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Kodava Academy spots an artiste living in oblivion

K. Jeevan Chinnappa
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Medara Taani, who has been chosen for the Kodava Sahitya Academy Award.— PHOTO: NANDA KUMAR
Medara Taani, who has been chosen for the Kodava Sahitya Academy Award.— PHOTO: NANDA KUMAR

When there is a talk of degeneration of cultural values and all aspects associated with it, the 65-year-old Medara Taani’s name crops up as an exception. He is struggling to keep a vanishing tradition of beating drums during festivals in Kodagu that sets a rhythmic Kodava ‘kolatt’ in motion lending a special aura to the festival and raise it to dizzy levels.

The sounds of ‘dol’ and ‘pare’ the traditional music instruments have their own special place in Kodagu. And Taani has over five decades of experience in playing them. It is apt that the Madikeri-based Karnataka Kodava Sahitya Academy has picked him as one of the persons contributing to the Kodava culture for this year’s award.

The dwelling of Mr. Taani in the Tadiyandamol Hills, the highest peak in Kodagu, is the only platform where he mastered the art. He is credited with producing a number of musical sounds emanating from the dol and pare during the Puthari festival held in Kodagu. Playing dol and pare is a must to the accompaniment of Hutri Kolatt, a dance performed by the Kodavas swinging reed sticks in hands, and gyrating in a set path around the ‘mand’, a place revered for the presence of niche of deities.

The musical instruments are a legacy of his father who pursued the avocation successfully. Mr. Taani has travelled to places such as New Delhi, Bangalore, and Mysore to play his musical objects in the past. But his sojourns did not help him get the better of his imperceptible background. However, his ordeals in life too never appear to end. The poor artiste walks the distance to fetch water every day. His dwelling does not have electricity. He does not possess land but has no qualms about it.

Son of Subbaiah and Seetamma from Nelaji village in Madikeri taluk of Kodagu, he is one of the nine siblings in the family. Mr. Taani, who speaks Kodava, ekes out a living with his wife by weaving baskets and other household items out of bamboo. The cash award of Rs. 10,000 which would be given to him with a citation by the academy might not change his life, but certainly send a message that artistes and art never die. And, the academy deserves kudos for spotting him from a state of obscurity. His humility came to the fore, reacting to the recognition by the Academy when he said that credit for his award should go to the people of his village.

Taani, who beats traditional drum, lives in abject penury

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