Myna - D.Imaan

Love-making songs in films are getting more and more interesting nowadays. A new template that fits the shifts in the emotions of the situation is slowly evolving for such songs. The song begins with a slow rhythm, mild arrangements, and voices tenderly render the lines – almost like a seductive whisper. All the layers slowly and gradually gather momentum. Voices open up. Strings race. All these layers join to form a crescendo, which sustains at its peak for a while, and all of a sudden everything crumbles to the ground and returns back to whisper but now at an even lazier pace. Like the songs, “Enna Paarkirai” in “Thavamaai Thavamirundhu” and “In Lamhon ke daaman” from Jodhaa-Akbar, the song “Kaiya Pudi” from D.Imaan’s latest soundtrack “Myna” strictly follows this template and achieves its intended purpose exceedingly well. D.Imaan is back to his “Kaadhalae Swasam” form in “Myna”. And how!

All the songs in “Myna” has an instantly catchy rhythm, which is usually there even in worst of D.Imaan’s songs, but what makes it interesting is the melody, which is instantly catchy and also endearing. Though one may not be able to guess that these songs are composed by D.Imaan by just listening them, there are quite a lot of unmistakable D.Imaan stamps in the soundtrack. The crazy usage of “Udukkai” for a romantic song (“Myna Myna”) is one such signature. D.Imaan tries to keep the folksy kids’ song “Kichchu Kichchu” folksy for the most part of the song, but he couldn’t resist the temptation of making the song more peppy and catchy by introducing towards the end of the song, the Synth bass and DJ beats from “Vaada Vaada Paiyya” song of Katcheri Aarambam.

Though, we have heard many folk songs like “Jingu Chikka” before, the addictive Veena motif, the free-flowing melody, restrained and elegant orchestration hook us to the song. “Neeyum Naanum” begins well and has interesting interludes but the melody meanders in the middle. Moreover, where is the place for rock guitars in a story about tribal people set in deep forests in a mountain?


Eluthundru from Gaayam-2

When I was listening to the song “Eluthundru” from Gaayam-2, my room mate, who is a very casual film-music listener, called me with some unparlimentary words and asked me to stop the song. It made me think for a while about, what in the song evoked such a response from him. When a listener is not able to identify with the very basic emotion that the song wants to invoke in a listener, he cannot go any further in searching for and appreciating the musical aspects of the song. The anger against corruption, system and the politicians is something that not many identify with these days, or atleast not with the level of intensity and rigor that comes out of these songs. The melody in “Eluthundru” is soaked in such an intense anger and helplessness that the voices hit every note in the melody hard like how an arrow hits a dartboard.

Even film makers don’t prefer to make such films or show such loud anger against politicians in their films. Even if such a situation arises in the film, they don’t usually put a song to push it. The angry young man of 80s and early 90s is obsolete in Indian cinema now. Even the people who I know from rural villages around Salem are either grooving to filmy-folk songs or melodies of Asili-Pisili types. Our radio stations and music channels continuously play only these types of songs. The pathos songs that occasionally turn out to be chartbusters are all about nostalgia or romance, but not about politics, politicians or society. Songs like “Eluthundru” are not something you hum in the bath room, sing along or feel happy about while listening to and it definitely is not meant for that. It is made for a specific situation in the film that is made with certain sensibilities.

Even if some could connect and identify with such emotions in a film song, there is still the factor of Ilaiyaraaja using abundant Synth that stops them from completely embracing and enjoying the music. Even though Ilaiyaraaja uses Synth, he has a very unique way of using it. It took sometime for me to understand and get used to this new Ilaiyaraaja sound. Every single layer of even the so-called synth-ful Raaja songs can still be notated on paper and given to a live orchestra to perform. However, I must admit that Raaja’s usage of Pad rhythms in songs like “Kalaganae” certainly spoils mood of the song for me.

Even if someone is fine with Raaja’s Synth there is this tendency of comparing the new song and old classic and worrying why the new song is not as great as the classic. “Eluthundru” took me back to the magnificent “Ulagamae Nee” from Ivan, but I am not comparing or complaining here. Both “Eluthundru” and “Ulagamae Nee” are on loop in my playlist since yesterday.


I am a Fool. My Endhiran Music Review is Stupid.

This post is inspired by Milliblog’s recent post, which he wrote as a reply to one of the derogatory comments he got for his Endhiran Music Review. I got a similar comment from an anonymous person for my Endhiran Music review. He or She says, “stupid review, don’t make a fool of yourself”. I usually stay away from replying to such anonymous comments. I was in a dilemma for past 2 days whether to reply or not to reply. Finally came to a conclusion that sometimes things have to be said.

