17 comments on “May Day Special: Songs from the Kerala People’s Arts Club

  1. I really like the fact that you remember May Day :)
    It was a tremendous achievement, but sadly, so many many people who it benefits everyday, are the first not to appreciate it.

    Will watch the clips later.

  2. Well, this is great! But only the first three videos are paeans on socialist living, equality, revolution and culture. The last two are just simple ,rustic folk songs.

    ”Illimulam Kadukalil” is a frolicking ode to the naughty breeze that loves to wander about in the bamboo thickets, a common sight in Kerala. The term itself means “Bamboo thickets”. Even for that matter, Cheppu Kilukkana Changathi is another one on the same vein, this time about the travelling salesman who comes around with trinkets and bangles to the villages.:)

    Balikudeerangaley is a song literally etched in blood. The term means sacrificial altars in a broader sense, as the group addresses the tombs of the martyrs who have died for the Socialist cause.

    Its sad that the original theater performances have been lost along with their generation, no recording of it anywhere.The movie adaptations of the few, along with songs from KPAC, honestly are a watered down, made-for-the-screen spectacle based on the originals.

    But, atleast we have them:))

  3. Bawa, thank you – I always appreciate your messages of solidarity. Unfortunately, May Day is most forgotten here in the U.S., where it originated (back in 1886). We have these immigrants’ rights marches in NY, which are OK, and we have other people mainly promoting single issues today, but somehow, the bigger picture tends to get lost, and the vast majority of people in the U.S. have no awareness of May Day and its roots whatsoever. (And it’s not as though people are so comfortable today. We have the worst conditions for workers and the unemployed since the Depression (conditions which have been deteriorating rapidly), and we have even greater inequality. Ah, but don’t get me started. :)

    I would think that you at least must see a little more of a real May Day around you in Europe (you are still in Spain, I assume?)…

  4. Ebenezer, thank you very much for your general translation of these songs! (I didn’t realize until today that you have some expertise in Malayalam cinema. :) I might revise the blog post in light of your information. (I’m especially thinking of dropping ”Illimulam Kadukalil” – that video is giving me the creeps.)

    It is a shame that this stuff has gotten watered down, as you say… I know the communist movement in Kerala also has gotten a little more muddled in recent times (and hasn’t been doing too well especially at the polls – though I hear that might be in part due to politicians not fulfilling their progressive promises – an all too familiar phenomenon here in the U.S.). Well, that seems to be how things often happen…

    As I’ve said before, I am very intrigued by the history of communism in Kerala, because the movement did achieve a lot while avoiding many of the mistakes made by larger “Communist” movements in other parts of the world. (And, yes, I am very much a believer in the ideals, as well as much of the Marxist critique of capitalism.)

    Well, I hope the spirit lives on among the people in any case. Their attitude still seems worlds apart from most of what I see around me in the U.S.

    Meanwhile, as I’ve said before, I also greatly appreciate much Kerala’s culture for aesthetic reasons. I hope you’ll keep hanging around here so that you can help me to interpret more of these Malayalam film clips, etc. :)

  5. :)..My pleasure. The perceived expertise comes from the fact that I am from Kerala. :)..You are right about the land being the most fertile environment to take root and grow because of a lot of cultural reasons, which also thankfully bred people’s art communes like the KPAC, which was a proxy mouthpiece to spread the ideals through folk art.

    And I would be coming arnd:))

  6. Well, you still have the big May Day worker’s parade and speeches, and remembering the roots. But you are right about it being bad times for worker’s rights and most people shrugging their shoulders

    One example from current Spain is the with the present crisis how businesses, right-wing opposition, right-wing economists are always hammering on about “labour reform” & “flexibility in contracts” & “chepaer dismissals” which then many people go on to repeat like parrots.
    However, having friends that have contracts of “1 hour”, or 2/7ths of a working day, finishing a contract on lets say a Wednesday, and having to actually turn up for work on Thursday to be told whether they are needed or not, I wonder what on earth they mean by more flexibilty and cheaper dismissals.

    No one ever explains, and I think it would mean that the small protection people accrue towards their unemployment benefit, or holiday pay, would disppear too.
    At present maximum time you can recieve unemployment benefit, which is linked to your salary and the number of years you were employed, is 2 years, although the government is giving a minimum sum to all those have surpassed this and have still not found a job, as an exception, due to the crisis.

