The Wayfarer Diaries: Of Tradition, Popular Music, and New Talent 

18-09-2017 Day 2 Spiti Festival:

The people of Spiti really enjoy music, dancing and singing! They love it to such an extent that they have songs and dances for all occasions and ceremonies! As a matter of fact, I have been told that they have 108 songs just for weddings and that in years gone by, it was a tradition to recite all these songs in every marriage that took place in Spiti. Then there are numerous songs that tell tales, legends, stories and describe historical events that have happened in the past, preserving the history of Spiti, ensuring that the knowledge was passed on from generation to generation. They even have songs sung during economic activities such as trades as well.

Today is the second day of the Spiti Festival and a large crowd has gathered. The day was sunny and cheerful, but now after sunset, it is colllld, so everybody is wearing warm clothes. Women with babies mounted on their backs are sitting on a carpet spread on the ground, occupying the front section of the sitting area, while some are using card board boxes or whatever they else can find to sit on. Many international and domestic tourists are also here attending the festival.

The Chief Guest for today is the Superintendent of Police of Kaza while the DSP is the Guest of Honour – both were greeted warmly on arrival and accorded a traditional welcome. After a few words from the Chief Guest, the program began. First on the list was a performance by women from Pin Valley. Each performer was dressed in traditional attire with a shawl wrapped around the shoulders, with a pearl necklace sporting a golden pendant around the neck. As they danced elegantly around the stage in a semi circle, a Silver ornament dangling from the waist down till the knee also caught everybody’s attention.

Next was a beautiful performance by young boys and girls from Kaza Senior Secondary School. While the boys were pretending to play a prop Dranyen (Tibetan Lute), the girls wore a beautiful dress with a band around their head. This was followed by a cute performance by a school boy who sang a few songs backed up by a keyboard. As the evening progressed with mesmerising performances from the women and children belonging to different villages from Spiti, a wide aspect about the traditions and culture was displayed in front of the audience. Not only dances from Spiti, but also from Kinnaur were performed. The day concluded with a few songs by Chunnit Chicham, who was once again cheered and welcomed by the crowd.

I observed that people here show their appreciation for the participants by gifting money to the individual or the Group. The festival is not only helping in safeguarding the rich traditions of Spiti but also provides a platform for youngsters to come forward and show their talent. Initiatives such as these are not about individuals or groups but the society as a whole. As the stars shimmer in the moonless sky, I also head back to my room thinking about the evening and eagerly waiting for tomorrow.

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This is how children have been carried around in Spiti since time immemorial; Photo: Abhinav Kaushal

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A huge gathering is motivating for the organisers as well as participants; Photo: Abhinav Kaushal


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Aaah the bliss of witnessing old songs and dances with the women adorning all traditional clothes and jewellery; Photo: Abhinav Kaushal

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Dance backed up by live vocals makes it all the more special; Photo: Abhinav Kaushal

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The pleasure of watching and hearing these traditional instruments in action needs to be experienced live; Photo: Abhinav Kaushal

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Each dance has its own set of headgear and apparels; Photo: Abhinav Kaushal

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The dresses and accompanying instruments made this performance livelier; Photo: Abhinav Kaushal

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Matching steps with the beats; Photo: Abhinav Kaushal

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The jeans and modern shoes were the only untraditional thing about this performance; Photo: Abhinav Kaushal

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Beautiful candid smiling during one of the traditional dances; Photo: Abhinav Kaushal



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