BENGALURU: Singing as a medium to spread awareness about social/environmental issues works well, as music doesn’t just touch the mind, it also touches the heart,” says Janardhan Kesaragadde, composer and lyricist for Bengaluru-based folk band, Bhoomi Thayi Balaga. The band, which is more than a decade old, has been singing about various issues - from protecting the environment to communal harmony to lifestyle issues such as health and gender discrimination.
Talking about the origins of the band, Janardhan says that he met its members while working on a campaign to restore the Arkavati river – which flows through the state – in Doddabalapur in 2005. He says the boys and girls who are part of the band now had gone there to spread awareness in the nearby villages and campaign through theatre and music. “At that time, the group was called ‘Gangamma na vokulu’, which translates to disciples of mother water. After this was when we formally created a band in 2007 and called it Bhoomi Thayi Belaga, which means relatives of mother Earth,” says Janardhan, adding that their first gig was for an awareness programme in Dollar’s Colony in the city. The first song that Janardhan composed was on the disappearing lakes and water bodies of Bengaluru, a popular number by the name Benda Kalooru Bangalore. “This song was actually made from the notes I had made to present at a campaign in Yellahanka, which I then converted into a song,” he says.
At present, there are three lead singers in the ten-member band. Out of them, only three are full-time members. He says that while campaigning on various social issues, people would keep joining and leaving the band, but only those who were truly committed stuck on. “It’s quite difficult to sustain artists in the social work field, especially because there are concerns about survival and making ones livelihood. Usually those who are talented, end up getting into more commercial ventures. But the current band members are all very committed to the various causes we support,” says Janardhan, who also mentors the band.
Currently, the band is on a hundred-performance tour around the city, which they started in early August and will finish in early November. While they usually work alongside people’s organizations and government bodies, such as the Department for Women and Child Development and Right to Information Commission for their different programmes and campaigns, they also design their own tours sometimes. “This particular tour focuses primarily on water conservation. We are performing at colleges and communities this time.”
While the band has performed across the state, they have no plans of working with nation-wide campaigns, primarily because of the language barrier. “Our songs have appealed to people from villages and cities because environmental issues affect all sections of society. The water crisis affects villagers as much as it affects city people, but just in different magnitudes,” he says, adding that by culturally contributing to the efforts of organisations trying to spread awareness, they are furthering the reach of the message of the cause.
Having worked with organisations such as Samvada, ATREE and also consulted on various projects related to environment protection and child development, Janardhan says that through his career he has noticed that there is a complete lack of coordination at the administrative level. Which is why, he concludes, the city is suffering from water and waste management issues.