As folk songs fill the air with melancholy notes, one can’t help but feel the desire to connect with every mortal soul. These songs have a note of anguish and indomitable spirit running through them. With their intricate melodic patterns and vibrant compositions, they often reveal the importance of cultural diversity. However, like most of our ancient art forms, folklore too is on the brink of extinction today. In an attempt to preserve our folk culture, K Y Narayanaswamy, poet and playwright, and Rajkumar, a folklore fan, began the herculean task of collating and recording folk songs around six years ago. “Kolar, a tri-lingual district, is a mine of folk literature and tradition. It is sad to note that neither our state government nor the Telugu scholars or universities have ever attached any importance to folklore in Telugu. And, it may soon cease to exist. Through Kolar Desi Gold Songs, we would not only like to remind people of their rich cultural heritage, but also instil the importance of preservation of such art forms,” said K Y Narayanaswamy.
Despite knowing that the project had no commercial viability, Rajkumar decided to finance it. The duo identified and mobilised more than 100 folk singers, organised camps and collected more than 500 Telugu folk songs, which were on the verge of extinction. Out of 500, 12 songs were chosen and translated into Kannada. Impressed with their effort, Hamsalekha offered to compose music for the project. “We couldn’t have had a better composer on board. Hamsalekha is from Kannambadi which was submerged under water after the completion of Krishna Raja Sagara dam. Since he understood the importance of cultural preservation better, his musical touch has taken the songs to a whole new level,” said Narayanaswamy.
Thirteen singers including Shankar Mahadevan, S P Balasubramanyam, Kunal Ganjawala, Hariharan, Kavitha Krishnamurthy, Malgudi Shubha, Manu, Vijay Jesudas, Chitra, Hemanth, Sangeetha Katti, Nanditha and Latha Hamsalekha have sung twelve songs in Kannada and Telugu. And, why were celebrity singers chosen for this project? According to Rajkumar, the producer, folklore has been neglected for a while and it required good branding and marketing. “We thought celebrity singers would help us sensitise and reach out to people in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. It would ensure cultural unity and popularise folklore as a brand. Currently, I know that there is no commercial viability for our effort. But, the end result will be totally worth it,” said Rajkumar.
Folk songs are often considered to be an intense dialogue between mankind and its inner soul. According to Narayanaswamy, folklore is either considered a hobby or a form of entertainment today and not many recognise the potential these songs have for cultural development. Rich in insights, wisdom and cultural warnings, these songs have always helped us view and construct our cultural history in a different perspective. “Most of the songs bring out the harsh reality of the life of a common man. They represent other schools of thought. They are about the simple things in life that have often gone unappreciated. I believe that our knowledge management and education systems should be developed further into a more comprehensive, intrinsic and granular system. Earlier, appreciating folk songs like Jogula were not considered a sign of progress. However, things are changing today,” he added.