In the middle of March, the stage was set. Streets of Kerala rolled out the carpet for another election season. Afternoons got louder. Speakers mounted on vehicles blared outside homes. Excited voices told you over a microphone why you should vote Left, Right or Centre, and why not for the other sneaky candidates.
On phones and laptops, where the voices could not reach, songs were played. Theme songs were released for the three major fronts – the Left Democratic Front (LDF) led by the CPI(M), the United Democratic Front (UDF) led by Congress, and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Many others were released for individual candidates.
Political songs are in the history of Kerala, as old as the state itself. Drama songs, mostly by the Kerala People’s Arts Club (KPAC), helped in a big way to popularise the idea of Communism among the people. Songs like ‘Bali Kudeerangale’ and ‘Ponnarivaal’ were sung by generations.
As years went by, songs and slogans coined exclusively for elections joined the loudspeakers of party vehicles. This year, political parties went a step further and roped in a number of professional singers.
Sithara Krishnakumar, a popular singer in Kerala, composed and sang ‘Urappanu Keralam’ – the official anthem for LDF. Written by BK Harinarayanan, the song spiritedly says that those who led us should succeed. “Nammale nayichavar jaikkanam / Thudarchayode naadu veendum ujwalikanam,” Sithara sings.
Sooraj Santhosh, another popular singer, brought out ‘Hridayapaksham – The People's Anthem’, and called it the official election campaign song for the LDF.
For the UDF, blind and much-loved singer Vaikom Vijayalakshmi sang the theme song ‘Naadu Nannakanai’ – the same words as the Congress-led front’s slogan. UDF for a better Kerala, and for people to be one, she sang.
PC Vishnunadh, a Congress Member of Legislative Assembly, who is also contesting this time, sang another election campaign song for the UDF – ‘Naadu Nannakan UDF’.
The NDA also brought out a theme song, ‘Puthiya Keralam Modikkoppam’ – New Kerala is with Modi.
“This year, for whatever reasons, there is not a large crowd pulling for leaders’ events except when it is CM Pinarayi Vijayan’s or Congress leader Shashi Tharoor’s event. You can see this lull in election songs too. People seem to prefer catchy visuals more than a lyrical song,” says Prem Kumar, communication expert.
Bijibal, renowned music composer who is behind the famous film song ‘Chora Veena Mannil’, brought out a song for Kerala’s incumbent Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. ‘Priya Sakhavu’ or Dear Comrade. Last Assembly election, he had composed a song for Communist veteran VS Achuthanandan, ‘Kayyoorulloru’, which went on to become really popular.
Sithara, Bijibal and Vaikom Vijayalakshmi have all come out with beautiful musical songs, but that’s not what people want, Prem says. “The LDF has brought out highly political songs this time, like in the old days when poets like Vayalar and ONV Kurup wrote songs. But aesthetic songs do not seem to have the appeal that peppy spirited songs do. You can see that a badly edited song with a real-life speech of the CM added to the end of it will work more than these carefully composed songs. People prefer the original bytes more.”
He cites another example of a video made for Congress leader T Siddique, who is contesting from Wayanad’s Kalpetta. “It was a well-made song. But within minutes of its release, someone made a parody and the original was edited. It is this troll video that has became more popular. The original songwriters pulled out their song,” Prem adds.
Perhaps sensing this, Abdul Khadar, a composer from Kakkanad in Kochi, has been specialising in releasing parody songs for the various fronts for years now. In an interview to Manorama News, he demonstrates with his singers a pro-LDF song in parody of the film song ‘Sonare’, an anti-LDF song as a parody of ‘Kuyiline Thedi’, and yet another parody for the NDA, bashing both the LDF and the UDF.