La Pongal’s debut album, to be released on January 16, fuses Tamil folk with electronic sounds
La Pongal brings Tamil folk songs out of their rural moorings and presents them to urban audiences that grew up on a different music diet. It manages to pull off this musical coup by layering these songs with electronic sounds.
“Project 1 — contemporary Tamil folk music,” its debut album releasing on January 16 at ‘Pongal Sandhai', a carnival celebrating the Tamil festival at the Wesley School grounds, Royapettah, is probably a barometer of the group's success.
The merit of their work lies in the fact that these folk songs, which encapsulate the Tamil ethos, are not lost in the fusion of sounds. This is exemplified by ‘Vandiyila Nellu Varum'. In this music video — uploaded on YouTube — folk singer Antonydas and a throng of traditionally-dressed performers conjure up images of the flowing Vaigai and Poigai rivers and of rich rice harvests brought into the granaries in carts. ‘Darbuka' Siva on the drums and Keba Jeremiah on the guitar — symbolically, in the background — give the distinctively Tamil sounds a new depth without threatening to overpower them.
‘Darbuka' Siva defines La Pongal as an effort at bringing folk music up-to-date and giving it a bigger platform. The response from the non-Tamil audiences is a rich source of encouragement to this ‘contemporary Tamil electro folk group'.
“During a performance in North India, the audience was on its feet,” explains Siva. “We are taking La Pongal beyond India. In the West, Indian folk music is equated with Bhangra. It is time they realised our folk music has more strands to it.”
Before setting out on this mission, Siva plans to go on a Tamil Nadu tour. “We want to take the songs of La Pongal to the interior parts of the State. It is an effort at presenting Tamil folk music to its progenitors, but in a glossy wrapper.”