Forgotten farm songs a hit

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BANGALORE, November 8:  Folk songs have always been an integral part of the oral tradition of farming communities across India. Passed down through generations, every region of the country has its own set of songs that usher in various stages of the farming cycle — monsoon, sowing, harvest.

And so it was that the thousands who turned up for the opening day of the International Krishi Mela were treated to some full-throated farm music that tugged at their heart strings. If the focus of the mela was on the science of farming, the folk singers that the organisers had brought in reminded visitors that farming in this country is as much about love, emotions and pride.

Sample this excerpt from a song by the troupe ‘Jogi Kala Sangha’: I have a black bull and a white one; when their hooves thunder upon my farm, the world shakes with respect. I am a farmer…

Of course, the beauty of the verse is lost in translation, but when sung in the native tongue by Gudappa Jogi (70) in his rustic, high-pitched baritone, the song had a mesmeric effect on the crowd. While the uninitiated marvelled at the evocative tempo and pitch of the song, the farmers at the venue knew the song all too well and sang along.

Mr. Jogi’s was but one of the many such folk troupes that had been strategically located at the entrance of each tent at the mela. They provided a welcome break from the hectic stall-hopping at the venue. Groups of people sat around in horseshoe formations around the singers as impromptu mehfils took shape.

They applauded and joined in the chorus.

“Ours is a dying tradition. Many in among the young farmers know our songs. But today was like the old days,” said a misty-eyed Nagaraj Doddamane (68) the leader of the troupe Gana Nayaka Tanda.

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