I absolutely have no problem if you don’t like Endhiran music. You have all the rights to say that you don’t like music and all the more welcome to say “In my Opinion, Endhiran music is bad”, because you genuinely don’t like it. My arguments with fellow music listeners were never about why YOU don’t like Endhiran music; it has always been about WHY you don’t like Endhiran music. I only want to understand why a particular piece of music doesn’t work for some, how their mind approach and process it. Even to that commenter, please explain what was stupid in that review and why I am fool. If it is convincing enough, I will try to understand why I process the music in the way I do.

Most of the times, such conversations have reached a dead end or with a closing remark from the other side that I am a die-hard A.R.Rahman fan and that I can’t understand. I am really interested in knowing and understanding their reasons. The Reasons – something I don’t get to read. I am yet to read a review, where there is a clear reasoning for not liking Endhiran music (Please forward it to me if you have read one). It is not mandatory for everyone to explain and justify their stand, but just for the sake of my understanding – Please. I guess I gave fairly good number of reasons why some parts of Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya music didn’t work for me and why I immensely enjoy listening to Endhiran music in the respective reviews.

Anonymous - if you are someone, who is engulfed by “I am too intelligent to like Endhiran Music” air of thought, I am sorry but I must say that you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about.


Endhiran Music Review

Endhiran Soundtrack opens exactly with those sounds that we were expecting to hear in it. Quadrupled robotic voices, e-tones, booming bass, flanger and phaser effects welcome us into the musical universe of a Tamil Robot – The Endhiran. Rahman tunes the words ‘Pudhiya Manidhaa, Bhoomikku Vaa’ like a religious verse sung to God, but, here, it instead, is a Mantra to a Machine. By introducing the main synth bass motif right in the beginning, Rahman gives us a holder to hold on to, while he and Khathija Rahman leisurely sing the verses set to an unpredictable phrase pattern, so that we can follow the path without falling down and reach S.P.B safely.

Ah! S.P.B. The Diction. The Expression. The Singing. The voice. S.P.B beautifully sings to Endhiran, Vairamuthu’s poetic Pros and Cons of Man and Machine. This song clearly tells us that this is a film soundtrack and not another music album. Listening to music, especially with the way the string section beautifully progresses through the song, it is easy to visualize how this song is going to play behind the montage of Scientist Vaseegaran giving birth to Chitti, part by part.

When was the last time, Rahman, took a pause within a song, to wander and explore new musical terrains in the interludes, that is totally cut off from the main song and one that in itself could be a complete music piece? He does that in ‘Kaadhal Anukkal’ with two varied exotic interludes. I could imagine Shankar telling Rahman about the places where he is planning to shoot the song. The melody, though isn’t of everlasting type, is quite engaging. The melody really gets uplifted by the boozed and dozed-off style singing, of the melody, by Vijay Prakash and Shreya Ghosal.

Rahman, interestingly, differentiates the love duets between Vaseegaran and Sanaa from that of Chitti and Sanaa, by orchestrating the song ‘Kaadhal Anukkal’ with all acoustic instruments – live string section, guitars, accordion, harmonica and what not, to lend a human touch, whereas in ‘Irumbilae Oru Idhayam’, which is a Chitti and Sanaa duet, it is all techno, there is absolutely no real instruments anywhere in the song.

It is not just the orchestration and beats; even the melody is composed to the character. In ‘Arima Arima’, while Sadhana Sargam connects the notes in the melody through curves, Hariharan connects them with straight lines, much like a robotic motion. There are no extra emotions, note slides or additional wavering effects in Hariharan’s voice throughout the song.

While Robot in ‘Arima’ is arrogant and masculine, in which Chitti proclaims himself as a Lion, Chitti in ‘Irumbilae’ is a sweet lover boy, and accordingly the melody is submissive. In ‘Irumbilae’, Rahman sings in short phrases of melody much like the short sentences of a Robot's speech. Like how Chitti’s human emotions are caught in a steel body, the emotions are caught within the limitations of the length of the phrases in the melody in the song. However, that suppression and suffocation of the feelings come out beautifully through Rahman’s voice. Making an impacting song, by stacking up such short phrases of melody one after the other for 5 minutes, with restrictive techno beats and sounds and without it ever sounding monotonous, is tough task, but, Rahman succeeded in doing just that in this song. Karki’s humanoid verses contribute equally well. If only, he had mixed the voices a little louder.

