Music of Kerala: Wikis

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Music of Kerala has a long and rich history. Kerala is a state which lies in Southern India. The music of Kerala not necessarily directly imply to poetry in Malayalam language, the official and most widely used language in the state, despite the fact that most of the music in Kerala is poetry driven. Kerala has a rich tradition in Carnatic music as well, though that branch of music was formed in Tamilnadu and uses Kannada, the language of Karnataka, both Tamilnadu and Karnataka being neighboring states of Kerala. Songs formed a major part of early Malayalam literature, which is believed to have started developing by 9th century CE.[1] The significance of music in the culture of Kerala can be established just by the fact that in Malayalam language, musical poetry was developed long before prose. With the development of music in the region, different branches were formed out of it. The most basic branches are classical music which is primarily Carnatic music oriented, and popular music which primarily includes film songs. Then there is music like chenda melam , which despite its religious nature, enjoys status of classical music as well as popularity.

Contents

History

The earliest written record of Malayalam, the language of Kerala is the Vazhappalli inscription (ca. 830 CE). The early literature of Malayalam comprised three types of composition:

  • Classical songs known as Naadan Paattu
  • Manipravalam of the Sanskrit tradition, which permitted a generous interspersing of Sanskrit with Malayalam
  • The folk song rich in native elements

Malayalam poetry to the late 20th century CE portrays varying degrees of the fusion of the three different strands. The oldest examples of Pattu and Manipravalam, respectively, are Ramacharitam and Vaishikatantram, both of the twelfth century.

Classical Music

Maharajah Swathi Thirunal of Travancore Kingdom, South India, was a prolific composer of Hindustani and Carnatic songs

Kerala is musically known for Sopanam. Sopanam is religious in nature, and developed through singing invocatory songs at the Kalam of Kali, and later inside temples. Sopanam came to prominence in the wake of the increasing popularity of Jayadeva's Gita Govinda or Ashtapadis. Sopana sangeetham (music), as the very name suggests, is sung by the side of the holy steps (sopanam) leading to the sanctum sanctorum of a shrine. It is sung, typically employing plain notes, to the accompaniment of the small, hourglass-shaped ethnic drum called idakka, besides the chengila or the handy metallic gong to sound the beats. Sopanam is traditionally sung by men of the Marar and Pothuval community, who are Ambalavasi (semi-Brahmin) castes engaged to do it as their hereditary profession. Some famous sopanam singers are Neralattu Rama Poduval, Janardhanan Nedungadi and Damodara Marar.[2]

Kerala is also home of Carnatic music. Legends like Swati Tirunal, Shadkala Govinda Maarar, Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavatar, Palghat Mani Iyer, Vidwan Gopala Pillai, Chertala Gopalan Nair, M. D. Ramanathan, T. V. Gopalakrishnan,Sankaran Namboothiri and T. N. Krishnan are renowned musical exponents from Kerala[3]. Among the younger generation, child prodigy violin wizard L.Athira Krishna and Carnatic vocalist P. Unnikrishnan have made their musical impact in the international arena, thus keeping the regal tradition of Carnatic music alive.

Kerala also has a significant presence of Hindustani music as well.[4] The king of Travancore, Swathi Thirunal patronaged and contributed much to the Hindustani Music.

Popular music

Popular music of Kerala had a linear development along with classical music of the region, till the branches separated. The popular music in Kerala is enriched by its highly developed film music branch. Other forms of popular music include light music albums. Devotional songs also constitute a major part of Malayalam popular music.

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Pulluvan Pattu

The pulluvar of Kerala are closely connected to the serpent worship. One group among these people consider the snake gods as their presiding deity and perform certain sacrifices and sing songs. This is called Pulluvan Pattu. This is performed in the houses of the lower castes as well as those of the higher castes, in addition to serpent temples.

