Noted folk singer Kabutari Devi was also famously known as the “voice of the hills” and even though her work lives on, the establishment seems to have forgotten her.
July 7 was his first death anniversary but there was not even a formal message from any public representative or cultural organisation remembering the singer and her contribution to the folk music of Uttarakhand.
Kabutari Devi was the first woman folk singer from the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand to be featured on All India Radio. Born in the Champawat district of Kumaon, Kabutari was a member of the Meerasi (folk musicians) community. Her father was a folk singer, and Kabutari picked the essentials of folk music from him. Kabutari Devi’s early years were full of considerable hardships.
The beauty of Kabutari’s struggle lay in the fact that while she laboured during the day at work, she practiced music whenever she could find time. She was married to Diwani Ram of Pithoragarh district. Her husband recognised her talent and encouraged her. She sang in local events like Ramleela and the Uttarayani fair among other events and received a major break in her career when during the 70s, she got a chance on AIR. Her songs were aired by AIR stations in Rampur, Najibabad, Lucknow and even Mumbai. “Kabutari was the spirit of Kumaoni folk music, she breathed life into the traditional songs,” says Madhuri Barthwal, AIR’s first female music composer.
Dhan Singh Mehta, who worked with her in Lucknow, adds “She was a motherly figure in my life, her humility reflected in her music itself.”
Professor Sanjay Mutto, who documented Kabutari Devi’s life, adds, “In her life story I saw a woman who would fight for what she thought was right.
She was a warm and considerate person.” After her husband’s demise, Kabutari Devi left music as raising her children and running the household kept her engrossed.
Cultural activist Uma Bhatt who closely observed Kabutari Devi’s life recalls, “I heard Kabutari Devi’s distinct voice on AIR and I was fortunate to know her in person.” The Kumaoni folk music community felt orphaned after the demise of Kabutari Devi on July 7, 2018 at the age of 70 years. ‘Nyuli’, ‘Ritu Ren’ and other forms of Kumaoni folk music, were heard across the nation due to the efforts of Kabutari Devi.
Even though it appears as if she has been forgotten, Kabutari Devi and her songs will live on.
Wednesday, 10 July 2019 | Nakshatra Shah | Dehradun
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