Ancient Composers and singers
The greatest figure in Kerala's musical tradition who
ranks one among the greatest personalities in the history of the Karnatic
system of Indian music is Swati Tirunal. He wrote eight works, six of
them in Sanskrit and two in Malayalam. They are mostly hymns and commentaries.
His greatest contribution was in music. His musical compositions numbered
over five hundred
Govinda Marar, one of the luminaries of Swati's court was an exceptionally brilliant singer. Best concert singers can handle only three tempi- fast, medium and slow. Marar was the only one who could sing in six. This explains the honorific title 'Shatkala' usually prefixed to his name.
Parameswara Bhagavathar was another gifted singer of Swati's court. He was a composer too. His most famous work being the Varnam. Irayimman Thampy, a relative of Swati and a close associate in musical activities is the only musician who has composed all the three major forms of the Karnatic tradition, varnam, kirtanam and padam in Malayalam. His total output includes twenty eight kirtanams in Sanskrit and five in Malayalam, five varnams and twenty two padams, besides several Kathakali librettos and narrative poems. Some of the compositions are in very rare ragas like jangla, manchi and kakuba.
Kuttikunja Thankachi, daughter of 'Tampu', is a prolific litterateur and composer. She wrote three Kathakali and one Thullal librettos, one drama, three narrative poems for the traditional Tiruvathira dance, two poems on the kirata-arjuna and the Nala-Damayanti stories in the gypsy song mould and two others on the religious legends associated with Thiruvananthapuram and Vaikom. She wrote six kirtanams, two of them in Sanskrit. One of the kirtanams, a homage to goddess Kartyayani in Raga Kamboji, is a composition of great classical weight.
K.C.Kesava Pillai is another great composer of Kerala whose output has astonishing variety, three Kathakali librettos, a musical play and over seventy kirtanams for classical singers. The kirtanams are all devotional. The next one is Kandathil Varghese Mapilla. He composed several devotional songs which could be used by all who were truly religious. He also wrote a premier on music where he gave definitions of ragas and talas and prescriptions for the practice of singing in simple verses which could be easily memorized.