Friday, July 1, 2011

Role of Folk Media in the Age of Information Technology

-Yam Bahadur Dura


This article tries to introduce folk media in Nepali context, which gives an overview how folk media is being used to bridge the cross-section of Nepali society.  This article makes some attempts to shed light on importance of folk in Nepali society. Also, it speaks about the need of blending folk media and modern mass media to create the "informed citizenry". Actually, this article is an experience based account of folk media rather than a scholarly research work.

Key words: folk media, communication, rural masses,

It wouldn't be exaggeration to say that we are living in the highly mediated world.  These days we see the world through the eyes of media. The devastating effects of earthquake and Tsunami's in Japan, Iraq's crisis, movements regarding democratic reform in  Egypt, Syria, Libya  or Bahrain , or Maoist insurgency in India, whatever be the form of current affairs, we see the fast changing world's latest scenarios through the eyes of  media, especially through the lens of TV camera.

Technology driven mass media have made this possible. We are being informed, educated, entertained and inspired by the mass media. Today the mass media has given "talking points" to scholars as well general publics and "priority lists" to general people in which they will be working on. It is general assumption that mass media have guided our destinations and routine of everyday life.

For these reasons, we know, the mass media has become a major source of information to the present-day world. Not only this, it has becoming a compelling force in this 21 century. But the saga of the mass media remains uncompleted, if we do not add the chapter of folk media in it. Actually, folk media is one of the important facets of the mass media. Folk media is also known as "traditional media". Some people differentiate between "folk media" and "traditional media" that has a long-standing presence in our society ranging from the far past to present days. Media experts have recognized it as an important vehicle that delivers information and culture to people from generation to generation. 

The forms of folk media are different.  In the past, Katuwal Karaune (Chants of messenger), Jhyali Pitne, Damaha Bajaune (drum beating), bugle blowing,  conch blowing,  etc. were in practice (this tradition is still alive) to inform people about important happenings in and around their locations. The tradition of Katuwal Karaune (chants of messenger) is still in place in some rural settlements of Nepal. Even today,  Katuwals have become newspapers, radios and TVs for many rural masses.

On the other hand, fairs (mela/jatra), religious functions (Satya Narayan Katha, Saptaha, etc.), customary ceremonies (birth, marriage etc.), folk songs, drama, ballads, riddling , storytelling, and so on are some other forms of folk media. These are indirect forms folk media. These traditional communication modes are not in the format of journalism. These modes of communication have connecting Nepali society in their own ways.

For example: the famous spiritual orator late Narayan Prasad Pokhrel's had addressed to rural masses conveying the messages of social welfare and spirituality. He collected millions of rupees by winning hearts and minds of people. The money raised at the function was spent on construction of educational institutions and other humanitarian aspects. His successor Dinbandu Pokhrel, his own son, is also following the same path. These orators seem to be cashing the deep-rooted "oral tradition" of rural masses for the well-being Nepali society. These two orators have shown the real power of folk media.

Before the advent of modern means of mass media (radio, television and newspapers), folk media had shouldered the sole responsibilities of communicating the people and it has been continuing its job of informing people till to this date. Of course, the communication process and system of folk media are not based on formats of modern communication pattern. However, it keeps on communicating the people in its own ways. The communication systems in far-flung areas are still based on folk media, which is bridging the communities.

For instance, we can see communication style of Gandavas, the occupational caste of singing. In the past, Gandarvas were very influential communicators. They had occupied the place of the modern mass media in rural areas. That's why they are known as "living newspapers". In the past, they used to roam village to village to collect money and food grains for their livelihoods by singing Karkha (an eventful song) and some popular folk songs. Gandarvas used to find themselves surrounded by the villagers if they entered in a village. These days some Gandarvas have entered the capital city and turned street musicians. They seem to be roaming in and around Thamel, a tourist hub, selling Sarangis to the tourists.

Karkha is a story-driven song concentrating on topsy-turvy lives of VIPs and current happenings. This also comprises some gruesome and big cases of murder, incidents, accidents and natural disasters. England's historic journey by the first Rana Prime Minister Jung Bahadur Rana, Nepal- Bhot war, Saga of Bal Bhadra, World War-II, the incident arson in Singh Darbar, and so on were contents of Karkha in the past. In the same way, famine, landslide and criminal cases viz. killings, robberies were also contents of Karkha.

In this way, Gandavas used to inform the people in the near past. Karkha had familiarized people not only with current affairs, but also social, political and cultural milieu of the country. Karkha is considered as one the important aspects of oral tradition. That is why it called 'the living history'.

Religious functions, jatras/melas, customary ceremonies and some other social gatherings are modes of communication that assist to exchange information of local importance. In these gatherings, people share news and views of their surroundings through the means of interpersonal and group communications. The positive aspects of interpersonal and group communications are that they create interaction among the people. It facilitates them to develop "we" feeling. It has given contribution to strengthen social capital and cultural capital.

