• Villupattu in the Archives

    Apart from Dr. Stuart Blackburn’s collections, there are archival materials from the 1930s that have found their place in the ARCE. Arnold Adriaan Bake, a dutch ethnomusicologist, has collected music spanning decades through the lengths and breadths of Indian subcontinent, in many formats of audio and visual material including wax cylinders, tefi-bands, open reel tapes and 16mm black and white and colour silent films, providing a complex and detailed document of music and ritual in South Asia from the 1930s to the late 1950s. In this section, we explore some of Bake’s Villupattu materials as well as of Nazir Ali Jairazbhoy and Amy Catlin, who returned in 1984 to the original sites of Bake's 1938 South Indian fieldwork.

    Track Information : Sasta Story, Recorded in 1938 at Kanyakumari (also referred to as Cape Camorin)
    Performer(s) : Unknown
    Collection : Arnold Bake

    The Festival: Kotai

    Bow songs performances bring the narrative world into the ritual world of a festival called the “Kotai” [kotai] (‘gift’ or ‘offering’). Traditionally, the kotai was held only in temples dedicated to bow song deities. This section of the exhibit explores the ritual realm and the geographical context associated with this festival.

    Track Information : Sasta Story performed during a Kotai festival in Achenkulam Village, Kanyakumari district (1984)
    Performer(s) : Sivalingam Nadar group (Singers: Lingaswami, Meenakshi, Puthangam)
    Collection : Nazir Ali Jairazbhoy

    Birth Songs

    Built around auspicious births and marriage, the birth stories are performed at the beginning and end slots of the kotai festival. These stories create a world in which singers and audiences enjoy humor, especially sexual comedy, social satire, fantasy, and beauty. In this section, we look at two specific songs, the Story of Sasta/Vallarakkan and the Marriage of Muthupattan.

    Track Information : Vallarakkan Goes to School
    Performer(s) : Punkani & Group, Kuntal, Kanyakumari dist., 1978
    Collection : Stuart Blackburn

    Death Songs

    Death Stories are at the ritual centre of the bow song performances. Ritually more elaborate and considerably longer than birth stories, they are marked by an intense possession dance. The death scene in the story is sung at the exact moment that the tiparatanai (ritual action) culminates in the possession dance. When the hero is killed in the story, he appears in the festival in the body of his dance medium. In this section, we explore “The Death of the Little Brothers”, or Tampimar story.

    Track Information : Tampimar Story
    Performer(s) : Krishna Nadar & Group, Amantivilai, Kanyakumari Dist., 1978
    Collection : Stuart Blackburn