How the indie music scene in Malayalam fared in 2021

Looking back at some of the notable independent music productions this year

December 28, 2021 12:23 pm | Updated January 03, 2022 11:11 am IST

Marthyan and Irfana Hameed performing at ‘Para’, the digital hip-hop festival organised by Kochi Music Foundation

Marthyan and Irfana Hameed performing at ‘Para’, the digital hip-hop festival organised by Kochi Music Foundation

As the entertainment industry went on recovery mode in 2021 after a pandemic-hit 2020, the indie music scene in Malayalam saw productions with distinct soundscapes. The early part of the year had rap and hip-hop music holding sway. There were experimental projects as well, such as blending of Carnatic music and symphonic orchestra, medley and rap, EDM and regional folk..... Some songs went viral because of catchy lyrics and presentation.

Rap and roll

Like 2020, rappers were on a roll this year too. Kochi Music Foundation (KMF) organised ‘Para’ (Say), a digital hip-hop music festival that featured MC Cooper, Vedan, Street Academics, Fejo, Blesslee, Aditi Nair (Rap Kid), Marthyan, Irfana Hameed, Manushyar, Neeraj Madhav (NJ), A.B.I, Indulekha Warrier and Vaishnavi Avees (Vivzy).

‘One Under the Sun’, one of the first releases of the year, had a blend of melody and rap in the voices of James Thakara, founder of the band Thakara, and Vedan (Hirandas Murali), who shot to fame with his song, ‘Voice of Voiceless’. Written and composed by Akhil Ramachandran, the song rooted for equality and questions the prejudices in the society.

The style rubbed off on composer Bijibal as well as he and lyricist BK Harinarayanan composed ‘Vithu’, a song dedicated to farmers protesting against the Centre’s farmers’ bill.

Notable notes

The year saw many standout projects. Renuka Arun brought together Carnatic music and symphonic orchestra for her production ‘Maruthai’ that spoke against abuse of women and children. For the music video starring Mitra Visvesh, the singer-composer worked with Fames Macedonian Symphonic Orchestra.

Varkey’s (Arun Varghese) ‘Chiri Paatu’, revolving around friendship, blended EDM and regional folk. The music video was directed by Goutham Soorya.

The feel-good vibes was spot on in the musical, ‘Made in Heaven – Kanmani’ from the Shaan Rahman-Benny Dayal combo. Made like a short film by actor Noble B Thomas, it told the story of a woman who takes her boyfriend home to meet her parents.

It was a chocolate cake that took centrestage in the music video, ‘Thonnal’, featuring and directed by Ahaana Krishna. The melody was composed by Govind Vasantha and sung by Haniya Nafisa, who became a sensation with several cover versions being posted on social media. Experimentation too was on display; case in point being Once Upon a Blue Moon by Pina Colada Blues a.k.a Kevin Shaji.

On the indie track

Several singers came up with indie productions. Sooraj Santhosh released ‘Harinamakeerthanam’ from his independent album, The Gypsy Sun . He rendered verses from Harinamakeerthanam , a philosophical text in Malayalam by Thunchath Ramanujan Ezhuthachan, the father of modern Malayalam literature. Sithara Krishnakumar had two major releases — ‘Arutharuthu’, a production of her band Project Malabaricus, and ‘Tharuni’, a dance musical composed by Mithun Jayaraj. While ‘Arutharuthu’ is a call for conserving the environment, ‘Tharuni’, is for women. It saw Sithara go back to her days as a classical dancer.

Gowri Lekshmi launched Carnatic music series Rathnamala , an EP with four songs that consisted of both classical and semi-classical songs. The singer-composer also created history by becoming the first Malayali musician to get on board the NFT platform, in which she launched a couple of songs.

While Jyotsna released ‘Senorita’, a melody written and sung by her, playback singer KS Harishankar sang in a few indie productions, including ‘Oblivion’ for Ashwin Renju, ‘Kanmoodi Paarthal’ (Sam Simon George), ‘Dhoore’ (Mithun Mohan) and ‘Vaarkadal’ (The Non Violinist Project).

Surprise hits

Unusual content grabbed attention this year. Like the ‘dialogue-with-beat’ video by Ashwin Bhaskar, an audio engineer, composer and music producer. His ‘Perfect Ok’ ‘song’ had beats mixed with dialogues from a video by KP Naisal, an autorickshaw driver, and garnered over 13 million views. Another musician who went viral was Karthik Krishnan a.k.a The Humble Musician, a vlogger-cum-musician whose song ‘Aanayaal karayalle pennayaal kuniyalle’ questioned gender roles.

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