Folk songs are mostly sung by Bihari amateurs all over the state. The Thumar or Barahmasa is sung by female in groups when they are engaged in paddy plantation. When grinding corn in Jata or Chakki, they sing Jatusari. Sohar is sung on the occasion of child-birth and Sumangali, when marriage rites are to conclude.
In early nineteenth century Bihar, music was cultivated by certain professional classes alone and rich men extended generous patronage to musicians, especially to superior female artistes who were allowed small endowments.
The Hindu Kathaks went about in-groups of three or four and sang with Tamburu, Sarangi, Majira and dholak accompaniment, mostly from Jaideva’s ‘Geet Govinda’. They sang common songs and love songs of Bengal. The Yajaks were employed at funerals, the Bhajaniyas and Kirtaniyas were employed by Brahmans to sing holy songs after the morning prayer, > Roshan Chouki parties were employed to play on pipes and drums and also to accompany Muharram processions. The Pamarias, men and women, who were mostly Muslims, thronged to sing where marriages were being held and birth has taken place and were satisfied only when they were given a handsome remuneration. Most women sang at marriage ceremonies.
There was also a class of dancing boys called Bhakliyas. These dancers had no fixed abode. They came to Bihar to celebrate Holy in the month of Chaitra.
The folk dance tradition in Bihar has three distinct streams. One of them is the folk dances of Videha, the present Mithila which is mainly rooted in the songs of poets, the second stream is those of the Adivasis which are closer to nature, social institutions and rituals. The third stream relates to the Chhau dance of Seraikella and other regions of south Bihar.
The folk dances of Mithila are religious, social or sectarian. In the religious type, gods and goddesses are invoked through dance, performed to the rhythm of folk songs and such musical instruments as the dhol, pipahi, pakhwaf, and danka. The Ram-leela nach, Bhagat nach, Kirtaniya nach, Kunjvawt nach, Naradi nach, Vdypat nach and puja Arti nach are all religious folk dances of Mithila. Folk dances for men are accompanied by songs and musical instruments and the footwork of the dancers is in tune with the swar and tal of the music. The dances exclusively for women are Jhijhiya nach, Jatajutia nach, Sama Chawka nach. The only mixed group dance is Saturi dance of Mithila. In the family dance called Bakho nach, the husband and wife participate on the occasion of the birth of a child or a similar joyous occasion. The different lower-caste groups have their own exclusive dances such as Chamar natua, Kanala mai nach, Dampha-Basuli nach. There are such popular dances as Pamariya nach, Videshia nach and Kathputli nach.
This is a folk dance of Seraikella Kharsawam region. The word Chhau signifies a mask. Originally a war dance to perfect fighting techniques, it has over the years evolved into a narrative ballet. The dancer’s identity and sex are concealed on account of the mask he wears when performing the Chhau. On the eve of the spring festival, every year, people in Seraikella celebrate with the colourful show of ‘Chhau’ performance. The Seraikella royalty preserves, projects and participates in Chhau, in the month of Chaitra Paru, April in the venue of the kings palace.
The Adivasi version of the Chhau is called Sastriya Nritya. In the performance of Sastriya Nritya, the dancers sometimes do not use the mask. The use of songs, a common feature of all folk dances is wholly absent in the Chhau. The dancer expresses mood or theme through the medium of varied gestures, all of the exquisite artistic appeal to the accompaniment of the veena flute, drum. All there folk dances have their roots in the traditions of the region in the past.