India has a very rich and diverse tradition of folk music because of its vast cultural diversity. This creates endless varieties of folk styles which are distinct to a particular region.
Tribal and folk music is not taught in the same way as Indian classical music. There is no formal period of apprenticeship where the student is able to devote their entire life to learn music. The economics of rural life style does not permit this sort of a thing. The musical practitioners also attend their basic duties of hunting and agriculture along with a little devotion to music.
Music in the villages is learned almost by osmosis. From childhood, music is heard and imbibed along an individual’s course of life. There are numerous public activities which allow villagers to practice and hone their skills. These are the normal functions which synchronize village life with the universe.
It is an indispensable component of various functions like weddings, engagements and births. There is a plethora of songs for such occasions. Also, there are many songs associated with planting and harvesting. In these activities the villagers routinely sing of their hopes, fears and aspirations.
Musical instruments are often different from those found in classical music. Although instruments like tabla may be found sometimes, it is more likely that cruder drums such as daf, dholak, or nal will be used. The sitar and sarod which are common in the classical genre are absent in folk music. One often finds instruments such as the ektar, dotar, saringda, rabab, and santur being used but they are not depicted by these names, but named according to their local dialect. There are also innumerable instruments which are used only in certain folk styles pertaining in a specific region.
The instruments that folk musicians use are generally not as refined as the classical musicians use. The instruments of classical music are crafted by artisans whose job is fabrication of musical instruments while the folk instruments are commonly crafted by the musicians themselves.
It is very common to find folk instruments that have been fabricated of commonly available materials. Skin, peritoneum, bamboo, coconut shells, and pots are but a few commonly available materials used to make musical instruments.