About Kerala Music

Music of Kerala has a long and rich history. Kerala is a state which lies in Southern India. The music of Kerala not necessarily directly imply to poetry in Malayalam language, the official and most widely used language in the state, despite the fact that most of the music in Kerala is poetry driven. Kerala has a rich tradition in Carnatic music as well, though that branch of music was formed in Tamilnadu and uses Kannada, the language of Karnataka, both Tamilnadu and Karnataka being neighboring states of Kerala. Songs formed a major part of early Malayalam literature, which is believed to have started developing by 9th century CE. The significance of music in the culture of Kerala can be established just by the fact that in Malayalam language, musical poetry was developed long before prose.
With the development of music in the region, different branches were formed out of it. The most basic branches are classical music which is primarily Carnatic music oriented, and popular music includes film songs and album songs. Then there is music like chenda melam , which despite its religious nature, enjoys status of classical music as well as popularity.



Mappila Songs
The Malabar region of the state, with a large Muslim population had developed a signature music stream based on the Hindustani style. The stream consists of a variety of forms like gazals and mappila pattu, and also music for authentic Muslim dance forms such as oppana and kol kali. The poetry forms a main part of this stream of music, which is primarily in Malayalam with the use of Arabic words in between which is known as arabi malayalam. Mappila songs have a charm of their own as their tunes sound a mix of the ethos and culture of Kerala as well as West Asia. They deal with diverse themes such as religion, love, satire and heroism.


Malayalam film music


Film music, which refers to playback singing in the context of Indian music  forms the most important canon of popular music in India. Film music of Kerala in particular is the most popular form of music in the state. Before Malayalam cinema and Malayalam film music developed, the Keralites eagerly followed Tamil and Hindi film songs and that habit has stayed with them till now. The history of Malayalam film songs begin with the 1948 film Nirmala. The film's music director was P.S. Divakar and the songs were sung by P. Leela, T. K. Govinda Rao, Vasudeva Kurup, C. K. Raghavan, Sarojini Menon and Vimala B. Varma, who is credited as the first playback singer of Malayalam cinema.

The main trend in the early years was to use the tune of hit Hindi or Tamil songs in Malayalam songs. This trend was changed in the early 1950s by the arrival of a number of poets and musicians to the Malayalam music scene. People who stormed into the Malayalam film music industry in the 1950s include musicians like V. Dakshinamurthy (1950), K. Raghavan (1954), G. Devarajan (1955) andM.S. Babu Raj (1957) and lyricists like P. Bhaskaran (1950), O.N.V. Kurup (1955) and Vayalar Rama Varma (1956). 
They are attributed with shaping Malayalam film music stream and giving it its own identity.Major playback singers of that time were Kamukara Purushothaman, K.P. Udayabhanu, A.M. Raja, P. Leela, Santha P. Nair, P. Susheela and S. Janaki. Many of these singers like A.M. Raja, P. Susheela and Janaki were not Malayalis and their pronunciation was not perfect. Despite that, these singers received high popularity throughout Kerala. In later years many non-Malayalis like Manna Dey, Talat Mehmood, Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhonsle and S.P. Balasubramaniam sang for Malayalam films. This trend was also found among music directors to an extent, with outside musicians like Naushad, Usha Khanna, Salil Chaudhary, Bombay Ravi and Ilaya Raja.This can be attributed to the fact that film music in South India had a parallel growth pattern with so many instances of cross-industry contributions.

K.J. Yesudas, who debuted in 1961, virtually revolutionised the Malayalam film music industry and became the most popular Malayalam singer ever. He became equally popular with classical music audience and people who patronised film music.He, along with P. Jayachandran, gave a major facelift to Malayalam playback singing in the 1960s and 1970s. Malayalam film music also received heavy contributions from musicians like Johnson, M. G. Radhakrishnan, Raveendran, S. P. Venkitesh and Ouseppachan, lyricists like Sreekumaran Thampy, Yusuf Ali Kechery, and Kaithaprom Damodaran Namboodiri, and singers like M. G. Sreekumar, G. Venugopal, K. S. Chithra and Sujatha Mohan. A notable aspect in the later years was the extensive of classical Carnatic music in many film songs of the later 1980s and early 1990s. Interestingly, that particular period is also considered the peak time of Malayalam cinema itself and is quite widely known as the Golden Age of Malayalam cinema,a period in which the difference between art films and popular films was least felt. Similarly, classical Carnatic music was heavily used in several popular film songs, most notably those in films like Chithram (1988), His Highness Abdullah (1990), Bharatham (1991), Sargam (1992) and Sopanam (1993).At present, the major players in the scene are young talents like musicians M. Jayachandran, Deepak Dev, Alphonse, Jassie Gift, Biji Pal, Shyam Dharman and Shaan Rahman; lyricists late Gireesh Puthanchery, Vayalar Sarath and Anil Panachooran, and singers Madhu Balakrishnan, Afsal, Vidhu Pratap, Franco, Vineeth Sreenivasan, Manjari, Gayathri and Jyotsna, along with stalwarts in the field.
The national award winning music directors of Malayalam cinema are Johnson (1994, 1995) and Bombay Ravi (1995). The 1995 National Award that Johnson received for film score of Sukrutham (1994) was the only instance in the history of the award in which the awardee composed the film soundtrack rather than songs. He shared that award with Bombay Ravi who received the award for composing songs for the same film. The lyricists who have won the national award are Vayalar Ramavarma (1973), O. N. V. Kurup (1989) and Yusuf Ali Kechery (2001). The male singer who got national award, K. J. Yesudas (1973, 1974, 1988, 1992, 1994), P. Jayachandran (1986) and M. G. Sreekumar (1991, 2000). Yesudas has won two more national awards for singing in Hindi (1977) and Telugu (1983) films, which makes him the person who has won the largest number of National Film Award for Best Male Playback Singer with 7 awards, closely trailed by S. P. Balasubramaniam with 6 awards. 

