I AM… Kole Basava Musician

July 05, 2015 06:18 pm | Updated 06:18 pm IST

Timeless folk tradition Subbaiah (left) with his brother Ramesh. Photo: Bhumika K.

Timeless folk tradition Subbaiah (left) with his brother Ramesh. Photo: Bhumika K.

I am Subbaiah and this is my brother Ramesh, and this is our Kole Basava, Seetha. I am 23 and my brother here is 24.

(Kole Basavas are a part of folklore tradition. Trained and heavily decorated bulls used to be taken from home to home, where people would ask it questions about the future and offer the bull money and food in return for a nod of its head. Often there would be a pair of bulls named Rama and Seeta and the musician would put up a show o the marriage of Rama-Seeta. Now the bulls mostly just go along with the musicians who play on the volaga and drum, often on Fridays and on festivals, from door to door, seeking money.)

We are from Kadapa District in Andhra Pradesh, but we live here in shed camps in Kodigehalli in Bengaluru, where we pay a rent of Rs. 200 per month. This is a family tradition that my father and grandfather have passed on to us. Once a year we go back to our village to look into our meagre patch of lands. There’s not much water so we don’t grow too many crops.

Now it’s the Shravana season, so we are here in Bengaluru till all the festivals get over, all the way till Deepavali. We learnt to play music from our guru in Tirupati. Now we also play songs in Tamil, Telugu, Malyalam and Kannada. Seetha here is wearing ornaments and decorations from my father’s time. Sometimes we take bigger dhols also along with us to play.

We are generally invited to play at temples, for family functions, and in weddings. If about five of us from the family are called to play at a wedding only then we make about Rs. 5,000.

Every Friday we set out with Seetha playing in front of people’s homes. We have to keep up this family sampradaya (tradition) so we continue to do this. Otherwise it does not bring us much money. At each home they give us anything ranging from Rs. 5 to Rs. 20. Others simply chase us away.

We do many odd jobs at other times — sometimes we sharpen knives, some people call us to do masonry work and repairs in their homes.

Our parents didn’t send us to school, so we can’t get jobs. But we want to make sure our children go to school. Both our children now study in school.

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