Athul Narukara blends the outdated with the brand new. Familiar to music lovers because the ‘Palapalli’ singer, after his high-energy monitor from Prithviraj-starrer Kaduva (2022), the younger folks musician has been creating a brand new soundscape for the normal folks songs of Kerala. Recipient of Kerala Folklore Academy’s Yuvaprathibha Award 2022 — introduced solely this yr — Athul has been experimenting with the sounds, rhythms and beats of people music. Post ‘Palapalli’, he has sung in movies corresponding to Kumari, Kurukkan and upcoming releases Kadakan and Little Hearts. The Kadakan monitor, ‘Chowittum kuthum’, composed by Gopi Sunder, has gone viral inside every week of its launch. He has additionally been travelling the size and breadth of the state together with his songs, performing in school festivals and cultural occasions.
Athul says he has been interested in folks music since childhood after listening to folks musicians in his neighbourhood at Narukara in Malappuram. “These songs were a part of their life. Besides that we had a good folk music team in my school. Although I have had no training in music, I got recognised as a singer when I won the first prize in folk music at the district-level school arts festival in 2013-14. That was when this event was introduced at the festival for the first time. Next year, I won first prize in the state-level school arts festival and that was a turning point,” says the musician.
He provides, “I noticed that many folk musicians I knew were reluctant to perform on a big stage because they were not confident about their music. These songs were part of an oral tradition and were passed down from generation to generation. After winning prizes at the arts festival I felt I should continue studying it.”
Learning the custom
Therefore, his additional research revolved round folks music. He joined NSS College, Manjeri, to do his commencement for the reason that faculty had a robust folks music staff that gained prizes at college-level competitions. “We topped inter-zone competitions and also represented the University [University of Calicut] at the south zone and national competitions,” he says.
Later he did his postgraduation in Folklore from the University of Calicut, which he accomplished with a primary rank. “As has been the practice, Kerala Folklore Academy honours the first rank holder with an award and I got it in 2019. It is indeed special that the same Academy has recognised me yet again with the Yuva Prathibha award in appreciation of my efforts to popularise folk music,” he says.
After working with a band, he shaped Soul of Folk in 2019, with like-minded musicians. It began with eight members and now there are 15. Six months in the past he shaped one other band, Folkgrapher Live, with eight members.
“Both bands sing the same songs but in different ways. In Soul of Folk we use only ethnic instruments, mainly chenda, whereas in Folkgrapher we have guitars, keyboard, violin and drums. Folkgrapher was born out of my efforts to give a mass appeal to folk music, especially among the new generation. Indie music has a better space now and it is important to give something new to the listeners,” says Athul.
He can be pursuing a PhD on songs and hymns associated to loss of life and funeral sung by completely different communities. “A community’s identity comes across through these songs. They are emotionally attached to death-related rituals and most of these songs reflect upon the culture, way of life and practices of these communities. But, since the new generation is not keen on taking it forward the songs are going extinct. That’s why I wanted to focus on these songs,” says Athul.
In truth, ‘Palapalli’ was born out of 1 such tune. It took inspiration from Baadhapattu of Pulaya group in north Malabar, which is sung throughout Koolikettal, a ritual held on the seventh day of an individual’s loss of life.
Athul bought a break in cinema after he began posting songs on his social media handles throughout the pandemic. Cinematographer-director Santhosh Sivan who took discover of him gave him the prospect to put in writing and sing 4 songs within the movie he directed for the anthology primarily based on MT Vasudevan Nair’s tales for Netflix. “It is disappointing that the anthology has been shelved. But the project gave me the chance to interact with Jakes Bejoy who was doing the film’s music production. When he learnt of my passion for folk music and my PhD thesis, he asked me to work with him on his future projects. Later when he composed for Kaduva, he listened to the original and gave me the chance to adapt it for the film. ‘Palapalli’ gave me and my team a break that we were not prepared for,” he says.
His band performs each unique and conventional songs at their stage exhibits. Athul factors out that it’s excessive time our folks music went worldwide. “We must understand that most of the global musical hits are traditional or folk songs from those countries. If our folk singers and musicians are also able to treat their songs in a new way our music will also get noticed across the globe. I am trying to collect ethnic instruments, create songs and present them before the global audience as independent music,” he says.
His newest single, Samaram, requires individuals to unite in opposition to communalism. Athul stresses that he’s not ready for playback gives. “I just want to do more songs, irrespective of the number of people who listen to them,” he says.