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Sings his way into hearts

Balladeer, Vangapandu Prasad Rao, along with his daughter Usha presenting a revolutionary song at Darakonda. --- Photo: K.R. Deepak

Balladeer, Vangapandu Prasad Rao, along with his daughter Usha presenting a revolutionary song at Darakonda. --- Photo: K.R. Deepak  

"Emi pilloi yeldamosthava... Sikakulam lo Seethakondaki... "

"Yentrametta nadusthuvundante... "

These folk songs inspire not only tribals but also others in India and even abroad. These songs penned by the balladeer, Vangapandu Prasada Rao, are the backbone of the Peoples' War. Little wonder that tribals trek long distances to hear balladeers like Vangapandu and Gadar sing and perform to these songs. The songs, which are mostly about exploitation of the working class and tribals by the rulers and the measures to combat them, inspire them beyond measure.

At the Martyrs Memorial Meeting conducted at Darakonda nearly 200 km. away from Visakhapatnam, Borra Nageswara Rao of Ammupalem village near Eluru came all the way from there to see and hear the balladeer, Gadar, sing them. Though Gadar did not attend the programme, Vangapandu, Usha, and their cultural troupe filled the gap.

Vangapandu and Gadar founded the Jana Natya Mandali, the cultural wing of the Peoples' War in 1972. "I have written over 300 songs in the past three decades. Of these 12 have been translated into 10 Indian languages like Tamil, Bengali, Kannada and Hindi besides all the tribal dialects. One song has also been translated into English," says Vangapandu.

He performs on the invitation of various peoples' organisations. He gave over 2,000 performances not in AP but also in other parts of the country. "My song Yentrametta Nadusthuvundante... " was translated by a professor into English and I am told that it was admired both in the US and in England," says Vangapandu with a sense of pride in his eyes. He also teaches youth to sing and dance to the songs.

His daughter, Usha, has been enlightening and entertaining the tribals through the songs for the last 15 years. She was jailed for a year in the past on a charge of inciting the tribals through her songs.

B. MADHU GOPAL

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