  7. Bawa, as someone who’s been relying on a combination of “partial” (or “mostly”) Unemployment extensions and nighttime temp work for the past couple of years, I can certainly relate to what you are saying here. A typical experience for me is to be called at 10:45 at night and be asked to be to a job “As Soon As Possible,” meaning in little more than the time it takes to commute, in order to work somewhere the whole night. (Sometimes you get a car, but it can take a long time, and they don’t like that much.) I’ve also had situations when I’ve been called a couple of hours later, but usually I tell them I can’t make those “ASAP.” I’ve had situations also when they woke me up earlier than I was planning to get up to tell me I had work earlier in the day than I would have expected, only to be called back fifteen minutes later to be told, oops, sorry, the company canceled. And all sorts of variations o the above… Of course, all of this is day by day; I haven’t had the relief of getting an indefinite assignment until before the Great Recession. And I’ve had this situation in years past too, quite a few out of the past ten, including at the tail end of the last recession.

    By the way, your two years of Unemployment payments is pretty good by U.S. standards. In the U.S., the standard has been six months. Since the meltdown, everybody’s been getting extensions, but often we don’t know if the last extension is going to happen until the last minute, and sometimes, we miss losing several months of beneftis because a day or two of temp work pushed us over a certain deadline (I was threatened with this problem twice). A fraction of the people on Unemployment, who lost their jobs specifically within a couple of months of the meltdown, have been guaranteed 99 weeks, but it’s been different for everyone else. (I have had close to two years on and off, but only because I got a good chunk of temp work last year that actually qualified me for a new claim.)

    In Europe, I understand, there was a pretty big movement about the idea of “precarity” (which I may have mentioned before). This was a combination of labor protest, with the central issue being increasing insecurity, and the realization of a new class of proletarianized people (with more education, etc., than the old working class) who must drift between, say, temp office assignments and/or low-level teaching gigs, in a condition of constant economic insecurity. The protest movement got pretty big in France for a short while, and there were some branches in Italy and Spain.

    As I also may have mentioned before, a year or so ago, I went to a discussion with some women who’d formed an activist group at the center of the “precarity” movement in Spain and had written some interesting stuff in addition to organizing protests, etc. Their group and movement had already somewhat disintegrated by the time they gave this talk, and they weren’t optimistic about the prospects of this movement. But I thought it was interesting while it lasted.

    Anyway, going a bit far afield here – at this moment, it’s as though I’m writing for one of my old, other blogs. :) But I might have yet more to say if I can dig up more info on that Spanish group. :)

    Meanwhile, I’ve looked at some news about May Day in Europe and I am seeing that attendance at demos was lighter than usual because of public disillusionment with union bureaucrats and their cooperation with austerity measures, etc. Well, maybe things aren’t all that different over there after all…

  8. great work, richard. kerala’s brand of communism, at least in the early days, was completely different from how it was practised elsewhere in the world. we even have a kerala model of development, just like china has its own. of course all that is a thing of the past…comrades in kerala are as corporate as can get.

    bloggers of the world, unite!

    (btw, have you seen this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bfFJAti47BE&feature=related)

  9. And now the speculators are attacking the Euro through Spain, claiming it to be like Greece, when ANYONE can look at the data and see its a totally different kettke of fish : debt is 20 points BELOW EU average, 53% compared to 126% of Italy, lets say, which never gets a mention.Maybe its the Berslusconi factor????

    I think some pretty big sharks are making some very big gains at the expense of the usual.
    I always think its The Rabbit People, who end up bearing the cost of everything, something that Communism did try to correct.

    Yes, Unions have been fighting against precaroty, and many economists here believe less precarity will lead to more prosperity, but if an economist mentions reforms, people always hear “more precarity” even when many are actually saying the contrary.

  10. I meant The Rabbit People from Thurber’s little fable, that I like very much.

    When I am feeling down, Winnie the Pooh cheers me up!

    “It’s snowing still,” said Eeyore gloomily.
    “So it is.”
    “And freezing.”
    “Is it?”
    “Yes,” said Eeyore. “However,” he said, brightening up a little, “we haven’t had an earthquake lately.”

  11. Hi Richard,

    Have more or less finished with the general structure and have started populating the Old Malayalam Cinema site.

    Cheers,

    Ebenezer

  12. Ebenezer, thanks, the Old Malayalam Cinema site looks good! I will add it to my blogroll. (I have a few changes to make in that blogroll, come to think of it…)

  13. Ebenezer, as I mentioned earlier, I have dropped the video for ”Illimulam Kadukalil”… Even though it was making fun of them, I just couldn’t stand seeing those two evil characters every time I looked at my Web site!

  14. :). .Planning to write up on the entire 12 folk songs from KPAC , (thanks to you) that have been lucky enough to be recorded.Will keep you posted..

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