A seed that germinated in the crucible of the farmer’s protest in Delhi evolved into a song about memories, protest and call to action. ‘Malavaazhi’, a crowd-funded music video, released by Kerala-based ethno music band Karinthalakoottam, is a melodious ode to farming and farmers.
The music, rhythm and lyrics of ‘Malavaazhi’ celebrate the seed as a symbol of evolution, civilisation and culture. The song was composed primarily with native musical instruments such as otta , chenda , thudi , vadi chilambu and kuzhi thalam .
Karinthalakoottam focusses on reviving oral heritage and the music of the soil. Memories were mined for songs sung on different occasions in Kerala. Lyrics and music of those songs were given a contemporary touch and energy, which derived inspiration from ritualistic performance art forms such as Theyyam, Karinkali, Kaalakali and so on. Gradually, the band began writing their own songs.
Lyrics for farmers
During the second lockdown in 2021, the musicians led by Remesh Karinthalakoottam, an employee of the Kerala State Transport Corporation, wanted to express their solidarity with the farmers’ protests in Delhi.
While the song talks about farmers who nurture the seeds from dawn to dusk and often go hungry as landlords reap the benefits of their toil, the lyrics also celebrate the seeds. Woven into the lyrics are the names of more than 25 native paddy varieties of Kerala, such as Aariyan, Ponnaariyan, Rajakazhama, Chitteni, Thavalakannan and so on. Two stanzas focus just on those seeds, says Vijeesh Karinthalakoottam, one of the singers. The last stanza of ‘Malavaazhi’ exhorts workers to stand together to better their prospects.
Remyath Raman and Vineethlal wrote the lyrics, which are a blend of local dialects. Vineeth scored the music as well. The vocals are led by Akhilesh Alath, Subhash Bharathan and Vijeesh.
The band delved into folk culture to compose ‘Malavaazhi’, which is rooted in the agrarian past of Kerala. Malavazhi is the protagonist in Malavazhiyattom, an ancient traditional art form with its origins in Central Kerala. The Pakkanar consider Malavazhi as the protector of seeds. For rural communities, such festivals were not just a celebration, but also about preserving their seeds, soil and the cattle for generations to come, says Vijeesh, who works as a high school teacher in Palakkad.
Directed and filmed by Aghosh Vyshnavam, the recently released music video, which was shot overnight in a man-made forest near Perinthalmanna, has been received well with more than 119K views. Vijeesh admits that the video has come as a shot in the arm for the band, which has been languishing thanks to the successive lockdowns. “The song was recorded in November 2021. We were unable to work with all the musicians in Karinthalakoottam. We had to make do with people who were available to come together at the time,” says Vijeesh.