Arabi-Malayalam Disaster Ballads

Performative Poetry and Community Resilience

  • Ophira Gamliel and Shihab Ayappally Kalluvalappil (Author)

Identifiers (Article)


This paper presents three disaster narratives in Arabi-Malayalam Typhoon Ballad (toofaan maala) by Kattilveettil Ahmed Koya (1909), Flood (vellappokkam) by Mundambara Unnimammad (1924), and Flood Ballad (vellappokka maala) by Pulikkottil Haidar (1961). We explore the aestheticized expressions of flood disasters, their impact on landscape and people, and the role of cultural and artistic productions in enhancing community resilience and risk perception. We approach these Arabi-Malayalam disaster ballads as deliberate engagement with the mechanisms of the disaster cycle of preparedness, response, and recovery. Arguing that these compositions constitute vital strategies in cultivating effective response to disasters, we relate them to official and historical records as well as an ethnographic account following the 2018 Kerala floods. We conclude that the tradition of Arabi-Malayalam disaster ballads constitutes an attempt to standardise and aestheticize spontaneous post-disaster narratives that survivors and rescuers tell and retell for sharing their experiences. Our analysis builds on the concept of local and indigenous knowledge systems (LINKS) to argue that such compositions are crucial for producing knowledge on participatory and organised decision-making processes, desirable leadership skills, and collaborative action aimed at survival, relief, and rescue.


Disasters, Resilience, Arabi-Malayalam, LINKS, Environment