When you hear tribal music, your immediate connect is to the song Kalakatha from Prithviraj and BijuMenon-starrer ‘Ayyappanum and Koshyum’ or Thillele, the Irular tribal festival song in ‘Kumbalangi Nights.’
But, Sruthin Lal, co-founder of the Archival and Research Project (ARPO) says these songs only partially capture the essence of tribal music, while the real, raw exuberance of the music of tribal communities is still confined to deep woods with little exposure to the modern, outside world.
ARPO, an independent not-for-profit organisation, is an attempt to preserve, protect and popularise the music of Kerala’s tribal communities.
It is also a unique, lofty bid to generate awareness about the language and culture of the tribal communities largely unknown outside their closeted collectives.
The ARPO Earthlore, a tribal music concert in which Irulas of Palakkad and the Kattunayakans will perform at the Bolgatty Palace on Sunday evening.
“We want the raw music, sound and rhythms of the tribes to reach the people without any hindrance or outward interventions. At present, we have focused on tribal communities of Irulas and Kattunayakans .
ARPO is also attempting to trace and explore the songs and music of each tribe in Kerala, a gigantic task considering the fact that the music has not been recorded for posterity.
Also, the younger generation of tribal communities is not very keen to carry the songs or the knowledge of their forefathers forward, so there is a risk of losing it all,” says Sruthin.
The music and rhythms of each community are unique.
“The tribal communities use the instruments made from the natural materials they receive from the forest, which make their music very unique. What is common among them, however, is that they communicate their happiness, sadness and triumph in the form of dance and music,” he said.
Though there have been some initiatives by the government to preserve the rich tradition of the tribes and popularise their culture, it is yet to reach a wider audience.
“We are trying to bring in an international appeal so that the music of the tribes here resonate across the world,” he said.
Charu Harikrishnan is the percussionist while musicians Sreekanth Hariharan and Julian Shoming have also collaborated on the project.
The organisation hopes to digitally archive the music and hold similar concerts regularly in the coming months to preserve a rare cultural heritage that could otherwise fade into oblivion.