The song conducted by the pulluvar in serpent temples and snake groves is called Sarppapaattu, Naagam Paattu, Sarpam Thullal, Sarppolsavam, Paambum Thullal or Paambum Kalam. The main aspects of this are Kalamezhuthu (Drawing of Kalam, a ritual art by itself), song and dance.

Kathakali Music

The language of the songs used for Kathakali is Manipravalam. Even though most of the songs are set in ragas based on the microtone-heavy Carnatic music, there is a distinct style of plain-note rendition, which is known as the Sopanam style. This typically Kerala style of rendition takes its roots from the temple songs which used to be sung (continues even now at several temples) at the time when Kathakali was born.

Ottamthullal Songs

Ottamthullal songs are meant for the performance of the artform called Ottamthullal. The Ottamthullal artist has to sing and dance to his music. Unlike in the case of Kathakali, the language is not heavy sanskritized Malayalam and the lyrics are set to rhythms that range from simple to rare and complicated.

Mappila Pattu

The Malabar region of the state, with a large Muslim population had developed a signature music stream based on the Hindustani style. The stream consists of a variety of forms like gazals and mappila pattu, and also music for authentic Muslim dance forms such as oppana and kol kali. The poetry forms a main part of this stream of music, which is primarily in Malayalam with the use of Arabic words in between which is known as arabimalayalam. Mappila songs have a charm of their own as their tunes sound a mix of the ethos and culture of Kerala as well as West Asia. They deal with diverse themes such as religion, love, satire and heroism.

Film music

Film music, which refers to playback singing in the context of Indian music, forms the most important canon of popular music in India. Film music of Kerala in particular is the most popular form of music in the state.[5] Before Malayalam cinema and Malayalam film music developed, the Keralites eagerly followed Tamil and Hindi film songs and that habit has stayed with them till now. The history of Malayalam film songs begin with the 1948 film Nirmala. The film's music director was P.S. Divakar and the songs were sung by P. Leela, T. K. Govinda Rao, Vasudeva Kurup, C. K. Raghavan, Sarojini Menon and Vimala B. Varma, who is credited as the first playback singer of Malayalam cinema.[6]

The main trend in the early years was to use the tune of hit Hindi or Tamil songs in Malayalam songs. This trend was changed in the early 1950s by the arrival of a number of poets and musicians to the Malayalam music scene. People who stormed into the Malayalam film music industry in the 1950s include musicians like V. Dakshinamurthy (1950), K. Raghavan (1954), G. Devarajan (1955) and M.S. Babu Raj (1957) and lyricists like P. Bhaskaran (1950), O.N.V. Kurup (1955) and Vayalar Rama Varma (1956). They are attributed with shaping Malayalam film music stream and giving it its own identity.[7] Major playback singers of that time were Kamukara Purushothaman, K.P. Udayabhanu, A.M. Raja, P. Leela, Santha P. Nair, P. Susheela and S. Janaki. Many of these singers like A.M. Raja, P. Susheela and Janaki were not Malayalis and their pronunciation was not perfect. Despite that, these singers received high popularity throughout Kerala. In later years many non-Malayalis like Manna Dey, Talat Mehmood, Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhonsle and S.P. Balasubramaniam sang for Malayalam films. This trend was also found among music directors to an extent, with outside musicians like Naushad, Usha Khanna, Bombay Ravi and Ilaya Raja.[8] This can be attributed to the fact that film music in South India had a parallel growth pattern with so many instances of cross-industry contributions.

