It was probably with the advent of modernism in Malayalam poetry that the cholkazhcha tradition (on-stage rendition) regained prominence in literary and cultural circles in Kerala. Parallel to highly evocative and loud recitations by Kadammanitta Ramakrishnan, Balachandran Chullikkad and D. Vinayachandran, V.K. Sasidharan slowly built up a culture of singing poems in cultural forums and on college campuses in the late 1970s.

Edassery Govindan Nair's tour de force, ‘Poothappattu', became a magnificent obsession for V.K.S. who sang and interpreted it in front of students and culture enthusiasts. Ornamented with the shades of raga Arabhi, the charged lines of the poem captivated the listeners, while his brief interpolation deeply touched sensitive souls.

In the two CDs under review, ‘Mazha' (The rain) and ‘Malayala Madhurima' (Sweetness of Malayalam), V.K.S. and a few other singers render the poetry of several eminent and lesser-known lyricists.

‘Mazha' opens with V.K.S. rendering lines from G. Sankara Kurup's translation of Tagore's ‘Geetanjali'. ‘Varu Kodamukile' bears a mystic charm, the import of which the singer tries to pass on to sensitive listeners with the crooning touch of raga Hamsadhwani. The slowed-down tempo coupled with an obvious dearth of spontaneity in diction do tell upon the aesthetic impact of the poem. The singer appears to be self-conscious! The appreciation of the poem, hence, involves a certain amount of strain on the part of the listeners. Next is the rendition of O.V. Usha's poem, ‘Mazha peythu' followed by another excerpt from ‘Geetanjali', titled ‘Aadimaasathile sandhya,' which is a delight to the ears. With the feather touch of raga Yaman Kalyan, V.K.S. lends life to G. Sankara Kurup's consummate translation.

Sugatha Kumari's ‘Ratrimazha' is capable of creating myriad emotions in the minds of the readers. V.K.S. sings it in his characteristic slow pace. The voice soaked in pathos delivers the desired impact. He could have altered the sentiment from sadness to gentle tones of rapture for the stanza beginning with ‘Pandente saubhagyarathrikalil/enne chirippicha, kulirkorianiyicha… The rendition throughout is tinted with the ascending and descending notes of raga Darbarikanada.

Mazha Peyyunnu' by Prabha Varma, ‘Maunavishadangal' by Aardramaanasi, ‘Dooradarshini' by V.K. Hema and ‘Mazha,' a ghazal by Radha Madhavan are the other pieces in the collection sung by V.K.S. Of them, the one by Hema entrances the listeners as the singer judiciously employs raga Revathi in his rendition. Rain as the principal motif in all the poems is quintessentially angst-ridden. This is the impression V.K.S. gives from the beginning till the very end.

Focus on Malayalam

The second CD, ‘Malayala Madhurima', contains eight lyrics focusing on Malayalam as mother tongue. Bhyravi sings in a bhava-evocative tone the introductory song, ‘Thenulavinabhasha', penned by Pala Narayanan Nair. This is followed by ‘Namukkore Akaasham' (The one and only sky for all of us), beautifully sung by a group of singers including Najim Ershad, Harikumar and Vidya among others. Mullanezhi's lines have a romantic appeal, which is comfortably retained. P.K. Gopi's ‘Manithumbappoo' evokes nostalgia. In the lyrics of K.B. Ajayakumar, V.K.S. as the music-composer brings in the highly impressionable strains of the raga, Aarabhi. He recites Kureepuzha Sreekumar's ‘Amma Malayalam' movingly.

O.N.V.'s ‘Omal kairali paadu' is a lengthy lyric that mirrors humanism in the turbulent backdrop of contemporary society. The singers could have added a little more emotional flavour to each stanza of this piece. On the whole, the tempo of rendition of each song in the CD is in harmony with the overall mood.

Comparing the two CDs, a discerning listener cannot help discovering that V.K.S., the music composer, stands clearly ahead of V.K.S., the performer/singer.