Fusions and re-creations have a history spanning many years in the music world. Many are pure rip-offs, and most are just lazy remixes of popular old numbers. Creating a good fusion is no easy task, and most musicians know that the line between the music that “fuses” with each other is a very thin, sensitive line. It is sensitive to the ears, as it is sensitive to the soul. A musical fusion occurs when one song from a particular culture or genre fuses itself with another and gives birth to a new innovative piece with the hope that it helps create more genres and sub-genres for the music world to carry forward. Here are some of the most innovative fusions done in songs from Malayalam Cinema recently.
Whenever I hear Manavalan Thug, I get reminded of a clip in which a pardha-clad mother is jamming to Dabzee’s voice. To me, that was the moment that defined Vishnu Vijay’s brilliance. Manavalan Thug is enjoyed by so many age groups alike. Is it a rap? Yes. Does it carry the essence of an old Mappila paattu? Hell yes! ‘Thallumaala Paattu’ from the same movie also borrows the tune of the traditional ‘Moideen Maala’ songs in a faster tempo, and is re-created in such an innovative way that the thin line on which the fusion meets is blurred and does not violently overlap each other.
The production of this underrated piece is beyond brilliant, and the man behind it is none other Vishnu Vijay, again! The bassline is simply a solid 10/10 and is addictive to your ears, along with the ¾ time signature that provides the energetic, kicking feel of the whole song! The powerful female vocals of Madhuvanthi Narayanan deliver this folk-like narration lyric very well, and the traditional Nadaswaram acts as a perfect cherry on top of a very neatly fused piece!
Ollulere, also originally known as “Ellulere”, is a song from the Mavila community, based in Northern Kerala. Being an electro-folk fusion, the song strays away from the list a little but nonetheless is a popular piece. Praseedha Chalakudy’s powerful voice leads the song and is not overpowered by the electro-psy-trance treatment given by Justin Varghese for this piece.
Haalake Maarunne, composed and produced yet again by Vishnu Vijay, consists of a three-clap rhythmic element which is a characteristic of ‘Oppana’, a dance form of Malabar. It is prevalent throughout the song except for when the beautiful Saarangi solo comes in. Singer Pushpavathy’s vocals might be my personal favourite bit in the song due to the lack of bassy, alto tones in the music industry, lending their voice to central female characters in our movies. One cannot but mention the elements with which Parari pens the lyrics for this song— The word ‘Haal’, an Arabic terminology, the Malayalam language, a celebratory backdrop in Malabar — the outcome being some historic word-play!
The initial part of the lyric is from a folk song, ‘Vannudiche Ninnudiche’, and the rest is penned by Anwar Ali, which focuses on the history of the ‘Pulaya’ community in Kerala and their labour, which sustained the economy and the caste hierarchy on which savarna oppressors flourished. Whether Para Para really “fuses” itself with any specific instrumentalisation or another genre completely, is open to question. While the song retains its original folk essence, it is treated with a subtle rhythmic and groovy sound which gains more weight and depth as the song progresses, adding an intense effect to its meaning. The minimal treatment given to Para Para retains its mood, along with highlighting the lyric, which is why every time you hear it, it feels like the first time. Simply put, Para Para is a masterpiece that refuses to be shelved.
Apart from the technical treatment of fusions, music from different cultures carries the weight of their history, and this history is crucial to understand why we listen to what we listen to and what that act implies or holds for people, especially for the community from which it was taken.
Musicians and directors, especially if they are not from that specific community, often refrain from acknowledging the culture from which they “borrow”, and “re-create”, in the process erasing or overpowering the labour gone into creating that specific artwork, making it simply a product for consumption. With the slowly increasing representation in the industry, there is hope for more and more creative innovations in the world of Malayalam music! Let me know your favourite fusions that I might have missed out on in the comments section below!