Oorali band on bus tour to thank rescuer fishermen

Oorali music band's Martin John flags off their flood express bus at Aspinwall House, the main venue of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale at Fort Kochi

Kochi: A bus carrying artistes of a conversational music band began its trip on Monday to meet the fisherfolk and thank them for their rescue efforts during the floods that drowned the state last year. The ‘Oorali Flood Express’ with 10 artistes on board was flagged off from Fort Kochi’s Aspinwall House, which is the main venue of the 108-day Kochi-Muziris Biennale.

The team of singers, instrumentalists and drummers left southward for their first stop: Alappad, which is a narrow strip of land sandwiched between the Arabian sea and a canal, in Kollam district.

The Oorali band, known for its folk-reggae songs with themes on society and politics, will sing at the hamlets that saw volunteers setting out with their boats for rescue operations during the deluge in August last year. The artistes will interact with the fisher folk by staying with them for a while in 10 places during the six-week tour.

The first leg to south Kerala will be over this month-end, after which the Oorali Express will take a 10-day break. The artistes will resume their trip on February 9 and visit places in central and north Kerala for a fortnight, the 2010-formed band’s head Martin John said.

“We will sing along the shores; it is our thanksgiving to the fisher folk on behalf of everyone in the state,” Martin told a media conference at the Biennale Pavilion ahead of the trip. “How can we forget the services of a people, who didn’t hesitate for a second to rescue people far and near in the deluge (during August last year)!”

The crew of the Oorali Express expects local people to join them as it reaches the districts of Kollam, Thiruvananthapuram and Alappuzha. “We want people from each shore to participate and perform with us,” said Martin, who hails from low-lying Manakkodi near Thrissur in central Kerala.

Artists of the Oorali music band at a press conference organised by the Kochi Biennale Foundation at the Pavilion in Fort Kochi ahead of the flag-off of their flood express. From left, Sudeesh Oorali, Martin John and Saji V

The second leg of the journey will cover villages in the districts of Ernakulam, Thrissur and Malappuram.

The 1998-model bus, now painted in dark red, initially plied for public transportation in Thrissur, before Oorali bought it in 2011 and later redesigned it into a moving theatre.

Martin said casteism reared its ugly phase in Kerala even during the calamity when families of privileged communities refused to get into boats of the fishermen. “The men and their families merit thanksgiving,” he said, adding that interacting with them would be a show of basic courtesy to the saviours than giving them monetary gift," he said at the press meet. He was accompanied by guitarist Saji V and drummer Sudheesh Oorali.

The artistes rendered half-a-dozen songs at the press meet. Oorali will perform in March at the biennale venue.

The Oorali Express will camp at Alappad on January 15 and 16. It would halt at Vizhinjam in Thiruvananthapuram on January 18 and 19. The next stop will be near Valiyathura (January 21 and 22). Then, it would move northward and stay at Thangasseri in Kollam (January 24 and 25). In Alappuzha, the camp is at Mararikulam (January 28 and 29).

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