Kalgi-Tura (kalgi-turA) (ಕಲ್ಗಿ-ತುರಾ ಲಾವಣಿಗಳು) is a musical ballad tradition prevalent in North Karnataka. These were in vogue in South Karnataka also and they have now become extinct. These ballads have a distinct flavour of internalized Islamic culture which has contributed hugely to the art and culture of these regions. Legend has it, that Shah Ali and Tukan Gir two ballad singers in the royal court of Akbar were presented with a feather from the emperor’s crown (kalgi) and a bunch of flowers (turAyi) respectively in recognition of their talents. They are credited with the starting of the Kalgi and Tura traditions. Hardeshi (hardEshi)-Nageshi (nAgEshi) and savAl-javAb are alternative terms used to denote these traditions.

These ballads have a perennial theme. They indulge in prolonged debates about the relative superiority of man and woman. Invariably they arrive at a conclusion that men and women are equal. Some times red is the colour preferred by the tura singer and the kalgi singer opts for black. It could also be a debate between the seed and the tree.

This musical ensemble consists of two groups each consisting of three members. The lead singer stands in front and his companions stand behind him and lend musical and instrumental support. Dappu (Dappu) a percussion instrument is very important for this performance. Tintini (tiMtiNi) a stringed instrument and bronze cymbals also are necessary.

Thematically three stages can be envisaged in a Kalgi-Tura performance. To begin with, there is a debate about the origin of the universe. Relative merits of Gods and Goddesses are discussed in the next stage with anecdotal help from mythology and literature. For instance they may discuss the relative merits of Ganesha and Veerabhadra. The final stage which involves social, economical and financial issues is by far the most popular part of the show.

The composers of these ballads are usually Muslims. These singer-composers have an unbroken tradition of their own. For instance a singer named Mullah Hussain traces his origin to bAlE aAheb a saint who lived at IngaLagi village on the banks of Doni River. One ballad discusses the monistic nature Islam. These singers invoke Saraswathi the Hindu goddess of knowledge. They use a green flag which again is a symbol of Islam. The regions in which these ballads are sung are well known for their communal harmony. These ballads have played an important role in disseminating the fundamental tenets of Islam among common unlettered people during a period when written material about these principles was hardly available in Kannada.

The ballads or preceded and succeeded by a short song which is either introductory or valedictory as the case may be. They are called ‘saaki’ and ‘khyaali’. Most ballads contain four to six stanzas.     


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