Onam brings with it the memories of Onam songs. Until recent times, Onam songs used to declare the approaching festival season with cassette companies competing with each other to release new songs ahead of Onam. Those days, young men from villages used to go to the nearby towns and queue up in front of cassette shops to buy the latest Onam songs.
At a time when television sets were not common and smartphones were yet to arrive, people used to find entertainment in Onam songs. A lot of comedy cassettes were also released during Onam.
Though these have now become a leaf in the book of memories, Onam songs still continue to be an important element in Keralites’ Onam celebrations and deep within their hearts, Keralites continue to hum their favourite Onam tunes. Here is a list of some of the favourite Onam songs of Keralites.
Sreekumaran Thampi’s favourite song is his own Uthradapoonilave vaa. This one is different from the usual Onam tracks, in a sense that its purpose is not to fill the hearts of the listeners with the joy of festivities. Instead, the poet is inviting the moonlight of Uthradam night to lighten up the sorrows of Unni, who was unable to celebrate Onam.
This song is the favourite of upcoming singer Devanand too. “The biggest charm of the songs lies in its lyrics. When we all celebrate Onam, this song reminds us of the less fortunate souls who are not able to celebrate the festival,” he says. Add to the lyrics Raveendran sir’s music and the voice of K.J Yesudas. What more can one ask for? adds Devanand.
The song is in Ulsavaganangal album, released by Tharangini.
Ona poove poove
Music director and singer Ramesh Narayanan’s favourite song is Ona poove poove. This song was in the movie Ee Ganam Marakkumo. Sung by Yesudas and composed by Salil Chowdhary, this song, penned by ONV, is the first that comes to my mind when I think about Onam, says Narayanan. The specialty of this song is its music, which is different from that of usual Onam tracks.
Narayanan wonders how Salil Chowdhary, a Bengali with no first-hand experience of Onam, composed such a melodious song about Onam. ONV’s lyrics are also beautiful. “I have heard that both Salil Chowdhary and ONV sat together and composed this song. The quality of the song itself is a proof of that fact,” Narayanan said. Ramesh Narayanan’s second favourite song is Uthrada poonilave.
There is another singer who gets excited with the song Onapoove. That is youth sensation Sayanora from Kannur. Though she sings modern songs, Sayanora’s favourite Onam song is this old one.
“Whenever I am asked to sing an Onam song on stage or for that matter at any event, this is the one that comes to my mind first. The highlight of this song is its simplicity and elegance and thanks to these qualities, everyone enjoys this song. I can sing complicated tunes, but I like light music more. Salil Chowdhary’s music has always been different. But more importantly, they are extremely simple and that is why a lot of people including me love his music,” says Sayanora.
Lyricist Kaithapram Damodaran Namboodiri’s favourite Onam song is Thiruvonapularithan, penned by Sreekumaran Thampi. The song is featured in the movie Thiruvonam that was written and directed by Sreekumaran Thampi. Sung by Vani Jayaram to the tune of MK Arjun, its lyrics and rendition that convey the core culture and feel of Kerala attract Kaithrapram.
Of his own compositions, Kaithapram’s favourite Onam song is from the movie Varavelpu. The song, Vellaarapoomala melle, Ponkinnam neetti neetti, Akaashappoomudi choodi, Onathaaraadi varunnee…, speaks of the approaching Onathaaru (or the theyyam in Malabar areas during Onam season) during the festival. During his childhood days, Kaithapram used to love the tune to which the theyyam used to come swaying.
“The situation in the movie was the happiness of the people of a small village when the first bus service starts there. When director of the movie Sathyan Anthikkad told me to come up with a song to suit that situation, the first thing that came to my mind was the image of that theyyam. Like the theyyam arrives, singing happy tunes to announce the arrival of Onam festival, the bus arrives in the movie, spreading happiness among the villagers. Johnson generally composes music first and asks lyrics to be written accordingly. But when he heard to the lines of this song, he said it was good, and instantly composed a tune for it,” recollects Kaithapram.