- The main piece: Antakshari
“Antakshari is like a song game, right? That we, it’s an Indian thing… uh… let me see. Uh, so what happens is, we sing a song. It’s a group thing, we used to play in the bus, on picnics, going somewhere, in the evenings. You start a song, let’s say it starts with the letter a.
[informant sings] “‘Aaja sanam, Madhur chandni me hum tum.’
“So tum means it ends in ‘m’. So you have to pick a song that starts with ‘m.’ These are all Bollywood songs, I guess. So it’s the Indian consonant that ends that syllable or whatever. So ‘m.’ Uh… [long pause] I can’t think of any songs. So, you can have any number of contestants or players, and typically we only sing the first verse of the song. And then whoever can sing whatever they know, and if you can’t think of it starting with their last syllable, you’re out of the game. Antakshari, it literally means last letter. Akshara means letter, anta means end.”
- Background information about the performance from the informant: why do they know or like this piece? Where/who did they learn it from? What does if mean to them? Etc.
“I mean, it’s—it’s—everyone plays it in India. So all my friends around me played it. It’s been there for generations. You play it with your family, you play it with friends, you play with classmates.”
- The context of the performance
“Anytime we went on picnics, we used to play this. Because it’s easy to play on the bus. Like kids on schoolbus, late at night during a bonfire or sitting outside, relaxing, people play this game.”
- Finally, your thoughts about the piece
This song game is an interesting combination of folk music and folk games. Since Bollywood songs are generally used, but are changed to fit the needs of the game, Antakshari can be seen as turning authored music into folk music—in fact, the game creates mashups, a form of folk music. Music is an easy way for people of all ages to bond when they have little else in common, and creating unique folk music mashups together during trips and parties clearly helped build a strong sense of community in the informant’s childhood.
- Informant Details
The informant is a middle-aged Indian-American female. She was born in India and grew up with her two sisters in a small town near a holy river in Andhra Pradesh, the Godavari River. After moving to the United States and raising her children there, she enjoyed reminiscing on her childhood in India and sharing stories of it with her children, so that they could see the differences in their upbringings and learn about their Indian heritage.
This game was actually adopted into an Indian television show from 1993 to 2007—this show was called Antakshari and was a musical game show. The following news article describes the show’s popularity and some of the main actors: https://www.hindustantimes.com/tv/antakshari-annu-kapoor-pallavi-joshi-share-memories-of-iconic-musical-show/story-JoOrFIY2UYIwhb6VhOIkEJ.html.