YMMA 2008

Part - 1

After watching so many singing talent hunt shows on Television, I have a fair idea about how to choose the best among the given singers. It is the diction, expression and perfection, voice quality and the uniqueness that the voice adds to the songs are those that matter when it comes to singing. And with this in mind, I picked those final nominees but from among those nominees, picking one is again a tough job.

Sriram Parthasarathy for his Uliyin Oosai song is an obvious choice who exactly fulfills all the above mentioned criteria. Singing a song which was originally sung by S.P.B and excelling in his own style is no child’s play and Hariharan has done exactly that with his calming and soothing rendition of the romantic lullaby in ‘Venmegam’ song. Shankar Mahadevan has this ability to beautifully bring out the intended emotions in all ranges and he does it so perfectly in ‘Kaadhal Siluvayil’ song. Listen to him being mellow and subdued as he sings ‘Avaludaiya karpanayai’ and scream and cry as he burst out with ‘Uyir urugum podhu’. Though each singer would be able to fulfill all the criteria I mentioned above, it is the dynamics in the singing and the little touches they add to make the song their own, makes all the difference. It is for this dynamics I chose Haricharan (for Kannil Vanthadhum) and Naresh Iyer (for Uyirilae). Haricharan’s voice culture naturally suits for such somber numbers and he carries the minimally orchestrated ‘Kannil vandhadhum’ song with just his voice. Naresh Iyer’s Uyirilae is much better than Chitra’s ‘Vizhiyilae’, the vulnerability in his voice adds to the longing feel in the song. Tippu is one of the most expressive singers we have today and he oozes romanticism in ‘Solladi’.

Sudha Raghunathan surprised me with her amazing ease and control in singing ‘Anal Mele’ in non-carnatic style. Chinmayi beautifully captures Maari’s longing in her sweet voice for ‘Avaram Poo’ song. Sainthavi has the cutest of voices among the current lot. Her rendition of ‘Yen Unnidam’ song adds to the breeziness of the song. Kalyani has a unique sweetness in her voice and style of singing which is beautifully used in the song ‘Mazhai Nindra’. I also love her Tamil diction. Sadhana Sargam has come a long way from her ‘Snehithanae’ days in Tamil diction and though it is not yet perfect, her rendition made ‘Mukunda’ melody sound sweeter and lighter. And I always get mesmerized when I listen Shreya Ghosal exquisitely crooning the lines ‘Kamatchi kovil munnae’ or ‘Mundhaanai kadhavukullae’ in ‘Aavaram poovukkum’.

A background score piece may be musically good but it will stick to one’s mind and its impact will last only if the visual material is worthy of the background score piece. Uliyin Oosai has some beautiful background score pieces and I heard them while watching the video clips from the movie on YouTube. Yuvan Shankar Raja’s background score for Saroja is just right and neat. Anjathey had a very impressive background score throughout the movie, though there were some moments where the Good Vs Evil theme was overused. But overall a very intriguing background score by Sundar C.Babu. I am surprised by James Vasanthan’s understanding of the use of background score in movies. The recurrent themes are used aptly in the movie, though there were some melodramatic cues towards the end of the movie.

The toughest category for me is Lyrics. According to me, for song lyrics to register in the minds of a listener it should have something special in it and that something may be beautiful stream of meaningful lines falling one after the other in rhyme, simple words conveying deep thoughts, an innovative word play, or an innovative analogy. There is a mix of all these qualities in the nominees I picked for this category. So, I am highly confused.

YMMA 2008 Winners will be announced tomorrow.

.::Wish you all a peaceful New Year::.


YMMA 2008

I always have wondered about how a jury after short listing the nominees in each category, picks just one particular nominee as the winner. To me, all those that made it to the final nominations are winners and deserve the award equally. So, to understand how, I decided to give away the award myself for Tamil Film Music in 2008, where I am the only jury. I named it YMMA – Your Musically Music Awards. I picked the nominations. And how I arrived at these final nominations is a separate highly debatable story. But for now, let us just concentrate on my thought process behind picking the final winners from these nominees. To be honest, 1 week after posting the nominations in this blog, I am still not sure about whom should I pick as the final winner and on what basis should I pick.

