Malayalam music gets its due

Bollywood legend Sridevi, right, hands the Lifetime Achievement Award to singer S Janaki at the GMMA 2007. (SUPPLIED) 


Actors and musicians from across Kerala's film industry have gathered in Dubai for Friday's Gulf Malayalam Music Awards (GMMA).

Headlining the show is this year's chief attraction, Bollywood actress Vidya Balan.

Billed as the biggest celebration of Malayalam music in the Gulf, the GMMA celebrates music from the south Indian state, and is a key event on the entertainment calendar for the region's Keralite community.

A large majority of the Gulf's expatriate workers are Indians from Kerala, employed in industries ranging from construction, retail to the service sector.

This is the third time GMMA is being held in the UAE. The winners are voted solely by Keralite expatriates living in the Gulf.

Winners are selected for 12 categories, including the best song, the best music director, the most requested song and the best singers. The winners will be announced tonight during the mega event at Dubai Airport Expo.

Ajith Menon, head of programming at the Malayalam radio station, Hit 96.7FM, part of the Arabian Radio Network, said the awards are all the rage among the Keralite community living in the UAE and the region.

"Within a short span of three years we have managed to capture the imagination of our listeners," he told Emirates Business.

"This is the only dedicated music awards show in the Malayalam film industry and the support it has received from media and the film industry has been overwhelming," he added.

Launched in 2006, the GMMA focuses on the industry's finest singers and honours them for their talent, rather than awarding film music, as has been the norm thus far.

Among the leading contenders this year is the soundtrack of Arabikatha, which was largely shot in Dubai and has proved very popular in the UAE.

This year's lifetime achievement award will be given to SP Balasubrahmaniam, one of south India's well-known singers.

At least 70 artists and performers from Kerala's music industry are expected to perform at tonight's event, said Menon. Among the singers set to attend are Sujatha, Vineet Srinivas and Shwetha Mohan, Sayonora and George Peter.

"In fact we are finding it difficult to accommodate everyone but the enthusiasm is there and that is really satisfying. We have been partnering with the event since its inception and are confident it is going to be the most sought-after award internationally."

Expatriate Keralites living in the Gulf have voted for their favourite Malayalam tracks from last year's releases. Besides print and online voting, a new "people-voting" mechanism will decide the winners of the first-of-its-kind popular music awards. The results are audited by a well-established auditing company in Dubai.

Among the exciting highlights of tonight's mega show are a full orchestra and an east-meets-west fusion dance performance.