Revisiting Johnson Master’s Personal Favorites from his Compositions

Johnson - Music Director

One year since his passing, though corny as it may sound, he just doesn’t seem to have gone away anywhere, really. Everytime you listen to one his melodies, it just feels as if he is around, at work some where in Chennai or Kerala, hunched over the Harmonium or purposefully coaxing out sonic structures out of his guitar for another memorable production. Was going through the microsite Manorama Online had hosted last year ( and seems to be holding out, thankfully) and saw this list of songs he had listed as his personal favorites out of his compositions from over 300 films.

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Johnson Master | Malayalam Cinema’s Magic Fingers

The Eternal Music of Johnson Master

26th March 1953 – 18th August 2011

Another maestro passes on to the Other Side, someone who, paraphrasing Beethoven,made us realise Music to be a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosphy and the electrical soil in which the spirit lived, thought and invented.”  Johnson Master, to me, was the first music director who gave us the joi-de-vivre of Western musical sensibilities in his brilliantly structured sonic sets of melody. I still remember standing rooted on the spot the first  time I listened to Rajahamsamey from Bharathan‘s Chamayam, wafting through the speakers of our neighborhood Men’s Salon, and I kept saying “Oh my God!” over and over again.

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S Janaki | 10 Songs for a rainy, lazy, laidback evening

Janaki.S As with any other legend in our film industry, its impossible to choose when it comes to our Nightingale of Celluloid, S Janaki, or fondly Janakiamma with all the respect that I can muster. Her voice  is like warm honey over a cold heart when it wants to be and like a comforting cloak on a windy evening.While on the subject, I just felt I need to mention about Dhool, a wonderful resource for anyone who wants to learn more about the yesteryears of Malayalam playback singing amongst a host of other subjects. Sadly, it has been live but inactive since the past two years.

I have managed to write a note to the owner to keep it up forever. I sincerely hope he does.

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Onam Songs from Old Malayalam Films | My Favorites.

Onappaattukal that transcend time.

Onam Songs from Old Malyalam FilmsSongs that celebrate the festive spirit of Onam, the harvest festival of our homeland ( wait a minute, harvest festival? I can’t even recall the last time someone celebrated a decent harvest), have got themselves their own special place in the realm of Malayalam Cinema. Come to think of it, it has been quite some time, since someone decently picturized a traditional Thiruvathira recital or an Onappaattu worth its salt in recent years. Should we blame the increasing disconnect with our traditions, and as an implication, less recognition by the movie-watching public, which again means less marketability? I don’t know.

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KPAC’s Old Malayalam Drama Songs -1

This series is dedicated to Richard. 🙂

I don’t think there has been any other theater movement or for that matter any movement in any state in India,  that has entertained, and with it sown the seeds of social rethinking and transformation the way KPAC (Kerala Peoples  Arts Club) did for Kerala. I guess along with the central theme of the subjects that stalwarts like Thoppil Bhasi chose for the productions, the songs composed by the popular team of ONV-Devarajan was a big draw that brought people to watch them. Even though the compilation from HMV of KPAC’s drama songs is now on CD, I can never thank those audio engineers enough for leaving the hiss, the scratches and the rumble intact. All I have to do is close my eyes, and its as if KPAC Sulochana is right there on stage, rocking the stage with Cheppu kilukkana changathi ( from Mudiyanaya Puthran, 1960) . In an interview with The Hindu in 2005, Devarajan Master has shared some interesting details on the efforts that went in to produce the compilation.

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