Folk heritage in twilight years

At 110, there is still verve in the voice of folk singer Akkayyamma

Aged 110, the folk artiste’s voice has retained the same enchantment, just like her invincible spirit.  Whether singing before an audience or for pure contentment of the self, her songs have a cathartic
effect.

Heritage personified

A treasure trove of folk and traditional songs including ‘Osage pada’, ‘Sobana pada’ and ‘Kolata pada,’ Akkayyamma personifies a cultural heritage in the twilight of its era.

Among three children, she is the only daughter of Kurubara Pillappa and Muniyamma, residents of Marasandra in Bangalore Rural district. At an young age, she was married to Munishamappa of Doddihalli.

In the time of distress due to the far-reaching effects of the colonial rule on the rural economy, the folk art was soothing.

“We were under the rule of others. But our spirit was free and hence, there was no dearth for artistic expression such as folk songs or games.”

Fascination for folk

Since her childhood, Akkayyamma had a fascination for singing folk songs. As illiteracy or minimum knowledge of formal schooling was not an impediment to learn the folk arts and songs, she could follow her calling.

“When I was in school, I used to watch a lot of street plays based on mythologies and epics such as ‘Sati Sakkubai,’ ‘Shani Mahatma’ and dances such as Kolata. These programmes would stretch for entire night. I learnt the songs here by repeating these songs aloud at home when others have gone to field.”

Learning songs

Akkayyamma, as a young girl learnt the traditional songs sung usually on various festive occasions and religious functions, from the old women when she accompanied her mother to different places and ceremonies. “I collected Kurubadyavarapada and other songs from these old ladies. My elders are my teachers of music,” she said.

As there were no other medium of entertainment but for these folk arts, she could pursue her passion for singing with ease.

Turning point

Her marriage to Munishamappa turned another turning point in her life as he also shared the same passion for music and arts. Together they watched the street plays and Munishamappa would hold the household in awe by repeating the songs and scenes of these plays at home, she said, with tears on her cheeks as tribute to her deceased husband.

Nevertheless, ageing has its effect on her memory and as a result, loss of data. Besides, there are no such traditional weddings or ceremonies where songs by these elderly women were an added charm. Akkayyamma resorts to her singing for self-contentment, crooning in front yard of her house.

Need to save

The folk artistes and scholars need to hurry up to record and save the treasure of folk music for the future generation. Litterateur Rajamma has taken the initiative around 30 years ago and wrote extensively in magazines about the folk artiste. She also recorded the folk songs and handed over them to then chairman of Janapada and Yakshagana Academy Dr H L Nagegowda. Akkayyamma had got an honorarium of Rs 30.

Lankesha Samvedane, Odugara Vedike, Srisai Kalaniketana and Janapada Academy have also felicitated the centurion.

But, what is expected beyond the honour and felicitation is the sincere efforts to preserve and pursue the cultural heritage that Akkayyamma represents.

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