The opening of ‘Arima’, with trumpets, thundering snares and roaring chorus, would be ideal for a Rajini introduction scene. With strings stirring and rock guitars strumming throughout, the grandeur quotient never drops down. Though none of the instruments used in ‘Arima’ is used in ‘Kilimanjaro’, I would say, it sounds grand in its own way. Instantly captivating melody, tribal rhythms realized with fresh sounding percussions, musically rhyming verses of Pa.Vijay and interesting instrumentation make the song an easy winner. And those classical Tabla rhythms amidst tribal drumming – “Aaha! Aaha!”.

‘Boom Boom Robo Da’ is a fun song that sings praises of Chitti Robot. Though, this song, again, is bedded with all techno beats, it is much milder in sound than it is in the other songs and holds the sweet innocent melody gently throughout. The song is exotically packaged with multiple layers of sounds, beats and instruments. Song keeps throwing distinct music parts – rap by Yogi B, Mandolin flourishes in the prelude, Spanish guitars in the interlude, and keeps up totally engaged throughout.

It seems ‘Chitti Dance Showcase’ is a background score to Chitti’s moves of varied dance styles. Classical Jathis chopped and grated in synth saw is the major theme of this song. This Jathi-chopping is an experiment that Rahman has been doing since ‘Parthaalae Paravasam', but it finally finds complete justification here. How else can we score for a scene in which a Machine is performing a classical dance? Keeping experiments aside, that breezy string section sounds so ethereal, when it suddenly makes an entry amidst hard techno sounds. Especially when the rushing strings take a mellifluous flight with wood winds and angelic choir, I had Goose bumps.

I like Endhiran Music.


Raavanan Soundtrack

The Melody – that which a song is primarily made of is simple and easily accessible in the songs of ‘Raavanan’ – the latest from the trio Maniratnam-A.R.Rahman-Vairamuthu. The flow in the melody isn’t as quirky and it doesn’t take unexpected and sometimes weirdly puzzling twists and turns, as it took in Rahman’s recent soundtrack ‘Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya’. The complexity exists in the structure of the song and not in the structure of the melody and moreover, it just sounds complex, on surface, because of those varied additional sound layers and loops that keeps panning across.

In Veera, the dense percussion layers and gibberish chants are of those kinds that can be easily peeled off for those who really want to taste the pulp - main melody. The melody is made of phrases of short runs and sharp ends that travels on a bumpy trajectory tracing and glorifying the grey characteristics of Veera (or rather Raavanan). The thump, thud and thunder in the intense percussive (both electronic and acoustic) layer grabs us by the collar and ties our attention. Rahman still manages to put up rhythms with percussion layers in his songs that are so familiar and yet so unique in its arrangements and sound, you can’t help but drown into it. The bugles, twanging guitar layers, along with the tribal beats, puts us right amidst rustic rural-tribal ambience that Veera seems to be a habitat of. And with that, the soundtrack begins with a bang. (And why Vairamuthu refused to write this song?)

The melody in the songs of this soundtrack doesn’t always rely on the instrumental accompaniments and sound layers to create the mood or evoke the emotion. This demarcation is very evident in the instantly intoxicating Usure Poguthey, in which the melody oozes with the passion and squeezes out the painful suffocation that is storming inside Veera, who falls for Raghini’s beauty, but, on the other hand, the orchestration embellished with serpentine strings, deep drum layers and xylophone tickles to put the listeners in a deep dark forest ambience in which this intense two-person drama is supposed to be happening. The only time melody and accompanying instruments join hands is when melody along with rock-guitars exert the exhaustion in Veera’s longing and distortion that Raghini has created in his psychological balance. Aided by Vairamuthu’s earthy poetry, Karthik’s heartfelt rendition proves yet again why he is cut above the rest and a favourite of A.R.Rahman.

The melody that starts on a high spirited note in Kodu Potta turns meandering and banal in later portions and fails to spark with the rebellious energy that is set ablaze by Vairamuthu’s fiery verses, the unsettling groove and by the rock-guitar riffing through the roof all along. And yet the song works hugely because of power packed punch in Vairamuthu’s verses and those two fine interludes – one with a celebratory Shehnai and Chorus and the other with string swirling its way into Rahman’s favourite middle-eastern territory - that remind us what a Rahman-in-form sounds like. For all its celebratory and self-congratulatory sound in music and words, it is intriguing to note that there is a tone of villainy and wily eeriness that runs throughout the song with the usage of Duduk and other woodwinds. The problem is that these tiny interesting bits and parts of the song don’t come satisfyingly together till the very end.

