Friday, June 2, 2023


Ballad Singers

A ballad has been defined as a narrative lyric of known or unknown origin that tells a story.

The ballads in Karnataka has been divided into two categories. They are

  1. Field ballads or 'Bayalu Lavani'

  2. 'Mela' ballads or 'Mela Lavani'/'Gee Gee' songs

Fields ballads are extensively found in North Karnataka and are sung by a person who plays a folk instrument called the 'Dappu' and effortlessly sets empathy with the audience. The artiste sings the mythological, historical and social narratives.

'Mela' Ballads also popularly known as 'Gee Gee' songs are ubiquitous in North Karnataka.

The Mela ballads have assumed different forms. 'Hardeshi-Negeshi' is one such form conducted in a dialogue format involving two groups. These groups are also popularly referred as 'Kalgi-Turayi' consisting of male and female factions respectively. Because of its question and answer techniques, this ballad form is also described as 'Saval Jawab'. Sometimes women singers lead the female faction and add colour to the entire mela.

A group performance, Mela ballads derive their strength from strong narrative technique. In Mela ballads, the dialogues which form the major part of the performance are witty and thought provoking and some of the dialogues are extempore and exhibit a fine blending of music, verse and structure. These ballads with social, romantic, family based historical and heroic themes exemplify the basic human qualities like sacrifice, love, valour, joy, endurance, agony, vengeance and subsequently creating socially discernible situations and characters. examples of heroic ballads are Belwadi Mallamma, Kittur Chennamma and Malla Sarja. e.g. of romantic ballads are Ushaharana, Asala Jati Hennu.

'Gee Gee' song which forms part of the Mela ballads is said to be the queen of folk ballads. The style of rendering Gee Gee songs is different from ballads.

The Gee Gee mela consists of three members. They wear a head gear, a white dhoti and a coat with a piece of red cloth tied around their waist. A percussion instrument called the 'Dappu' is played besides the chowdike and the cymbals. There are women singers also. Gee Gee melas are held in fairs, festivals and private functions at the request of the village community. Gee Gee mela is given paramount importance among the mass of folk songs of Karnataka solely because of its secular nature.

The famous Gee Gee songs are heroic verses composed on Kittur Chennamma, Sangolli Rayanna and other valiant characters from the noble stock of pre-independence Karnataka. Besides ballads with historical themes, social and political themes are also popular among the masses.

The basic features of Gee Gee are the flexibility of theme, dexterity, simplicity and clarity. Anybody can sing Gee Gee. In some families Gee Gee singing is hereditary. There are professional Gee Gee singers also.

Gee Gee melas are conducted in North Karnataka in places like Salotagi, Ingalagi, Savalagi, Banahatti, Jamkhandi, Hankhandi, Madarkhandi, Bijjragi, Kanamadi, Belaji, Galgali, Athani, Yakanji, Hosur, Hukund, Gulbarga, Dagami, Ramapura, Navalgund, Hebbal and others.

Hanumanthappa Hadkara, Gangubai Manikatti, Fakiravva Gudisagara are the out standing Gee Gee singers. Gee Gee songs were used for political reasons to rouse the masses and to remove the Devadasi system.

The songs sound realistic. The folk instruments like the Dappu and the Chowdike offer a superb musical spectacle.