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Rustic Tunes, Contemporary Treatment: Seven Malayalam Composers Who Impressed In 2017

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Over the past couple of years, the music of the Malayalam film industry has transformed in unforeseen ways. Many veteran composers with a robust background in Carnatic music have moved to the fringes, while a younger crop with a good grasp of technology and international music has moved to the forefront. A composer such as Gopi Sunder describes himself as a programmer first, and is not averse to experimenting with voice modifying software.

So, who are the composers who gave Mollywood the most outstanding playback music in 2017? Read on.

Sooraj Kurup, Solo

Bejoy Nambiar’s Solo has 20 songs by eight composers, including coveted names such as Prasanth Pillai and bands such as Thaikkudam Bridge and Agam. All the songs have an earworm quality, but the one that tops them all is a mood piece composed by Sooraj Kurup, who is just three films old. It is impossible to resist the charm of Seetha Kalyana, a marvelous song that fuses the traditional kriti Seetha Kalyana with a melodious other half that has English and Tamil lyrics. The song, which speaks of broken love, has vocals by Renuka Arun and Sooraj.

Bijibal, Ramante Eden Thottam

Bijibal’s music is a time machine that can take one to a golden period when the likes of Johnson master and Jerry Amaldev churned out soulful songs and background tracks. Last year, he mesmerised listeners with a bunch of fantastic songs in Maheshinte Prathikaram. This year, he has an album of three melodious numbers that set the background to the love story of Raman and Malini in Ranjith Shankar’s Ramante Eden Thottam. The songs have memorable lyrics written by Santhosh Varma. Maavilakkudi is a cheerful light number rendered by Rajalakshmi Abhiram, a former State award winning singer. Akaleyoru Kaadinte, sung by Shreya Ghoshal, has poetic lyrics and emanates an old-world charm. Kavithayezhuthunnu, which features Sooraj Santhosh’s vocals, is a gorgeous number; probably, the best of the three.

Prasanth Pillai (Angamaly Diaries)

Trust Prasanth Pillai to come up with the most maverick numbers for the liveliest Malayalam movie of the year. He composed nine tracks for Lijo Jose Pallissery’s Angamaly Diaries, an adrenaline-driven tale of a bunch of men in a small town in Kerala known for its thriving pork business. The songs are perfect additions to the film’s brilliant narrative that proceeds in a swift pace. Three songs in the album – Angamaly, Theeyame and Thana Dhina – are energetic, and the engaging rustic numbers have been rendered by a septuagenarian local singer Angamaly Pranchi. When Angamaly Diaries was screened at the Dharamshala International Film Festival in November, the audience erupted into a wild applause when Thana Dhina started playing on the screen. Do Naina and Ayalathe Penninte are romantic numbers with Prasanth’s unique signature. They might remind one of Solamanum Sosannayum from Amen, for the minimal orchestration and a delicate European touch.

Justin (Njandukalude Naattil Oridavela)

Altaf Salim’s Njandukalude Naattil Oridavela is a life-affirming tale of an upper middle-class family in Kochi. The mother is diagnosed with cancer, and the rest of the family feels the blues. The film has two songs –Enthaavo, a cheerful romantic number that puts to use Nivin Pauly’s charm, and Nanavere, a soulful melody that elicits the mood of a rainy evening. One of the highlights of Nanavere is its excellent sarod track performed by Veer Bhardwaj. The song has vocals by Tessa Chavara and lyrics by Santhosh Varma. Nanavere has a soothing simplicity that makes it one of the best Malayalam playback numbers of 2017.

Afzal Yusuff, Theeram

Theeram, a romantic drama, barely got noticed at the box-office, but the film’s soundtrack sure garnered some fans. Composed by Afzal Yusuff, the film’s music album has four songs, featuring singers such as Shreya Ghoshal, Najim Arshad and Armaan Malik. Afzal’s music and the use of instruments might remind one of works of veteran composer Vidyasagar whose love for mellifluous melodies is famous. For one, the song, Njanum Neeyum, is a delectably slow-paced romantic number that easily makes it to the ‘Top 5’ film songs of 2017.

Shaan Rahman, Godha

Shaan Rahman’s soundtrack for Godha bears uncanny resemblance to his work in Vineeth Sreenivasan’s Thattathin Marayathu. The songs are delightful, and work as both individual pieces and as leitmotifs. Wow, in Sithara Krishnakumar’s husky voice, sets the perfect background for the heroine’s arrival in a Palakkad village surrounded by hills and endowed with rivers and lakes. Interestingly, Gowri Lakshmi, the other female singer featured in the album, has an equally deep voice. Shaan marvellously mixes percussion and chorus in all the songs, especially in  Aaro Nenjil which has shades of Punjabi folk music.

Rahul Raj and Sushin Shyam, Ezra

Ezra features songs that belong to genres as different as chalk and cheese. The first song in the album is Lailakame, a romantic number composed by Rahul Raj and sung by Haricharan, whose uninhibited voice works magic in the high-note portions. Sushin Shyam, whose work in Kismath garnered a lot of acclaim in 2016, composes a haunting piece, Thambiran, for Ezra’s flashback portion. Sung by Vipin Raveendran, it is a rather unconventional folk number that adds to the film’s eerie ambience.

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