The flow - that magical flow in the melody is back in a Rahman song in Kaattu Chirukki and it is relieving to listen to a Rahman song after a long time that follows a standard Indian film song format – Pallavi-interlude-charanam-thunduppallavi-interlude-charanam2-Pallavi. Adding to zing and swing of the melody is that hip-folk-hop template that Rahman teased us with, few months ago in ‘Yaar Mila Tha’ in Blue. Vairamuthu is in fine form, at his playful best, as his words sensibly or rather sensuously flow completely in sync with the melody. Anuradha Sriram’s quasi-trance voice is so seductive and it beautifully works for the feel of this song and what we can say about Shankar Mahadevan - his classical touches, variations, and expressions are sheer magic.

Kalvarae is the one song where every single aspect of the song, veers or rather crawls towards, one single action or emotion - Seduction. The leisurely drone of Oud that keeps looping behind, the velvety filler flute that gently glides over and tickles the derma, the exquisite pleading and yearning in Shreya Ghosal’s voice, the laid-back rhythm, the saccharine melody and Vairamuthu’s Tamizh - all come together to help Raghini woo her husband. Even the only interlude is characteristically built around the purpose of the song. The gorgeous classical melody in the interlude that streams in Swaram is rendered by the ensemble in mid-tempo and punctuated with pauses, so as to make Raghini – a classical dancer, not diligently perform an exhaustive classical dance piece, but to move her elegant body, every so gently with sensuous postures and gestures, to seduce her husband.

The celebratory Shehnai and Nadhaswaram, rolling drums and roaring chorus embellish Keda Kari with all the fun and festivities of a rural Tamil marriage. Vairamuthu is shrewd and inventive with his lines which whips up rural flavour, though the puckish melody or pounding drums doesn’t smell the soil as much as it ought. Amidst the chaotic chorus, the song breathes some melodic air with Rayhanah and Tanvi Shah doing their folksy bits, which keep up a sinusoidal balance in the exuberant flow of the song. And that maddening coda with relentless beats gradually doubling up in its tempo, multilayered instrumentals and vocals, the soundtrack closes with a bang.

I like ‘Raavanan’ music. And I completely agree with all those who have problems with ‘Raavanan’ music. I am too empathetic to complain about ‘Raavanan’ music or to disagree with those who don’t like it as much as I do.


Bale A Cappella

A Cappella is a form of music that is performed by a group of singers without any musical accompaniment. A Cappella is one of the scarcely used genres in the ever progressive potpouri of global sounds and music styles that is Indian film music. Is the religious connotation that comes attached with a cappella stopping our composers from using this style of music in our films? Well, whatever.

A.R.Rahman’s ‘Please Sir’ from Boys, ‘Raasaathi’ from Thiruda Thiruda, ‘Namachivaaya Vazhgha’ from Ilaiyaraaja’s Thiruvasagam and ‘Mudhal Mazhaiyae’ from Devan Ekambaram’s pop album Mudhal Mazhai are the songs that immediately comes to my mind when I think of full length true-to-genre a cappella songs that I have heard. ‘Mudhal Mazhaiyae’ is a gem that stunned me when I first heard it and I wrote about the song and the whole album here.

The song ‘Happy’ in the latest ‘Bale Pandiya’ is an A Cappella. Devan’s a cappella in this song is not as intricate a cappella as it is in a Thiruvasagam; it is more sprightly and lighter, just as it was in his ‘Mudhal Mazhaiyae’, because the subject matter of the song is such. It would become heavy and deep, if there are too many accompanying layers of vocals singing contrapuntal melodies on varied octaves. This song is all about the happiness, the lightness and small pleasures of life. The song’s intention is to touch our senses like how a feather dancing all its way through a cool breeze gently falls on and sweetly pinches our skin. In this song, while the melody is like that feather, the accompanying vocal harmonies push the melody up and down, left and right to sail it throughout the song. This swinging and pushing in an uncertain direction by the breeze – the accompanying harmonies, is important because the feather – the melody, in itself doesn’t twist of turn throughout its journey and this could make the song sound long and monotonous.

Though we tag it as a cappella, this song is like any other typical film song that comes with a main lead vocal, a rhythm layer, a bass layer and accompanying orchestral instruments but the difference here is that a human voice sings the bass riff and bass line with vocal chords, fingers snapping sound layer instead of an acoustic percussion, the vocal to-to-toos substitute for additional rhythm loops and accompanying vocal harmonies pass in and out of the song, singing ooh-aah-taara version of melody lines – joining and supporting the lead solo voice, at carefully chosen sync points in the main melody.

