Cultural Resistance through Carnatic Music

Performance is clearly a potent medium for spreading and making accessible what otherwise might be problematic and unpopular1. This is exactly what T.M. Krishna attempted to do with his video performance on the issue of the common property (Poramboke land). This song is addressing the common lands being taken over by the state and being given away for commercial and industrial purposes. It addresses the uncritical attitude of the people towards such a developmental path being pursued by of the current government. We are used to political issues being taken to the masses to spread awareness through folk music. But this song Poramboke is one of the first instances where an issue that has political connotations is being performed in the Carnatic form by a leading vocalist.

T.M. Krishna, Magsaysay awardee, is known for locking horns with ‘Carnatic music’ orthodoxy and making efforts to take the ‘music’ to the public at large. As a part of that endeavour he chose to perform at the Urur Olcott Kuppam Margazhi Vizha, a cultural festival of the fishing hamlets in Chennai that coincides with the Chennai Music Season (meant only for Carnatic music concerts). This exercise created quite a racket among Chennai’s caste elite, who think that Carnatic music should be performed only for a ‘dignified audience’. T M Krishna regularly voices his concerns on various issues through his writings in the media. This is a rarity as the music fraternity hardly opinionates their views on the socio-political affairs of the society.

 

Video Courtesy: Vettiver Collective

Video subtitle text:

Poramboke (n.)
/por-um-bokku/

1. places reserved for shared communal uses
(water bodies, grazing lands . . . )
2. a pejorative intended to demean and devalue a person or place

How did the meaning change from the first to the second?
Poramboke is not for you, nor for me
It is for the community, it is for the earth (*4)
Poramboke is in your care, it is in mine (*2)
It is our common responsibility towards nature, towards the earth
Poramboke is in your care, it is in mine
It is our common responsibility towards nature, towards the earth

The flood has come and gone, what have we learnt from that? (*2)
To construct buildings inside waterbodies, what wisdom is that?
The flood has come and gone, what have we learnt from that?
To construct buildings inside waterbodies, what wisdom is that?
On the path that rainwater takes to the sea
What need have we of concrete buildings? (*2)
It was not the rivers that chose to flow through cities (*2)
Rather, it was around rivers that the cities chose to grow
It was not the rivers that chose to flow through cities
Rather, it was around rivers that the cities chose to grow
And lakes that rainwater awaited
Poramboke – they were reverently labelled (*2)

After Ennore got its power plant (*2)
Acres of ash, but river scant
After Ennore got its power plant,
Acres of ash, but river scant
The sea and the river, has been kept apart (*2)
The white sky, has blackened
The sea and the river, has been kept apart
The white sky, has blacked (*2)
Once he gets done with Ennore, he will come for your place too (*3)
If you stop, challenge or dare to resist, ‘MAKE IN INDIA’ he will lie and insist (*3)
Growth, jobs, opportunities; these are just flimsy excuses (*2)
For one who sold the waterbodies, the lake is mere poramboke
Growth, jobs, opportunities; these are just flimsy excuses
For one who sold the waterbodies, the lake is mere poramboke (*2)
You and I, then; what are we to him? (*2)
We are poramboke too (*2)
I certainly am poramboke! (*2)
How about you? Are you poramboke too?
I certainly am poramboke!
How about you? Are you poramboke too?
I certainly am poramboke!



1. Jonathan C. Friedman in‘The Routledge History of Social Protest In Popular Music.’