Songs that make Onam



Malayalam playback singers revisit their favourite onam songs and what they mean to them

Memories of Onam almost always have background music. For those who have lived through the eighties and nineties in Kerala, the season was one that resonated with music. Radio and TV had special programmes on Onapaattukal and film music too brought its share of classic numbers that reflected the spirit of the festival.

As times changed, sensibilities changed too, and celebrations took on different turns. But Onam served with nostalgia comes mingled with snatches of some of our favourite Onam songs.

G. Venugopal

The season of songs, that’s Onam for me. I have lost count of the number of Onam songs that I have sung. What is interesting is that these songs weren’t just about the festival. Love, devotion, nostalgia, art, culture... every aspect was touched upon along with various Onam motifs and symbols. I remember my songs from the album Poothalam. The song Uthradappulariyil... written by Chovallur Krishnankutty and composed by Jaya-Vijaya, for example, is soaked in devotion. Sree Ragardram Malayalam... is about the Malayalam language. Then there were umpteen light music numbers that I sang for All India Radio every year. Songs such as Nila nadiyude nirmala theeram..., Chingathiruvonam..., Innuponnanamanu...’ were a few among them. They were presented live before an invited audience and were later taught in the light music session for students.

Madhu Balakrishnan

Onam, for me like many others, is associated with songs. I used to wait for the album releases during this festive times and there were so many lovely songs. The If there is one song that connects me to Onam always is the iconic Maveli naadu vanidum kaalam... Then there are those memorable melodies by Dasettan (K.J. Yesudas) that are firm favourites even today like Uthradapoovnilave vaa..., Thukil unaroo thukil unaroo, Ennum chirikkunna sooryante..., Payippatthattil vallamkali..., Oru nullu kakkapoo...The sadya is another thing that comes to my mind and of course the song Cherusseri than priya erisseriyum, Idaseeri thannude pulisseriyum, vailoppily than mambazha kaalanum...For programmes during this season these are some of the songs I sing on stage. This year I sang in two albums, both of which have been released online.


By the time I became a singer, Onam cassettes had become a rarity. But my parents had a collection of these wonderful songs and that’s how I learnt most of them. Songs such as Uthradapoonilave..., Shanghupushpam..., Thuyilunaroo... If its Onam, how can you not sing songs such as Para niraye ponnonam... or Aaro kamizhthivacha.... Even though Onam cassettes are not a common feature now, I am happy that I get to sing a few songs every year. This time I have sung a light song for All India Radio. What is special about this Onam is my duet Thiruvaavani raavu... from Jacobinte Swargarajyam. It is the most-played track during the season and I am thrilled about it.


Old is gold when it comes to Onam songs. The moment you sing or hear Thiruvona pularithan..., it brings so much joy and happiness. It is so sad that those times won’t come back. I do sing Onam songs every year, but I don’t know how much of it reaches listeners. Nevertheless, I am happy that we are keeping that trend alive. Of late, there has been a renewed interest in composing Onam songs. Singing about Onam makes me nostalgic. The songs take me back to my childhood. And when we go for Onam programmes, the audience want to listen to old songs. Be it Poovili... or Poove poli..., they don’t want anything else for these songs are that close to our culture and collective consciousness.

Sudeep Kumar

Back home in Alappuzha, I grew up on a steady diet of Onam songs brought out by Tharangini. In fact, we used to book the cassettes in advance at the shop. I still remember my music teacher teaching me three songs from Tharangini’s first Onam album. I used to sing many of these Onam songs for youth festival competitions. Then there are iconic numbers such as Poovili... and Onapoove..., both composed, interestingly, by a Bengali, Salil Chowdhury. I sang my first Onam song in 1998 for Kalavoor Balan and since then I have been recording songs almost every year. Now the trend is to bring out videos and I do them regularly. However, whenever I go for a stage show, people enjoy listening to golden melodies of the past.


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Printable version | Jul 9, 2020 8:30:28 AM |

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