Raveendran Maashu – a redux
Looks like this is the redux season on my blog. As I wrote twice almost three years back, no music director has managed to strike a chord with me as much as the late legend Raveendran Maashu (Maashu, for the uninitiated, is Malayalam for Sir). When I was at Sydney, with no access to any Malayalam channels, I used to listen to a couple of CDs from my Malayalam songs collection from the 80s through 00s, and most of the songs I took with me were the ones from the stupendously successful and enormously talented Raveendran – Yesudas team. I am thankful I took them with me, though I didn’t take even a single movie or any other songs collection. I was happy listening to those songs almost daily!
Today I was watching Vivekanand’s latest performance in the Idea Star Singer competition – the “otta kambi naadam” song from the movie Thenum Vayambum (1981), originally sung by the incomparable Yesudas [go listen to it even if you don’t understand Malalyalam or music :)], a song so beautiful that it made Sharreth, one of my other favorite music directors, who is a judge in the show, remark “it should have been ‘oru laksham kambi naadam’..that is how majestically Yesudas has rendered this song.”. For the uninitiated, the opening three words of the original song lyric means “the sound of a solitary string [of a music instrument]” and Sharreth said “it should have been ‘the sound of a million strings’..that is how well Yesudas has rendered this song”.
Though Vivekanand had a bad day today, I still believe he is (going to be) the Star Singer 2008. Just listen to these four great songs from the previous rounds, and I hope you too would agree that this is one enormously talented lad. At least Ramesh had to change his opinion after allowing himself to be swept away by the beauty of Vivek’s rendition of the song “oru kadalaay”. I think he did a slightly better job than the original, thanks to his rich voice. Here is the playlist with his entire performance so far, and I find myself playing songs from this list, at least once a week, for a few weeks now. You too might find it a nice way to spend an hour or so :).
As I was listening to Sharreth’s comments, I thought I will search for some more info about Raveendran maashu. It was then that I stumbled across this Wikipedia entry on Raveendran maashu and this blog from Nikhil Venugopal, who seems to know music and loves music far better/more than me, where he has three great posts on (including an interview with) Raveendran maashu. The only drawback (a drawback if you can’t read Malayalam) is that it is in Malayalam, though the first post about Raveendran is in English.
I am not well versed in Carnatic music (I don’t know the raagas in spite of learning Carnatic for two or three years in my childhood days, though I think I can discern great music from merely good or average music from downright bad music or noise), I found the posts both interesting and nostalgic.
It took me back to my childhood days when I used to tune into the cinema songs hour(s) in Vividh Bharathi and All India Radio (Trivandrum station), perhaps just like so many other people in my native (and perhaps around India) at that time — mid and late 80s and early 90s. Television was just making an appearance and even if it had, it was certainly not 24*7 and there was just one channel – Doordarshan (Indian National Channel run by the Government). So the radio was a far more important and influential medium than it is today.
Anyway, I hope you like Nikhil’s posts. I really don’t know why we don’t have a 5 CD or 10 CD pack of his songs yet (or is it already out in Kerala already?). He deserves a HMV-SaReGaMa Legends collection or something equivalent.
Finally, to really understand who or what Sharreth is and why I like him, listen to these three samples, and yes, all are his own compositions. If you are going to listen to just one of them, let it be this duet with Unnikrishnan. Here is the search list of songs available in You Tube sung by Sharreth if you want to listen to more.
Oh, yes, lest I forget, Raveendran maashu had this to say about Sharreth in 1994:
Q: Does any of the new generation music directors give you hope?
A [Raveendran Maashu]: Sharreth. There is music in his songs. He understands music. We should encourage and congratulate him.
I hope Sharreth would give us scores (or hundreds) of beautiful songs in the future. Malayalam music industry hasn’t been too supportive of Sharreth in the past, and I hope that would change for the better. May Kerala not join the rest of the country in giving the cold shoulder to shudha-sangeetham (pure music) in mainstream cinema music. I hope Kerala continues to encourage more and more youngsters to learn the basics of music before dreaming big and high.
I have my hopes set high after listening to this today – the Classical music round from last year’s Idea Star Singer, sung by Thushar. I don’t think any of the reality music shows in either Tamil or Hindi has anything like this (perhaps I am wrong here, but I wouldn’t mind knowing about another show that is in the same class) or where the contestants are of this class or this versatile. Don’t forget to listen to the judge’s comments too. Kerala is blessed to have given birth to so many world class talented souls — Yesudas, Raveendran, Chithra, Sujatha, Unnikrishnan, Johnson, Ousepachan and Sharreth to name just a few (and not including any of the music directors from the previous generation).