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Urdu festival showcases Chaar Bait - forgotten poetry form

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

Chaar Bait - a traditional style of singing in Urdu, now on its deathbed, was presented at the inaugural day of Urdu Heritage Festival here.

The art form remains concentrated in regions like Bhopal, Tonk, Rampur, Amroha, Moradabad and Chandpur in the country and finds its origin in

According to legend the recitals originated around 1500 years ago initially through Pashto and Persian languages in where during the breaks for relaxation in battles, when rival warring groups continued their duels through songs.

The songs extolled the might and backgrounds of tribes.

Travelling from to it has since stayed here incorporating Urdu, Hindi and Brij dialects into lyrics.

Also known as 'Pathani Lok Geet' (Pathani folk singing), the Chaar Bait, according to experts, gives precedence to energy and zeal of the performers instead of quintessential fundamentals of singing like knowledge of ragas and rhythm.

"A group of six-eight artists, called the 'Akhada' perform the Chaar Bait, which is called Chaar Baita in Afghani. A single bait would include four lines to form a 'band' or 'bait' and a typical 'nazm' would include four such baits along with a main 'mukhda' " explains Mohd Rashid, a doctorate in Chaar Bait from Rajasthan University.

In Chaar Bait, all types of poetry can be sung in different ragas on the beats of the Daf (Tambourine). 'Hamd' (devotional poems), 'naat-e-pak' (verses in praise of Prophet), 'hazal' (poem with humourous subjects), and 'ishq-o-mohabbat' (love and romance) are the most sung forms of the art form.

Interestingly, Rashid says, lyrics now have begun to incorporate contemporary themes like AIDS and corruption.

For instance a 'bait' on AIDS goes thus: "Tum na samjhe ho to/ AIDS jiska naam hai/Maut hi aaghaz jiska/maut hi anjaam hai."(If you have not understood what is called AIDS/ It begins with death and results in death.)

"The bitter truth is that popular music and forms of entertainment have overtaken this age-old traditional folklore and it is now losing its identity. People now prefer to watch television and listen to other music, but that is a natural development," says Shakeel Ahmed Khan, lead singer of the 'Shaan-e-Hind' group, from Tonk, Rajasthan.

First Published: Tue, September 24 2013. 11:35 IST