Who is Nanjiyamma? Tribal Folk Singer Wins National Award

The 68th edition of the National Awards, which took place in the capital on Friday, paid tribute to several artists from across the country. The list of winners included Asha Parekh, Vishal Bhardwaj, Ajay Devgn and Suriya, among several others. However, folk singer Nanjiyamma, who received her award for playback singing, stood out as she won everyone’s hearts at the ceremony. Among the many performers attending the Vigyan Bhavan awards night, 64-year-old folk singer Nanjiyamma, from a tribal area in Kerala, received her national award amid a standing ovation.

Nanjiyamma won her first national award for the powerful performance of the song Kalakatha in the hit Malayalam film Ayyappanum Koshiyum led by the late Sachy. The singer took the stage, simplicity personified, with a graceful smile on her face and greeted her fellow artists with clasped hands before receiving her award from President Draupadi Murmu.

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Who is Nanjiyamma?

Nanjiyamma has received massive praise and recognition for her portrayal of the Kalakhata song in popular malayalam film Ayyappanum Koshiyum, which was released in 2020. The title song, Kalakhata was written by Nanjiyamma herself in the Irula language. Jakes Bejoy composed the song and it gained popularity after it was released on Youtube streaming platform.

The singer continued to be the star attraction even after the national awards ceremony as she sat across from veteran actor Asha Parekh and sang the beautiful song creating a musical atmosphere in the presence of several participants of the ceremony.

Belonging to the Irula community of the village of Attapadi in Kerala, she is also part of the Azad Kala Samithi group which presents artists from the tribal communities of Kerala. Nanjiyamma didn’t just sing Ayyappanum Koshiyum but also played the role of a stepmother to the film’s protagonist. Not only Kalakhata, Nanjiyamma proved his musical prowess by singing a few more songs in the film, and people on social media have been swooning over his vocals since the film’s release. Nanjiyamma has a legacy of several folk songs that have been passed down from generation to generation, having also sung five songs in the award-winning film Velutha Rathrikal which was published in 2015.

Interestingly, the singer was the first to bring fame to her Irula tribe by singing promotional songs for the government of Kerala. She sang a song for the state housing program marking the first time the Irula language was used publicly on a large scale. Having worked on several short films and projects now, Nanjiyamma’s main income still comes from farming and field work, and the artist in her thrives on her love of art, and this is the legacy she has created today.

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