Playing 'kinnari' to the tunes of tradition

Playing 'kinnari' to the tunes of tradition

Playing 'kinnari' to the tunes of tradition

Over 300 huts set up on the outskirts of N Devarahalli in Challakere taluk of Chitradurga district do not exhibit any interesting features except for their bamboo structures and colourful saris used as roofs. But as one approaches the area, a world of music unfolds in front of the visitor.

Men dressed in long kurta, colourful headgear decorated with bird feathers, and other antique ornaments go about singing their songs to the accompaniment of kinnari. The community, which makes a living by playing this folk musical instrument, is known by the name of the instrument — Kinnari Jogis.

The string instrument, which resembles the Veena, is described in detail in many books and sculptures of medieval times.

The art of singing — both traditional and contemporary — to the accompaniment of kinnari have given them a unique place in the cultural arena of the State. The songs narrate mythological stories, mostly from the Mahabharata, folk tales, and even reflect the customs and  practices of the society. The language used also varies, from halegannada to hosakannada, based on the content of the song.

Although the younger generation has stayed away from mainstream education, they do pick up the nuances of music with ease. It is inherent in them, perhaps. They have been continuing the legacy of their ancestors, making it relevant by adding new notes and styles.

While they continue singing traditional songs, sung by their ancestors, they also visit houses, mostly rural, and sing extempore songs — narrating or praising people. In fact, the money they earn through this is their sole source of income.

Their nomadic lifestyle and lack of access to basic necessities has not stopped them from getting national recognition. Some members of the community have got prizes and awards on different occasions.“Melody doesn’t need any recommendation.

Our musical journey has been decorated with many awards,” says a senior artist of the community. Karnataka Folklore University, Haveri has honoured them for their contribution to folk music. Their performances in district and state level platforms have been highly appreciated.

But the immense talent hasn’t helped improve their living condition. The lack of basic amenities and proper exposure has forced them to seek alms to meet day-to-day expenses. They also practise traditional medicine, inherited from their ancestors, which also generates some income.

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