It’s a term straight out of the padayani parlance, referring to the insolent spokesperson who sets the stage for ceremonial dancers.
Oorali, the 4-member conversational music band, does the same. With their quirky lyrics and music that blends ‘roots, rock and reggae’, they create a space for meaningful social interaction. “Oorali is the one who intervenes, openly discussing off-limit subjects. We don’t consider music, or any other art form for that matter, as instruments for hollow entertainment. We believe they have a much superior role,” say the band members who include Martin John C (vocal, scenography), Saji Kadampattil (guitar, vocals, soundscaping), Sanandan Sankaran (percussion, vocal) and Abhilash (percussion).
On the outset they might look like a group of rappers simply trying to break the performer-viewer barrier. But for Oorali, an offshoot of Sadhana Centre for Creative Practice, music is more of a tool for social intervention.
“Ours is a conversational band and throughout the performance we seek participation from the audience. Through the concept of interactive music, we create a platform to analyse and discuss situations and subjects that are socially relevant. It can be a satirical take on some recent incident or a cry for justice,” says Martin.
Martin, a theatre activist and alumni of School of Drama, says he was introduced to the idea of interactive bands during his stint in Latin American countries. “In Chile, Brazil and Argentina there are creative groups who suddenly spring up on public places. They don’t confine themselves to theatres or other conventional spaces. They are not amateurs and they perform with absolute perfection. They don’t consider audience as mute spectators and demand their involvement. They use their art to nudge the audience out of their reverie and the impact they create is enormous.”
Moreover, without opting for the normal format the band members have evolved a new template blending music with other art forms. So what they offer is a mix of theatre, visual arts and music; their performance never a one-way affair and their lyrics a cocktail of Malayalam, English, Spanish and even gibberish.
There are folk songs, Kadammanitta poems and even random words made into some form of a logical coinage.
“Sometimes we throw a word to the audience and ask them to come up with similar sounding words. Then we weave all those words into a song and do a rap on that,” he says.
The band also has a couple of visual artists attached to them who create an ambiance for the subjects to be discussed through miniature works and installations.
“From origami flowers to sculptures and paintings, they come up with objects that will change the whole character of the space we are performing. More than just listening to music the audience are expected to be active participants while we perform. So we fill the place with motifs that pique and provoke the mob,” he says.