How are songs composed? How do those different ragas, tunes and beats fall in perfect harmony? Making Of A Song explores the vocals, visuals, lyrics and other features that define a musical creation.
One of the best Malayalam songs from 2018 is a haunting melody from Eeda, composed by John P Varkey. Mizhi Niranju is about a young love that blooms and refuses to weather in the midst of violence. The pleasant pallavi takes a steep dive into an anupallavi that throbs with a sense of foreboding.
“It is a soft and minimalist melody composed using jazz polychords,” says Varkey. “It has a mix of emotions. The characters are not extraordinarily strong people. They are regular youngsters – ambitious and practical. The song comes at a time when they are drawn to each other in spite of the tension that surrounds them.”
The first tune that Varkey composed for the situation was fast-paced, with some rock elements that he is known for. “After watching a rough cut of the film, I scored a tune based on the opening scene where Anand (Shane Nigam) and Aishwarya (Nimisha Sajayan) meet for the first time on a Hartal day when he takes her home on his bike. It was a fun number. After a re-edit of the visuals, Ajith (Kumar) felt the situation demanded something more mellow and melancholic,” he says.
The first portion that he composed was the leitmotif, “Mizhi Mizhikalodezhuthiya Puthu Katha”. He wrote a rough draft of those lines which was later reworked on by acclaimed lyricist Anvar Ali. The last couple of lyrics of the song, “Puzha Kadannu Pokam, Koottam Thetti Akalam” (Let’s cross the river, break away from the pack) which reflects the ambitions of the young lovers, was written by Ajithkumar himself.
The song is sung by Amal Antony & Roshni Suresh.
Varkey doesn’t compose tunes keeping in mind a raaga. “Raaga is basically a choice of notes. I cluster the notes that come to my mind. The end product is a mix of raagas. The tunes come from anywhere.”
A brilliant guitarist, Varkey is known as one of the pioneers of Malayalam rock music genre. It was his local band, Jigzaw Puzzle, that evolved into Avial, which is perhaps the most famous music band to come out of Kerala. Although he learned the nuances of Carnatic music in his childhood, he didn’t pursue it further. “I didn’t want to follow the rigid grammar of Carnatic music,” he says.
His father and brother were musicians; the latter was a violinist in the troupe of singer KJ Yesudas. Varkey was introduced to tabla at the age of 8. Later, he was smitten by guitar which became his instrument of choice. As a young man, he went to Pondicherry to study classic guitar. “I dabbled with many things– played music at a high-end hotel in Bangalore, worked with Daksha Sheth Dance Company, toured the country with a band Karizma founded by Tony (who would later collaborate with him in Avial)..”
“I wanted to break away from conventional styles, study music seriously,” he says. “I wanted to do music production, form a band, develop my own style in music, read and write poetry.”
Now, he spearheads a local band called Soul Stereo, that comprises of some of his regular collaborators from Thrissur. The group debuted with a performance at an event, We, The People, in Kollam.
Watch the song from Eeda here: