Folk music group Karinthalakoottam will perform at the prestigious Rainforest World Music Festival showcasing Kerala’s inherent musical culture

This year’s Rainforest World Music Festival will have a Malayali flavour. Karinthalakoottam, the popular ethno-folk music group from Kerala will wow audiences at this year’s edition of the festival which is slated to be held from June 20-22 at Kuching, the capital city of Sarawak, a Malaysian province.

This will be Karinthalakoottam’s first ever performance in an international music festival in their 20 years as a music group.

The festival is set beautifully between a great beach and a rain-forest mountain peak, with stages set among trees of one of the world’s oldest rainforests at the foot of the famous Mount Santubong. Giant screens beam the show right through the villages, and it is evolving into one of the most sought-after music events in the world.

For Karinthalakoottam this invitation has come as a huge break. “We must have performed our brand of music in over 5,000 venues across the country and the Gulf countries, which include numerous seminars and workshops. Most of our Gulf performances were for the Malayali organisations there. The Rainforest festival will be the first time we’ll be performing at a truly international event, sharing space with some of the top notch bands and music groups from across the world,” says Vijesh Lal of Karinthalakoottam.

This golden opportunity came their way after they were noticed and appreciated at a performance in Kolkata. “Kaushik Dutta who heads Song of Soul, an organisation that promotes folk art, also organises a music festival every year. We performed at this event in 2010. He was impressed and since then has been helping us. He was instrumental in getting us this invite.”

This year’s festival that will have music workshops, cultural displays and action-packed shows will have performances from the British folk rock band Blackbeard’s Tea Party, Italian world music band Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino, the Indonesian band Talago Buni, Geng Wak Long from Malaysia, Din Yi Music Company from Singapore, Jagua Music of Tanzania, Ryuz of Japan and other exciting groups.

Karinthalakoottam was formed as part of the activities of the Centre for Folklore Studies and is based at Mala, Thrissur.

Initially, the function of the group was documenting traditional rural knowledge and passing it on from one generation to the next.

Gradually, the group grew and now stands on its own focussing on a brand of music they have created.

“The group has grown in membership, in our repertoire, and we have also introduced new traditional performances along with our singing. The songs are collected from old women in our villages. The majority of our group members are from in and around Thrissur. For the Rainforest festival we will have eight members – P.R. Ramesh, our leader, Prasad M.V., Binesh, Subhash, Ranjith, Prasad C. K. and I. We have included Sivadasan, who hails from Vadakara and is a Theyyam artiste .”

Karinthalakoottam’s genre generally hinges on ritualistic songs and hymns. They sing about stories of an age gone by.

They bring back to us memories of fruits, medicinal plants, fables, Nature, birds and animals about which this generation has no clue. And what makes them stand out is their boundless energy, pulsating rhythm, variety of percussion instruments, soulful singing, traditional rituals and dances.

“Usually our performances are not restricted by time. Of course, organisers give us two or three hours. For the Rainforest festival it will be a one-hour show. Here we intend to showcase Kerala’s rich and diverse folk culture. There will be songs and visual representations of many art forms like Kalaripayattu, Mudiyattam, Kaalakali, and Theyyam. We will also present to the world our percussion instruments like maram, chenda, thudi, vadichilambu, kuzhi thalam etc.”

When Karinthalakoottam get on stage on the inaugural day of the festival, when they sing and dance, they will be showcasing the social history of Kerala; they will be opening up a whole world of our lifestyle, food habits, style of worship, rituals, and of course, our inherent music.