Daily Recco, December 17: Avial, a heady mix

Be it the dish, or the band, or their first studio album by the same name, Avial is a blend of assortments made in heaven.

 |  4-minute read |   17-12-2020
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Music and art, they say, transcends the linguistic, cultural and geographical borders. It is perhaps to prove this theory right that we have bands like Krosswindz hitting it off with the music lovers in Bengaluru or a band like Agam or Avial having fans across regions — from Mumbai to the Middle East to even Manchester.

Avial is a Malayali alternative rock band that was formed in 2003 with the idea of making music that is like its eponymous South Indian dish — just like the dish blends in taste with assorted ingredients and vegetables, the band’s music would be a unique combination of various influences — poetry, alternative rock music, folk music, electronic music and many such. And they have stood true to it.

Take their first studio-album — Avial — that was released in February 2008. The album has eight songs cutting across themes, from tribal culture, environmental degradation, farmers’ plight on losing their crops, fraud godmen, mourning the present condition of the world and whatnot. A coherent message in each song.

The album opens with a remix version of Nada Nada — simple and upbeat music without getting too esoteric and deterring the listener from venturing ahead. Incidentally, the band had their first breakthrough with the original of Nada Nada that was released as a single track in 2003. So, the song, obviously, had to be a part of their first album in some form or the other.

Then comes Chekele, a personal favourite. Here, the farm labourer Chaathan and his wife Neeli are distraught over the crops being destroyed in floods and are wondering how they are going to inform the landlord about this loss. Their losses do not end here; as they are on their way to inform the Thamburan (landlord), they realise their food for the journey has been eaten by ants. The song is poignant and the music does full justice to the lyrics without the melancholy getting overwhelming. The bass between the lyrics is outstanding and so is the acoustic guitar backing throughout. Thank us later when you sing along with the chorus that is as easy on the tongue for native speakers and non-Mallus alike.

One but last track — Aadu Pambe — is something that is as deep as it can get when you are listening to it late on a night, pondering where the world is headed to, and in a club when you want to sway away after a few shots. The song is loosely about how man is degrading nature and how to live amicably with it. Interestingly, the title has been taken from a yoga reference on rising of the Kundalini. The lyrics speak about the disappearing forests and how people who lived there are being displaced. The elephant tusks are ornamental showpieces in a rich man’s house that has been built to face the lake after drying half of it up. It ends with wondering over the futility of such desertification and the changing narratives to suit the sensibilities of the haves against the have-nots.

If that explanation depressed you somewhat, the music will not. The music is upbeat. The guitarwork transitions smoothly from the banjo-style interlude to the headbanging section without a single jarring note.

The album sold over 45,000 copies soon after it was released nearly 13 years ago — a rare feat for a set of songs that were entirely in Malayalam. The band received six of the seven Jack Daniels Rock Awards in 2008 for the album and you will not be surprised at all once you have heard the songs.

So, whether you are someone who nannaayi Malayalam samsaarikkuka (speaks Malayalam like a pro!) or is as much at home with the language as a penguin in the Sahara, listen to Avial. You will love their music as much as the eponymous dish. Their music truly rocks (pun unintended!).

Also Read: Ultimate survival kit for indie music bands


Rajeshwari Ganesan Rajeshwari Ganesan @rajeshwaridotg

Assistant Editor, DailyO

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