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A ‘grand’ tribute to Mosa Valsalam Sasthriar

A ‘grand’ tribute to Mosa Valsalam Sasthriar

Music is in his blood. The vast collection of cassettes and CDs lining the shelves at Bennet Thompson’s residence in Nanthancode bears ample testimony to his passion. Great grandson of Mosa Valsalam Sasthriar (1847-1916), poet, missionary and composer of Christian devotional songs, the 80-year-old Bennet continues to uphold the social reformer’s contributions through his ecclesiastical musical group, The Melody Singers, Trivandrum.

Retired as Audio-visual Instructor at the Department of Education, University of Kerala, Bennet founded The Melody Singers, an all-girl group, in 2015. “It emerged from an informal group I co-ordinated for special devotional songs. Back then, my granddaughter used to be a part of it. I then felt we could have a more organised, regular team and formed The Melody Singers. Our first performance was at CSI Christ church in Kollam,” recalls the octogenarian.

Mosa Valsalam Sasthriar

Though not a singer or musician himself, Bennet co-ordinates concerts for the group at churches or during festival occasions such as Christmas and Easter. With 10 members, all youngsters, The Melody Singers primarily performs “spiritual” songs in English and Malayalam along with some of Sasthriar’s select compositions to karaoke music. “Though Sasthriar composed original devotional songs in Sanskrit and Malayalam in the Carnatic music tradition, we focus on his simple Malayalam pieces, which are probably more popular due to their mass appeal,” says Bennet.

Bennet says he loves to listen to music of all types, regardless of the language and genre. This devotion has driven him to a pastime of doing the old-style cassette recordings and conversion of cassette songs into digital formats with the aid of an old audio cassette deck in his “audio room.”

“But with the advent of digital storage and the Internet, not many come forward with recording requests these days,” says Bennet. He also houses a good collection of movie DVDs, both Malayalam and English, admitting that he’s a movie buff as well. “However, these days, I find myself more busy with organising rehearsals for The Melody Singers,” he adds with a smile.


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