Kochi

‘Qawwali’ photo exhibition in Kochi celebrates the unsung musician

Photojournalist Madhuraj at the exhibition at Durbar Hall Art Gallery in Kochi.

Photojournalist Madhuraj at the exhibition at Durbar Hall Art Gallery in Kochi.

A scene from ‘Qawwali’, an exhibition of photographs by photojournalist Madhuraj, organised by the Kerala Lalithakala Akademi at Durbar Hall Art Gallery in Kochi on Monday.

A scene from ‘Qawwali’, an exhibition of photographs by photojournalist Madhuraj, organised by the Kerala Lalithakala Akademi at Durbar Hall Art Gallery in Kochi on Monday. | Photo Credit: H. VIBHU

The raw voice of Ibrahim Thuruthy resonates from a music system in the upper gallery of Durbar Hall Art Gallery in Kochi. Many ask, who Ibrahim Thuruthy? Only a few know this unsung singer of Fort Kochi, who dedicated his life to music.

Unlike celebrated musicians who find their place under the sun, there is the unknown musician who has devoted his life to promoting, propagating, or just carrying forward an ancestral tradition. ‘Qawwali’, an exhibition of photographs, by photojournalist Madhuraj is a paean to these little-known musicians.

Mr. Madhuraj celebrates their lives in an impressive narrative of 95 works, which focuses on their life and times - history, culture, music, and relationships. Underlying their musical stories is a common thread of a tough, underprivileged life, of surviving day-to-day hardships that binds them.

“Ibrahim was a child when the legendary singer Mehboob held sway. He worked as a coolie, and sang at marriage functions to eke out a living,” says Mr. Madhuraj, who recorded his voice and plays it as background score at the exhibition.

Others who are honoured in this documentation are Anthruakka of Kannur, who played the harmonium used by none other than the famous composer M.S. Baburaj; Radio Koya or Hydros of Kozhikode who had a collection of over 2,000 gramophone records and whose living room turned into a mehfil every evening; Hasan Bhai of Kasaragod, who played a shehnai used by maestro Bismillah Khan and had a collection of 32 musical instruments and even started a Sangeeth Vidyalaya. Others include Ustad Harris Bhai of Koothuparamba from Kannur who lived by the tabla and taught it to children from Vadakkara to Thalassery; Hameed Poothapara, who played the rare sai banjo; and Aboobacker or Aukukka from Baburaj’s tabla group in Kozhikode.

A heartwarming series on friendship titled ‘Dost’ has frames with violinist C.M. Vadiyal and tablaist T.C. Koya, depicting their jugalbandhi in different locations, with the most picturesque being the one on Kozhikode beach.

 A photojournalist, Mr. Madhuraj hails from Payyanur and has along with his professional duties documented social issues in Kerala, like the endosulfan tragedy and the Plachimada issue. His lens has also focused on the Kudankulam nuclear power plant issues.  

“My subjects are common folks who created a musical space in small clubs, in their homes, in street corners. No division of class or culture existed in that space. I was attracted by their dedication and the harmony,” says Mr. Madhuraj, whose documentation covers 15 years of the lives of these unsung musicians of Kerala.

The exhibition concludes on August 14


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Printable version | Aug 9, 2022 9:13:55 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/qawwali-photo-exhibition-in-kochi-celebrates-the-unsung-musician/article65750095.ece