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11

VANCHIPATTU: SONGS OF THE BOAT RACE IN KERALA

Vijayan Kannampilly

Vanchipattu, or the boat song, is a part of the folk song tradition of Kerala that covers all aspects of human life—birth, work, fertility, worship, myths, legends, festivals and death. It predates poetry but contains within its seemingly facile structure the essence of rhythm that distinguishes all great art. Invariably, the rhythm of a folk song arises from the activity that it celebrates. In turn, the rhythm of the words rooted in a material reality transforms the mundane into the magical. Thus, a lullaby in any language cannot but have a rhythm based on the tempo of an infant’s breath. Though the Vanchipattu and the lullaby fall in the genre of folk song, the rhythmic structure ...

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