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Letters to the Editor

Thanks, Sugandhi, for that Yesudas piece

I was delighted to read the beginning of the piece on Yesudas by Sugandhi Ravindranath. Because it coincides with a private belief I have carried all my life -- a Malayali has only two things he really owns; one is Malayalam, the other is Yesudas.

Another admirer of KJ has put up a website and some of the vignettes quoted by Sugandhi appear there as well. But more resarch has gone into her piece, like the help KJ received from various people, and particularly touching is the reference to 'Padma madam' and Mathai. Some of the private moments are skillfully interwoven like the change in attitude of the hospital when his parents died. The initial part of the article brought tears to my eyes.

Somewhere in the middle where the reference goes to the film connection and the lyricists, music directors, etc., the natural beautiful rhythm of the piece was broken. And the structure seemed to lose its focus. It would seem that the author was not sure how to include the many things she had to say in a comprehensive manner. I do agree that the life and career of the versatile singer would have many facets to be explored; but the contrast of the compactness and flow of the first half to the randomness of the second half was striking.

I think the one of the points that was being made was that irrespective of the quality of films and the relevance of the song-sequences, his voice captured the imagination of the people and long before the music industry started carrying some films on its shoulder, KJ started doing it. ( I had a friend who used to see every Malayalam film release in the '70s only to listen and learn the latest KJ hit). This point, if it indeed was what was intended, however, does not come through.

But thank you, Sugandhi, for an informative article on KJ. This is from one fan to another. Meanwhile some comments on the facts included and missed:

I am not sure if KJ acted in the play KK. He indeed did the 'Suruma' role in the movie of the same name. I think he appeared in Anarkali (Malayalam) for a song sequence (I don't remember if it was as Tansen) and naturally many other similar roles. I wonder whether he ever did a bit role where he was not needed to sing. Probably not.

If I remember correctly, he started growing his beard around the period when he started his annual pilgrimage to Sabarimala and it stayed. I have even heard that his first son was born after he started the pilgrimage and that is one of the reasons for his 'faith', the genuineness of which is debated in some quarters. It does not matter. Ayyappa welcomes everyone without consideration of his/her religious belief, though some would like us to believe otherwise.

At Sabarimala shrine, the Lord wakes up with 'Ayyappa Suprabhatam' and the goes to sleep with 'Harivarasanam' every day during the season (and probably whenever the shrine is open) and both are rendered by KJ. Some years ago, on every January 14, KJ used to be at the shrine giving a concert for Sankranti. Perhaps he does not do that anymore.

All said and done, the purist Karnatic classical music lover is yet to ackowledge KJ as a master. A trained ear perhaps finds it difficult to tune to the 'lightness' that creeps into his classical singing. Or it may be a mindset. But technicalities apart, his voice and his singing appeals to the person who cannot identify a raga or keep tala during a concert. He is the No 1 crowd puller at classical concerts and his contribution in popularising Karnatak music has probably no parallel.

I also thought a reference to some of the special non-film songs/albums would have been apt. For example, Karivalayitta kayyil was among the first non-film songs that took Kerala by storm. He has a flair to bring a natural spark to songs with a comical touch. Apart from Suruma, this was brought out in songs like Chirichenne mayakia. This perhaps comes from a part of his persona which loves fun. Another song, Poomullakkodiyudukkenam in an album released in 1998, and rendered with Sujatha, captures the mood of Onam unmistakably. Incidentally, KJ has introduced his son who does not imitate his style in this album. Another personal favourite is Neelapeelikkavadiyenthi from Tulasithirtham along with Oruneramengilum from the same album. The bhakti bhavam in these two renderings is remarkable and stands out among his devotional numbers.


Read Sugandhi's piece on Yesudas

Classy music, heartwarming review

Mr Ramakrishna has done a great job in reviewing the Hey Ram album. It is heartwarming to note that classy music is alive and well, and more importantly, the critic's discretion, to know when he hears it, is too.

The only off-key note in the review is Ninnu palimpa instead of Nannu palimpa. The meaning does change, wouldn't one say?

Hope to read more reviews from you.

M Diwakar
on e-mail

(Thanks. We've set that line right. -- Ed)

Wanted audio

It is a nice web site. It would be nice to have an audio sample of your advertised products.

Zafar Iqbal
Arlington, Virginia, USA

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