Umesh PK, an award-winning artist from the Malavettuvar community in Kerala, shares his insights with ARPO regarding his community's folklore, their efforts to preserve and restore it for future generations, and the issue of outsiders pirating his works without giving proper credit.
With a deep commitment to revitalizing the songs of his community, Umesh PK has devoted himself to teaching over 300 students and engaging with fellow enthusiasts of cultural revival. He passionately discusses traditional medicines, songs, and the promotion of Mangalam Kali, a folk dance that holds great significance in Kasaragod.
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The Malavettuvar tribe originates from the districts of Kasaragod and Kannur. The etymology of their name suggests that they were primarily hunter-gatherers, as "Vedan" or "Vettaikaran" translates to "hunters." However, over time, they transitioned to farming, as evidenced by the agricultural themes prevalent in their songs. In these songs, they humbly request supplies from feudal lords to sustain themselves and build houses, as they are unable to make direct demands. According to the 2011 census, the Malavettuvar community had a population of less than 20,000, with most residing in rural areas.
As Umesh PK's work gains mainstream attention, his songs often become appropriated and end up as DJ mixes, including popular ones like "Panthal Koodi Kalikkan vaa." Umesh expresses his frustration, stating, "People steal these songs, perform them, and gain recognition without acknowledging their origins. They simply claim they obtained them from somewhere without mentioning the source."
However, Umesh is not seeking retribution; he seeks recognition for his community's heritage. Through his artistry, Umesh's "Thudi" beats resonate with the remnants of the rich folklore left behind by his community. His desire is to ensure that the cultural legacy of the Malavettuvar community is acknowledged and celebrated.