“Panineer Pookal” the most melodious song of the year 2016 from the Movie ‘Action Hero Biju’ saw the composer, conductor and award-winning music director Jerry Amaldev back in ‘action’. He entered Mollywood in the year 1979 and for the next two decades his soulful, melodious and evergreen music began to enchant the music lovers all over the world.
In a chat with Akhila Balakrishnan of Cochin Herald, this Ace music wizard shares about his Life in old Kochi, especially West Kochi, interesting characters, socio-economic-cultural conditions, Kochi’s music, musicians and more..
You’ve had a long musical career. When you take a glance back, what do you see?
Music is all I know, and it’s what I do for a living. When I reflect on my life, I am happy and satisfied. I did what I was passionate about.
Your career in the film industry came to a premature end in 1995. Was that a break you took from film music?
I didn’t take a break. It’s not that I was hiding; I am very much living here. After No 1 Snehatheeram, no producers came to me for music composition. Music was always with me; the films were missing.
Born in Fort Kochi, a place known for its art and culture. Why are Fort Kochi people grooving to Hindi songs more?
I was only there for five years, in my father’s hometown Nazrath. He was an ayurvedic physician, the eldest son of the Veliparambil family. My mother was a native of Ernakulam and so moved there for my studies. As it was, my grandmother insisted on teaching me in the English medium. My mother was a fantastic singer, so I’ve always had a strong interest in music. She has a profound impact on me. She was a member in the church choir and hence I frequently attended the church. The church used to have Latin prayer songs back in the 1940s and 1950s and I knew every song. This is what got me interested in western music, and at that time, Malayalam movies and songs were rare.
There were Hindi and Tamil songs; I enjoyed Hindi music more than Tamil. Hindi songs from the era are loved by residents of Mattancherry and Fort Kochi. We used to listen to songs by R.C. Boran and Pankaj Mallik produced by New Theatres Kolkata on these vinyl gramophone records that my uncles had. Later, these albums were produced by HMV (His Master’s Voice). I listened to every song they released.
Mehboob worked in the Malayalam film music business much before Yesudas. I used to listen to his music, which included Hindi songs and mappilapattu. The musical environment in Fort Kochi may have boosted my musical side.
What do you think about the cultural amalgamation in this region?
Fort Kochi is a place where multiple ethnic communities live together. There are a lot of people from different states, communities etc. who enhance the cosmopolitan ambience of Mattancherry. Gujaratis, Konkanis and Maharashtrians live here as groups.
In the 1500s, the Portuguese arrived here. Some of these Portuguese ship workers got married to local girls and the descendants were later referred to as Anglo-Indians. During the British Era too we can see People from England and Ireland settling down here and getting married to the natives. The true Anglo-Indian term refers to the descendants from this group. Others are referred to as Feringhis i.e. from Spain, Portugal, and other European nations. Long before the arrival of the Europeans, the ancient Suriyanis and Persians were among those from the Middle East.
Their relocation was significantly influenced by our geographic location and our fertile land. But let’s not forget this is also a land rich in art and culture. With open hearts, we have embraced their music and assimilated their culture, language, cuisine, etc.
Why does the Malayalam film industry currently lack ‘evergreen’ songs?
The film industry, in my opinion, is either lacking in skilled lyricists or fails to convey deeper ideas. Although there are a few, there aren’t enough. Songs were used back then to help tell a story for a film. Nowadays, Songs, as such, are not a necessary component of the film. We had legends like ONV, Bichu Thirumala, Abhayadev, etc. when I was making music. A long time can’t be spent just listening to music. People are more receptive to the imagery that lyrics provide. Another issue is the dearth of better filmmakers. This means that whether making music or cinema, individuals should be more knowledgeable. This trend is primarily seen in the Hindi cinema business.
Recently, Nanjiyamma received the National Award for Best Singer for her song Ayyappanum Koshiyum, which discussed how vocalists who have properly studied music are in the wrong. What do you think about it?
Look, She is a folk singer from a tribal community, and it is their song. Who are we to say music is only for people who study? The song she sang is also a song which we have not learned.
After a long break, you returned to the Malayalam film industry with ‘Panineer Pookkal’ for Action Hero Biju, giving many a nostalgic vibe. Did you expect today’s audience to accept that song?
Music and literature will never get old. People will enjoy it if it is good enough. The thing of beauty is something forever. There is no new or old music. It is timeless.” Qawwali,” which people listen to till now, was introduced in the 1200s.
We can copy from other music cultures, which should be only for making our music more beautiful. And we should change or make that music into our own.