Kerala has been gifted with innumerable composers whose contributions stand unique in cultural map of classical music. Though Swati Tirunal and to a lesser extent, Irayinman Thampi is known to outside Kerala, but there are a number of composers whose contributions has not got the attention which they deserve. This is basically due to two reasons. Most of the kritis are in Malayalam and perhaps no translation of their works in other languages has come out. Moreover their kritis are hardly sung in the concerts in Kerala much less outside.

List of composers

If one just goes over journey of Kerala history of cultural activities, the Royal House has produced men of letters of scholarly compositions. This tradition continued till the end early 20th cy. In the lineage, way back in 767-834 AD , Kulasekhara Alwar made his imprint through his work Mukundamala, Perumal Thirumozhi.

The 17th Cy saw one of best treatise “Balarama Bharatham ” in music and dance by Maharaja Karthika tirunal Balarama Varma. He has composed nearly 150 compositions which are one of the precious jems.

The works of Kunjan Nambiar who is known as father Otten Tullel are very famous. Like-wise the works of Unnani warrier are high standard works.

Iravi Varman thampi (1782-1855) was a giant among composers. He nearly served three generation of kings. His kritis are very high order of scholarly work and he is known as father of lullaby in Kerala. His famous Lullaby “Omanathingkal Kidavu” which was an incidental song penned by Irayinman Tampi on the seeing the king in the cradle. He has composed 43 kirtis, 3 attakadhas, 21 pads 5 varnas and a number of slokas and lullaby. Swati Tirunal awarded him vira shringala. Another important composer of Maharaja Swati Tirunal’s court is Parameswara Bhagavathar. He has penned few compositions.

Kerala has also contributed to the music world a number of women composers.

Thamp’s daugher Kutty Kunju Thankachi (1820-1904) is known as the first poetess of Kerala. She has touched more or less all musical forms and folklores. Swathi Tirunal admired her works and in appreciation he gave valuable gifts.

Another major women composer of Kerala is Rani Rugmani Bai thampuratti (1809-37). She was a good Veena Player and has gifted to the music world a number of compositions. Unfortunately only a very few compositions is only available now.

Another famous women composer of Kerala is Kalyanikutti Ammachi (1838-1909) She is gifted composer and his works include a number of compositions. Her kritis on the wedding of Prices Sethu Parvathi Bai in 1906 are very famous.

Valia Ikku Amma Thampuran, born in 1844 is a prolific composer and writer. Unfortunately her compositions are not traceable. Rani Lekshmi Bai (1848-1901) is another eminent composer of Royal family and has composed most of the musical forms.

Kodugaloor Kunju kuttan Tampuran (1860-1908) who is also known as Kerala Vyasa has composed a few kritis. His kritis Mangalamekaneme and Jagadambe are some times find a place in concerts.

Kilimanoor Madhava warrier a great musicologist and musician has left a work Tala Prakasam which still stands one of the unique work.

One of the great poet, composer, actor, and doctor is Mahakavi Kuttamath. Some of his kritis finds place in concerts.

Another less known but known for his scholarly compositions is Ennappadam Venkita Bhagavathar who lived between 1880-1960. Rarely his kritis are sung now a days. He has composed 140 kritis.

Under the Malayalam kritis, the names of KC Kesava Pillai and his son KC Gopalapillai requires special mention. They enriched the music world with compositions touching upon all forms of classical music. Their kritis outweigh each other. Though All India Radio has been broadcasting their kritis till the end of 1960s, this has now gone into oblivion and only very people sung their compositions now.

Another important personality under Kerala Compsoer is Govinda Marar who lived between 1798 and 1843. Though it is said he has composed a few kritis and and credit with the opportunity to sang in front of Saint Tyagaraja , but there is no record to substantiate this claim. Another towering personality is Kottayam Veera Kerala Verma (1645-96) who was a uttama vaggeyakara. His kriti Dhyaye Manisam is very famous.

Ramapani Vadan lived in the last part of 17th Cy. His significant contribution includes 35 kritis and a mangalam in one of the rarest ragas “Gummakamboji”. Under the Kerala composers, the place of Neelakan Sivan is unique. His kritis finds place in almost all the concerts. His composition “Anandanadana madinar” is very famous. He is one of vaggeygaras who has composed in tamil also.

Shri T Lekshamana pilli who lived between 1864-1950) is a man of letters and and adept in Music. His 400 compositions are in chaste tail and addressed to GOD and not on deities.

Shri Ramachandran Nair, is a modern composer who has penned innumerable compositions in Malayalam.

Dr. VR Prabodhachandran Nayar, MA PhD (Kerala), PhD (London), formerly Chair of Linguistics, University of Kerala and Chairman of Kalamandalam, is a much sought after speaker, erudite writer-cum-researcher, educationist, organizer and critic-cum-patron of arts. He spearheads Samskriti, an internationally based non-governmental organization promoting Kerala’s heritage in classical music, by providing regular performance opportunities, especially to upcoming artistes and sponsors every year a festival of performing arts of Kerala called ‘Keralaramgakalolsavam’.
Dr Nayar’s flair for poetry and lyrics finds expression in the anthology, Prabodha Sangeetam, Vol I, containing 50 of his select compositions, totaling about 500, in classical Carnatic music. The lyrics, abounding in sound embellishments that enhance mellifluousness in rendition in tune with the emotion involved, are set to familiar ragas and are mostly in Malayalam, and occasionally in simple Sanskrit. As attested by veteran Carnatic vocalist Parassala B Ponnammal, Dr Nayar’s compositions are noted for their forthrightness, lucidity and brevity. They are, in general, kshethra kritis, extolling most deities in temples in the west coast from Kanyakumari to Kollur. Many refer to art-forms, musical instruments, rituals and festivals in temples. Some kritis bear ‘ragamudra’ at their very beginning.
His naamamudra ‘bodha’ (meaning ‘consciousness’) affixed to the charanam of most kritis has given rise to the expression ‘Prabodhasamgeetham’ meaning ‘musical compositions of Dr Prabodhachandran Nayar, which trigger off knowledge at a highly exalted level’.