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People’s song

December 3rd, 2010 by naren bedide

In the Gummadis'* hut                                           // O Lachcha Gummadi //

the song was born and grew

Lachchumamma's womb bore fruit

and the people's song was born

In the Malas' wada

the Dalit song was born

On the Madigas' dappu

the song learnt rythm

To the tune of the coolies' anklets

it learnt to dance

With the Wadderas'** hammer

it learnt to sing together

At the dhobi ghat

it was taught to move faster

The barbers' razor

sang a refrain for the song

The Kammari's*** kiln

sang a beat for the song

The Golla Kurma's+ gongadi++

sang the chorus for the song

Flying past the farms and fields

past the factory gates

The song became one with the wind

and flew past the skies

The exploiters who heard the song

trembled in their hearts

All the songs became spears

and brought down the exploiters' fortress;

To strangle the song's throat

they started plotting:

twilight hadn't passed

the stars hadn't even appeared

but the villains attacked

and fired bullet after bullet

Struck by the rulers' bullet

the song collapsed

Struck by the killers' bullet

the song fainted

Struck by bullet after bullet

the dappu grew silent

Struck by a bullet in the abdomen

the song spurted blood

Collapsing in a pool of blood

the song bathed fully

Mother Earth became pregnant

and gave birth to the song again

Even though the big life started leaving

hanging onto the remaining life

the song stood up

and started walking

Even though it was losing breath

it rose hanging onto the remaining little

From the blood filled abyss

the song rose like the dawn

Mother moonlight smiled

because the song was reborn

Village after village smiled

as the Dalit jaatis' hearts were filled

Lathis and bullets

can't stop the people's song

Bayonets and bullets

can't stop the song's refrain

Every hour, a song will be born

and build graves for the exploiters

Every hut will give birth to a song

and bring down the exploiters' fortresses.                      // O Lachcha Gummadi //


My translation of the Telugu song 'janampaaTa' by Guda Anjaiah (from his collection od songs/ballads 'uuru manadiraa!'). This 'people's song' is most probably Anjaiah's tribute to 'praja kavi' Gaddar ('people's poet') who survived a muderorous attack by unknown assailants (most likely, policemen in civil clothes) who pumped five bullets into him, on April 6, 1997. Hundreds of songs written by Guda Anjaiah have formed a valuable part of the repertory of Dalitbahujan artistes across Andhra Pradesh, and across India (through translations). People's songs, the Dalitbahujan poets and performers believe (most times, the performers are poets themselves), belong to the peopleGaddar has consistently performed Anjaiah's songs over the years.


* Gummadi: pronounced 'gummaDi', it means pumpkin. But it is also Gaddar's surname or family name (his real name is Gummadi Vittal Rao). The original meaning (and origin) of the refrain 'O Lachcha Gummadi', which is repeated at the end of every line, is lost in time. It is taken from one of the many genres of work or chore related songs/ballads sung by Dalitbahujan women. Lachchumamma, in the song, refers to Gaddar's mother.

** Wadderas: pronounced waDDera; refers to the community of stone-workers (vaddera,  odde, oddilu, oddera, odra etc). 

*** Kammaris: refers to the community of smiths, metal-workers.

+ Golla Kurma: refers to the community of shepherds/goatherds (kuruma, kurma, kuruiba etc).

++ gongadi: pronounced 'gongaDi'; also called gongali. Refers to the coarse blanket or rug (made of wool, mostly) used by shepherds etc.


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