Music of Assam

The music of Assam is influenced by the music of China, Myanmar and Thailand. The native music of Assam which includes the Bodo, Bihu, Mising and Karbi tribes are said to be structured and sung as per the Pentatonic scale of Chinese traditional music.

Categories of music

Folk music of Assam can be classified into various categories though some of them overlap with one another on certain occasions –

Songs of Festivity

These are songs sung during marriage ceremonies like Biyanaam which are wedding folk songs and the songs have humour and pathos and even include historical stories and Bihu Geet or songs of Bihu which is the most celebrated festival in Assam and is celebrated in different ways thrice a year. They are all associated with farming. The lyrics of the Bihugeets are wide and varied, ranging from the beauty of nature to the expression of love to social themes and stories of wit and humour. There are songs sung as prayers to rain God and for proper harvest, celebration of spring, songs during festivals, in praise of Goddesses, for long life and good health etc. The other type is Bongeet which is similar to the Bihu Geet and resembles the woodmen’s ballads of the West. The beauty of nature and its landscapes, the dense forests and its birds and animals, the pathos of separation from loved ones all these are conveyed with a mystical and imaginative fervour and are very popular in Assam.

Work Songs

These are songs sung by the labour classes while working and moving rhythmically which infuse the spirits of the workers. There are songs of the soldier (Ranuwar geet), farmer songs (Nangeli Geet), driving out mosquitoes (Mohoho geet), Kuhiyar Pera geet, Xaktula Geet and other songs like Gorokhiya Naam (songs of cow keepers), boatmen, fishermen and Nisukoni Geet (lullabies).

Ballads or Malitas

Ballads are lyrical poems accompanied to music and are divided into realistic, magical, historical and satirical poems according to their subject matter.

Bhakti Music

These include all types of devotional music. They are –


It is a devotional song sung in supplication to the Divine Mother or ‘Ai’ who is considered the Goddess of Pox along with her seven sisters. Every household which is visited by the disease pox arrange a congregational prayer session in which they sing Ainaam with a sense of submission and deep humility. Referring to the Goddess as Dharami (the righteous one), Sitala (the cold one) and Marami (the kind hearted one) with ceremonial worship the Goddess whose songs depict her as coming from Kamakhya is propitiated humbly to leave the stricken household and proceed elsewhere.


They are a collection of lyrical songs composed by the saint poets Sankardeva and his disciple Madhavdeva which are used to begin prayers at monasteries based on melodious ragas and talas. The lives of Lord Rama, Krishna, the principles of Vaishnavism etc are beautifully and eloquently expressed in these songs.


These are devotional songs related to Vaishnava devotional scriptures.


These songs are derived from Vaishnava devotional scriptures and are congregational prayers sung in praise of the Assamese saint poet Sankardeva and are generally sung by women.

Zikr and Zari

These are the devotional songs of the renowned Muslim saint and preacher of the 17th century Azan Fakir. The word’ Zikr’ in Arabic means remembering or singing the Lord’s name and deal with two types of teachings one for practical life to be practised daily and the other for those who wish to pursue the highest path of salvation. Their lyrical beauty and theme convey the message of brotherhood and communal harmony. Zari means lamentation and is based on historic tragedy in Islamic literature and is sad in tone.

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