//The poet who popularised Mappilla songs

The poet who popularised Mappilla songs

Published: Saturday, 1 July, 2006, Gulf Times, Qatar

By Ramesh Mathew

O M Karuvarakundu

MAPPILLA lyricist from the southern Indian state of Kerala, Ottamaliekkal Muthukoya Thangal, aka O M Karuvarakundu, has amply demonstrated that music transcends all barriers.

The lyricist was in Doha to head the jury at the maiden ‘International Mappillapattu Anthakshari’, hosted by Sameeksha, the Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre’s art and cultural wing. The Doha leg of the event was held on Thursday evening in the presence of a big gathering at the Doha Cinema.

Karuvarakundu is considered as the man who was instrumental in taking the beauty and richness of this kind of music, earlier totally restricted to the Muslim gatherings in North Malabar, to people of other faiths. His contribution these days to the Mappilla lyrics has fewer parallels elsewhere in the community.

The unassuming Arabic teacher minced no words while pointing out to the increasing tendency among some music composers to mix “avoidable elements” in the original text.

“Such attempts may help songs get some recognition for a while but in the long run, there would not be any takers for such compositions,” said Karuvarakundu, who is reported to have penned lyrics for more than 7,000 Mappilla songs.

A strict adherent to the traditions of Mappilla music, Karuvarakundu feels that increasing flexibility in the singers’ music scores that one finds of late, has done a lot for their increasing acceptance among the general public, especially non-Muslims.

The lyricist attributed the growing popularity of Mappilla songs these days to the messages that some of the new compositions have conveyed to the society. “If such messages are successful in making some positive changes in the lives of people, listeners should not have any reasons to be unhappy,” the lyricist said.

Karuvarakundu, who had headed the jury for Mappilla songs at the Kerala State Schools Youth Festival for more than a decade until his retirement last year, said the performances of some youngsters in the last few years held a lot of promise. Playback singer Vineet Sreenivasan who had won the Mappilla song competition at the youth festival in 2001 is one such example, he said.

Now a household name among Mappilla song buffs among Keralite expatriates, thanks to the popularity of some of his recent albums, the modest lyricist said he had dealt mostly with those topics that have a bearing on the life of commoners, especially those living in the Gulf.

“Perhaps, it is because of this reason that expatriates, regardless of their difference in faiths are showing interest in Mappilla songs,” he pointed out.

Even while slamming the composers of some of the latest Mappilla songs, Karuvarakundu expresses the hope that they would adhere strictly to the rule book in future.

“There is nothing wrong in dealing with core realities but playing with commoners’ sentiments is unpardonable indeed,” said the Mappilla poet, who these days may perhaps have more music albums to his credit than any others in the field.

Karuvarakundu also cautions some lyricists against adding, what he calls, “too much of imagination” in their compositions. “Such attempts would spell doom to this kind of music in the long run,” he said.

The composer of such well-known albums as Jadeed, Midaad, Madeed, Kasavu, Polive, and Mailanchi Ravu have a number of works waiting for release.

“Numbers should not be the criterion for judging a composer. What is more important is the acceptance that one’s works receive from the music lovers,” said Karuvarakundu.

On the increasing similarities between Arab folklore songs and Mappilla songs, the lyricist said over the last eight centuries since the origin of Mappilla songs, both should have borrowed extensively from each other. “Their syntax and rhythm seem to have more similarities to each other than all other aspects,” he said.