Ragavalli is on a musical high. The band, comprising students of the Chembai Memorial Government Music College, Palakkad, is fresh from a performance as part of the Kerala Government’s Onam week celebrations at Malayinkeezhu in Thiruvananthapuram and is getting ready for another Onam programme in the capital this weekend.
The band has 13 vocalists, all of them women, pursuing their final year under-graduate studies at the college. Three boys from their junior batch are instrumentalists of the band.
“We didn’t know that life would change so much in a year or so. Last Onam, the band was not in the picture at all,” Anjaly VS, a member of the band.
Their journey started early last year when they posted an Instagram Reel featuring a rearranged version of the tracks from Manichitrathazhu — a blend of ‘Pazhamthamizh pattizhayum’ and a classical version of ‘Oru murai vanthu’. “We stay in hostel and used to sing together. We put it up as a reel just for fun. We had no instruments except for an ukulele. We had no idea about the right chord to use for the song! However, that reel got noticed. Then, we posted a version of ‘O mama mama Chanda mama’ (from Rock N Roll) and that reel went viral. That’s how we started getting noticed. We never expected to form a band,” says Swathy PV.
Singers are Nithuna Vijayan, Anagha V, Anagha P, Shirin Ibadi, Fathima Farhana, Anjaly VS, Swathy PV, Amrutha CR, Gayathri, Krishnasree, Ragendu P, Pavithra Krishna, and Aparna Nair. Percussionists are Aslam Lazin Lal (cajon), Jnhan S Anand (guitar) and Amal Biju (djembe/ darbuka).
Soon they got an opportunity to perform in a television show on Flowers TV. Since there were no instrumentalists in the band, the girls roped in their juniors. “The band had no name then. It was the channel’s suggestion to name it Ragavalli,” Swathy adds.
That programme brought in stage shows for them from across the state. “ Our playlist has songs in Malayalam, Tamil and Hindi. We usually go for songs that don’t have too much orchestration because there aren’t many instrumentalists in the band. Once we select a song, we take inputs from all members before arriving at a consensus on the arrangement. Be it a melody or fast number, we want to give a musical treat for the audience,” says Jnhan S Anand, guitarist.
Their latest song to go viral is the Tamil number, ‘Valayosai’ from Sathyaa, composed by Ilaiyaraaja, which has clocked over 2.8 million views on their Instagram page (@ragavalli_music_band_official).
Among the songs in their playlist are ‘Haalake’ (Sulaikha Manzil), ‘Dola re’ (Devdas), ‘Barson re megha’ (Guru), and ‘Nachle nachle’ (Aaja Nachle).
An inspiration for Ragavalli has been the band, Almaram, which was formed by their seniors in college. Almaram has made their debut in movies and also released their first original.
What are the plans ahead? “We will be together like this even after college,” says Anjaly.
Ragavalli will perform at Poojappura ground on September 2 at 7pm. Entry free.