Folk media is a pure local media. It creates local milieu to serve the local people. It is proved fact that local media creates more interactions than any other national or transnational media does. The influence of local media are always powerful than that of other medias. Media's magnitude of effectiveness depends more on how interactive it is. Folk media is more interactive which gives rise to a feeling of ownership among the audiences. It is a great source that generates social capital and cultural capital in the society.

Importance of Folk Media

 We all are familiar with the fact that Nepal is poor and developing country. Nearly 80 percent of people live in far-flung rural areas. Rural people don't have reasonable access to mass media. There are no enough basic infrastructures through which the messages of modern mass media can reach there. Vast majorities of villagers are living their lives without proper transportation networks (road-links, air-links and other modern transportation modes) and media/communication networks (telephone booths, radio, television/cable TV, newspapers, Internet, e-mail, and the like). Newspapers can't reach there on time. On the other hand, the readership pattern and reading culture in the rural areas yet to be raised.

Low level of literacy, longer hours of load-shedding or acute power shortage, lack of tailor-made message to specific audiences, etc. has greatly hampered the message conveying job of Nepali mass media. A large section of people are living in acute poverty and cannot afford for sophisticated tools of communication. This situation speaks for the need of folk media.

A study conducted by Central Bureau of Statistics concludes that 53.1 and 22.5 households possess radio and television respectively. The same study says that 41.3 per cent households don't have access to both radio and television.

According to a rough estimate, terrestrial waves of Nepal Television cover only 62 per cent of population Nepal's total population and 41 per cent Nepal's total land mass. Similarly, Radio Nepal's a wave reaches out only 80 per cent portion of Nepal.

These statistics show a map of the media scenarios of Nepal. There is huge information gap between "information reach" and "information poor" in the county. There is a digital divide between rich and poor people.


Neither Radio nor TV

Total Household
Urban Area
Ecological belt (Mountain)
 Eastern Development Regions
 Central Development Region
Western Development Region
Mid Western Development Region
Far Western Development Region

(Source: Population Monograph of Nepal, Vol. 1, 2003)

Our mass media have big role to play to overcome problems related to discriminations and malpractice, which are widespread in the society. In this process, the mass media can integrate folk media to convey specific messages for and against the things, which are essential to make people aware of that. Folk songs, folk theatres, dialogues with accents of different local dialects and other forms of folk media can be used to convey desired messages.

These messages can be a public appeal for girl child education, peace and social harmony, nutrition, health, hygiene, immunization against (polio, measles, encephalitis), nature conservation and others.

In the same way, messages against corruption, social injustices, sexual harassment, child marriage, child labors, tobacco products, drug abuse, slavery and many more social evils and health hazards can be delivered by using folk media in mass media.

These messages can be useful informational capsules to feed illiterate rural masses. This is one of the right ways to feed information for illiterate people. Folk song of two lines is far better useful than article of two pages for rural masses. For example: rural masses will receive message well in their local dialect that that of standard Nepali language. The reason is that they feel ownership in it. That is why we can't negate the importance of folk media.

Nowadays different forms of folk media viz. folk songs, folk theatres etc. are being used in radio and television. But, it is matter of sorrow that market forces are heavily influencing these messages. In our mass media, one can see commercial messages rather than messages of social welfare. The result of this big irony is that voice of the voiceless people is being largely neglected.


Folk media has a huge role to play in the media sphere. The reality is that folk media is inextricably connected with culture/rituals whereas the mass media is heavily associated with information technology. Mass media is costly in comparison to folk media. Folk media is tailor made to the local requirement and local circumstances. To a greater extend, folk media follows the pattern of participatory communication approach. Its messages are produced and consumed by the local communities attracting much more social interactions.

We are in a state that we don't have option for not to choose folk media. In the same sequence, technology driven mass media is also equally important for us. Our ground reality recommends us that we need to mingle up folk media and mass media which may lead us to a wider information society.

Both folk media and the mass media need to be utilized to bridging the gap between "information rich" and "information poor" people. Integrating folk media in mass media and information technology can be one of the ways to bring marginalized and disadvantaged people into the arena of development.


Aditya, A. (1996). Mass media democratization: A country study in Nepal. Kathmandu: IIDS.
Dura, Y. B. (2006). Role of folk media in the age of information technology. In N. M.   Adhikary (Ed.), Communication, Mass media and Journalism Kathmandu:        Prashanti Pustak Bhandar. (Pp. 40-44).
Dura, Y. B. (Dec. 29, 2002). Folk Literature vs.Mass Media. The Rising Nepal
Dura, Y. B. (2007). Impact of globalization in folksong. Bodhi, 1(1), 34-40.
Dura,Y. B. (2011). Suchana prabaha ma paramparagat sanchar pranali ko bhumika (Role of traditional communication system in information flow). Media Newsletter. Kathmandu: Madan Bhanari Memorial College. (P. 3)
Dr. Misha, P, S. (2001). Development Communication. In P. Kharel  (Ed). Media Practices    in Nepal.  Kathmandu: Nepal Press Institute. (Pp.145-182)

[This article was originally appeared in a book Communication, Mass media and Journalism (2006) and it is revised version of the same article.]

[Updated : Sept.21, 2011; January 31, 2012; July5 2012; December 26, 2012 ]