Date:06/10/2007 URL: http://www.thehindu.com/2007/10/06/stories/2007100660471100.htm
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Kerala - Kozhikode

Johnson: a versatile composer who hums a retreat note

P.K. Ajit Kumar



Johnson does not want to get too busy with cinema again.

Kozhikode: Music director Johnson, who was presented the Mullassery Music Award in Kozhikode recently, rates Yesudas as the best male singer. He tells how Yesudas once recommended a young singer called Chitra.

At a star-studded musical tribute to composer M.S. Baburaj, organised by MACTA in Kozhikode a few years ago, two songs rendered were not composed by Baburaj. Both those songs were tuned by Johnson.

“I was conducting that 125-piece orchestra and was surprised and moved when S. Janaki sang two of my songs,” says Johnson, who was in Kozhikode recently to receive the fifth Mullassery Music Award. “She sang two songs I had recorded in her voice — ‘Gopike…’ (Kattathe Kilikkoodu) and ‘Swarnamukile…’ (Ithu Njangalude Katha). This was after telling the audience that a great composer was conducting the show. I wept that night when she said that and I am a man who rarely cries,” he said.

Janaki is, of course, one of his favourite singers. “P. Susheela and Janaki are the greatest female singers in Malayalam cinema. They have heavenly voices and there is little to choose between them.

Susheela is one singer who has expressions inbuilt in her voice, while Janaki is amazingly versatile. K.S. Chitra is undoubtedly the finest singer of her generation, says Johnson. Not many people know that Yesudas had recommended Chitra to Johnson. Johnson tells that tale, “I was recording for Balachandra Menon’s Kelkatha Sabdam at Tharangini Studio in Thiruvananthapuram. Menon told me that Yesudas was speaking about a lady, who was learning music at the time. I had no problem with that and made her sing half-a-song. It was but not used in the film. I remember her very well. She was looking very tense. But I recall that she learnt the song pretty fast, she was like a blotting paper,” he said.

Johnson went on to compose some of the finest songs in Chitra’s career, like ‘Rajahamsame…’ (Chamayam), ‘Ariyathe…’ (Oru Katha Oru Nunakkatha), ‘Doore doore…’ (Varavelpu) and ‘Poothalam…’ (Kalikkalam).

“Among the new female singers, Manjari and Gayatri are good. Sindhu Premkumar is also talented though she has got very little exposure. M.G. Sreekumar and G. Venugopal are versatile,” he says.

His favourite male voice remains Yesudas. “He is the greatest singer. I rate him above Mohammed Rafi. I would say Yesudas is one of the top 10 male singers the world has ever seen,” he says.

It was indeed Yesudas he turned to when he made a melodious comeback last year with Photographer.

Johnson does not want to get too busy in cinema again. “I may be only 53, but I feel I have done enough,” the composer says.

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