The other highlight of the song is the array of singers that Devan managed to put together. Malaysia Vasudevan, Naresh Iyer, Devan, Suchitra Karthik, Haricharan, Srinivas, Malgudi Shubha, Manicka Vinayakam, Mukesh, Vijay Yesudass, Rahul Nambiar, Anuradha Sriram, Paravai Muniyamma and few others - each sings a part that best suits their voice in their unique style. And when the song slowly reaches a crescendo in the end, it gets dense, with a downpour of distinct alaaps being performed in multiple layers, by each of the lead voices. Despite its complexity, Devan pulls it off quite effectively without the song ever bordering on cacophony, which it could easily become, if such a thing is not done carefully.

In an age when every single song is packed densely with more and more layers of sounds and instruments, it is great relief to listen to a song like this, without any sound gimmicks or glaring instrumentation.

Devan Ekambaram – Happy! I am so Happy!


Pookal Pookum Tharunam

There was a period in film music, when all that mattered in a song was the melody – The Melody. Orchestration being a not so comfortable area of work for the composers from that era, they tried to convey all that they wanted to convey in a song through the main melody. Next to the melody, it is the vocal performance and the lyrics with which the song’s emotion was carried through further. These are melodies that never required any support or ornamentation in the name of orchestration.

These days the duty of conveying an emotion is quite equally distributed between the melody and the orchestration, and occasionally the vocal performance and lyrics too contribute. The song that I was gushing about in the previous post is a perfect example of that ideal balance struck between melody and orchestration, where they both are interdependent to convey the overall mood and emotion of the song. Take any one out; the other wouldn’t glitter as much on its own.

The song that I talk about now, ‘Pookal Pookum’ from Madharasapattinam (Composer – G.V. Prakash Kumar) is a song that belongs to that bygone era, where all that matters is the melody. Even if all those ornamental layer of instruments are cut off, the song would still stand on its own and make its point through its melody, vocal performance and the lyrics. These melodies don’t try to bend conventions or create new song structures; it’s only aim is to evoke an emotion, construct an aura, whip up a pre-determined mood in the listeners mind and that, this song does and how.

Well, while I tried to elaborate on each and every instrument and the way it is used in ‘Para Para Kili’, what can I possibly write about a melody - just the melody in ‘Pookal Pookum’? I lack knowledge in music or vocabulary in English to do that. With melodies like these, words fail. How I wish there is a device that can translate the emotions that I go through while listening to this song into words.

It is one of those fresh melodies that you feel you have heard zillion times before. It is a melody about two lovers singing about their state of mind, who are unable to decipher their emotions that they are going through while in love or understand the reasons for being hopelessly in love. It is a song that will instantly remind you, your other soul, in whose company you felt you are on top of the world, and with whom you shared moments when it didn’t matter whether you lived the next second or not.

The song does have all the fancy dressings of current film songs but with a lot of restraint and simplicity of that of old songs. The interludes have just one instrument playing a well defined melody. Typical of the songs of now, the song has a catchy refrain – a Tarana theme, which travels in and out of the song and it is for those who want a hook to hang on to, to follow the leisurely romance oozing out of every bar of the melody. But none of these disturb the pace, peace and pause in the song’s melody.

The moments of brilliance in this song are many. To speak about one - the close-mouthed Tarana that Roop Kumar Rathod lazily hums up without any instrumental disturbances around, immediately after Andrea’s meandering ballad, is a pristine, divine moment of absolutely lost-in-love mood that not many songs capture in these days. It is surprising that last time when I felt the same about a moment, it was the same Roop Kumar Rathod who picked up ‘Ennai Yenna Seithai pennae’ in ‘Oru Devathai’ song from Vaamanan. The expressions and modulations in Roop Kumar Rathod’s voice perfectly fits for the mood of this song. And Ah! Harini! Where was she? She solely lifts this song up with her rendition and nuanced gamakkams that never compromise the essence and expression of the melody.

Na.Muthukumar has become a master of weaving verses so simple, so familiar and yet that sounds so eternal and so fresh when it sits on a melody that it is written for.

If you have love in your life you can’t avoid falling hopelessly in love with this song.

Thaana dhom tha na na... Thaana dhom tha na na... Thaana dhom tha na na...


Para Para Kili

Yesterday, I finally got to listen to a soundtrack that I have been eagerly looking forward to listen to for quite sometime. First few songs of the soundtrack played easily on my ears and they were quite good but nothing prepared me for the stunner that was about to come. That song totally occupied my mind and enslaved my senses for next few hours. I guess I would have heard the song repeatedly for 20 times in one stretch. There are songs that we like, and that we don’t like and there are songs that overwhelm and possess us forever, this song is one such. I am talking about Karthik Raaja’s Rettai Suzhi soundtrack and the song is ‘Para Para Kili’.

