Folk denotes common people. It was English thinker William John Thoms who first used the word folklore in 1846. And in the middle of the 19th century, folklore flourished in Europe as a system of traditions, ancient customs, festivals, fables, myths, legends, timeless stories, and proverbs. Every country and people have their own history. Soon it became rampant through stories and songs.
The Soul of Folk, an emerging folk band from Kerala celebrates this idea. In the Shaji Kailas film 'Kaduva', they have sung the promo song, ‘Pala Palli Thirupalli’ picturized on Prithviraj Sukumaran. And it is already a chartbuster! Atul Narukara, a member of Soul of folk talks to Manorama online.
What’s the idea behind the name?
Every country, caste, and race have different cultures. Folk songs should be inclusive. Similar to what William Johns meant we are hoping that a lot of people's voices are heard through our group. Each generation will have its own thoughts, songs, and humour. So the idea behind the name (Soul of folk) of this band was about finding the soul in every person.
Tell us more about the members of your band…
There are about 15 of us, including Sreehari Tharayil, Prajin Thiruvali, Subash, Abhinav, Nilesh, Jisin, Binoop, Sanjay, Shijin, Karthika, and Neeraj. We are a group of friends hailing from this village called Narukara in Malappuram. Folk music is the real essence of our singing. And we want the new generation to hear it. We want them to like it. Usually, we get the opportunity to perform in colleges. The younger generation also love folk songs. We want people to see our music band as the champions of folklore. That’s our dream. And we consider cinema as a platform that will take us closer to our dream.
How did you bag ‘Kaduva’?
We shared one of our song videos on social media. After listening to it, cinematographer and director Santosh Sivan offered us a film. Jakes Bejoy composed the music for the film. Once we sang the song ‘Pala Palli Thirupalli’ for Jakes, he was the one who said he could use that song for ‘Kaduva.’ It was also his decision to show us in that song. I have also sung a song in ‘Puzhu’.
We first did a song called ‘Ithulumere pandu Njangal.’ That and ‘Kaduva’s song was written by Sreehari Tharayil. There are a lot of singers who have been forgotten in history. Those voices had no listeners despite singing their hearts out. If ever our band becomes a resounding success, we hope to make the world listen to their songs.
Why did you create Soul of folk?
In Tamil cinema, we have seen them use their folk instruments in their music. We have more than 150 folk instruments in our music. And I am sure not many would have even seen most of these instruments. We have some priceless instruments of the tribal community, be it the wooden drumbeats of Parayan pattu (songs of a tribe in Wayanad) or Thudi (musical instrument of Wayanad tribal community) of Panan pattu (songs of bards). We have such artists in our band. We also have taken the responsibility of archiving such songs. These folk instruments can provide the same thrill of any modern-day electronic musical instruments or DJ beats. We have also consciously tried to imbibe that in our music. For the 'Kaduva' song we haven’t used any electronic music.
What about the female voices?
It’s not like we have deliberately tried to keep away female singers from our programmes. We usually attend programmes at faraway locations keeping an eye on our budget. So maybe because of the circumstances, we haven’t been able to include them in such programmes. But when we attend big functions/programmes we make it a point to take our entire group and that includes women. Once we get proper finances, we are hopeful of expanding the band.
Are you aiming for social changes through your music?
Folk songs have voices of people who have been kept away from the mainstream on the basis of their race, caste, and religion. There are people who have been forced to keep a distance or found it difficult to live in peace owing to caste discrimination. And there is no mention of such people anywhere in history. But that’s there in the songs. Folk songs are very political. There are those who have had a change of heart after listening to such songs. We have found the correct platforms to express our politics through our songs. We are happy to sing and express our feelings there.
How have folk songs evolved?
No matter how beautiful the folk songs are unless you update them according to the changing times, there won't be any listeners for them. You can see such organic changes in folklore. We do like to update such folk songs from different parts of the land and compose and sing them without taking away their essence. And such songs are always warmly welcomed.
Tell us about your upcoming songs
Netflix is making an anthology series based on MT Vasudevan Nair’s stories. There is a Santosh Sivan directed segment called ‘Abhayam Thedi Veendum’ and in that I have written two songs and Sreehari Tharayil has written the other two. I sang three out of the four songs. So far we have only performed at stages. Now we want to compose our own songs and expand our band. We hope to find some musicians who haven’t been documented in history and introduce their songs to the world. It is the society that creates artists. So we also have a responsibility towards society. And yes we will take the brickbats with the bouquets.