173 views 3 mins 0 comments

High on music, Oorali Flood Express Thanks Fisher Folk in North Kerala

In Kozhikode
February 23, 2019

Six months after massive floods drowned Kerala, a team of artistes is on a journey to some of the places worst affected by that monsoon calamity — to pay homage to the fisher folk who had plunged into rescue operations.

The ‘Oorali Flood Express’ is one of the first travelling artist projects of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale. The team, on reaching Malappuram district from Fort Kochi’s main venue of the 108–day festival, performed a cultural evening on the sandy belts of Thanoor on Thursday evening.

“It is one of our very special projects. We are going to some of the very remote parts of Kerala where people don’t know quite much about the festival,” says Anita Dube, curator of the ongoing fourth edition of the biennale. “It is a very special encounter.”

The ten-member team, which will visit coastal areas in Thrissur and Ernakulam districts in the ongoing second leg that began Wednesday night, features vocalists, instrumentalists and drummers. Earlier last month, Oorali had their first leg of the trip to south Kerala, visiting five shores in the districts of Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam and Alappuzha. It ended in the last week of January, after which the Express took a ten-day break.

Oorali, known for its folk-reggae songs with themes on society and politics, has now resumed singing at the hamlets. The artistes again began interacting with the fisher folk by staying with them for a while in each such places in the three-week tour.

The itinerary goes thus: Thanoor (Feb 21-22), Ponnani or Parapanagandi (Feb 23-24); in Thrissur district’s Kodungalur (Feb 26-27) and Chavakkad (March 6-7), and finally in Ernakulam district’s Njarakkal (March 8-10).

In the first phase of the Flood Express Journey, the band sang along the shores, conducted art workshops for children and organised song speak, says Saji V, guitarist of the 2010-formed Oorali. “That way, we gave a big salute to the fisher folk army.”

The Flood Express is virtually an art journey across coastal Kerala, as an initiative of the KBF in a bid to reach out to local communities. Oorali’s chief singer Martin John says the band wants more people from each shore to participate and perform with its members.

Saji notes that their interactions could change people’s mood. “We thank the KBF team in believing in us by designing and funding the project. People welcomed us wholeheartedly, made arrangements of our hosting,” he notes. “It was like a festival along the shores.”

The 1998-model bus, painted in dark red, initially plied for public transportation in Thrissur is their performing space where they travel to shores after shoes with their families like a community meeting another community and spending some good time together.

Oorali will perform next month at the biennale premises towards the end of the festival. That will be the third phase of their project.