20-Aug-05 (Created: 20-Aug-05) | More in 'Telugu Related'


Traumatized summers

Perhaps this is not a common practice anymore. Summers in Coastal Andhra during the 70s are no less forgiving than they are today. Things are put away. Cows, cattle, and all moving things are herded in and kept inside of well shaded and cooler huts made with palm leaves.

The midday sun is brilliant turning red dirt into a tinge of orange. Yet you see these itenerant peddlers that go from village to village seeking munitions peddling their art. In this case it is singing with a hint of divinity. There is never a dearth of superstitions in any society. So the housewives would invite one of these performers in the hope that one day a good fortune would come their way and they would not like to be surprised.

This is a god awful singing if ever there was god awful singing. It takes the light out of you in the middle of an Indian summer day. They have this continuous monotonous sad droll that would extend for a good hour.

This art form, some times, endearingly but majority of the times, derogatorily called "Sodi". Currently is a synonym for a "long winding song of boredom"

So called Bhava Geethalu

During 50s and 60s there a type of poetry inspired by Tagore took hold in all of India, including Andhra. This is called "Bhava Geethalu" (Songs of the heart) with an emphasis on emotion and sentiment. Well the flip side of it is that in their journey from Tagore to the steet poet they ended up being just "Sentimental Songs".

If they had stayed in writing it would have saved lot of melancholy to the general public. Unfortunately they were picked up by state sponsered Radio. Although like Tagore, All India Radio did some great service to the nation, a good number of times rendering of these songs are quite poignantly aimed at how to make you cry, not because of any emotional content of the song but merely how low art can sink without talent. It would be quite akin to me giving a concert and subjecting the unsuspecting audience a barage of hopelessness.

I have tears in my eyes twice

Recently I was listening to a movie track made in 50s or 60s, and I am not sure what the exact dates are. The movie is called "Tenali Ramakrishna". The setting is 500 years ago and the place is the Court of the legendary Artisan Kannada King Krishna Devaraya.

It is said many times that Dhurjati (One of the 8 court poets) is a well accomplished poet of rhyme. In the movie the King asks him to render one of his compositions.

Dhurjati not being the maven of the movie, was casted by a brother-in-law of the producer (surely), and reads this most elegant poem that is utterly reminiscent of "70s summer explained Sodi".

My heart just sank with despair. I just thought anymore of this and I couldn't just bear the ineptness anymore. I was bordering on tears at that point. This is one way for sure to kill a soul.

Rise of Phoenix

Nevertheles that lasted only for a few seconds, and then I have heard this great talent like a monsoon celebraion break open the skies. Just the contrast of talent is very revealing.

The lines that came out of the voice are these

stuha mathi yaina 
Andhra kavi Dhurjati palukula kela kalgenee
yathulitha maadhuree mahima

haa telisen 
Buvanaika mOhanOddata 
sukumAra vaara vanitaa janataa Ghana taapa haari 
santhatha madhu-raadharOdata sudhA rasa 
dhaarala grolutan sumee

These are attributed to a contemporary of Dhurjati, Tenali Ramakrishna, for which the film is originally made.

The way Ghantasala rendered these is exceptionally brilliant. Perhaps part of his daily ritual as he sang for so long to the fortune of Andhra.

A very unsure adlibed translation

This poet, of the land of Andhra, 
peaked in this style of poetry, 
not sure how his words acquired the sweetness and power.
Perhaps revealing on note, 
be his association, 
tender sweet courtesans of unparalled beauty,
drunk from the fun and frolic
so emanates the said reputation

A debt unparalled

The debt owed to this extra ordinary singer Ghantasala is beyond price. He sang for 30 to 40 years. Thousands of songs. Without him most of the poets would have been still relatively unknown to the most. His kind of music or voice is so enriching to the soul it is nourishing.

Societies owe enormous debt to these singers.