Gopalakrishnan gives Ulloor’s poem a Carnatic note

He has recreated Ulloor’s poem Premasangeetham thus and performed it on 130 stages across the world.
Manakkala Gopalakrishnan performing Ulloor’s poem Premasangeetham composed to Carnatic music in Alappuzha
Manakkala Gopalakrishnan performing Ulloor’s poem Premasangeetham composed to Carnatic music in Alappuzha Photo | Express

ALAPPUZHA: Musician Manakkala Gopalakrishnan is on a mission to enrich the Malayalam language by adapting famous poems into Carnatic music. The Pathanamthitta resident has already rendered the works of celebrated poets like Ulloor S Parameswara Iyer, Vallathol Narayana Menon and Kadammanitta Ramakrishnan into Carnatic compositions, staging them in music concerts over the years.

He has recreated Ulloor’s poem Premasangeetham thus and performed it on 130 stages across the world, including in the US, Europe and the Middle East. “It is a big tribute to the poet who enriched the Malayalam language with poetry and prose,” says Gopalakrishnan.

So how did it all begin?

“I was the head of the State Council for Education Reforms and Training (SCERT) when the government decided to revamp the curriculum. The government appointed a committee and I was the head of the Malayalam department. For the purpose, teachers from across the state were trained at Thiruvananthapuram. The committee decided to make songs out of the works of the state’s first-generation poets,” he recalls.

But they faced a problem: the poems were not easy for children to imbibe.

“So the teachers suggested turning the poems into semi-classical songs. As an experiment, I composed Premasangeetham to Carnatic music. Poet Sugathakumari, who too was a member of the committee, suggested modifications and we gave the poem a musical form. I presented it on stage in Thiruvananthapuram on December 8, 2015.

Many ministers also attended the programme and their appreciation prompted me to continue to perform the song,” Gopalakrishnan says. He has given classical concerts in front of Malayali audiences in places like Dubai, Sharjah, France, Switzerland and Germany, besides the US.

A graduate in ganabhooshanam and ganapraveen from the Swathithirunal College of Music, Thiruvananthapuram, and sangeethasiromani from the Delhi University, he has also secured a doctorate in music. Besides working as a music teacher, he served as a Kerala University board of studies member and as the examination board chairman of music colleges in the state.

Gopalakrishnan learnt music under the guidance of T R Subhramaniyam, Leela Omcheri, B Sasikumar and Kumara Kerala Varma. He had also set poems related to Gandhi to classical music. “The poems of first-generation poets are based on grammar and metre, and hence, didn’t attract common readers. Gopalakrishnan identified music in the poems and converted such poems into melodious Carnatic music that attracts all music lovers. That way, he tries to attract all sections of readers,” filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan said of Gopalakrishnan in a citation.

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