V.N. Kutty’s half-an-hour show in 1957 played a crucial role in bringing the genre to the mainstream.
Until V.N. Kutty arrived, Mappilappattu was just another delightful form of music. If the stream is popular enough today to have multiple reality shows, it is all due to the man, who turned 80 recently.
It was a half-an-hour show he led at Kottappadi, Malappuram, in 1957 that took Mappilappattu out of Muslim houses to the mainstream. “I never imagined that Mappilappattu would become so popular,” Kutty told The Hindu on Thursday. “I performed along with four children then. I also played the harmonium and was accompanied on tabala by Govindan.”
Among the songs Kutty rendered was “Samkritha pamagiri…”, which he had composed. It was an instant hit. And it remains one of the most popular songs in the genre. Yesudas also played a key role in that. “Yesudas had wanted me to compose a Mappilappattu album for his music company Tharangini,” recalls Kutty. “He had already released another album, which had drawn some criticism. We recorded ‘Mylanchi Pattukal’ in 1984 and “Samkritha pamagiri…” was one of the 12 songs in the album. After Yesudas sang it, the song reached a much wider audience than I could have imagined.”
He says he still gets requests to sing the song in every show of his. “I sang it just a couple of days ago too,” he says. “I have had several other hit songs too, such as “Thollayirathi irupathi onnil…”, “Makka marubhoomiyil…” and “Padappu padappodu…”. Then there are songs such as “Hajjinte ravil…” (Vilayil Valsala) and “Arab nattil…” (Malappuram Beena)” which I composed for other singers.
There was a time when Kutty used to have programmes on all days of a month. “Composer M.S. Baburaj used to accompany me on those shows,” he says. “I still have about 10 shows a month.”
It was after singing at the All India Radio station in Kozhikode, as a student, that Kutty got the confidence to perform in shows. “I had my first recording in 1955 and K. Raghavan conducted the orchestra for me,” he reminisces. “I found that my songs were well received by listeners.”
Veteran playback singer V.T. Murali remembers listening to Kutty, while growing up at Vadakara. “We cannot think of Mappilappattu without V.M. Kutty; he has become a synonym for Mappilappattu,” he says. “I also admire him as a writer and scholar. I believe he has never got his due as an artiste. Why cannot he be recommended for an honour like Padma Shri?”
Kutty has no complaints, though. “I have never applied for awards or fellowships,” he says. “I am happy with my music and the appreciation I get from music lovers.”