Music

He rocks the Bridge

Peethambaran Menon of 'Thaikkudam Bridge'. Photo: Thulasi Kakkat  

Appozhum paranjille poranda porandannu (Didn’t I tell you not to come) has been playing in loops on YouTube. The trippy folk song that appeared in the 1983 Malayalam movie Kadamba, written by Thikkodiyan and set to music by K. Raghavan, which tells the story of the unfortunate Neeli, her object of affection, Koran, and a cruel thambran (landlord) who abducts her, has now been revived with a head-banging dose of heavy metal by Thaikkudam Bridge. Lead singer Peethambaran Menon has been dealing with an avalanche of praise ever since, mainly from a population several years younger.

After a 30-year break from singing, he is back to the stage with his son Govind Menon’s band, Thaikkudam Bridge. “It was unplanned. When Govind asked me to sing, I did, the response is unexpected,” he says. The 58-year-old is now the band’s unique attraction. “At first, I was a little hesitant. It was difficult to hit the high register, as I had not gone anywhere close to a stage in all those years,” he says. But soon, he got back into the groove without difficulty. “Now, I enjoy it thoroughly,” he says.

Since his retirement from the Irrigation Department two years ago, Peethambaran has been part of the band, contributing in his own full-toned signature style, jamming with a bunch of young musicians, including Govind. Generational differences have never cropped up, he says. “If nothing, I feel younger by the day. What a fantastic way to spend one’s retired life, right?” he smiles. “Also, I have known most of these kids, as they are Govind’s friends,” he says. In keeping with the spirit of the band’s appearance, Peethambaran is often dressed in monotone shirts and mundu and some times wears beads around his neck when he performs.

Their family has always been musical, says Govind. “There was music in the background. So, it was only natural that I wanted him to sing in my band,” he says. One of the first attempts was G. Devarajan’s bluesy song, Thekkumkooradiyathi, which Peethambaran brought back to life. “It was the song I used to sing with my wife as a lullaby to Govind when he was a baby. That was the first song he wanted me to sing.” An informal version of the song, sung by Peethambaran and his wife Vasantha, has been uploaded on SoundCloud.

Peethambaran was a routine winner of school talent fests and university level competitions and later, won the Voice of Thrissur title twice consecutively in the early seventies. He was actively involved in stage shows and ganamelas as part of Voice of Thrissur. “That was the time when music directors Johnson Master and Ouseppachan were part of our team. I once got a chance to share the stage with K.J. Yesudas.” Around that time Peethambaran landed a job in the Irrigation Department as an engineer. “My job had nothing to do with music. But, of course, I could not take music out of me. It was always a part of my life,” he says.

He hails from a musical family in Irinjalakuda. Peethambaran’s elder brother Gopinathan was a Carnatic musician and his early exposure to music has been through his brother. “There were very few opportunities during my time. Now, there are so many options. Social media offers a wonderful platform for young people.”

Now that he has stumbled onto the stage again, Peethambaran says he has revived his singing practice. “As long as Govind asks me to sing, I will only be happy to do so.”

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Printable version | Apr 20, 2021 1:15:17 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/music/peethambaran-menon-thaikkudam-bridges-latest-sensation/article6360648.ece

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