Chennai

Corona crooners: Tamil ‘gaana’ and folk performers spread COVID-19 awareness with music

Gaana Sudhakar   | Photo Credit: special arrangement

Pallavaram-based Sudhakar calls himself ‘Gaana Sudhakar’ in his music videos. He has been doing them for a few years now, taking on popular subjects and experimenting with gaana-based songs on them.

What has catapulted him to fame, however, is not his musical tributes to leading Tamil stars like Vijay and Ajith or his ‘amma sentiment’ songs. His popularity is the result of his Tamil song centred around COVID-19 awareness, loosely based on the tune of the 1987 Tamil film number ‘Madurai Marikkozhunthu’. Released in March, the song with witty lyrics and a catchy beat, spreads awareness on health guidelines; it also takes digs at China.

Since then, the 31-year-old singer has been rechristened ‘China Sudhakar’ in his neighbourhood.

“This song has taken me to new heights,” says Sudhakar, “That a track spreading awareness has gained popularity gives me a lot of joy. Usually, we do not like listening to advice from other people; this song does exactly that, but it has still caught the attention of people.”

Watch: How gaana and folk music spread awareness on COVID-19
 

The 1.2 crore views on YouTube and 3,000-plus comments stand testimony to that. Sudhakar has already worked on two other COVID-19 awareness tracks. “In the early stages of my career, I made a lot of mistakes by singing about negative things. Thanks to Gaana Bala, I have moved towards positivity and spreading cheer.”

He is one among a handful of singers who are using gaana, a popular musical genre that usually consists of lyrics in the Madras baashai, to create COVID-19 awareness.

A fitting tribute

Like gaana, naatupura folk-style songs also aim to do the same. Singer Velmurugan, popular for Tamil film songs like ‘Otha Sollala’ (Aadukalam) and 'Kathari Poovazhagi' (Asuran), has also come up with four songs over the last few months. If his ‘Thaai Manne..’ , penned by film lyricist Ilaya Kamban, was a thanksgiving to healthcare professionals, cops and government officals working during the pandemic, his other songs, ‘Idhu Enna Ulagamada' and ‘Ulle Po’ highlighted the travails that people are facing, and advised everyone to stay at home. “I worked with the police department for a song titled ‘Kaakhi Sattai’,” says the singer, who also starred in an awareness short film Pachai Mandalam.

Meanwhile, in Gummidipoondi, constable R Sasikala has been writing and singing songs spreading COVID-19 awareness since March. A couple of the numbers, ‘Kollu Corona’ and ‘Neelvom’, have already been released on Facebook, and earned appreciation among audiences, while the third in that series, ‘Palanaala’, is ready for release. “Singing gives me a lot of happiness,” she says.

As a constable, she sometimes has a 24-hour, 7am to 7am shift, which involves work at both the station and outside. “We get a break for a couple of hours during this shift, and that’s when I sing and shoot these videos, after procuring due permission,” says Sasikala, who has vivid memories of learning devotional songs in a government-run music school in Pudukottai a few years ago and working on devotional albums on Sai Baba and Shiva.

She says that all those learnings are helping her today. “People who liked my songs have already asked me to think about a ‘future song’ during which we will hopefully have a vaccine. I have visualised it on the lines of people chasing away the COVID-19 virus.”

Watch: How gaana and folk music spread awareness on COVID-19
 


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Printable version | Oct 24, 2021 3:36:09 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/spreading-awareness-through-gaana-and-folk-songs/article32304463.ece

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