I also have this big confusion about how a jury picks one movie as the best movie of the year and director of some other movie as the best director. And similarly according to me, while I pick a soundtrack as best of the year, I can’t pick composer of some other soundtrack as the best composer. That is why Best Soundtrack and Composer are clubbed as a single category in YMMA.

If one looks at the list of composers who have won the Best Music Director national award, most of the time, they would have won for the soundtracks that has classical based songs that reflects the culture and tradition of the country(ofcourse A.R.Rahman who has won the maximum so far is an exception here). So, those who think classical music as the best form of music and consider only those who are able to create good classical numbers as the best composers, they would pick ‘Uliyin Oosai’ as the winner.

If I have to go in for a long journey in a car, and if I was left with just these 5 soundtracks CD’s, the first one I would pick to listen is definitely ‘Vaaranam Aayiram’. It is so easy and light on ears, simple breezy melodies with no complex sounds or rhythms. If a jury wants the songs to be simple, instantly catchy and reach to a wide range of audience in today’s times where the attention span of a person on anything is too short, then ‘Vaaranam Aayiram’ soundtrack would be his choice.

If you read carefully, the category is named Best “Soundtrack” which implies that it is music for a movie and not a private music album. A soundtrack is meant to serve a purpose in the movie, take the story forward and ofcourse it should sound good. The music should exactly match with the situations in the script. A good movie soundtrack is one which you want to listen to immediately after watching the movie to relive the moments from the movie. The one soundtrack among the nominees that would fit this description perfectly is ‘Subramaniyapuram’.

Then sometimes a new comer, who shows immense potential to make it big, is chosen as a winner, to encourage him to do more such good work. If a jury decides that as the criteria, then award would easily go to S.S.Kumaran for ‘Poo’.

Also, sometimes award is given to an Unsung, who maintained a high quality work almost throughout his career, but somehow hasn’t got due recognition yet. In that case, award would go to Karthik Raja for composing an eclectic mix of songs with right punch for ‘Chakravyuham’ soundtrack.

To be continued


YMMA 2008 Nomination

Best Soundtrack and Composer

Uliyin Oosai - Illayaraja
Vaaranam Aayiram – Harris Jeyaraj
Subramaniyapuram – James Vasanthan
Poo – S.S.Kumaran
Chakra Vyuham – Karthik Raja

Best Singer (Male)

Sriram Parthasarathy (Aganthayil Aaduvatha - Uliyin Oosai)
Shankar Mahadevan (Kaadhal Siluvayil - Subramaniyapuram)
Hariharan (Venmegam – Yaaradi Nee Mohini)
Haricharan (Kannil Vandhadhum - Vazhthukkal)
Naresh Iyer (Uyirilae – Vellithirai)
Tippu (Solladi – Kaadhalil Vizhunthaen)

Best Singer (Female)

Sudha Ragunathan (Anal Mele – Vaaranam Aayiram)
Sainthavi (Yen Unnidam – Chakra Vyuham)
Chinmayi (Aavaram Poo – Poo)
Kalyani (Mazhai Nindra Pinbum – Raaman Thedia Seethai)
Sadhana Sargam (Mukunda – Dasavathaaram)
Shreya Ghosal (Aavaram Poovukkum - Arai En 305il Kadavul)

Best Background Score

Uliyin Oosai - Illayaraja
Subramaniyapuram – James Vasanthan
Saroja – Yuvan Shankar Raja
Anjathey – Sundar C.Babu

Best Lyrics

Na.Muthukumar (Aavaram Poo - Poo)
Thamarai (Vaaranam Aayiram)
Vaali (Kallai Mattum Kandaal, Mukunda – Dasavathaaram)
Mu.Metha (Pulargindra Pozhudhu – Uliyin Oosai)
Yugabharathi (Kandaen Kandaen – Pirivom Santhipom)

* From Soundtracks of the movies released in 2008.


