Assam, there are Dhuliya Bhaona and Khuliya Bhaona which are free from the rigidity of the classical Bhaona and are very flexible.

Similarly the Bihu is performed with slight variations by the Assamese, the Misings, the Bodos, the Karbis etc. Being ancient forms of art, the folk media is very close to the hearts of the people. Traditional media holds universal appeal.

Its understanding is direct and at the personal level. Traditional folk performances are uniformly popular, irrespective of the educational, social and financial standing of any community.

Various researchers have established the importance of traditional folk media in development communication.

Traditionally, folk media were primarily used for entertainment, social communication and persuasive communication. Now, there are efforts to involve folk media for conveying development messages. In the past few decades traditional folk media have been increasingly recognized as viable tools to impart development messages, both as live performances and also in a form integrated with electronic mass media.

  • In this unit we will study about the role of traditional folk media in achieving the goals of development;
  • The Indian society is a melting pot of castes, classes, creeds and tribes.

Here are some of the characteristics of traditional folk media: They have sustained the onslaught of time 2. They have sustained by changing with the changing times 3. Any person is always a participant in the performance, never an audience. It is cost effective and therefore has enhanced repeatability. It is has immediate feedback and increased attentiveness. It is performed in a common language promoting intelligibility. It is direct and personal. Define the term traditional folk media. Why is folk performance a composite art in India?

Name some popular traditional folk media of Assam. What are the characteristics of traditional folk media? Intimacy with the masses: We know that every community or ethnic group of society has its own folk and traditional media which are close to their hearts. This is because it is in their person or simply speaking it runs in their blood. Hence, whenever it is performed or enacted by anyone in a society or place most of the masses feel like joining it and closely enjoy it to the maximum.

It is physically very close to the people: You must have seen that most of the folk and traditional media are performed in close proximity of the public gathering.

Thus its effects on the masses are much greater than that of mass media.

  1. This is because the communicator is communicating with the masses through a mechanical device or medium.
  2. Traditional modes of communication unlike the mass media play greater roles in the development of the rural populace. These communication modes and channels form the basis upon which the communities, especially the rural community, policy makers, planners and administrators, desirous to effect functional economic and social changes, must first identify such community communication modes and channels and utilize them to provide the people with maximum information about such changes.
  3. On a few occasions earlier we have mentioned about the need for utilizing all the types of media including mass media and individual-level personal media also for promoting the cause of development communication.

These are personal media: This is because the communicator is communicating with the masses through a mechanical device or medium. That is why the effects of the personal warmth which is found in folk and traditional media are lacking in mass media. This is true for TV, radio, newspaper or a magazine etc.

That personal charisma which can move the masses is absent in mass media. Scope for repeat performances: In these two types of media there is ample scope for repeating a performance if the masses watching it like it.

And the audiences can also take part in it by becoming themselves a part of the performing team. This scope is not there in mass media where programmes are broadcast only once and simultaneously. In other words it means that in traditional and folk media in development communication role and traditional media programmes and events can be repeatedly performed if people liked them.

But in case of mass media this is not possible as programmes are broadcast at the same time for a wide variety of people across a huge area. We can see that folk and traditional media performances can be carried out with adequate scope for some amount of regional or local variations in different places of the country.

For example, bihu performances in some areas of Sivasagar district will be somewhat different from the performances in maybe Dibrugarh or Golaghat or Jorhat districts. Same is the case with other forms of folk and traditional media also. However, in case of mass media the same kind of performance has to be watched or listened to by the people everywhere with hardly any scope for regional or local variations at all.

Scope for using body language or non verbal language is adequately available in folk and traditional media: You must have realized the importance of non verbal language in the field of communication. In folk and traditional media non verbal or body language plays a vitally-important role in enhancing the meaning of the messages being exchanged among the participants. So, the scope for using voice modulations, facial gestures, overall body movement etc.

Of course, you can say that TV, films and documentaries do have this scope in a good measure. Besides, you can realize on your own that compared to this aspect, print media is a highly stale one in case of sending across the meanings of its information and messages. That is, even though exclamation signs are used in written languages, yet it does not carry the same kind of emotional strength and effect which one can get in case of radio and TV due to voice modulation.

Use of local language, costumes etc: Every type of folk and traditional media has to be essentially based upon the local ethos, culture and other aspects. Thus the costumes, language used and the settings and background etc. Otherwise it will not be able to carry the same effects and meanings for the masses. It is performance oriented: Another important point to be noted in this regard is that most of the folk and traditional media are basically performance-oriented.

In simple words it signifies that majority of these two media are a finely-balanced combinations of performance of music and dances. This aspect provides much more effectiveness over its target audiences. However, let me point out to one major drawback in folk and traditional media. That is, its reach is very limited at one time.

That means a folk and traditional media performance usually is done for a group of a hundred or at the most few hundreds or thousands of people. So, to reach lakhs or millions of people their utility or capacity is not at all adequate. It is at best a localized medium.

Now, due to all these factors folk and traditional media enjoy a far more effectiveness and influence over the masses of whom they are a part of. Mention five advantages of traditional folk media over conventional media. What is the major disadvantage of traditional folk media?

  • He selected some episodes from the epic Ramayana which had dramatic elements and action and reinterpreted them in the context of the problems prevailing in the village;
  • They use popular folk form of dance, music and theatre;
  • Use of local language, costumes etc;
  • Traditional folk media have several advantages over conventional mass media.

That means it changes with the times embracing new elements from time to time. This is why its contents change in different eras of time. Similarly, its dynamic nature is also reflected in the fact that most of the folk and traditional media are responsive to the major events and happenings in the society. For example, if you will look at Bihu songs over the years you will find that they also contain or address popular and major issues of the different periods of time. Again, maybe all of you are familiar with the folk culture of Ojapali of Assam.

Interestingly, this form of folk culture is basically aimed at creating awareness among the masses through a judiciously-combined dance and scriptures sequences.

Using folk media in development programmes.

It is active even today and is carrying on its duties properly for creating awareness about various social issues among the masses in the respective areas where they are performed. In this folk culture, people of the village form a group and visit all the families of the village for the purpose of alerting the family members about the need for mosquito-repelling. However, this activity also doubles up as a visit of the families for delivering the blessings of the villages elders to the families and reliving the touch of the residents of the villages amongst themselves.

Thus we can see that most of the forms of folk and traditional culture in our society can be transformed into carriers of our developmental communication messages aimed at the masses at grassroots level in each and every nook and corner of the country.

This will ensure a much higher scale of success to our efforts in this particular field of communication aimed at the rural underprivileged and illiterate masses. What are some of the social issues depicted in some Bihu songs?