National Award Glory In A Tribal Hamlet

Nanjiyamma

Folk singer, Nanjiyamma shot to fame with her song Kalakaattha Sandanamaram from the Malayalam movie Ayyappanum Koshiyum. Nanjiyamma belongs to the Irula tribe in Attappady, the sole tribal block in Kerala.

Her homeland situates in the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve and she finds a livelihood by farming and cattle herding; however, she has always been a folk singer with Azad Kala Samithi, a troupe of tribal folk singers.

The song she created in her native tribal language, Irula, talks about the flora and fauna of her forest land and was a hit among the masses even before the release of the movie. The usage of traditional tribal instruments like parai, davil, kokal and jaltra added to its raw and rustic appeal.

Her first recognition came in the form of a special jury award at the Kerala State Awards 2020. The National Award, 2020, for the best female playback singer put her on par with the other popular playback singers in the country. Moreover, her native language, Irula, which has no script, was used in a promotional song for a public outreach program in Kerala. The song and now the national recognition have made this daughter of the earth a household name in Kerala and across the country. While life continues with very few upheavals for this unassuming musician, here is hoping that her achievement may in future pave the way as a first major step toward recognition for folk musicians across the country.

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