Though we have heard such stuff many times before from Karthik Raaja himself, the precision, restraint and minimalism in the orchestration as it is in this song hits me like a thunder bolt every time. The light flight mood of the song in instantly expressed in the first line of the melody. How fitting it is that the song is devoid of any hard percussions, sound loops or rhythm layers - the usual elements in a song that add a hefty derma around to carry the melody. The bass celesta riff and the subtle ticking sound that kick starts the song keeps looping around to sustain the mood of float. And oh! Those double bass that is plucked in beat on every bar of the melody to add an infinite depth and gravity to the featherlike melody.

How a song on flight could be made without having the breezy registers of strings bowed. The string section does come in soon subtly swirling around its way into the song. The overwhelming gooseflesh moment of the song for me happened when a huge tide of cascading strings curl over each other behind those lines that go ‘Mazhaiyadikkuthu Veyyiladikuthu’. The other exhilarating moment in the song arrives just before the song shifts to first interlude when Karthik Raaja unhinges the melody of just the three words ‘Para Para Kili’ and sways it up and down in air like a feather would after it is let off in the air.

As expected, strings take the centre stage in the first interlude playing the waltz and settles down with the appearance of Santoor the strings of which are lightly hammered to pronounce the improved version of the subdued bass celesta riff that set the song in motion in the beginning.

And that was about 2 minutes of the song. For the rest of the beauty – go, figure it for yourself.

Every single note of the melody, the structuring and packaging of the song, the instruments chosen (celesta, vibraphone, strings, tubular bells, Santoor, quintessential Karthik Raaja Violin) and almost every single thought that has gone into making this song is to achieve one goal of making the listeners feel lightened, lifted and floated in space.

At the end when all layers die down with Deepa Mariam’s voice solely lingering on the melody to bring the curtains down, my heart started beating in ¾ and it continued in that rhythm for next few hours. Even the softest of the melodies are now being set to a foot-tapping beat but Karthik Raaja creates a song that doesn’t ask our foot to tap in the ground instead it asks our foot to flap in the air. I did.

Damn commercial success. Karthik Raaja – Go, take rest now. With ‘Para Para Kili’, you have done enough for this year.


Sri Rama Dootam - Ramesh Vinayakam

I haven’t heard many devotional albums. The very earlier ones that I could remember a L.R.Eswari songs on Goddess Maariyamman, which they use to play in our streets during Maariyamman festival time. “Karpura Naayakiye Kanaga Valli” was the most popular one that got even remade as a Kuthu song in a Tamil film. The other song I liked so much in my childhood was ‘Pullangulal Kodutha Moongilgalae” sung by T.M.Soundarraajan and composed by M.S.Vishwanathan. Is there anyone who hasn’t heard K.J. Yesudass’s Harivarasanam? I also like S.P.B’s devotional song ‘Namachivaya’ on Thiruvannamalai. Then there is Ilaiyaraaja’s magnum opus ‘Thiruvasakam’ in Symphony.

And most other devotional songs I liked are from films. However, from what little else I heard in Television, I felt that all the songs sounded same, with stock arrangements and similar lyrics. Devotion means selfless love, care, attachment, commitment, dedication, affection, fondness. The greatest things in this world are Loving and being loved. Love for God, which is supposed to the greatest of all forms of love, when expressed in music is surprisingly restricted to one form of music that has become a stock now. Our classical Carnatic music itself is born completely out of Bakthi Rasa, but it yielded so many different Raagas of different moods and emotions that emerged out of it. I don’t want them to invent any new Raaga, but they can change the template of the songs for sure. While I quibble, I do understand why the music remains the way it is. It is to cater to the lowest denominator; it is an attempt to make the songs simple and instantly hummable.

I remember Gangai Amaran saying in an interview that Ilaiyaraaja’s Thiruvasakam in Symphony is an unnecessary attempt because it is not being played in any Temples in any part of the world. He told that a devotional song should be easily comprehensible, and it attains its purpose only when it is sung by the people. Is it the only criteria? Is spiritualism and love for divine best expressed through Vocal singing? Isn’t divinity an experience and a feeling to be felt and may not have to be openly sung? But, am I confusing devotion with divinity here? Devotional album is to express your love for God but a divine music is to make us feel the pinnacle of that love within oneself. And that I how I chose to put the debate to rest within myself. For someone like me, for whom an “Aaromalae” is as divine as “Arziyan”, there is no need of a separate devotional album. I prefer feeling divine within to singing praises of it vocally.

Now, why am I suddenly blabbering about Devotional albums? Because, after ‘Thiruvasakam in Symphony’ by Ilaiyaraaja, I recently bought, heard and liked a devotional album called ‘Sri Rama Dootam’ composed by Ramesh Vinayakam.

Ramesh Vinayakam’s ‘Sri Rama Dootam’ comes off as a breath of fresh air amidst repetitiveness of such albums. Usually, the production and sound quality of such albums are of low standards but ‘Sri Rama Dootam’ has the best sound and production quality I have ever heard in such albums. Ramesh Vinayakam has found a perfect middle path and created songs that satisfy his creative urge and also cater to the lowest denominator.

We get the usual flaunting flutes, serene Santoor, Sitar and Veena strains, and Tabla rhythms in all the songs but the album also has a song with a western classical Waltz rhythm, electric guitars and jazz interludes glossing over a semi-classical melody singing praises on Hanuman, the strings of ballet leads to a folksy song on Anjaneya, a fire-cracker of a Sanskrit song with Nihyashree at her typical best with heavy synth bass and bass guitar lines bordering on blues, a Bhajan with sparkling Piano accompaniment throughout, a Bhajan without any such experimental ornaments but with arresting rhythm and melodic structure and shifts that end with a multi layered dissonance in the chorus uttering the name of the God. Need I say more? Even if we take all such instrumental embellishments on the songs out, the melodies are so serene; it will definitely engulf a listener with its devotion to divinity.

‘Sri Rama Dootam’ can be legally downloaded here or Audio CD can be ordered online here.


Vinnai Thaandi Varuvaaya Audio Release Function

Tamil film Audio release functions have become most boring events with loads of film personalities singing praises of popular faces of the cast and crew of the film – the audio of which is being released. “Kandasamy” audio release had Shriya shaking legs and “Aayirathil Oruvan” audio release had singers turning into actors who lip synced the songs on stage. The film makers were so sure about the dumbness of the audience that they made Vijay Yesudass lip sync the Telugu portions of a song, while what we could clearly hear Sri Krishna’s voice from the original song while Vijay was showing singing the lines. Then there is another type where the audio is released live on Sun Music or Isaiaruvi music channels where there would be a dumbest of the dumb anchor having conversations with cast and crew of the film. Long back, “Thiruttu Payalae” audio was released in Sun TV with director, composer and lyricist introducing each song followed by the video clips of the actual song. Then there are audio releases where music would be the last thing to be spoken about, example – Chandramukhi.

Amidst such release functions, it was heartening to watch an audio release function, where the spotlight is only on music and not on anything else, not even on the film. Probably it is because the composer is “Academy Award Winner” A.R.Rahman as Gautam Vasudev Menon welcomed him onstage. The singers performed unplugged versions of the songs that they originally sang in the film, with the Stephen Devassy accompanying them on an acoustic Piano. Singers did a brilliant job and it was a treat to watch. I wish that they release the unplugged versions of the songs in an audio CD.

I had goose bumps watching Alphonse sing “Aaromalae”. His performance got a thundering applause from the live audience. Karthik is one of the very few contemporary singers who sound as good in his live performances as that of the recording. Chinmayi, in her blog, always wondered why the singers are not being formally invited for audio release functions and now god has satisfied her by making her the only female singer in this group. To know how better a song would sound if Rahman doesn’t drown the voices in a sound machine - listen to Benny Dayal’s unplugged version of the song ‘Omana Penne’. Srinivas was effortless with ‘Hosanna’. The camaraderie of the singers, their synergy, coordination, harmony and the soul in their live singing made the songs sound better than it is in the CD. But why didn’t they perform ‘Mannippaya’ or did I miss it. Chinmayi could have easily filled in for Shreya Ghosal and Srinivas could have sung Rahman’s portions. Gautam Menon did a fine job as a no-nonsense anchor of the event. I want to see more such audio release functions. Not to mention that I like VTV music even more now.

Here is the video of the VTV audio release function. Vinnai Thandi Varuvaaya Music Review.


Vinnai Thaandi Varuvaaya Soundtrack

Gautam Menon and Harris Jeyaraj delivered some of the best Tamil film soundtracks of the last decade. Yet, Gautam Menon chose to move on to A.R.Rahman for ‘Vinnai Thandi Varuvaaya’. With Gautam admitting in all his interviews, that he has always been an ardent A.R.Rahman fan, his move is quite understandable. Who wouldn’t want to work with A.R.Rahman? Even A.R.Rahman needs to move beyond Maniratnam and Shankar, and work with more new Tamil film makers who could visually justify his music. The problem is that when such a combination happens, both sides will try to pull the other on their side and it is difficult to find a middle path. Will Gautam make A.R.Rahman to compose simple, instantly hummable romantic ballads that he has been extracting from Harris film after film or will A.R.Rahman drag Gautam to his ever experimental side?

After listening to the soundtrack 10 times, I am convinced that it is the latter that has happened. Rahman shatters every cliché of a Gautam Menon film soundtrack. It is so difficult to take it initially, and one can’t avoid a fleeting thought that Gautam should have stuck to Harris Jeyaraj. But these are concerns of nitpickers; these concerns are external to actual music. If we wither off such preoccupied thoughts, assumptions and expectations, it is easy to accept the soundtrack. While with some of the songs in this soundtrack Rahman tries to stretch and bend the rules of how the music for a simple romantic film should be, in some, he uses the experimental hat to gloss over the deficiencies.

It always annoys me when Rahman drowns the voices in a sound machine, even though the melody itself has all the needed pep and hip. Rahman still struggles with setting tunes to already written lyrics. The exquisite title track sung by Karthik is a classic example of how unpredictable a melody can be twisted to without losing the mood and flavor of the lines but the awful abruptness with which he rushes and squeezes the line ‘Kadhal Yendral Kaayamdhaan’ in an otherwise addictive number ‘Kannukkul ennai’ is puzzling. In the same song, the lines ‘Neeyum Naanum’ has an extremely convoluted solo-chorus interplay with lead vocal and chorus taking turns for singing the every next word of one single line of song. Yet all of this weird play settles down when the line ‘Anbae Ododi’ is set to a pleasing melody pushing us back to our comfort zone. This game that Rahman plays with listeners is so taxing and tiring initially, but once we understand the rules, we are sure to have fun.

‘Omana Penne’ suffers from both robotized voice and also fragmented melodic structures, punctuating a line at an unexpected word to fit it into a melody and rhythm. The sound play is so much so that we are not sure whether those peculiar vocal effects are of Benny Dayal or are that of Rahman’s music tweaking software. Rahman somehow covers all of this with that ubiquitous ‘Omana Penne’ hook and interesting Nadhaswaram bits.

‘Mannippaaya’ is a vintage 90s Rahman melody that overstays its welcome. Surprisingly, it is Rahman’s lines that drag the song and lessens the impact. The sympathetic strings, flute, piano and vocal harmony are layered in abundance to add depth to the melody but song works mainly because of Shreya Ghosal’s passionate singing. The way she curves the notes on the word ‘Mannippaaya’ with a sense of longing and desperation consummates the mood that the song wants to express in totality. The choir-orchestral version of Thirukkural verses sounds noble but it doesn’t sit comfortably within the template of this song.

‘Aaromalae’ is a kind of song that would set the stage in fire when performed live. It is also a song where we forget about the composer and start admiring the singer who instantly makes the song his own. While it is a revelation to listen to a Malayalam song set to a genre of a psychedelic rock (Is it?), Alphonse’s singing and expressions are beyond words. The song’s main melody is anything but hummable so Rahman packs in a hook line amidst those lines celebrating the hypnotism - which music from a liberated mind and soul, can achieve. For those who find songs like “Aaromalae” too alien, there are usual Rahman dance numbers to skip to. Rahman is at his playful best in the foot-tapping numbers “Kannukul Kannai” and “Anbil Avan”. While it is electric violin motif in the former, it is the unique rhythm pattern in “Anbil Avan” that Rahman nonchalantly keeps fabricating with e-beats and his favorite Thavil.

‘Hosanna’ is the most accessible song of the soundtrack with a definite structure, a simple hook line, typical synthpad beats and an elegant orchestration. The lyrics and the melody take twists and turns in this song too but they are not as sudden as it is in the other songs, so it flows like a clear river stream letting the listeners to easily dive and sail in its direction. The interludes with Suzzane’s silky ‘Hosanna’ slides, angelic choirs and soothing string section are so smooth and transcendental. Rahman ends the songs in his typical choir-orchestral way with subtle bell bangs and strings accelerating to a close as Vijay Prakash reprises what could be possible be the Pallavi with least number of lines and words in a Tamil song ever.

It seems in Chennai audio launch, Rahman told that he doesn’t know whether this album matches with high standards set by Gautam-Harris combination and that this soundtrack is a quirky one. Quirky – Yes, but without those aforementioned problems, the soundtrack might have been more satisfying.