Short essay on the History of Folk Media

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The possibilities of using folk arts as medium of communication were first formally noticed in the Philippines and later in London when the UNESCO sponsored conference of communication experts discussed the hidden dimensions of folk media and recommended that the systematic use of these media can prove to be of great impact in community based work leading to development.

The Bucharest meeting of experts and practitioners (a related activity to World Population Conference, August, 1974) further discussed with improvised models, the possibilities held out by this traditional body of live media in the present world facing communication explosion.

Another seminar sponsored by UNESCO on the ‘Integrated use of folk media and mass media’ on a theme like ‘family planning held at New Delhi, October 1974, discussed the theme with practical models of typical traditional performing arts drawn from different corners of India.

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It was concluded that folk media could play a compelling role in changing the mass mind when handled with care, and that they would bring a greater sense of intimacy, variety and virility to mass media.

The East-West communication Institute then conducted a month long workshop in July, 1975 on traditional media. The experts from the Pacific region deliberated with selected indigenous models and reinforced the earlier inference that without the support of live media, modern communication strategy would greatly suffer in developing countries.

All these exercises have gone a long way in elevating the status of folk media and reemphasized the fact that these media can play meaningful role in the development communication strategies for developing countries.

In India the traditional media have a history of communication for religious purposes. They were also the change agents in cultural and social transformation in older times.

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In the history of the freedom struggle also, songs, ballads, plays, folk-plays and variety of programmes played a valuable part.

The media used for their presentation were imaginatively shaped according to the needs of the circumstances. They were presented on the stage or in procession like Prabhat Pheris or in religious gatherings.

The history shows that in the social reform movement in Maharashtra, the Tamasha of Satyashodhak Samaj and Jalsas of Dr. Ambedkar’s followers made powerful use of the traditional media.

Dramas staged in the professional theatre also contained veiled messages of unrest against the alien rulers and they invariably had themes of social consciousness.

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Nearer independence, the Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA) dominated by communist communicators and sympathetic media artists, used and revived various folk art forms for rousing people to certain ideologies.

They had moved the masses and created an atmosphere which made some sections of people receptive to interpersonal communication. Sangeet Natak Academi was set up by the Government of India for the promotion of performing arts almost 27 years ago.

It acts at the national level for the promotion and growth of Indian music, dance and drama for maintenance of standards of training in the performing arts, for revival and preservation, documentation and dissemination of tribal and folk forms of music, dance and drama and for recognition and institution of awards to outstanding artists.

It also co-ordinates the activities of state academics in the field of dance, drama and music.

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The song and drama division utilizes live entertainment media for creating awareness among the masses in rural India. It was set up in 1954 as a cell of AIR. Today, it has become a major division under the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.

It presents live programmes all over the country through its regional centres, departmental troupes and registered private parties.

The themes handled in these programmes are like national integration, democratic values and developmental activities, prohibition, health, civic education, adult education and so on.

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