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Ballad of love

Album A group of musicians join hands to come up with a musical version of Changampuzha’s ‘Ramanan,’ writes Saraswathy Nagarajan



Redefining ‘Ramanan’ (from left) Kavalam Srikumar, Edapally Ajith Kumar, Gayathri and Sreevalsan J. Menon

It is a timeless love story that has inspired filmmakers, authors, poets and scholars. And now a group of musicians have joined hands to come up with a musical on Changampuzha’s evergreen ‘Ramanan.’

“It was actually violinist Edapally Ajith Kumar who suggested the idea about two years ago. But then we were busy with our work on another album and it got postponed. We began working on ‘Ramanan’ last year. Most of the compositions have been scored by Ajith, and I did the rest,” says Carnatic vocalist Sreevalsan J. Menon, who is Ramanan’s voice in the audio album.

Kavalam Srikumar renders the lines of Ramanan’s friend Madanan while Super Star Global winner Roopa and playback singer Gayatri voices the lyrics of Chandramthi and Bhanumati respectively.

Emphasis on lyrics

“It was interesting to work on this popular kavyam that has been read and recited so many times. Some of the recitation was done impromptu and the emphasis was always on the lyrics. I feel this kind of a work will help reach the poem to a wider audience,” says Kavalam Srikumar.

Agreeing with him, Gayatri says that though the project is a first of its kind, she did not find it too difficult as most of the lines in one scene were set in a particular raga.

“I usually get carried away by notes and music, lyrics were not a priority for me. In this case, I had to be careful about the lyrics and pay attention to intonation and pronunciation. So, it was a new experience for me,” she adds.

Perhaps the first of its kind in Malayalam, the album, marketed by Manorama Music, promises to be a trendsetter.

“When my brother-in-law, Santosh, a Gulf-based entrepreneur, wondered aloud if we could do something to popularise Changampuzha’s work among a new generation of Malayalis, little did I imagine that it would turn out to be something so unique,” says Ajith.

Ajith adds that the fact that the story of the poem has strong connections to Edapally did not cross his mind then. “But when I started interpreting the poem musically, I did feel blessed to be involved in this project. Moreover, there is an innate melody and rhythm in the poem that makes it ideal for such a musical interpretation.”

Various ragas such as Kalyani, Hindolam, Abheri, Lavangi, Karnaranjani, Nasikabhushani …, with slight variations, have been used to compose the songs for the album. Sreevalsan hastens to add that though the orchestration has a contemporary touch to it, it has been composed in such a way that it does not drown the lyrics.

Says an enthused Sreevalsan: “It is an audio theatrical presentation. And we have none other than Nedumudi Venu (who won the National award for narration) narrating certain scenes to take the story forward. We have slightly abridged the original poem and again, in a break from the original, the narration begins with Madanan searching for his friend Ramanan and finally discovering his body in the forest. Then, in the flashback technique, popularised in our cinema, we go to the first scene and Ramanan’s story. And chipping in as Ramanan’s flute is Kudamaloor Janardhanan.”

The musicians aver that they were careful to maintain the rustic feel to the lyrics and not go in for affected voices.

According to Ajith, though they had tried to rope in some big names for the lead female voice of Chandramathi, their tight schedules forced them to opt for Roopa. But no regrets. “She has a fresh and unaffected voice,” says Ajith.

Sreevalsan points that since the poet himself has indicated where the chorus comes in and so on, it was easy to be in tune with the poem musically. The musicians chorus in one voice that the endeavour was a labour of love.

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