They have been mastering skills in Oyilattam, Mayilattam, Kummi, Kolattam and a plethora of other folk art forms down generations.

But poverty is what several hundreds of folk and drama artistes in villages spread over Manapparai taluk are unable to conquer as yet.

Blame it on indifference of masses to rural folk art forms. The hand-to-mouth existence has pushed them into earning bread through other vocations, particularly as farm workers.

“Even in rural parts, well-off families invite light music orchestra troupes to perform at functions. The waning patronage threatens to cause extinction of the rich folk art forms,” lamented a folk artiste who was among hundreds of his ilk at the Collectorate on Monday to request the district administration for house pattas.

Said a song composer, Srirangan, belonging to an interior hamlet in Manapparai taluk: “We ought to be given due recognition for safeguarding the traditional richness of Tamil culture. For instance, the composition by folk singers is on the themes of social evils such as dowry menace and drug addiction, and other pressing issues, including neglect of agriculture. We play a vital role for social transformation.” Their larger worry stems from their inability to convince the next generation well within their families that there is a future for folk art forms.

Opportunities for performances being far and few in between, they themselves feel disoriented.

“Of course, the schemes being implemented by the Tamil Nadu Folk Artistes Welfare Board provide a silver lining. Yet, something more needs to be done to prevent the art forms from extinction,” said P.Karuppiah, who has been running the Rural Village Music Drama Cultural Artistes Trust, to serve as a forum for highlighting the needs of folk artistes.

“Our effort to secure pattas in 2009 from the then District Collector did not fructify. The present Collector Jayashree Muralidharan has consented to consider our demand in right earnest,” Mr.Karuppiah said.

The folk artistes also requested the Collector to witness their performance once in their terrain, so that they could justify their request for a training centre for folk art forms in Manapparai.

“The town has gained prominence for folk art forms from the days when late MGR and the DMK leader M. Karunanidhi honed their drama skills here”, said Mr.Karuppiah.

“On our part, we have begun approaching schools requesting them for opportunities for experienced artistes to teach the students and preserve the varied folk art forms to posterity.”