The female singers who have won the award are S. Janaki (1981) and K. S. Chithra (1987, 1989). Chitra had also won the award for Tamil (1986, 1997, 2005) and Hindi (1998) film songs, which makes her the person with the largest number of National Film Award for Best Female Playback Singer wins with 6 awards, closely trailed by P. Susheela with 5 awards.

Malayalam Pop music
Pop music in Kerala, otherwise known as Mallu Pop developed in the later half of 1990s with the entry of East Coast Vijayan and his music company East Coast Audios. East Coast Vijayan can be regarded as the pioneer of non-film pop album songs in Kerala. Being a poet himself, Vijayan penned down the first non-film music album in Malayalam Ninakkai, which was released in 1998.The music was given by Balabhaskar and the song "Ninakkay Thozhi Punarjanikkam" sang by Biju Narayanan became a big hit.

 In 1999, Vijayan came up with his second album in 'Ninakkai' series named Aadhyamai, composed by Balabhaskar and penned by Vijayan himself. The song "Iniyarkkum Arodum" sung by K. J. Yesudas became another hit. In 2001, East Coast came up with Ormakkai which is widely regarded as the biggest hit in the history of Malayalam Pop Music.The song "Ormakkai Iniyoru Snehageetham" from the album, composed by M. Jayachandran, penned down by Vijayan and sung by K. J. Yesudas and K. S. Chithra is widely regarded as an all time classic hit. Meanwhile Pop albums had caught up the imagination of college campuses and more talents started to come up with music albums. One of such early albums that had become a rage with the youth of that time was Valentine's Day. The song "Niranja Mizhiyum" from the album composed by Isaac Thomas Kottukappally and penned down by Gireesh Puthanchery had become a big hit in college campuses. Audio companies other than East Coast started to come up with Music Albums. Front runners among them were Johny Sagarika, Satyam Audios, Magnum audios and Octave audios. As a result Pop music culture grew in Kerala. In 2006, Satyam audios came up with super hit album 'Chembakame' which saw the rise of a new singing sensation Franco and a talented composer Shyam Dharman. 
The songs "Sundariye Vaa" and "Chembakame" were record breaking hits. In 2008, Johny Sagarika came up with the album 'Moham'and the song "Kudajadriyil" sung by Swarnalatha and composed by Mansoor Ahmed became a big hit. Meanwhile Mallu pop saw a new trend that was the rise of boy bands. One of the first notable boy band was 'Confusion' of Balabhaskar and their song "No Tension Please" was a hit. Year 2007 saw the coming of a new band 'Team Malayalee'which rocked the malayalam album industry. Team Malayalee consisted of four talented musicians Vineeth Sreenivasan, Jakes Bijoy, Shaan Rahman and Arjun Sasi. The songs "Friends 4 ever" and "Minnalazhake" from the album Malayalee was big hit. In 2008, Vineeth Sreenivasan and Shaan Rahman again teamed up to bring out an album 'Coffee @ MG Road' which became another smashing hit. The song "Palavattom" which featured malayalam actor Salim Kumar is widely regarded as an all time hit. Year 2009 saw the rise of another boy band 'YUVA' which created waves with debut album 'Dreamzzz'. YUVA consisted for three talented young musicians Vineeth Mohandas, Santhosh Kumar and Sinu Zachariah and they brought some fresh air of good melodies to the Malayalam music industry at a time when the industry was stuck up imitating Tamil, Hindi and Western songs. 

Their debut video song "Ravin Nilakayalil" was a huge hit and was a chart topper through out the year 2009. In 2010 they came up with their second music video "Povukayano" sung by Vidhu Pratap which again was popular among youths. In 2010, another boy band named 'Arrows' was formed which included reality music show Asianet's Idea Star Singer sensations Arun Gopan, Roshan N.C., William Isaac and Sudarshan Achary.After a gap of 6 years, East Coast came up with their 6th album in Ninakkai series, a very ambitious project 'Ennennum'. The album was released in 5 languages in India with 60 songs involving 30 leading singers in the country. This magnum opus album was composed by Vijay Karun and penned down by East Coast Vijayan. It can be regarded as the first big budget music album of Kerala. Talented young composers like Rashee (Alone, Loved and Lost), Dijo Jose Antony (La Cochin), Nithin (Autograph), Mithun Raj(Violet)have also created their marks in the Malayalam album industry.