Tribute to ‘Raveendra Sangeetham’
by Elizabeth Menon
I was watching the news one afternoon four years ago and I still remember the newscaster’s words that made me jump up from my chair, “Music Director Raveendran died”. All I could think of was, “ How do we cope without Raveendran’s music and how can we think of a world without his music -- but at that moment, I also knew that his music is for eternity”. And then, I felt guilty for not thinking about his wife and the three sons who would be feeling the loss more than anyone else! The first reaction was a total selfish one which I am sure would have been shared by all the Malayalees and anyone else who loved his music, and therefore, perhaps justifiable -- Raveendran has composed beautiful melodies in Tamil too! On the 3rd of March this year it makes it four years without that powerful, enigmatic and melodious sound that does not need any inscription on it because, the one listening would be in another world, a celestial world only of sound, a special sound called 'Raveendra Sangeetham'! (For the un-initiated, ‘Raveendra Sangeetham’ is the magical music composed by the in-imitable music director Raveendran from Kerala)
There are certain things or people that are easily recognizable, perhaps due to the shape, quality, sound, or the enigmatic personality; but then, there are so many with similar characteristics that most of these identifiable objects or people will be grouped as such. But there are some who stand out eclipsing all the rest -- Malayalees have Yesudas, Sathyan, Sreekumaran Thampi, D Babu Paul, and I would say Raveendran’s place is quite secure in this elite club! I am certain that there are few others I could mention, but I am talking about the ones recognized by all, irrespective of their class, age or literacy status. Raveendran’s music is something that one takes notice sitting up – his music is such that it touches all your senses and beyond! Raveendran had his first song in 1970, 'Paarvana Rajani than Paana-paathrathil Paalo Theno Panineero…', in Baburaj’s ‘Velliazhcha’. And it was Sathyan, the uncrowned king of Malayalam cinema, who introduced him to Baburaj – it was the meeting of three lions, Sathyan, Baburaj and Raveendran, perhaps one of the rare occasions where Yesudas was not in the equation in Raveendran’s musical career!
Raveendran was born in Kulathupuzha, in Quilon District and music was his passion from an early age. Ravi Kulathupuzha, as he was known then, formed a music group called, ‘Thunderbirds’ and performed in various towns in Kerala. He took his degree from the Swathi Thirunal Academy in Thiruvananthapuram and moved to Chennai where he had his first break as a play back singer in ‘Velliiazhcha’ in 1970, following which he had a long wait. He worked as a dubbing artist for various films including Telugu films, dubbing for the then famous actor Ravi Kumar for around seven years. He had the opportunity to spend time with Dr K J Yesudas and the rest is history! Yesudas convinced Raveendran that he should use his ‘Given name, Raveendran, instead of ‘Ravi Kulathupuzha’, and to make use of his God given talent in composing music. It was also Yesudas who persuaded Mr. J Sasikumar to give Raveendran the chance to compose music for his film ‘Choola’ in 1979; Raveendran has mentioned in his interviews that he owes his success to ‘Dasettan’, who even promised Sasikumar that he would pay the losses if the music were a failure! Sathyan Anthikkaadu wrote the words and ‘Thaarake Mizhiyithalil Kanneerumayi…’ hit the sound waves like a rocket and it was like something nobody has ever heard before, and Raveendra sangeetham was born, eclipsing all else! The other songs from Choola were written by Poovachal Khader, Sindoorasandhyaykku mounam, Kiraatha Daaham, etc.
