When YouTube calls the ‘tune’ with Onam songs for Malayalis across the globe

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The immensely popular video-sharing platform is helping musicians and music lover bring back some semblance of a great tradition of Onam song releases

There was a time when music lovers used to look forward to the Onam season with excitement. For, music companies like Tharangini Records would bring out audio cassettes during the festival period.

Those melodious days may be long gone, but today YouTube is helping musicians and listeners bring back some semblance of that great tradition. Just listen to the song Chembakappoovil, crooned by K.S. Chithra, and you may be bowled over. It is composed by Sharreth and written by Anoop Mukundan.

“I am glad I could at least compose a melody like this now because of YouTube,” says Sharreth. “In the good old times, I had composed an album of Onam songs sung by S. Janaki and P. Unnikrishnan,’ he says.

That album, Poovili, was released in 1999. The practice of music companies bringing out a lot of non-film cassettes was already on the decline then.

Big craze

Sharreth has vivid memories of the days when those cassettes were a big craze. “Growing up in Kollam, I used to wait impatiently for the latest Onam cassette from Tharangini,” he says. “Often the wait would be long, for the cassettes would be sold out in no time. I still remember the excitement with which I listened to the songs of Ulsava Ganangal (Vol. 1) at Lakshmi Musical in Kollam.”

That album, which had lyrics by Sreekumaran Thampi and music by Raveendran, contained timeless classics such as Ennum chirikkunna sooryante and Uthraadappoo nilaave vaa. More than five lakh cassettes of it were sold soon after its release in 1983, Mr. Thampi had once said.

A year later, Raveendran came up with another brilliant album, this time in the company of lyricist Bichu Thirumala. Vasanthageethangal featured all-time popular songs such as Valampiri shankhil, Arayanname, Maavu pootha and Mamaankam pala kuri.

The same year also saw Tharangini bringing out another gem of an album, titled Ganolsavam, which had music by Jerry Amaldev and lyrics by O.N.V. Kurup. It remains one of the greatest albums of light music in Malayalam, with unforgettable songs like Shraavana chandrikaa pushpam choodiya and Iniyonnu paadi.

‘Golden period’

“That was indeed the golden period of our non-film songs,” says playback singer Madhu Balakrishnan. “But it is good to find that there are takers for Onam songs even today, thanks to YouTube. I have recorded 20 Onam songs this year,” he says.

One of them, Aishwarya ponnonam, written by Viditha Madhu Balakrishnan and composed by Satish Nair, has attracted 1.5 lakh views within five days of its release. This Onam, several singers, including K.S. Harishankar, Sudeep Kumar, Vidhu Prathap, Rimi Tomy and Akhila Anand, have released Onam songs on YouTube.

And if you want to rewind the Onam melodies from the past, you could just do that too on YouTube.

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