“When you listen to an Onam song by Yesudas or Raveendran from the 80s, you feel like you’re back in Kerala,” began playback singer Srinivas.
Having lived in Kerala during his school and college days, he vividly recalled the glorious ‘Onam’ songs of the 80s. “Yesudas’ company Tharangini Records, which had legends such as Dakshinamoorthy, MS Viswanathan, Raveendran and many others. This caught on and the trend continues even today due to the nostalgia it evokes,” said the singer, who has sung onam songs too.
Writer and actor Shaji Chen recalled Onam during his childhood, through the bars of songs that still evoke a sense of nostalgia. Poovili Poovili or Onappoove Omal Poove – some of the popular ‘Onam’ songs – are synonymous with the festival. Yet, these tracks have an interesting twist – they weren’t composed by a Malayali but the Bengali legend Salil Chowdhury. “In the modern scenario, film songs are ‘Onapattu’, since there is a situation connected to Onam in these movies. The festival is a sentimental part of Malayali culture and there is an Onam song accompanying this scene. However, most of the famous Onam songs were sung by Salil Chowdhury. When I listen to his Onam songs, they reverberate, evoking the very idea of the festival. For me, these songs are nostalgic,” said the Trustee (South India) of the Salil Chowdhury Foundation.
He also recalled the popular songs by Yesudas’ record label. “Some of the onam songs are so popular even today that bands are releasing cover versions of these evergreen numbers,” added Shaji.
Nanda Govind, President of the 120-year-old Malayalee Club here, said that Onapattu are keenly awaited. “On September 4, we are having a grand celebration. Over the years, the festival of Onam has changed and is not celebrated like it used to be. But we are having displays of traditional art forms like Kuchipudi, Kathakali and other dance forms as well as Onapattu. These are film songs which are written for Onam and a lot of people like it. Due to its very distinct style of singing, people look forward to it during this time,” he concluded.