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Posted at: Jun 14, 2018, 1:00 AM; last updated: Jun 26, 2018, 8:38 PM (IST)

Watch: Amritsar folk artiste beats the stereotypes with her dhol beats

Neha Saini

Tribune News Service

Amritsar, June 13

Her passion for music never let her taste success in studies. Recognising her talent in music, her parents let her train in Punjabi musical instruments. “I used to bunk my classes in school and go to see dholis play. That’s how my passion and obsession with dhol began.”

Meet Baljeet Kaur, 28, the sole female dholi in the city. Eventually, she completed a double master’s degree from BBKDAV college. “By then, I had already performed at several music festivals with my dhol and also formed an all-girls folk orchestra team,” she shares.

A folk artiste, Baljeet has given performances with several other traditional Punjabi instruments like chimta, algoza, dafli and others. Of course, being a female dholi, she has become used to the bemused glances and straight off criticism. “Somehow, people look down upon the profession of being a dholi, despite it being a folk music form. It doesn’t get you the respect it deserves. Dholis are not considered artistes but wage earners. So, obviously it was challenging because I was not only treading a different path but also fighting stereotypes. I am here to change mindset,” she says.

Her biggest challenge was to perform at the youth festival just 10 days after her father’s demise. “How you can play dhol when your father is no more, I was asked. A lot of people criticised me for it, but my mother was my biggest support,” she remarks.

A music trainer at Sri Guru Harkishan Public School, Sultanwind, and at the heritage park — Saada Pind, Baljeet also trains girls in traditional Punjabi folk instruments and dhol free of cost. “I have six students, all girls from different backgrounds, some students and other professionals, who are training to be a folk orchestra team. We have performed in Bangaluru, Kolkatta, Delhi and many other cities.”

Her mission is to bring forth the art of folk Punjabi instruments that seems to be lost with time. “The saaz, or the rhythm created by these instruments was the essence of sufi or folk gayaki. But today, commercialisation of music has let the folk tunes fade away from public memory. Not many youngsters know about instruments like algoza (double flute) or chimta (tongs with jingles). I feel sad when audience outside Punjab appreciate what we do and here we have to make an effort to even get audience for our performances.”

Regardless, earning admirers like legendary Punjabi folk artiste Gurmeet Bawa. “I recently got a compliment from her as she said she has never seen a girl play algoza,” she beams.

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