THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: A sole tanpura and the Carnatic legend - the signature timbre ringing through the wee hours is melody and devotion in equal measures. Meant for awakening gods, M S Subbulakshmi’s Sri Venkatesa Suprabhatam fills the morning air in almost all temple premises in South India.
But the presiding deity of Thiruvananthapuram now has an exclusive wake-up hymn all for himself - Sree Padmanabha Swami Suprabhatam. Penned by S Vasudevan, composed by Ajith Namboothiri and sung by Madhu Balakrishnan, it comprises of five modules. “The Suprabhatam we hear at temples is written for Thirupathi Perumal, but this one is dedicated to the Ananthasayi, the idol at the sanctum sanctorum of Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple. It took us nearly two years to come up with this album and now the temple authorities are playing it every morning,” says M S Sunil Kumar of White Moon Movies who has brought out the CD of the composition.
Padmanabha Swami Suprabhatam also opens with the familiar Kousalya supraja Rama poorva, as it retains the first portion of the original verse from Ramayana. “Suprabhatam is a spate of hymns flowing one after one in a specific pattern. Here also the same format is followed, but after the first segment the lyrics are all different. Including the final Managalm, they are written in praise of Sree Padmanabha,” says Ajith Namboothiri, composer.
There are a total of five tracks just like Venkatesa Suprabhatam and the lyricist has used the same metre as well. “I have used a simple and soft score for the composition making it easy to sing. Lyrics are very important in devotional slokas, so maintaining the delicate balance between music and verses is the most challenging aspect,” says Ajith. Another task was finding the right voice for the Suprabhatam, adds Sunil Kumar. “First we searched for a female vocalist, but couldn’t find anyone remotely matching the sharp and clear rendition of Subbulakshmi. Madhu Balakrishnan was zeroed in after trying a lot others,” he says.
The first three tracks of Sree Padmanabha Swami Suprabhatam are done in Mohana raga while the last two are in Madhyamavati. “There is an innate rhythm in Venkatesa Suprabhatam, but I haven’t tried to duplicate that here. I also avoided a profusion of instruments, it’s just flute, veena and idakka. They have been used to link the lyrics and to bring in a fresh flavour,” adds Ajith.