In more ways than one, Afzal Yusuff’s Nilathattam is a throwback to the Malayalam film soundtracks from some time back. There is the number of songs firstly, it is hard to come by Malayalam albums that have more than four songs these days. In those too this album has male/female variants or duet/solo variants which were the norm at one point. And the songs have a decidedly filmy sound rather than the maappilapaattu sound; they have clearly given priority to the “romantic” bit of the “romantic maappila” album this is supposed to be. One song that does stay true to the latter is Kanavile – the arrangement, the seven beat cycle all in conformance to the genre, and a pretty tune (kaapi raga base, perhaps); all evoking a sense of familiarity but effective all the same. In the first version it has Praseeda Govardhan & Afzal Yusuff himself on vocals, while the alternate version has Sithara Krishnakumar replacing Praseeda. Perunnaal marks the Malayalam debut of young playback singer Anweshaa, and like the songstress whose voice she so strongly resembles, Anweshaa too does an ace job with her Malayalam diction, and has excellent company from Najim Arshad. Except for the odd references to terms like Perunnaal, the song could well be a romantic duet from a movie. Enjoyable song though, both in the duet and solo versions; solo being rendered by Anweshaa.
Nilavinte too, like Perunnaal, has a few maappila references and the subtle use of the 7 beat claps, but remains largely independent of it. Gorgeous melody though, and very nicely orchestrated too, some excellent flute in particular. And the singing is top class in both versions – Chinmayi in female and Najim in the male version. Karivala has a lot of things going on in its arrangement, a lot of quirky touches but the familiarity in sound is quite strong in this one and that turned me off the song. Ranjith and Shilpa Raju are quite good with their rendition though. The final track Aramba features yet another competent singer, Sachin Warrier. Something very Malayali about the tune that makes it quite endearing. The arrangement is quite decent too.
Nilathattam. Afzal Yusuff’s debut private album, like I pointed out earlier, is dominated by filmy sounds. It is a good effort nevertheless, helped on its way by a proficient set of singers.
Top Recos: Nilaavinte, Perunnaal, Aramba