A group of students from Palakkad are bent on salvaging Valluvanad’s folk heritage
We’ve all heard about bands taking up social causes to raise awareness. In recent times, Oorali’s lead singer Martin Chalissery and many others have been working along those lines. But, Mukuthy, a traditional folk band from Palakkad launched by a group of students from Victoria College, is out to break that pattern. A result of their research into the local folk music traditions associated with rituals and lifestyle of Valluvanadan communities, this outfit believes in interactive sessions transmitting the essence and ritual significance of the songs as opposed to a mere performance.Having wrapped up their debut performance outside the college circuits at The Algebra of Listening (Fort Kochi, 2017)—organised as a part of the UK-India Year of Culture—these students are now hoping to spread their knowledge to music lovers across the spectrum. “From last year onwards, we have been actively working with several so-called ‘backward’ communities in the region. Our point is, these aren’t dying traditions, they have to be brought into the mainstream culture,” explains Sreehari KR, the band’s spokesperson.
For those of us who grew up listening to contemporary folk tunes by the likes of Kalabhavan Mani, songs by Mukuthy such as Thuyilunarthu Pattu might sound alien. “These are verses that have been passed down from generation-to-generation through vaa mozhi (oral traditions) and still hold an important position in our lives,” explains Sreehari, adding that they have covered several local song-dance-drama routines such as the Aryamala Natakam (associated with Chettiyar community) so far. Moving away from simply documenting or filming these forms, Sreehari’s team has devoted themselves to learning/understanding the art in its true context while touching upon sensitive topics including casteism. Referring to their work within the spectrum of folk as a cultural exchange, Sreehari informs us that they are currently looking for ways to present their work at the mainstream art/music platforms.