Music

In memory of Umbayee's sweet melodies

Gayatri Asokan

Gayatri Asokan  

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Gayatri Asokan will receive the first Umbayee Award instituted in memory of the popular ghazal singer who passed away last year

Long before she started performing with Umbayee, the man who brought ghazals closer to Malayalis, Gayatri Asokan had watched him perform in shows. And she was impressed. Later, she also enjoyed sharing the stage with him. So, Gayatri feels honoured that she has been chosen for the first award instituted in the memory of Umbayee, who died last year.

She will receive the first Umbayee Award on August 1, the first death anniversary of the singer from Kochi, at a function in Kozhikode. “It is a great honour and I am glad that I am the first ever recipient,” Gayatri says over phone from her Mumbai home. “And it is good to see that we have an award for ghazals in Kerala; most of the awards a singer could get in Kerala are for film music.”

That Umbayee could make a mark without the glamour of films was remarkable, she feels. “He was the first singer from Kerala who established himself through ghazals,” she says.

She says she respected Umbayee not just as a singer, but as a composer as well. “I am particularly fond of his compositions like Orikkal nee paranju..., Neela velicham... and Sunayane...,” she says. “I have several pleasant memories of performing with him. I will never forget him saying during shows that singers like me was the future of ghazals and Hindustani music. You won’t meet many generous souls like that.”

She had met Umbayee some three months before he died. “We spoke for about two hours, but never once did he mentionhis illness,” recalls Gayatri. “He didn’t sound bitter at all; he said he had fulfilled all his dreams. The only one left, he said, was the setting up of an academy, which is going to be launched at the function in Kozhikode. He told me that such an academy was needed to teach the young generation classical Hindustani music and forms like ghazals.”

On the personal front, Gayatri has recently released, on YouTube, her latest cover version, Aahista, Pankaj Udhas’s hugely popular ghazal from his 1998 album, Stolen Moments. “I was delighted when Pankaj texted me to say that I sang it well,” she says. “I have recorded a few more covers—of Jagjit Singh, Ghulam Ali and Asha Bhonsle—which will be released later.”

Gayatri’s cover versions of ghazals—mostly she did for the television channel Media One—are popular on YouTube.

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Printable version | Dec 7, 2019 9:54:08 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/music/gayathri-asokan-receives-umbayee-memorial-award/article28756630.ece

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