“Malavaazhi” by the music group Karinthalakoottam is an ode to farmers and traditions

The crowd-funded music video, shot overnight in a forest, delves into folk traditions and heritage seed banks

A seed that germinated in the crucible of farmers’ protest in Delhi has blossomed into a song about remembrance, protest and a call to action. ‘Malavaazhi’, a crowd-funded music video released by Kerala-based ethno music group, Karinthalakoottam, is a melodious ode to agriculture and farmers.

The music, rhythm and lyrics of ‘Malavaazhi’ celebrate the seed as a symbol of evolution, civilization and culture. The song was composed mainly with indigenous musical instruments such as otta, cenda, thudi, vadi chilambu and kuji thalam.

Excerpt from Karinthalakoottam clip

Karinthalakoottam strives to revive the oral heritage and local music. Memories have been extracted for songs sung on different occasions in Kerala. The lyrics and music of these songs have been given a contemporary touch and energy, inspired by ritualistic performance art forms such as Theyyam, Karinkali, Kaalakali, etc. Gradually the group began to write their own songs.

Sayings for Farmers

During the second lockdown in 2021, the musicians led by Remesh Karinthalakoottam, an employee of the Kerala State Transport Corporation, wanted to express their solidarity with the farmers’ protests in Delhi.

Team behind 'Malavaazhi' music video

While the song is about farmers who tend the seeds from dawn to dusk and often go hungry as the owners reap the benefits of their labor, the lyrics also celebrate the seeds. The names of more than 25 native paddy varieties of Kerala are woven into the lyrics, such as Aariyan, Ponnaariyan, Rajakazhama, Chitteni, Thavalakannan, etc. Two stanzas focus only on these seeds, explains Vijeesh Karinthalakoottam, one of the singers. The last stanza of “Malavaazhi” urges workers to unite to improve their prospects.

Remyath Raman and Vineethlal wrote the lyrics, which are a mix of local dialects. Vineeth also composed the music. The voices are led by Akhilesh Alath, Subhash Bharathan and Vijeesh.

Excerpt from Karinthalakoottam clip

The group immersed themselves in folk culture to compose “Malavaazhi”, rooted in Kerala’s agrarian past. Malavazhi is the protagonist of Malavazhiyattom, an ancient traditional art form originating from central Kerala. The Pakkanar regard Malavazhi as the protector of seeds. For the rural communities, these festivals were not just a celebration, but also the preservation of their seeds, soil and livestock for generations to come, says Vijeesh, who works as a high school teacher in Palakkad.

Karinthalakoottam during the filming of 'Malavaazhi'

Directed and filmed by Aghosh Vyshnavam, the recently released music video, which was shot overnight in a man-made forest near Perinthalmanna, was well received with over 119,000 views. Vijeesh admits the video came like a shot in the arm of the band, which is languishing from successive lockdowns. “The song was recorded in November 2021. We couldn’t work with all the musicians of Karinthalakoottam. We had to make do with people who were available to meet at the time,” says Vijeesh.