Tamil News

Margazhiyil Makkal Isai Kickstarts in Chennai with Parai, Oppari and Folk Song Performances

With a plaque featuring an amalgamation of the images of BR Ambedkar and Gautama Buddha, the two icons of the Dalit community, hanging in the background and a tightly-packed audience in attendance at Chennai’s Vani Mahal auditorium, the last leg of Marghazyil Makkal Isai’s second edition kickstarted in the city on Friday. The opening day began with a parai performance, led by the festival’s founder and filmmaker Pa Ranjith and the three chief guests: musician-actor GV Prakash, DMK MP Kanimozhi, and writer Aadhavan Dheetchanya.


Marghazyil Makkal Isai is a music fest that has been formulated by Ranjith’s Neelam Cultural Centre, with the aim to bring the music of the people to spaces predominantly occupied by upper-class and upper-caste groups. The second edition of the festival kicked off in Madurai and then went to Coimbatore before coming to the state capital.

Addressing the crowd with the Ambedkarite slogan Jai Bhim, Ranjith said, “Thanks to the cheer and support for the first edition of the fest, we have brought out the second edition. This stage belongs to artists who never got a stage to climb on before.”

As a musician and singer himself, GV Prakash noted how important a stage is for an artist, and added, “Margazhi has been a season of music always and on this stage, the rooted music of the people reaches an international level. I’ll be happy if this spurs more collaborations of artists and platforms.”

The evening witnessed performances from three different groups: a parai performance by Adimelam Parai Isai crew from Salem, one by Karunguyil Ganesan and his team, and finally a rendering of folk songs by Senthil and Rajalakshmi.

With about 10 members, all clad in yellow, Adimelam Parai Isai crew received a humongous response for their rhythmic beats and unified footwork. “There are about 100 parai instruments, but only 18 of them are in use now, out of which only eight are widespread,” said one of the artists.

The parai performance was followed by Karunguyil Ganesan and his team singing a variety of songs that talked about honour killings, love without caste barriers, agriculture, and relationships. The audience erupted with cheer and applause at lines from the songs such as ‘aadhi isai parai isai dhane’ (parai music is indigenous music) and ‘saathiku saavu varatha?’ (will death never come for caste?).

Ganesan also sang Oppari songs in memory of the Boxing-Day Tsunami and Kumbakonam school fire victims of 2004. He further requested the audience to observe a minute of silence for the deceased.

The concluding act was performed by the husband-wife singer duo Senthil and Rajalakshmi. They sang various folk songs on love, rural lifestyle, and regional deities, among others.


Speaking at the conclusion of the day’s events, MP Kanimozhi said, “I have heard katcheris (Carnatic music performances) in this hall and the opportunity to hear makkal isai in this venue delights me. The speciality of makkal isai is that it talks about people’s lifestyle and challenges, rather than about heaven or the afterlife. It is always a celebration.”

Speaking to Silverscreen India, an audience member, Prabhu, said with enthusiasm, “I have come all the way from Kumbakonam to Chennai, to attend this festival. I saw Writer (a film produced by Ranjith) in the morning and have come to this fest now. It is a double treat indeed.”

The festival organisers also mentioned that they have plans to release the music fest in the form of a documentary on OTT platforms. Margazhiyil Makkal Isai 2021 will conclude on December 31.


(Silverscreen India is a media partner for Margazhiyil Makkal Isai)