Kalpana Kalpana (Editor)


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An oppari is an ancient form of lamenting in southern india, particularly in Tamil Nadu and North-East Sri Lanka where Tamils form the majority. Oppari is a folk song tradition and is often an admixture of eulogy and lament. The oppari is typically sung by a group of women relatives who came to pay respects to the departed in a death ceremony. It in a means to express one's own grief and also to share and assuage the grief of the near and dear of the diseased. Many communities use the oppari to express their grief at a funeral. Sometimes professional oppari singers are recruited, but it is a dying practice.

Content and theme

The songs do not follow a set pattern; rather, the lyrics are sung impromptu, mostly improvised, and eulogise the person who has died. The oppari is also often centred around the relatives of the diseased and stresses the nature of the blood relation (mother, father, brother, sister etc) between the person and the diseased. The oppari singers sings, wails and beats her chest and accompanied to the sounds of a beating drum she helps mourners bring their buried grief to the surface.

A sample theme of a daughter lamenting father's death is described below:

Her body, wracked with grief, sways and her full-throated voice rises and falls as she talks to her father.

“You were a freedom fighter, you worked with Subhash Chandra Bose, for six months you went to Germany,” she wails, beating the ground with her hands. “In Germany, you met a girl you fell in love with. I found her photograph one day and you told me all about her, though my mother, whom you married when you came back to India after Independence, was angry.”

Opparis are rich in wordplay relating to names and events associated with the deceased person. Colourful local idioms also decorate the lyrics. While oppari singing is still prominent in rural Tamil Nadu, the tradition had almost died out in urban Tamil Nadu.


Oppari Wikipedia

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