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The Sultan of Swing

At 58, Peethambaran Menon is the star singer of Kerala’s popular band ‘Thaikkudam Bridge’

Published: 11th April 2015 10:00 PM  |   Last Updated: 11th April 2015 11:43 AM   |  A+A-

Sultan

Peethambaran Menon hit the perfect musical note after his retirement. Like most government employees, Menon could have opted for a job related to his profession after he retired as an engineer in the state irrigation department. Instead, he joined the music band initiated by his son Govind Menon, nephew Sidharth Menon, and their friend.

At 58, he is one of the star singers of ‘Thaikkudam Bridge’, the multilingual, multi-genre 14-member music band. ‘Thaikkudam Bridge’ have been able to take generations of Malayalee music lovers across the world by storm. Interestingly, most of the band members were not even born when Menon started his government job.

He says, “I was thinking of starting a construction firm. Then I joined the band at the insistence of my son. Initially, I declined because I felt that my presence would be a hindrance. But my son knew about the passion I had kept deep inside me. Once I joined the young guys, I found happiness. Now I am so lucky to have such an exciting retired life,” says the bearded Menon, wearing a black shirt and mundu. It makes him look more like an Ayyappa devotee during the pilgrimage season than a singer.

But you are wrong if you thought that he strayed into the band by accident. He has reclaimed a passion. Music was in his blood and he had to keep it buried for more than three decades because of his job.

“Those were the days of struggle. I had to look after my family and had to spend my days at construction sites, which were at remote places,” he says. But during those times, he always remembered the musical notes which were passed on to his brother Gopinathan at their house in Irinjalakkuda in Thrissur by a teacher Sebastian Joseph. “We were a big family with 10 children. All of us had an inclination towards music. I was the eighth child. In  those days, we could teach only one from the family and the chance went to my brother,” he said.

Incidentally, the ‘Bridge’ is a bridge that connects music from various genres—classical, Hindustani, rock and reggae, all laced with nostalgia.

Menon’s masterpieces are the melodies of the late music director Johnson, remixed without losing their soul. “Someone complained about the remix and commented on You Tube that it as an insult to the legendary music director,” says Menon. “We replied that we are attached to him more than you know.”

By stating this, he has opened a chapter unknown to many. “I used to sing in ganamelas and had the opportunity to work with Johnson master, when he was with the ‘Voice of Thrissur’,” says Peethamabaran. “He was so supportive. One day, one of his main singers arrived late. This made the master furious and he showed the door to the singer. To the shock of my life, the  master picked me in his place as a challenge. He gave me rigourous practice and I was able to perform well. But soon, he switched to films, and became busy. I couldn’t keep singing and do my job at the same time and I could never meet him.”

All his family members, siblings, wife Vasantha Kumari, daughter Dhanya who wrote the original lyrics, are so happy that he is back where he belongs—in singing. Despite the hectic schedule, nearly 15 programmes in India and the Gulf every month, he is fit. He smiles and walks to a stage at Kochi, where his ‘younger’ friends are practising.



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