What is Gaana Music?

Posted on 26th October 2019under Uncategorised

Gaana Music – The folklore that travelled time


Communication has become an art to express feelings of happiness, anger, pleasure, frustration, and many more. Every living being expresses their feelings in their own ways and means. It can be as simple as a sound, a word, a smile, or a song.  In earlier days, the nomads were moving from place to place. They relaxed and hunted as per their needs. Then, when the people started settling in plains and picked up agriculture and labour as their ways to earn their daily bread, they devised new ways and means to forego the extensive tiredness they faced in their works.

The labourers in agricultural fields, as well as in rural industries started singing songs to get rid of the weariness of their job. These songs are nowadays called as gaana songs or folklore music. This folklore music is a way to express the feelings of the souls touching every other heart and soul. In such folklore music or gaana music, the artists find some kind of satisfaction and fulfilment by presenting their songs in a very colloquial way. Such forms of arts need no strict and formal pieces of training.

Origin of Gaana Songs:

A Gaana song by itself is a higher form of art, as explained by many people. In earlier days, the primitive folks started expressing their concern or feelings by raising sounds – Alarms for fear, drumbeats and trumpets for victory, etc. The expressions of their body, the signs they used are polished and pruned as styles. These sounds were refined and classified as lullabies (Thalattu), cries (Oppari), folklore (gaanapaatu), etc.

The voice modulation and bodily expression became the art base for these forms. Gaana songs and folk arts are meticulously associated with carousing, such as birth, marriage, death, etc. Our Indian society is fostered in the oral tradition. In such cases, the stories, hymns, and songs are transferred by the only natural way – Orally talking and memorising. Such songs and folklore art became the most powerful medium of communication and gave the artists a wider reach across villages. Gaana song is the originated in Northern parts of Chennai, especially from those people who belonged to the oppressed, downtrodden or discriminated people. These people vented out their frustrations in songs as gaana music.

What is Gaana?

As mentioned, gaana is the expression of the oppressed. In gaana songs, the songs are sung from the bottom of the gut of the singer, unlike other types where the songs are out from the throat. Incidentally, there are some romantic and devotional gaana songs as well.  Gaana songs are closely connected to people, their customs, and the soil. Initially, the gaana songs, as mentioned above, were started as a conversation between the labours. Then, the gaana songs were sung at all times, including birth, marriage, death, etc. With the changing taste of people and upgradation of the social practises, the gaana songs are presently used for sending messages about the social reforms, messages about rain, etc.

There are actually five types of gaanas:

  • Attu gaana, where the words of the film songs are changed and sung
  • Aal gaana, a tune and singer’s own lyrics are composed, merged and sung in the rhythm of the singer’s choice
  • Jigiri gaana, songs about the pain and intoxication, as seen in many movies
  • Deepa gaana, creating and singing songs about the ancestry or our forefathers
  • Marana gaana, sung at the death about the dead person or as such the death

Diversity in the Gaana Songs:

As the very culture of India is different from north to south, the folklore or the gaana music also has started getting diversified. While the origin of the arts and the method of usage remained the same, the modifications came in when the art travelled all across India. The gaana songs were sung in the way it was composed, and artists added their own improvisation to avoid monotony. The artists were very particular in covering the attention of the audiences. The children of those days picked up the songs, with the dance and music just like the way they got ready with their languages. This is because, way back in those days, there were a lot of customs, rituals, and religious ceremonies practised. For every event, there was a song, and there was a dance.


Due to the diverse geographic disparities and urbanisation, combined with the lack of education about the primitive arts, the gaana song culture became widespread in India. However, the Tamil cine industry gave a new dimension by introducing the traditional gaana song makers and singers, in several movies. Let us start respecting this special form of art, and enjoy the essence in the gaana songs.


  1. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/entertainment/tamil/music/gana-is-the-voice-and-language-of-people-who-are-outcasts/articleshow/58670293.cms
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaana
  3. http://www.shashank.org/music2.html
  4. https://www.gktoday.in/gk/folk-music-and-dance-of-india/
  5. https://www.storypick.com/folk-music-of-india/