Horbola – One who can make multiple sounds beyond mere imitating

Posted by Kaahon Desk On May 26, 2019

Living in such a cacophonous world, seldom do we ponder over how sound has gradually shaped our consciousness and our notion of reality with it. It is simply impossible to imagine our world as we know it without this phenomenon; since we are literally floating planks in this enormous ocean of sounds. Horbola, once one of the most popular and entertaining performing art forms in Bengal, revolves around this very idea of sound. Coined by the great philosopher-poet Rabindranath Tagore, ‘Horbola’ literally means ‘One who can make multiple sounds’. Horbola artists can imitate and recreate sounds, both natural and artificial, completely vocally. At a time when ‘sound effects’ was yet to enter people’s vocabulary, this performing art form gave us the impression of what playing with sound means.

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In spite of being distinctly popular, this particular art form was never given that gravity which was overly devoted to dance, drama or even music. Labeled by an ignorant stroke of ‘mere imitation’, Horbola was never really collectively practiced, preserved and promoted. Therefore, this indigenous performing art form was systematically cornered as a meager entertainment and today, in a cobweb industry of glamorous entertainment, has almost reached its final years.

In this video, Horbola artists Basudev Banerjee and Jayanta Dey recount how they came to discover their talents and love for sounds. They also speak about how observation of sounds is vitally important to master this art form. Having performed at numerous places and with equally countless artists, Basudev and Jayanta believe that even though the cultural consciousness of Bengalis has taken a serious dip over the years, ‘Horbola’ will be able to shake off the burden of ignorance and make its mark as a unique art form, with its own appeal and significance, in the years to come.

Writer: Rishav Dutta

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