Johnson (composer) : biography
Johnson (Malayalam: ജോൺസൺ) (26 March 1953 – 18 August 2011) was an Indian film score composer and music director who has given music to some of the most important motion pictures of Malayalam cinema, including those for Koodevide, Namukku Parkkan Munthiri Thoppukal, Oru Minnaminunginte Nurunguvettam, Vadakkunokkiyantram, Perumthachan, Njan Gandharvan, Ponthan Mada, and Bhoothakkannadi. He was noted for his lyrical and expressive melodies together with simple but rich tonal compositions of thematic music. Johnson is a recipient of National Film Awards twice and Kerala State Film Awards five times.
He started his career as an assistant to G. Devarajan in 1970s, and debuted as an independent composer in late seventies with Aaravam. He was a recurrent collaborator for directors Padmarajan, Bharathan, Sathyan Anthikkad, T. V. Chandran, Kamal, Lohithadas, Balachandra Menon and Mohan. He has composed music for more than 300 Malayalam films, the most by any composer except for Devarajan. He was the first Music Director from Malayalam Film Fraternity to be honored with the National Award. He died of a heart attack in Chennai on 18 August 2011.
Music style and impact
His skilful integration of textual rhythm of the lyrics together with rich tonal arrangement, redefined songwriting in Malayalam cinema, since the late 1980s. In his film scores, Johnson combines native South Indian melodic patterns with the harmonic structure of classical music and this has attained an expressive form of narration through film score. He composed for about 300 films. Though he has obtained no formal training in classical music, he was able to incorporate the beauty of Carnatic ragas in his songs. Most of his songs were composed on Kalyani raga.
Johnson’s favourite male singer was K. J. Yesudas, who has recorded many songs for him, while S. Janaki and K. S. Chithra were his favourite female singers. Chithra had some of her most noted songs with Johnson.
Johnson is fondly called Johnson Master (Johnson Mashu) by Malayalee audiences. Even his contemporaries and competitors refer him with the tag ‘Master’ (‘mash’ in Malayalam).
Johnson won the National Film Award for Best Background Score for the films Ponthan Mada (1994) and Sukrutham (1995). Johnson is the only composer to receive this rarely given award twice. He was the first Malayalee music composer to receive an award in music category and is also the only Malayalee music director who received two national awards in music category. Actually his first national award for Ponthan Mada, not only for background score but also for Best Music Composer. This film has one song Adimarunge ayyayya (അടിമരുങ്ങേ അയ്യയ്യാ) lyrics by O. N. V. Kurup and sung by K. S. Chithra and chorus composed by Johnson. This is a folk song. National film award committee noted that he brilliantly conceive western folk tunes into this song. So award given for best music direction and background score of this film. He has received three Kerala State Film Award for Best Music Director, for the films Ormakkayi (1982), Vadakkunokkiyantram and Mazhavil Kavadi (1989), and Angane Oru Avadhikkalathu (1999). He was awarded the Kerala State Film Award for Best Background Music for the films Sadayam (1992) and Sallapam (1996). He has thus received five Kerala State Film Awards in music category, an achievement he shares with Devarajan. He has received the Kerala Film Critics Awards four times, the most recent in 2008 for Gulmohar. In 2007, he won the Mathruboomi Award for Best Music Director for Photographer (2006). He won the Mullasserry Raju Music Award for the song "Enthe Kannanu Karuppu Niram", also from the same film. In addition, he has received numerous other awards and nominations including Devarajan Master Memorial Award and Raveendran Master Memorial Award.. The Hindu. 21 September 2007. Retrieved 7 December 2011.