K.J. Yesudas, who debuted in 1961, virtually revolutionised the Malayalam film music industry and became the most popular Malayalam singer ever. He became equally popular with classical music audience and people who patronised film music.[9] He, along with P. Jayachandran, gave a major facelift to Malayalam playback singing in the 1960s and 1970s. Malayalam film music also received heavy contributions from musicians like Johnson, M. G. Radhakrishnan, Raveendran, S. P. Venkitesh and Ouseppachan, lyricists like Sreekumaran Thampy, Yusuf Ali Kechery, and Kaithaprom Damodaran Namboodiri, and singers like M. G. Sreekumar, G. Venugopal, K. S. Chithra and Sujatha Mohan. A notable aspect in the later years was the extensive of classical Carnatic music in many film songs of the later 1980s and early 1990s. Interestingly, that particular period is also considered the peak time of Malayalam cinema itself and is quite widely known as the Golden Age of Malayalam cinema[10], a period in which the difference between art films and popular films was least felt. Similarly, classical Carnatic music was heavily used in several popular film songs, most notably those in films like Chithram (1988), His Highness Abdullah (1990), Bharatham (1991), Sargam (1992) and Sopanam (1993).

At present, the major players in the scene are young talents like musicians M. Jayachandran, Deepak Dev, Alphonse, Jassie Gift and Biji Pal, lyricists Gireesh Puthanchery, Vayalar Sarath and Anil Panachooran, and singers Madhu Balakrishnan, Afsal, KK Nishad, Manjari and Jyotsna, along with stalwarts in the field.

The national award winning music directors of Malayalam cinema are Johnson (1994, 1995) and Bombay Ravi (1995). The 1995 National Award that Johnson received for film score of Sukrutham (1994) was the only instance in the history of the award in which the awardee composed the film soundtrack rather than songs. He shared that award with Bombay Ravi who received the award for composing songs for the same film. The lyricists who have won the national award are Vayalar Ramavarma (1973), O. N. V. Kurup (1989) and Yusuf Ali Kechery (2001). The male singers who got national award are K. J. Yesudas (1973, 1974, 1988, 1992, 1994), P. Jayachandran (1986) and M. G. Sreekumar (1991, 2000). Yesudas has won two more national awards for singing in Hindi (1977) and Telugu (1983) films, which makes him the person who has won the largest number of National Film Award for Best Male Playback Singer with 7 awards, closely trailed by S. P. Balasubramaniam with 6 awards. The female singers who have won the award are S. Janaki (1981) and K. S. Chithra (1987, 1989). Chitra had also won the award for Tamil (1986, 1997, 2005) and Hindi (1998) film songs, which makes her the person with the largest number of National Film Award for Best Female Playback Singer wins with 6 awards, closely trailed by P. Susheela with 5 awards.

References

  1. ^ Sreedhara Menon, A.. Kerala Charithram. Kottayam, Kerala: D.C. Books. p. 494. 
  2. ^ Rolf, Killius (2006). Ritual Music and Hindu Rituals of Kerala. New Delhi: BR Rhythms. ISBN 81-88827-07-X. 
  3. ^ Rolf, Killius (2006). Ritual Music and Hindu Rituals of Kerala. New Delhi: BR Rhythms. ISBN 81-88827-07-X. 
  4. ^ "Music". Keral.com. http://www.keral.com/movies/music.htm. Retrieved 2 January 2009. 
  5. ^ "Music". Keral.com. http://www.keral.com/movies/music.htm. Retrieved 2 January 2009. 
  6. ^ K. Pradeep (25 April 2008). "Family affair". The Hindu. http://www.hindu.com/fr/2008/04/25/stories/2008042550380400.htm. Retrieved 2 January 2009. 
  7. ^ Jason Kaitholil. "Cinema History". AMMA (Malayalamcinema.com). http://malayalamcinema.com/Content-4/CinemaHistory.html. Retrieved 2 January 2009. 
  8. ^ Jason Kaitholil. "Cinema History". AMMA (Malayalamcinema.com). http://malayalamcinema.com/Content-4/CinemaHistory.html. Retrieved 2 January 2009. 
  9. ^ "K.J. Yesudas". Chennai Online. http://archives.chennaionline.com/musicseason99/profile/yesudas.html. Retrieved 2 January 2009. 
  10. ^ Jason Kaitholil. "Cinema History". AMMA (Malayalamcinema.com). http://malayalamcinema.com/Content-4/CinemaHistory.html. Retrieved 2 January 2009. 

See also


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