Is shahiri dying a slow death?

During the Samyukta Maharashtra Movement, a movement for the formation of Maharashtra state, 
based on a common linguistic identity, the folk art form of shahiri became the central force. Revolutionary artists Lokshahir Annabhau Sathe, Lokshahir Amar Sheikh and Lokshahir Sabale, firebrand performances gave
 further edge in mobilising the people for the cause, which saw the formation of Maharashtra state on 1st May 1960.
 Now, the art is dying a slow death, but, however, few individuals and groups are struggling to preserve shahiri and keeping it alive in recognition of its role, without much support from the government.

Shahiri has been a part of Maharashtra's tradition for several hundred years, however, it received its widespread popularity during the rule of Chhatrapati Shivaji. Originally, began as a form of oral history telling, shahiri as a form of poetry and singing has forayed into socio-political spheres and ideologies of different hues. Shahiris have evolved from depictions and evoking tales of war heroes to generate awareness on social issues and have been sloganeering revolutionary

with the power to move masses to instant action, Time and again shahiri was put at use to influence the mass opinions. 
It is a link to our past and traditions, creating a strong bond between the masses and often urging them for a revolt.
Efforts at various levels have been mounted to save this art from slipping into oblivion. In an endeavour to revive cultural 
legacy among youth, 71-year-old, shahir Ambadas Taware has been organising workshops since past several years, across the state, 
which has witness enthusiastic participation.

Stating the fact that barring few noted ones, many shahirs have become players at few events, and once that event is over, 

they go back to the hardships and deprivation of their everyday life, Taware said, “our shahiri workshops encompass sessions 
on the significance of different elements of shahiris, playing musical instruments, etc. These workshops are designed to provide
creative opportunities to learn new skills and be energised and inspired to become shahirs. Through our activities, we aim
not only to revive and preserve the traditional folk arts but develop it sustainably, which can benefit both, the art and artists.”

Taware said, there is also lack of platforms for the new generation, and awareness among masses about folk culture is also a 

question as it has not seen a mushroom growth in the urban setup. Handed down through generations, the art of shahiri, 
had narrators accompanied by instruments like 'daf' (similar to the tambourine), however, now has been replaced with modern 
musical instruments. Also, involved in this revival effort is noted artist, Nandesh Umap, who was fascinated by this art form 
at a young age and learnt it from his father late Lokshahir Vittal Umap. He was fascinated by the way shahiri helps to connect 
with people to bring about social reform in the society. “A rich fusion of folk music and songs, with a bit of modernisation, 
will benefit and help revive the dying folk art form, folk artists and artisans,” said Umap.

42-year-old, Umap said that he has adapted to new discoveries while maintaining the traditions and ethos of “story-telling”,

continuing and enhancing oral tradition and making them accessible to the common man. “Such initiatives are reviving our 
rich traditions and has great potential to promote, propagate and dissemination folk art and culture in its different facets and 
give a fresh lease of life. This is a way of taking one on an incredible journey into it's past, help create a new future,” he said.

Upam while stating that collective efforts are needed to revive it, said, “government should give first preference to the performances

of folk artists at official functions, and they should be paid better remuneration, as they are the ones who keep music alive.” 
He also focused on the fact that folk artists including shahirs are not much invited at various functions organised by TV channels. 

Meanwhile, youngsters like Nisar Zalte, who is graduating from Tata Institute of Social Sciences,

and has recently conducted a study on shahirs, feel, "the art is still very much alive and kicking, 
here are performances happening in the rural areas"

Lok Shahir Sambhaji Bhagat's life has been an incredible journey into rural, not only connecting rural 

grassroots innovators but reviving lesser-known art forms, traditions and cultures, bringing out the
subtle message of unity, brotherhood and community. Bhagat says, "globalisation has majorly destroyed 
the folk art forms. The ruling class has the entire media in their hands, there is no voice left for the
lower caste and the lower class. The lack of patronage meant the next generation was straying from 
thousands of years of family tradition. It is imperative that the oral tradition of folk music be carried forward."

Although there is little awareness about shahiri among the youth of cities, it has generated interest 

among people across the rural areas who see in it a unique art form. In this world of social media, 
such efforts can bring us closer, to the beautiful world of Shahiri. It is an effort in not just reviving 
these art forms, but also making them relevant for today. The need of the hour is to conserve the folk art tradition in order to safeguard it from 
losing roots, which is connected to our existence and civilisation. If adapted properly, retaining its originality, shahiri will not disappear
but will enter the public domain instead.