Her song ‘Medaram Jathara’ has clocked over 3.4 million views within just a week of its release.

Meet Gotte Kanakavva the 64-year-old viral folk singer from Telangana
news Human interest Saturday, February 08, 2020 - 17:29

 “Sammakka Sarakka Veerula Jatara mana Medaram lo

Adivasula amarula Jatara, Mulavasula Mannem jatara mana medaramlo -pachani adavilo pavitra jatara…”

These lines are from a song Medaram Jathara – a visual tribute to 16th century Adivasi goddesses Sammakka and Sarakka. Rhythmically narrating the significance of the jathara (carnival), it portrays the life and spiritual culture of Adivasis, and hails the rulers and warriors of the land. The eponymous festival is a biennual four-day event in Telangana.

Behind this track is the voice of, Gotte Kanakavva, a 64-year-old woman from a humble agricultural background. Her life changed when MicTV, a Telugu YouTube channel known for its subaltern content, roped her in for the song and catapulted her to instant fame. The song has clocked 3.4 million hits on YouTube in less than a week since its release. It has also got a massive reach in other platforms like TikTok, and is also circulating on WhatsApp. 

So far, Kanakavva has sung and featured in at least six folk songs. A glance through TikTok reveals her rising popularity – as scores of lip sync to her songs on the platform.

Hailing from Bodigepally of Akkannapet in Siddipet district of Telangana, Kanakavva’s journey to being a recognised folk artist began when some youngsters in her neighbourhood recorded her and her sister singing country songs and posted the videos on TikTok. “They got a lot of engagement for it. After this, my sister recorded and sent our songs to MicTV’s 'Folk Studio' contest, they selected me… and here I am!” she says nonchalantly, speaking to TNM from a studio in Hyderabad before she records another folk song.

'Folk Studio' was a singing contest organised by MicTV. While Kanakavva did go to audition with around 3000 others for the contest, the jury felt that making her compete would  belittle her talent, says Satish Manjeera of MicTV. He adds that the jury also didn’t think their own knowledge of music was sufficient to judge Kanakavva, who had learnt the folk songs from her mother as oral history.

And so, Kanakavva was given a spot in the contest in the special performance segment. She sung Ginne Rama, Ginne Rama, which was a “huge hit”, Satish recounts.

When it came to Medaram Jathara, Chitamalla Venkaiah (Yashpal), the lyricist of the song, tells TNM, “While the lyrics are appreciated for presenting the life and history of Sammakka-Sarakka, Kanakavva voice gave extra mileage to it.”

He continues, “While I gave high-pitch lines to Mangli (Kanakavva’s co-singer), I ensured that the choice of words and framing of the song were such that they’d be apt for Kanakavva voice which is molded naturally by learning music through folk culture.”

While Kanakavva is sought after for singing folk songs now, she continues to cultivate her one acre with her husband, besides selling seasonal fruits to survive. “I still work because my husband and I have to survive. I don't want to bother my children,” she says.

She is still getting used to her popularity. “Every time I go out, many recognize me, and ask for a photo with me. It is because of the songs I have sung.”

A humble Kanakavva says that she will continue to sing as long as her health permits her to. “Singing gives me joy, and I'm thankful for the opportunities too.” She also reminisces about her mother: “I learnt these songs from my mother. As a child, I used to pick up or follow the songs that are usually sung during harvesting by coolies.”

Watch the song:

 
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