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The run-up to the Urur-Olcott Kuppam Vizha is heating up with concerts, exhibitions, plays and more

Two years ago, classical music from within the confines of the sabhas steadily seeped into a little hamlet  along the beach, the Urur-Olcott Kuppam, while on another parallel, folk tunes from the shores resounded within the classical tradition-heavy bastions of the sabhas. This unique exchange of genres and styles sums up the first two editions of the Urur-Olcott Kuppam Vizha, a movement with a message, which brings the spotlight on lesser-known folk arts. This year, the 2017 edition of the Vizha aims to bridge the historical and cultural disconnect, while appropriating classical and folk culture into mainstream traditions and music.

Voice of a vision
Through his decades of work in the Carnatic music industry, T M Krishna has established himself as classical music’s most in-demand singer. Looking to go beyond classical roles, the Ramon Magsaysay award-winner decided it was time to bring out a parallel narrative to the Chennai Marghazi music season. Known for his reputation as a non-conformist, Krishna and environmental activist, Nityanand Jayaraman, approached the Urur Olcott Kuppam about a counter-cultural festival, which today is a month-long event with over 70 volunteers.

Performance enhancers
The pre-festival events were flagged off last week, and continue this weekend with a Gaana concert, Silambam performance, devotional music by the Joggapas (a transgender musical troupe) and a Parai attam performance. “Another highlight is the living museum at the Urur Kuppam,” says Nityanand. Participants will also get a chance to relive the history of the Kuppam through audio-visual presentations, art installations, exhibits and photographs. “Urur-Olcott Kuppam dates back even before Besant Nagar. We wish to bring the Kuppam back into public memory,” says S Palayam, village head.

Stage by the beach
Do not miss the concert by T M Krishna at Elliot’s Beach on January 29, music performances on an MTC bus route on February 2, and a photography exhibition by the children of Urur Olcott Kuppam on February 4. On February 10-11, you can expect a variety of shows including a classical music performance, a percussion ensemble by the girls of Avvai Home school, plays and a performance by the Tamil rock group, Kurangan.
Till February 11. Details: facebook.com/events/846873975334459/

Jogappas
When the Jogappas found themselves singing alongside T M Krishna last year, it was the first time their folk music sensibilities found their way onto the stage. One year hence, they have made a name on the national stage. On Sunday, they will perform at the Raga Sudha Hall. “Performing at a sabha is our way of presenting marginalised art,” says Subha Chako, director of Solidarity Foundation, who works with the Jogappas. The one-hour performance will be in Marathi and Kannada, and will feature songs like Phodala and Bhara Thangi Ghetagigi Bare.

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Nityanand Jayaraman
Nityanand gets candid about the early days, saying, “Two years ago, when the Vizha was proposed, a few friends asked us—‘Is it alright to take Carnatic to a fishing village. Can you take Parai-attam to the sabha?’ What we discovered is that the sabha is not closed to Parai-attam or other folk art forms. Ask and it shall be given. So, we asked, and the administration at Raga Sudha Hall graciously offered us the space.”

Gana Viji
This year, the Vizha will debut Gaana music by Gana Viji of Danga Maari fame. This hour-long performance features one of the singer’s favourite compositions titled Agala Udhala Masala Company. Physically handicapped, Viji finds solace in songs about spirituality, death and the evanescent beauty of life.

Silambam
Watch out for the 25-member Silambam team performing on a stage that has strong affinities to the world of Carnatic classical forms. Led by Power Pandian Aasan, a known face in the martial arts and cine-stunt industry, the group will showcase a variety of techniques and weapons like Vaal Veechu (sword) and Surul Vaal (metal whip), among others.

Parai attam
As a part of the Vizha’s attempts to challenge notions associated with Parai-attam, a 15-member troupe called Nanbargal Kalai Kuzhu will present a performance and a talk about the history and cultural associations of Parai. “This instrument is often associated with death. However, these drums were used to announce important messages, and were performed in the courts of Sangam, Chola and Pandiyan rulers,” says Deepan, who heads the group. Expect a 30-minute show, with performers dancing to the beat of the Parai.

—Rebecca Vargese

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