Saji Kadampattil

New Performance

Grant Period: Over seven Months

This grant will support Bangalore-based musician and sound designer, Saji Kadampattil, to undertake research into the poetry of eminent Malayalam poet, Kadamanitta Ramakrishnan Nair (1935–2008), and the ritual folk performance form, Padayani, towards creating new performance work. Saji recently gave up a well-paying job to take up music full-time. With no formal training, his influences are very eclectic. He will compose background scores for four short films and a docu-fiction. “Being a self-taught musician, it was the lyrics of Kadamanitta Ramakrishnan which nudged me towards creating songs. Tinkering with his poems on my guitar, the tonality of the lyrics just brought out the music inside me and his poems rejuvenated my journey as a musician,” says Saji. He found that the inherent folk flavour in the verses seamlessly fitted with his own musical expression. The poems also helped him reconnect with his roots — Malayalam, its literature and folk performance traditions.   

Having been an active member of the leftist students’ federation, Kadamanitta’s artistic sensibilities were deeply influenced by the progressive arts environment as well as the ritualistic atmosphere of Padayani that he grew up in. His incisive political lyrics, embodying symbols from folklore and modern Malayalam poetry resulted in widespread political awakening among several workers’ unions in Kerala. Saji is interested in Cholkazhcha, a unique way of reciting poems, based on Padayani rhythms and theatrical expressions, through which Kadamanitta ‘performed’ his poetry. Saji will explore the poet’s innovations in performance by studying his use of alternative metres, folk metaphors, poetic structures and sounds in the language. In a political sense, Kadamanitta’s lyrics are very much aligned to the ideals of rock, reggae and blues. Hence, Saji envisions this research, and the subsequent performance as a coming together of Kadamanitta’s poetry, the artistry of Padayani and his own musical sensibilities.

Saji will also studied Padayani. He will collaborate with traditional performers to engage intimately with its riot of colours, extravagant expressions, painting techniques, artistic postures, architectural forms, haunting music, rich literature, scintillating dances, and rhythmic movements. Saji will make field trips all over Kerala to conduct interviews with Padayani performers, close associates of the poet, including his family, friends, colleagues, critics and publishers, and musicologists and folklore experts. He will also visit the All India Radio and Doordarshan archives to source recordings and footage of the poet. The performance will be conceptualised based on the research. Musician and historian, Dr Aneesh Pradhan, will be Saji’s mentor for the project.