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In conversation

Musical notes

K.L. Sreeram is busy making a mark in the field of playback singing. He dabbles in all things musical

Photo Vipin Chandran

Versatile artiste K.L. Sreeram has made a mark as composer, singer and innovative musician

Internationally reputed violinist Vanessa-Mae’s album ‘Choreography’ celebrates dance rhythms from around the world. Original pieces were created by renowned music directors, including A.R. Rahman. That piece had a strong Indian fla vour and more significantly a Malayali touch to it. The vocal arrangements were conducted by Palakkad K.L. Sreeram, who has made a mark as composer, singer and innovative musician.

“The recording took place sometime early 2004 at Rahman’s studio in Chennai. He was in London then and we played according to his instructions from there. I also sang some classical ‘alaaps’ in a few basic ragas. It is an instrumental-fusion album. The final mixing was done in the United Kingdom. The album was released in September that year,” recalls Sreeram, who got his big musical break through Rahman.

Getting into the Rahman stable was by chance. He had accompanied his wife Baby, a Carnatic vocalist, who was to sing a complex variation of a Madyamavathi piece. Sitting in the console room, Sreeram was biting his nails in exasperation. He could see Baby struggling to decipher Rahman’s instructions. Unable to stand the stress any longer, he asked if he could help Baby with the song. Sreeram’s detailed demonstration ended in energised singing.

‘Taj Mahal’

What Sreeram did not realise was that the microphone was on all the time. Rahman, impressed by Sreeram’s singing, went on to punch the whole song. A week later Sreeram got a call from Rahman for his first film song, ‘Tirupaachi arivaala…’ in ‘Taj Mahal.’

A Calicut University Kalaprathibha, Sreeram has always been immersed in music. He played the flute and mridangam for concerts and other music programmes, did the ‘nattuvangam’ and vocals for Bharatanatyam, was a guest artiste at Kalamandalam, and composed ‘adavus’ and ‘jathis’ for dance. And then he moved from Palakkad to Chennai. He suddenly felt ‘unemployed.’

“I was frustrated at not doing anything and went in search of a job. Fortunately, I was introduced by one of my friends to music director Rajamani. He took me in to assist him in the re-recording of Keeravani’s film ‘Pasavalai,’ which was going on in one of the studios. For the next 10 days I was doing what I loved most. And, I was being paid too. That was my first experience of playing for a film.”

Sreeram’s debut song ‘Tirupaachi arivaala…’ went on to become a huge hit. Two more popular hits from Rahman followed but it also caused a lot of heart burn. Sreeram sang the Tamil version of the Sukhwinder Singh hit ‘Thaiya thaiya…’ in the film ‘Uyire,’ a remake of ‘Dil Se.’

“But when the audio cassettes were released it went with Sukhwinder’s name. I was crestfallen but decided to keep quiet about it. Corrections were made but it was late.”

Then came the other blow. Sreeram’s song ‘Vettrikodi kattu…’ for the Rajnikant film ‘Padayappa’ turned into a smashing hit but the credit for this song went to Malaysia Vasudevan. “Vasu Sir was kind enough to go public and state that the song was sung by me. Rahman was furious and called up the company making the cassettes and asked them to make the change. When the CDs came out my name was there.”

Peppy numbers

Sreeram has so far sung around 80 Tamil songs that include peppy numbers such as ‘Tirunelveli halwa…’ (‘Samy’), an innovative fusion number that had just two words ‘Love Check’ along with Sivamani’s drums from the film ‘Paathale Paravasam,’ some fast numbers like ‘Kannamoochi attam…’ from ‘Kannamoochi Yenada,’ and interesting duets like ‘Mundasu sooriyane…’ (‘Sandaikozhi’), ‘Urranthotathula…’ (‘Veyil’) and Ulagame nee…’ (‘Ivan’).

In Malayalam, Sreeram has composed the music for ‘Mazhamega Pravukal’ and ‘Melvilasam Shariyanu.’ “I’m not sure how the film fared but a couple of songs have become popular. One of them by S. Janaki, ‘Kanne kanmani…’ from my first film and a duet ‘Puzhapadum ee pattil…’ by Jayachandran and Sujatha did figure on the charts.”

Some of the songs Sreeram rendered in Malayalam like ‘Kadamizhiyil kamaladalam…’ (‘Tenkasipattanam’), ‘Pottukuthedy….’ (‘Ravana Prabhu’), and ‘Indumathi…’ (‘Rakshasa Rajavu’) are testimony to his talent.

Sreeram, a regular member of fusion bands ‘Heart Beat’ and ‘Silk Route,’ still plays for film recordings, does ad jingles and even finds time for the odd classical concert.

K.PRADEEP

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