Bangladesh has a number of popular traditional forms of communication that, for many decades, circulated messages directly among people particularly in an entertaining way. People of all ages, groups and backgrounds can enjoy them together in a platform that brings audiences face to face with the communicators/performers.
Bangladesh has inherited several rich, effectively popular and powerful folk media forms, which were developed over the ages characterising cultural norms of the people, according to Banglapedia, the national encyclopaedia of Bangladesh. Messages on issues like agricultural development, health care and nutrition, environment, education, women and child rights are projected through folk media. Traditional means of communication are also being used to build awareness against child marriage and dowry.
Folk music, Jatra (a sort of opera show), street dramas, puppet shows, Patsongs (singing songs using local instruments to speak about social issues), Gambhira (dance with mixture of dialogues, songs and music resembling a folk play) and Puthi Path (reading from books, containing poetic fairy tales and religious stories of rural Bengal) were once very popular and effective to disseminate information and communication. Some events were arranged yearly while some on various occasions. For example, the whole nation celebrates Pahela Baishakh, the first day of the Bangla calendar on April 14 every year, while Rash Mela or Rash Purnima is a particular fair of a Hindu community, celebrated on a full moon day in Autumn and attended by a cross-section of people.
Various types of folk music including mystic songs (baul, marfati, murshidi), devotional songs (hamd, nat, shyama sangeet, kirtan), ballads (palagan, puthipath), community songs (jari, sari, bhawaiya) and snake-charmers’ songs were the most popular. Folk songs on hopes, joys, sorrows, love, and separation composed by ordinary people are still popular. The traditional melodies and lyrics of these songs were enriched by kabials (lyricist and composer of folk songs), gayens (singers), dohars (co-singers) and musicians. Kavigan, a sort of musical debate on a particular topic between two kavials was very popular all over Bangladesh. Gambhira is another this type of song, performed jointly by a typical nana (grandfather) and his nati (grandson). This song is accompanied by dance and is usually performed in the Rajshahi and Nawabganj regions.
As per Banglapedia, the most popular form of traditional drama is jatra, an opera type performance in an open stage, performed before rural people of all ages and both genders during autumn and winter nights. Being a product of mass culture and having undergone a process of evolution, it represents different trends of the society. In the past, it was performed by the villagers themselves. They used to build and decorate the stage collectively with great enthusiasm and spend their own money for costumes and props. A production of a drama in any village was considered as a great event, especially after the harvesting season. Later, jatradals, folk opera parties began to be formed commercially to present professional performances. People like jatra because of its communicability and the relationship between the performers and the audience. Simplicity and lively and an informal presentation are the key features that have made jatra so popular. Nowadays, modern songs and dances, presented as fillers between the acts, are added attractions. People in general and youth in particular are getting used to digital platforms like Facebook and Youtube for entertainment. On the other hand, a significant number of women and older people in both urban and rural areas are still depending on television for that.
Puppetry is perhaps the most outstanding traditional medium that still exists in its original form. One of the puppetry centres in the country is Brahmanbaria, from where many troupes of traditional puppeteers travel throughout Bangladesh to perform with their own songs and dances. The puppet shows are used for educational and promotional purposes and are very effective in development communication. Unfortunately, some have already disappeared with the advent of new powerful modes of communications. However, some are still there being used for their effectiveness in communication, especially in remote rural areas.
Folk media are very effective in communicating messages on important national issues, largely because they need small troupes, have low costs in instruments, required transport and manpower are moderate or low, and the outreach is wide, particularly through performances in hats (market places in rural areas) and bazaars.