34 delightful songs set to lively music, all of them about animals, birds, flowers, bees, the sun the moon, and all things enchanted, that once filled the rainbow-streaked skies and blossom filled meadows of our childhood dreams. That’s what’s been playing on a loop on my computer for the past one week and they have already taken me on several trips back to the carefree days of childhood.
When good friend Krishnadas sent me a CD enticingly titled ‘Poo Venuma’ and told me to listen to it ASAP, I agreed and promptly forgot all about it. A few months and a couple of veiled threats by e-mail later, I finally did what he asked me to and smacked myself for not doing it earlier.
What he had sent me was an utterly delightful collection of 34 children’s songs set to music by none other than the great weaver of melodies, MB Sreenivasan.
The collection is chockfull of childhood favorites I grew up on and then some. Rhymes passed on through oral traditions, and a few that were written by noted poets including Azha. Valliappa who has gifted children with a treasure trove of simple and heartwarming songs, many of which are often part of prescribed syllabus in primary schools.
I have always felt that the major difference between English rhymes we teach our kids and the vernacular ones we conveniently forget to teach them is the lesson being conveyed. Whereas the English rhymes are full of violence, diseases, and accidents, our humble rhymes are filled with such positive and cheery messages and lessons that teach you to love and respect your own self and the world and its creatures big and small. Life is celebrated and humaneness is encouraged. Oh, there is even a bit of grammar, science, and arithmetic lessons thrown in for good measure.
The songs and rhymes in Poo Venuma virtually take you back to a wonderful time when frogs and mice made small talk with you, ants and elephants told you fascinating tales, and flowers nodded their heads in delight at the very sight of you.
And here you will meet mothers feeding children on moonlit nights, in the warm tradition of ‘Nila Choru’. She hoists her fussy eater on to her hip, goes out to the courtyard, points to the silver moon up in the sky and spin musical tales of magic and mystery around it. The child, enchanted by it all, opens his mouth in awe and is fed without even realizing it. What the child imbibes with the food here is beyond mere nourishing nutrients. The mother feeds her child love, beauty, respect for nature, a healthy measure of science, and a strong dose of imagination. Nila Nila Vaa harks back to this endearing tradition.
Nod along with pleasure as you learn the alphabets through some peppy songs like Amma Inge Vaa and Azhamal Irukkanum Chinna Paappa, which teach the Tamil alphabets along with some life lessons, in a way reminiscent of the great Tamil poet Awwayar and her work Aathichoodi.
The music as mentioned earlier has been composed by the great MBS and performed by his own Madras Youth Choir (www.madrasyouthchoir.org), which he founded in 1971. The fact that the music was composed by MBS came as a pleasant surprise, because, to me MBS meant the eternal Chaithram Chaayam Chaalichu, Sharadindu Malardeepa Naalam and a clutch of other favorites that have defined my taste in Malayalam movie music. And with Poo Venuma, he has created music that makes you want to take your friend’s hand and hop, skip, and jump in sheer glee.
Madras Youth Choir is still going strong, keeping alive their founder’s work, as evident from their much-lauded performances and the CDs they release at regular intervals. Poo Venuma was released back in August 2014 by Mrs. Leela Samson, with Dr. Vasanthi Devi receiving the first copy. It has been out there for a while and if you haven’t had a chance to listen to it yet, I suggest you lay hands on a copy immediately. Sometimes, you need to go back to be able to go forward.