Tamil Features

Margazhiyil Makkal Isai: Singer Manimegalai K has Incorporated Music into Every Aspect of Her Life

For folk singer Manimegalai K, every aspect of her life is tied to music. She has been singing folk songs for 25 years but her introduction to music came much earlier.


A native of Puducherry district, Manimegalai began to sing at the age of 9 in school. By the time she was 15, she began to volunteer with the literary movement Arivoli Iyakkam, where she would use music to educate illiterate people and help them learn their signatures.

Manimegalai, who moved to Acharampattu village in Villupuram district after marriage, continued to be involved with the movement. “I worked with Arivoli Iyakkam as a coordinator. I’d sing songs there too. We would teach them lessons through songs,” she says.

While the 46-year-old singer is the first in her family to lean towards folk music, her husband is also an artist who predominantly acts in theatre productions.

Manimegalai is set to perform with Dalit Subbaiah on Monday at the second edition of Margazhiyil Makkal Isai and she fondly refers to him as aiyaa (sir). She credits him with her transition to folk singing. “I was part of a Women’s Day festival and he was the guest speaker there. He really liked my singing voice,” she says.


Under the tutelage of Dalit Subbaiah, Manimegalai has seen a change in her way of life too. Having been a part of his troupe Viduthalai Kural for over 20 years now, she has incorporated his messages into her life. “He told me that we should sing songs about the issues that we see in society. We sing for the public and lead a life without any worldly pleasures. We don’t wear jewellery as he always tells us that the people whom we sing for do not have such things.”

Her journey has taken her all over Tamil Nadu. “We perform at gatherings that have 500 to 1000 people. There is not a place in Tamil Nadu where I have not set foot,” she asserts.

While she does both solo and group performances, Manimegalai says, “To be a part of his (Dalit Subbaiah) troupe is a great honour for me. I feel happiest when I’m with performing and traveling with them.”

With the troupe, Manimegalai has sung songs on a plethora of themes including women’s rights and Ambedkar’s life. For instance, one of the songs that she performs is called Yen Mama Kudikara? and it talks about the abuse that women face from their alcoholic spouses.

Her journey with music extends beyond singing. She has also worked on the tempo and pitch for other artists’ songs. “I performed and recorded these songs at the Auroville Radio Station. I’ve done the same for songs by writer Thangappa. He’d write the lyrics and I would compose the tune and sing them for him.”

Manimegalai is confident about her upcoming performance in Chennai at the Margazhiyil Makkal Isai music festival. “We have been singing for 25 years. We don’t need too much practice because these are songs that we have sung before,” she says. She also attributes this confidence to Dalit Subbaiah. “If Dalit Subbaiah is performing somewhere, it is like reading a book. With the songs and the meaning behind them, his performances feel like studying history. We’re very excited for his performances and the message in his songs.”

(This profile is part of an ongoing series of articles on various indigenous artists across Tamil Nadu who will be performing at Margazhiyil Makkal Isai starting December 18. Silverscreen India is a media partner for the event.)