Rahman on music Piracy

Can't Agree More


Airtel Super Singer 2008 - Stephen Devassy

The dull ‘Airtel Super singer 2008’ bounced back with this week’s Unplugged round. The singers sang melodies with the backing of Piano, performed by Stephen Devassy. What an amazing musician. He is the man behind the orchestration of most of recent Vidhyasagar songs. Listen to the beautiful instrumental album ‘Romanz A’ composed by Stephen Devassy. Stephen’s piano with some amazing vocal performance by the contestants was really goose bumpy to watch. The judges Srinivas, Sujatha and Unnikrishnan also gave beautiful performances with Stephen.

Coming to the elimination this week, it is disappointing to see Arvind being eliminated. I like Arvind’s singing and voice; he has always been a neat performer who doesn’t mess up with the musicality in the name of performing. But that exactly turned out to be his disadvantage. And ofcourse, he isn’t versatile like others. But when singers like Aruna (worst in the present lot according to me) who performed so badly in this round, can stay, why not Arvind? And just because she won some other contest, and she is a good classical singer, how long they are going to retain Ragini Sree, even though she lacks every single quality that a film music singer should have.

Prasanna is a wholesome entertainer, give him any song, he tries to do complete justice to it, though it still has to be seen if he can pull some classical songs that has lot of musical intricacies. Prasanna is one who will sail through the final round. Rohit, a Raajamaniac has a different and deep voice and he sang ‘Kaalai Nera Kaatrae’ beautifully in unplugged round. His best performance so far definitely is the ‘Vathikuchi’ song. Renu definitely has a beautiful voice, but she strains a lot to sing in higher pitches and there is breath control problem also. I didn’t actually like her ‘Munbe Vaa’ performance. Vijay, a Rahmaniac, is versatility personified. He is able to sing all styles of songs with complete conviction, but don’t know how will he approach a pure classical number. I saw him struggling to get the notes right in the grooming session with Sriram Parthasarathy. Anyway, I couldn’t predict how far he could go.

Santosh has cleverly managed with his choice of songs to reach till this round; there is nothing special about his voice or singing according to me. He managed to maintain the emotions of ‘Oh Vannila’ song in unplugged round but musically it was a below par performance. Ranjani is very confident in whatever she sings and she is definitely on my top 3 list. ‘Kannalanae’ rendition in Unplugged round with lot of improvisations was very good but her ‘Muthu Mani maalai’ performance in the duet round is her best so far, according to me. She has a great voice presence and she easily sings in all ranges. If she chooses the right songs; she definitely can reach the top 3. Ajeesh, an ardent Hariharan fan, which is evident from his singing, is a technically sound singer and is versatile enough. His ‘Thoda Thoda’ rendition was superb though he couldn’t match up to SPB’s emotions in the original. He is surely on my Top 3. And Ravi’s ‘Thendrale’ performance was overtly expressive in unplugged round, though he hit every note right. And as I already told, Ravi has that extra edge and professionalism in his singing and most probably he is going to be the winner.


Airtel Super Singer 2008 - Ravi

It is very clear that Ravi is going to win Airtel Super Singer 2008 Title. His performance in the medley round was simply mind blowing. From the very beginning of the contest, when he sang ‘Pen ondru Kandaen’ song along with Prasanna, I was pretty sure about Ravi winning the title and his yesterday’s performance reassures it again and the judge Srinivas himself told that openly in yesterday’s episode.

Ravi already has won the SS Music Launch Pad singing contest and I still remember Ravi’s brilliant rendition of ‘Veyilodu Vilayadi’ song in the finals of that contest. Ravi’s voice in Yuvan’s music will be an interesting combination. Let us wait and watch.

Airtel Super singer 2008 is not so interesting this time mainly because there is no any competition and we know who is going to be the winner. All the other contestants though have very good voice quality, is not as consistent in their performances as Ravi. But Deepshika’s exit was surprising. I was expecting Ragini Sri to leave. Though Ragini Sri has classical music knowledge and training, none of her performances so far was at par.


