Friday Review » Music

Updated: April 3, 2013 14:58 IST

Lullaby for a king

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Iraiyamman Thampi.
Iraiyamman Thampi.

When Maharaja Swati Tirunal was born in the 18th century, Iraiyamman Thampi was already an established poet and composer at the royal court of Travancore. True to custom, the boy was named after his birth-star - Swati. Thampi was so inspired on seeing the baby prince that he sang a lyrical Malayalam song, a lullaby which became famous throughout Kerala.

The song ‘Omanathingal Kidavo’ described the baby. With beautiful comparisons drawn from Nature and with a sweet and simple use of language and rhyme, Thampi outdid himself. In the song, he compares Swati to the Komala Thamara Poo (lovely lotus flower) and Poovil Niranya Madhuvo? (to the honey inside each flower). He compares the baby’s chubby face to the moon.

Then Thampi goes on to say that the baby’s first cries resemble the lilting sound of baby parrots (Cheru Thatthagal Konjum Mozhiyo?); his unsteady walk to that of a swaying peacock (Saanjadi Aadum Mayilo?) and his voice to a nightingale which sings a soft pancham note (Mrudhu Panchamam Paadum Kuyilo?). In the next verse he compares the baby’s gait with the frisky deer and his mien to that of a swan.

In 1996, looking for something new, I came across this song and setting it to Arabhi raga (madhyam sruti), introduced it to Carnatic audiences. And every time, I would highlight the fact that it was a famous lullaby by a famous poet about a famous composer-king. Rasikas, be they Tamil or Malayali, loved it. I released an audio too.

Now, many young musicians tell me that they have adapted this lullaby for their performances - even with piano accompaniment. This lullaby is sure to inspire generations to come, and take them to great heights with its succinct verse and soothing effect - just as a lullaby should be.

(Charumathi is a Carnatic vocalist, musicologist and writer.)

I see an ulterior motive from a jealous musician at the timing of this article ! Omana thingal song has been popular even in Tamil Nadu for several decades,sung mostly in kurinji raga, before this musician's claim to have popularised it. Why such a claim at this juncture when another Tamil musician is accalimed for a similar ( not plagiarised ) composition by world community ?

from:  Dr.SundaraRajan
Posted on: Jan 18, 2013 at 21:29 IST

"It was a famous lullaby by a famous poet about a famous composer-king". Beautiful article.

from:  Vipin
Posted on: Jan 18, 2013 at 14:44 IST

Very interesting piece indeed. That apart, since the nomination is for
Original Song - there is nothing Original about what Bombay Jayashree
has done. Hence her nomination should be withdrawn

from:  Bhaskar
Posted on: Jan 18, 2013 at 11:23 IST

But for the birth of a male child (Doctrine of lapse) the kingdom would have been annexed to British Raj So the people were overjoyed and hence this song had acquired additional importance

from:  jagannathan
Posted on: Jan 18, 2013 at 01:29 IST

Fantastic background information about this whole messy affair!

Thank you very much for these insights...

from:  samyuktha
Posted on: Jan 17, 2013 at 22:02 IST
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