‘Thaarake Mizhiyithalil…’ in Yesudas’s heart wrenching voice was just a celestial sample to tickle the taste buds of the Malayalam Music World and then on, it was ‘Maamaankam’ till the very end, and beyond! We salute you Master! ‘Thenum Vayampum’ followed, with ‘Ottakkampi Naadam Moolum’, by Yesudas and his voice was such that the song reminded the listeners of walking through dry snow when the sun is shining! Raveendran was the first music director to bring the Classical, Hindusthani and the Light music together, bringing out the strength, tone and the beauty of all! Raveendran created a musical haven for Malayalees, creating music with the help of P. Bhaskaran (Venkalam…), Sreekumaran Thampi, (Ennum chirikkunna Suriyante, uthratappoonilave Vaa, Oru Nullu Kaakkappoo, Innumente kannuneeril, Paataam Namukku Paataam, Vilichathaaru), Bichu Thirumala (Thenum Vayampum, Maamaankam, valampiri shankhil, Ezhu swarangalum, Nizhalaay, Leelaathilakam, etc), ONV Kurup (Poykayil, Kaveri paatamini), Kaithapram (Ramakatha, Gopika vasantham, Enthinu veroru suriyodayam, Vennakkal kottaravaathil, etc), Yousafali Kecheri (Aantholanam, Sangeethame..),Gireesh Puthencheri(Hari Muraleeravam,, Sreelavasantham, Gange, Kalabham tharaam, Manjakkiliyute, Etho nidrathan, Hemambari), Rameshan Nair( Devasandhya, Snehikkaan..), Biju Narayanan (Pathu veluppinu, Nilaykku mukalil), and many more -- only mentioned few songs! His musical voyage started with the film ‘Choola’ spanning over more than 150 films, festival songs, Vasantha Geethangal and Devotional songs -- 'Kalabham and Cholliyaattam' were released after his demise.
If Raveendran started his career with Yesudas in ‘Choola’, his last film has two generations singing for him – Yesudas singing ‘Hemambari’, and his son Vijay Yesudas singing ‘Muthani’ in ‘Cholliyattam’! And he has brought out the best ever in M G Sreekumar, to sing ‘Sharada Neerada’ in the same film. Biju Narayan rendered his best for his debut ‘Pathu veluppinu’ under Raveendran and he was fortunate to sing ‘Nilaykku mukalil’, in Raveendran’s last film, ‘Cholliyattam’! It is rather surprising that Raveendran only received one National Award, when most of his songs are worthy of that, and more – he received the National Award for the Best Music, for ‘Bharatham’! However, there is something that the music lovers of Kerala will never forgive the selection committee for, or forget -- a song that deserved the National Award for the ‘Best Singer, Best lyrics and Best Music, ‘Pramadavanam’ from the film ‘His Highness Abdulla’ was not given its pride of place -- however, this will go down in history as ‘The song that was not given its most deserving place at the National level’, but it’s creators, Raveendran, Kaithapram Damadaran Nampoothiri and Yesudas received all the awards from the music lovers of Kerala! Sreekumaran Thampi also faced similar fate, in not receiving the accolades that he well deserved, at National and State level, when most of his songs, poetry and films stood much above the rest!
Malayalees are blessed with this sound, Raveendra Sangeetham, that takes them on a journey through the sound waves, stretching from lullaby to smooth melodies, heart wrenching melancholic tunes and ultimately reaching the outer barriers of the sound waves, almost beyond human expectations! Raveendran of course had Yesudas, to sing most of his songs whose voice had the celestial quality, to take his music to any planes that he wished, or even beyond, as 'God Himself is famously known to have tuned' this singer’s voice! And Chithra rendered her inimitable voice for the female gender—‘Pularkaala Sundara Swapnathil… and Mouliyil Mayilpeeli’ are few of the examples! Raveendran had the magical power to bring out the best in any vocalists, and it was quite astonishing to find that even someone with a mediocre voice could render melodies in a beautiful manner under his direction!
Raveendran’s music was the power and strength behind the Malayalam Music World and there would never be another one quite like him. Raveendran Master will always be remembered for his songs that reached the inner core of his listeners. 'Pramadavanam, Ottakkampi Naadam, Ennum chirikkunna Suriyante, Uthraatappoonilave Vaa, Oru Nullu Kaakkappoo, Hari Muraleeravam, Ezhu swarangalum, Raavil, Madanapathaaka, Poykayil, Thaarake, Maamaankam, Kaveri Paatamini, Ramakatha, Raghuvamshapade, Nandiyarotu njan chollentu, Gange, Pravaahame, Gopike, Sreelavasantham, Omane Thankame, Raagangale Mohangale, Enthinu Veroru Suriyodayam and Hemambari, and all the other melodious songs will remind us of our Raveendran Master for eternity. Raveendran has also given us in his own voice, a lesson in itself, “Shruthy Amma Layam Achen …”, in ‘Madhura Noamparakkaattu’ -- let us revel in its cool breeze!
Our prayers are with his wife Shobha and his three sons, Naveen, Rajan and Sajan, as we pay homage to our Raveendran Master on his Remembrance Day!