My Wish Came True

The moment I came to know that I am going to be in Europe, the first thing that came to my mind was that in this short period of travel, I should catch at least one classical music concert. But once I landed in Europe, I almost had forgotten about it due to various reasons. My joy had no bounds when I found that there is going to be a concert by Netherlands Philharmonic orchestra on that very day in Amsterdam, which is 1.5 hours journey from where I was staying. But I was skeptical if I would get the ticket for the concert. As I reached The Concertgebouw in time, I was in for a total surprise that though all the tickets were sold out, they had tickets reserved for people under 27 years of age and that too for just 10 Euros, whereas an ordinary ticket is priced at around 30 – 40 Euros. Only after entering the hall, I realised the reason for the discount, the average age of the audience was 50. The discount was for promoting the classical music among youngsters in Europe who rarely turn up for such concerts.

I was always fascinated by the concept of live concerts. There is something special about watching a musician play or a singer sing a beautiful piece of music with their heart; soul and energy live in front of you. The frequency, the vibration, the ecstasy and enthusiasm that both the performer and a listener get out of it is something to be experienced to be believed. It is so amazing to look at the synergy of the mind, body and soul come together in front of your eyes and once you become one with the performer and loose yourself in that meeting point, you are in absolute Nirvana, you feel weightless, sitting on a higher plane where no mortals and materials exists, it is purely divine.

And further when you see 100 musicians play a piece of music perfectly in harmony and in synch, creating the crests and troughs of emotions that the original composer intended to convey through the piece of music - well you can’t stop getting philosophical about the whole thing that just unfolds as you see it. You tend to pinch yourself to check if this is indeed real. I did when I finally got to watch what I dreamt for more than 7 years. My words may sound too exaggerated and overtly emotional but it is indeed true. We don’t get to watch western classical concerts in south India often. As far as I remember I know that Zubin Mehtha once performed with his orchestra in Chennai Music Academy for which I couldn’t go.

From whatever I observed in the concert, I was thinking about how for some simple practical reasons, the very form and structure of the western classical music have evolved. A symphony or a piano or violin concerto stretches for minimum 30 minutes. I guess the fast-slow-fast movement structure came to continuously engage the audience with the piece of music. Because the change in tempo, the dramatic twists and turns indeed help the listeners to not fall asleep. Surprisingly I did feel drowsy for a while in between. And after every movement which lasts for about 8 to 10 minutes or maybe more, the conductor gives a few seconds break for the audience to settle down and get ready for the next movement.

As in those times, there were no records, people always come to listen to a new piece, and so it is tough for a composer to convince and make the audience sit and pay attention to a music which they have never heard before and so to establish a connection with the audience and to make the melody sit on their head as they leave the hall, I guess the concept of themes and thematic developments, the harmony playing the same melody on various permutation and combination by the different instrument sections of the orchestra might have evolved. The very fact that these big halls had no microphones (and even now the hall in which I saw the concert had no microphones or artificial amplifications of sound, it was pure acoustic sound that reverberated through the walls of the hall and there was a gigantic structure behind the main podium which I guess is devised for naturally amplifying the sound and throwing it to the audience all over the hall) might me the reason for having multiple number of same instruments in a symphony orchestra. I am just guessing from what I observed, I may be totally wrong.

When I went to the same hall for another concert, I got a seat close to the podium and I was able to see the musicians very closely as they play some of the most complex piece of music. They totally are in a different plane with utmost concentration, as they keep one eye on the notes and the other on the conductor’s signals. It was amazing to see very closely how conductor interacts with the orchestra; I could see that the rhythm, energy and emotions of the piece of music being played is in perfect synch with the body language, facial expressions and hand movements of the conductor.

I can go on and on. On the whole, I can say it was an unforgettable experience. I wish I could see in this lifetime, one such performance by Illayaraja conducting his symphony in Chennai. That would be a day to live for.

Some of the unforgettable concerts that I have seen (either live or on DVD)

1. Yanni Live at Acropolis
2. Yanni – The Tribute
3. Illayaraja – Andrum Indrum Endrum
4. Rahman’s Dubai Concert (One of the earliest)
5. Rahman’s concert at LA
6. Indian Ocean at Music Academy, Chennai
7. Sonu Nigam’s Rafi Resurrected in London
8. Karajan’s Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony Concert