Timeless Tulu folk songs travel to English

The Mugera community performs dudi kunita. Photo courtesy: From the book Mugerara Dudi Kunitagalu, Swaroopa mattu Samskriti by Koira N. Balepuni

The Mugera community performs dudi kunita. Photo courtesy: From the book Mugerara Dudi Kunitagalu, Swaroopa mattu Samskriti by Koira N. Balepuni  


Karnataka Tulu Sahitya Academy to publish book of 53 translated Tulu folk songs

The rich heritage of Tulu folklore, little known beyond coastal Karnataka, will now be available to a larger readership, thanks to the efforts of two retired professors in Mangaluru, who have translated 53 Tulu folk songs into English for the first time.

The book When even moonlight is very hot includes Tulu work songs or Kabitas, dance songs and some lullabies. The work songs are largely sung by women in an agrarian context, and the dance songs, 22 of them, belong to the domain of Dalit communities such as Nalike, Mugera and Mansa.

Translators B. Surendra Rao and K. Chinnappa Gowda told The Hindu that they reflect the voices of women and Dalits. The short work songs are sung while planting paddy seedlings to bring rhythm to work and relieve the tedium of labour, they said.

“The exercise of singing produces a fraternity of working women that transcends individual caste and sectarian identities, but constitutes a larger female identity,” they said. This gives them a freedom that may not be possible in a mixed group. “The rural world, in fact, can offer playful images of transgressions and defiance of prudery,” they said.

Poverty is another image that appears frequently in dance songs. The dance songs of Mugera and Mansa are mostly sung to the accompaniment of dudi (a sleek drum). The Nalike community, whose women sing the songs of Maadira and Chennu, use tembare, a variety of drum. The dance songs are mostly identified as dudi songs. The word is suggestive of toil, and they believe that their drum “talks” when beaten.

The book, which is under print, is expected to be released later this month by Karnataka Tulu Sahitya Academy.

Mr. Rao retired as history professor from Mangalore University, and Mr. Gowda was formerly a professor of Kannada in Mangalore University and also Vice-Chancellor of Karnataka Folklore University, Haveri.

They have translated modern Tulu poems into English and published them as Ladle in a Golden Bowl. They have also translated Tulu folk tales in an anthology, The Rain Boy, and Tulu novel Mittabail Yamunakka: A Tale of a Landlord’s House by D K. Chowta.

Why the title?

The title of the book is drawn from a phrase which recurs in one of the poems, “Let us go dear! To holy Kaveri Spring!”

The title encapsulates both the ambience and mood of the work songs and the dance songs, centred on women. Her nature is known to be soft; she is kind to the world, like moonlight; but she carries within her many burning memories of injuries and wrongs. The ambience in which songs are sung is outwardly pleasant; some of the dances are preferably performed literally in the moonlight. They have mirth and jollity about them. But beneath the songs and dance, there is pain that is painfully held down.

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2020 9:12:35 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/timeless-tulu-folk-songs-travel-to-english/article22920790.ece

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