Kathakali padams to beats of jazz, blues

Shreekumar Vakkiyil’s music will deliver notes of devotion and love next weekend at Fakiri, a folk festival in Whitefield

Published: 08th June 2016 10:21 PM  |   Last Updated: 09th June 2016 03:41 AM   |  A+A-


BENGALURU: Shreekumar Vakkiyil, a vocalist from Kerala, will perform what he calls vedic folk here next weekend. The genre, he says, comprises Kathakali padams, Sanskrit hymns and Malayalam folk songs.

“Kathakali padams are stories – often excerpted from the Vedas – told through the art form,” he starts. “I have also used ashtapadis from Gita Govindam, by the 12th century poet Jayadeva, in my compositions.”

Ashtapadis are hymns that have eight lines within each composition. In Gita Govindam, they are about Radha’s love and devotion towards Krishna.

“My aim is to incorporate these stories into my music – using elements of Jazz, Blues and even other folk art forms like Kummi – and convey the strength of emotion in them,” Shreekumar says. 

His compositions, however, lack structure and comprise free verses. While most of his songs are in Malayalam, the artiste assures us that the language barrier has not come in the way of audiences enjoying the music.

“During a recent performance in Delhi, I deviated from the usual film songs and played a couple of my experimental compositions. I was anxious about the response, but was thrilled to see that the audience was actually grooving along,” he recalls.

The 34-year-old artiste, who moved to Bengaluru about an year ago, was formerly part of a band called The Sopanam Ensemble in Delhi.

“We had created around eight compositions in the Sopanam genre – traditional music performed in the temples of Kerala. I will use some of those too,” Shreekumar says.

The most challenging part has been finding a connection with the compositions, he shares. “I believe the focus must be on emotions. That can’t happen unless the musicians feel a connect with the music.”

“Also, sometimes, I find myself being more a coordinator than a singer. It has been so hard finding the right musicians to bring the whole thing together,” he adds.

About the music scene in Bengaluru, he says, “People here are appreciative of new genres. This is the best city for indie music.”

He adds, “This isn’t the case in Mumbai, where I have lived and performed for over three years. People there mostly like EDM, Rock and Bollywood.”

Shreekumar grew up in Delhi and learnt Carnatic music under the guidance of his father Sadanam Rajagopalan, a vocalist, and later under Guru Radha Krishna.

Later, he moved to Mumbai, where he trained in Hindustani music. Today, he sings playback for Malayalam films and jingles. His songs are popular on Music MOJO, a programme on Kappa TV he says is “the South Indian equivalent of the Pakistani Coke Studio.”


The six-day folk festival brings to town a host of talented musicians and other folk artistes. It is scheduled over the next two weekends at Phoenix Market City, Whitefield.

India Matters


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