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deponti to the world

my 2 cents

The religious singer, Bhutanahalli, 170619
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I clicked this photo of an itinerant religious singer, with my young friend Prem, while we were watching the Baya Weavers at Bhutanahalli koLA (pond):


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Since he was singing about the maleficient god Shaniswara (the planet Saturn), I clicked him in front of the shrine:

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I was intrigued by his loud and (rather unintelligible) singing, so I took a video of part of his song (you can see my friends concentrating on the birding in the background!)



I also saw Krishnaveni's husband and her son Punith (they run Ravisutha Hotel, where we generally have chai and brefus when we are birding in the area) give alms to the singer:



I posted on FB and asked if such a singer would have a specific name, and got a very detailed reply from Rajpal Navalkar:

"This one is Kamsale. Most of them can be found in North Karnataka. In Maharashtra, too, we have these semi classical and even classical Buas (called Bauls in Bengal) who go around singing Bhajans and Bhavageet."

He went on to add, in detail:

Religious singers are of five groups: (1) Kamsale (2) Neelagaru (3) Chowdike
(4) Gorava (5) Gane.

Professional religious singers sing only those songs which concern their chosen gods, pilgrim centres and temples. Their main purpose is to propagate the supremacy and philosophy of their particular religion to inculcate values and norms in the community. Professional singers are characterised by traditional colourful costumes and conspicuous musical instruments. They command great respect and take active participation in all the religious celebrations of their community.

(1) Kamsale

Kamsale: 'Kamsale', popularly known as 'Devadraguddas' are the disciples of Lord Madayya. 'Kamsale Mela' is a popular folk song which deals with the history of 'Mahadeshwara' (the presiding deity of Malai Mahadeshwara or MM Hills, a renowned pilgrim centre, situated in Mysore district).

The name 'Kamsale' is derived from the traditional musical instrument. It is a unique musical instrument consisting of two bronze plates. The bronze cymbal is in the form of a cup with a broad base. The other plate is a flat structure with a tassel tied in the centre. The cup is held in the left hand and with the help of the tassel the flat plate is held in the right hand and the singer clashes both of them rhythmically during the performances.

'Kamsale' singers sing either individually or in a group. when in group, this form becomes a mela and consists of three members. The main performer plays the 'Kamsale' instrument, supported by two artistes in the background playing an instrument-the 'Dammadi' and the 'Yekatari'-single-stringed musical instrument. The performance consists of narration by the chief singer, who pauses in between to interpret the story. The Kamsale artists do not wear any traditional costumes.

Their dressing is simple, they wear 'Rudraksha' beads, which is their religious emblem, and carry a satchel. They are illiterates and have no printed literature. They learn those songs orally. They participate in fairs, which are held in Mahadeshwara hills during 'Diwali', 'Shivaratri' and 'Ugadi' festivals and are found extensively in Mysore, Mandya and Bangalore districts of the state.

Thank you for all the information, Rajpal. Just a few minutes of that song had so much of a story behind it! Here is a video showing some more of KamsaLe, this time in dance: