Folk artistes, a staple item at campaign rallies

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Folk forms in the urban context have come to acquire an “exotic” appeal and folk artistes are often hired to add colour to programmes and rallies. With elections round the corner, they are now seen accompanying politicians as they go campaigning.

H. Pradeep, a traditional tamate (percussion) artiste in Doddaballapur, said election was a short-term addition to their work schedule. “Usually, we are summoned for performances during temple fairs, weddings and death ceremonies. Now that elections are here, we go for campaigns too,” Mr. Pradeep, who is part of a 15-member troupe, said.

He said the troupe charges Rs. 20,000 a day, which, however, is a “negotiable” sum. “Artistes who are closer to the city centres get more work and are paid better,” he said, adding that most traditional artistes now also work in construction and other industries because they cannot make ends meet on earnings from traditional art.

Basavaraj Mathad, a dollu and Veeragase artiste in Shikaripura, said the practice of political parties employing big troupes was somewhat toned down now because of the Election Commission’s vigil. “They do not want to show expenditure, and a big troupe is a grand spectacle impossible to miss,” he said.

Mr. Mathad has decided not to perform for any political party rally because there is no “serious audience” in such gatherings to appreciate his art. “When they contact me, I put them in touch with other artistes,” he said, adding that a troupe of 10 to 15 in a small town charges Rs. 10,000 for a day’s work.

Meanwhile, artistes attached to the Information Department, who are otherwise engaged in promoting government schemes, are now performing street plays to enthuse people to vote. Most of them are traditional folk artistes and selected to perform through an audition.

S. Basavaraj, a Pujja Kunita and Maragalu Kunita artiste, and Bhadrappa, a Tatwapada singer, said they were currently part of a team performing a street play across Bangalore Rural district.

“Each artiste is paid Rs. 200 a show and we will have about four shows a day during this drive of eight days,” said Y.H. Puttaswamy, the leader of the troupe.

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