Bhojpuri folk songs in Mauritius, Geet-Gawai
Inscribed in 2016 (11.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity
Geet-Gawai is a pre-wedding ceremony that combines rituals, prayer, songs, music and dance. It is performed mainly by Bhojpuri-speaking communities in Mauritius who have Indian descent. The traditional practice takes place at the home of the bride or groom and involves female family members and neighbours. It begins with five married women sorting items (turmeric, rice, grass and money) in a piece of cloth while other participants sing songs that honour Hindu gods and goddesses. After the site has been sanctified, the mother of the bride or groom and a drummer honour musical instruments to be played during the ceremony, such as the dholak (a two-headed drum). Uplifting songs are then performed and everyone joins in and dances. Geet-Gawai is an expression of community identity and collective cultural memory. The practice also provides participants with a sense of pride and contributes to greater social cohesion, and breaking class and caste barriers. Knowledge about the practice and its associated skills are transmitted from older to younger generations on an informal and formal basis. This is done via observation and participation by families, semi-formal teaching houses, community centres, and academies. Nowdays, the practice of Geet-Gawai extends to public performances and men also participate.