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Telangana Balladeer languishes in neglect

Telangana Balladeer languishes in neglect
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Darshanam Mogulaiah sings at a nerve wrecking high pitch with the accompaniment of the Kinnera Veena, a musical instrument handed over to him by his...

Darshanam Mogulaiah’s rustic singing style and his rare instrument Kinnera Veena does not have takers today

Darshanam Mogulaiah sings at a nerve wrecking high pitch with the accompaniment of the Kinnera Veena, a musical instrument handed over to him by his grandfather Ellaiah. For first time listeners, this high pitch could be rattling, but as you settle down to listen to this balladeer, you listen to the local flavour of Mahbubnagar district. ‘Palleturi Pitta’, ‘Gajula Patti’, ‘Vanga Fakeera Goud’ and many other songs are about a ‘Robin Hood’ type legend, who robbed the rich and helped the poor in Mahbubnagar District. Many of Mogulaiah’s songs hover around the times of Wanaparthy Samsthanam, Gadwal and Achampeta.

Darshanam Mogulaiah playing Kinnera Veena

Mogulaiah shares his story, “My great grandfather Kazim had first made this Kinnera Veena with coconut shells which was later replaced with ash gourd, pumpkin and a bamboo piece. The ‘twelve frets’ of the Kinnera are made of ‘bull horn’. These frets are my treasure. They are the most important part of the Kinnera and are permanent. The other parts get replaced as they get worn out. The Chiluka (parrot) is also a very important element of my Kinnera. It starts dancing along with me in many of my rhythmic songs. For me money is not important. People must recognise that I have made a sacrifice to protect the heritage of the local songs and raised my voice on social issues through my family tradition. I have always been a nomad and go from place to place singing in gay abandon. If anyone gives money its fine, even otherwise its fine. My son is unwell and needs treatment. Sometimes I do not have money to even buy medicines. But my determination to continue my art is always there. I look forward to teaching him this art form. I want to pass it on to the next generation. But, it has not been easy for me. Many a time, I am tempted to take up an odd job for a living. I try to move away from the Kinnera but it invariably haunts me. I am back to my singing. There are occasions when I had to even pledge my musical instrument with a financier for urgent needs. For them, it has hardly any value, but the financiers always knew that the Kinnera was priceless for me and was a part of me. They were always assured that I would definitely come back and repay their loans to take back my priceless Kinnera. I am not educated. I do not know any other way to get programmes or grants, nor am I sure if I am good for any full-time job. What I know is this rich age old tradition of my great grandfathers. I am willing to go to schools, colleges and any institution which would like to experience the tradition of my Telangana region.”

It is not the first time that he is telling his story of woes. And each time he relates the story, it is in the hope that there is someone out there who will support him and help him take the art forward. But there is hardly any encouragement, either from cultural organisations or the government. And this is despite the fact that he is probably one of the few surviving artistes who play the rare instrument. Yet, his hope has survived.

“So many years have passed away in my journey, moving from place to place. It’s time for me to have a shelter and take my art forward to all interested people,” he sounds wishful.

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