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.
Field ballads or 'Bayalu Lavani'
'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.