1.17.2010

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.

11 comments:

Ramesh said...

I remember purchasing an devotional audio cassette titled 'Aaha ooho Ayyappa' about 12-15 years ago. This was again composed by Ramesh Vinayagam and sung by Unnikrishnan. I liked the album very much. As you said, the recording was of high quality and there were western arrangements as well. Unfortunately the tape was damaged and I couldn't listen to it much. Thanks for writing about this new album. I will be downloading it (legally).

Suresh Kumar said...

Ramesh - Let me know your opinion on the album once you listen to it.

Ramesh said...

I downloaded it legally from the website and I have heard it once so far. It is good, I like it.

Suresh Kumar said...

Ramesh - Good to know that. I have been listening to it atleast once daily since last week. My pick is 'Vaanara kula veera sundaran'.

Ramesh said...

Hi Suresh,

I listened to it 2-3 times after my last comment. All songs are good. My picks of the album are "Jai Hanuman" and "Hey Gananaatha".

Suresh Kumar said...

Ramesh - Good. Saindhavi sounds heavenly in 'Jai Hanuman'. Btw, the kids voice in that song is that of Ramesh Vinayakam's Son.

In "Hey Gananaatha", Ramesh singing sounds completely diff from his film songs.

Ramesh said...

oh that's Ramesh's son is it? I had a hunch.

Yes, in "Hey Gananaatha", Ramesh singing sounds completely different from his film song, which is mostly soft.

如此的 said...

路過--你好嗎..很棒的BLOG.........................................

R Sathyamurthy said...

In your recollection of old devotional songs, probably you forgot to mention one superb album of TMS on Lord Muruga.

I have heard that album on LP records, later on Tapes, then on CDs and now on computer. They are also non-film.

One of the songs from that album is ’அழகென்ற சொல்லுக்கு முருகா...”.

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scorpionkri said...

Suresh, I have been reading your articles quite some time. I know about Ramesh Vinayakam a little bit more. He has versatility and style. Most importantly he is absolutely genuine and sometime in friends circle we used to call him Music Munivar (Sage). His concentration level when he is into music is unparalleled. I have preserved his devotional albums right from his first, viz., Prathidhwani, Sambo Mahadeva, Krishna Janardhana, Vetrivel Sivasakthivel, Aha Oho Ayyapa, Moksha Mantra of Lord Shiva, Sree Rama Dhootham. In fact, I understand that the first album's name is a new raaga which he found when he composed the first song of the Album on Lord Ganesha. This I read in a music magazine Sruti. Further in Sree Rama Dhootham, the third and fourth songs were sung by a Maharashtrian Hindustani Singer, Sanjay Abhayankar and ofcourse it is clearly evident that the singer is not a tamilian, despite that the songs bring peace to the heart and soul when listened. I listen to them daily early in the morning.