Khammam: The six-lakh-strong Koya community in Telangana is enthused over a recognition that came their way as the top civilian honour Padma Shri was awarded to Sakinala Ramachandraiah, a Kanchumelam and Kanchuthalam (Fokohol) player and musician. He hails from Kunavaram village in Manuguru mandal in Bhadradri-Kothagudem district.
This was the first time such a national honour came to a member of the community. Ramachandraiah is among the few exponents of Fokohol music in the two Telugu states. He used to play Fokohol by explaining the history of various clans of Koyas. He would narrate the incidents of some 2000 years back that was passed onto his family through their ancestors.
Ramachandraiah said, "The Fokohol that continued through generations in the Adivasi areas has been recognized by the central and state governments. This is a very happy moment for me. My son is learning Fokohol from me and we carry it forward through future generations."
He had learnt the art from his forefathers Musalaiah, Muthaiah, Erraiah and Daraiah.
Elderly Koyas used to call him and explain the history of their clans during Jathara time. It is a custom among the Koyas to conduct jathara for five to ten villages every year. He used to sing songs after the demise of family members and recall the history of the clan.
The Koya families of Paredu Gattu Gotram are considered priests of the community.
Historians like Professor Tiruamla Rao recorded the history of Sammakka and Saralakka while Ramchandraiah sang by playing Folkohol. The names like Garikamaraju, Padigiddaraju, Eramaraju, Gadiraju, Bapanamma, Musalamma, Nagulamma and Sadanamma, revered warriors of Koya community in the battle between Kakatiya rulers and Sammakka and Saralakka, used to come in by way of references in Ramachandraiah’s songs.
The Nine Adivasi Sects convener Chunchu Ramakrishna said the central government started identifying the age-old arts in the remote areas. "Adivasis are forwarding their talents and arts to future generations. The genesis of Hindu forms of worship and bottu, pasupu and offering of prayers to trees and hillocks have been introduced by the adivasis of ancient times," he said.
Meanwhile, Padma Shri honour was given to 80-year-old Kanakaraju from Gondu community for his famous Gussadi dance.