MUSICSCAN: Listening to Daamal Ramakrishnan and Perundevi's superb narration was a rewarding experience.

All over the world, there’s normally a distinct dividing line between high literature and folk traditions of story-telling. However, there are exceptional cases where certain highly refined works of ancient literature are not only based on original folk traditions of simple story-telling, which in turn become the basis for extended folk traditions of retelling the same old stories -- and thus the distinction between folklore and literature gets blurred and almost disappears.

One of the classic examples of such cases in the Indian scenario is the ‘Ramayana,’ which has been immortalised in the sophisticated Sanskrit and Tamil verses of poets Vaalmiki and Kamban respectively. The sacred story has figured so extensively in our spiritual and artistic experience that any further repetition of it in any form or forum needs to have an extremely refreshing quality if it has to compel our attention and capture our already over-stretched imagination. And what’s true of the ‘Ramayana’ is equally true of the ‘Mahabharata’ and other monumental pieces of our traditional literary-folk heritage.

Powerful narration

And that’s precisely where the duo Daamal Ramakrishnan and his sister Daamal Perundevi have a great natural advantage, for they have such a breathtakingly powerful way of re-telling the well-known stories that hearing their narration is like attending an extremely insightful and useful refresher course.

Their performance in a recent two-day discourse at Hamsadhwani mainly focussed on the Sundara Kaandam of the Ramayana -- depicting the encounter and dialogue between the virtuous Sita and the redoubtable Anjaneya -- and featured fluent recitations of relevant Sanskrit and Tamil verses, laced with lucid annotations in Tamil.

Though the accomplished brother and sister are only around 50 years old, they’ve been successfully re-telling the classic tales for 40 years now, to audiences whose lifestyles and outlook have progressively undergone striking as well as subtle changes but who haven’t ever lost their essentially spiritual bearings, just as in the context of Carnatic music.

The second day of the discourse happened to be the third anniversary of the passing away of R. Ramachandran (alias RRC), founder-secretary of Hamsadhwani, who was a devoted reader of the Ramayana.