Tuesday, 16 March 2010

The Power of Music

‘Bol re Pappihara..’.During early ‘70s(extending to mid ‘70s), if there was one song that held almost the entire nation hostage, it was this song.

Of course, there were also peppy songs like ‘Roop Tera Mastana’, ‘Dam maro Dam’ etc., but ‘Bol re..’ was unique.Unique because it was purely based on a Hindustani Raag.Unique because it was plain and simple.Unique because it was rendered by a hitherto unknown female singer.Unique because despite being a south Indian , her diction was impeccable.

This female singer created ripples (melodic ones of course!) and also tremors. I shall come to the last mentioned a little later.

The female singer is none other than VaNi Jeyaram.

‘Bol re Pappihara’ based on Raag Miya ki Malhar and ‘Humko manki Shakti Dena’ based on Raag Kedar (again sung by VaNi) were composed by Vasant Desai for the Hrishikesh Mukherjee directed film ‘Guddi’. The film was about a teenager (played with aplomb by Jaya Baduri) who is obsessed with actor Dharmendra. How she is made to distinguish between the real and the reel was shown poetically by the director. It is an undeniable fact that the songs played a great role in the success of the film.

It is not a surprise that this voice which was as fresh as early morning dew and as sweet as the honey attracted all leading Hindi film music composers and offers started pouring in for Vani Jeyaram. What happened after this is very interesting..or is it?

Let us now go back to the‘tremors’ part.

Unable to stomach the success of the new comer, the ‘leading female singers’ did the unthinkable.. The two sisters (I do not want to name them since it is obvious whom I am referring to. Moreover, both of them are legends in their own ways and I respect that!) requested, cajoled and finally threatened the Music Directors. The ‘threat’ was a kind of Satyagraha and they said they would never sing again. The final ‘assault’ worked. Music Directors budged. Hindi Film music lost one of the most beautiful and melodious voices.

Looking at it objectively, it is a case of jealousy getting the better of aesthetic sense. After all, aren’t musicians connoisseurs first? Should they not appreciate anything that is good? And most importantly, if only they are confident and feel good about themselves, can the feeling of insecurity ever creep in at all?

Questions that can be easily answered..

But in a way, it was a blessing in disguise since VaNi Jeyaram became a household name in the South. Hindi Films’ loss was South Indian Films’ gain.

What stands out in VaNi Jeyaram’s voice(apart from the sweetness) is the clear diction. In fact, I have found it easier to remember lyrics of her songs and I am sure this has to do with her crystal clear rendering and pronounciation.With a very strong foundation in classical music (Gurus-Cuddalore Srinivasa Iyengar-Carnatic and Ustad Abdul Rahman Khan-Hindustani) , her adherence to Shruti is perfect.

Not many know that her family itself is full of artistes.N.Rajam, -a very famous Hindustani Violinist and sister of the legendary T.N.Krishnan –is married to one of the brothers of Mr.Jeyaram while Gayatri, a Bhratanatyam artiste from Kalakshetra is married to the other brother.

Though she is classically trained, she renders even dabbankuththu songs with consummate ease.

Her association with ILaiyaraaja is rather interesting. Though she did not sing too many(compared to Janaki and Suseela) in his music, almost all her songs in his music are gems.Can one forget the peppy duet ‘Poonthendrale’(Bhuvana Oru KeLvikkuri-1977), the folksy ‘Niththam Niththam Nellu Soru’(Mullum Malarum-1978), the intriguing ‘Ennullil Engo’(Rosappoo Ravikkaikari-1979), the beautiful Vivadi Ragam Chitrambari ‘Sangeetam En Degam Andro’(Bala Nagamma-1981), the romantic duet with Yesudass ‘ABC Nee Vaasi’(Oru Kaidhiyin Dairy-1985)?

When Raaja sir introduced the superimposing technique for the first time in ‘Kaatrinile Varum Geetam’(1977), he gave similar songs to Janaki and VaNi Jeyaram(of course different orchestrations). In fact, until the records were out, the singers were not even aware that the song had two versions!

In the song ‘Vizhiyil Vizhudu’( ‘AlaigaL Oyvadhillai’), VaNi Jeyaram’s humming in Sudhdha Dhanyasi in the telugu version- ‘Alalu Kalalu’(Sitakoka Chiluka) was retained in the movie though the Tamizh version was not rendered by her.This humming appears only in the movie(wish she had sung the Tamizh version as well!).

The Sridhar(whose wife Devasena was a classmate and a close friend of VaNi) directed ‘Azhage Unnai AaradikkiRen’(1979) saw VaNi Jeyaram crooning 5 songs-each sounding so different. ’Naane Naana’ was a rage those days.

Today’s rare gem is a song that can also be classified as a ‘disco song’.I have taken this song because it is relatively unknown and also to show as to how versatile the singer is.

The song is ‘Mayakkama oru Thayakkama’ from ‘Naan Potta Savaal’(1980).

It has contours of jazz with a unique mix of rhythms, trumpets, saxophone and guitar.

The prelude is dazzling.The bass guitar throbs while the trumpets are intoxicating.But the most beautiful thing here is the way the saxophone emerges.
Dizzyingly beautiful!

The Pallavi gives ripples of melody in the sparkling voice of VaNi Jeyaram.The way it reaches a crescendo towards the end is remarkable. The flute bits interspersed between the lines carry the stamp of the Emperor.

In the first interlude, the drums thrum with life and the trumpets come up trumps. The Sax which is sandwiched between the two, roar with blazing intensity. The enthralling electric guitar sparkles.What is to be noted here is the synthesizers and other electronic instruments.

It is believed by the present generation that the synth and other techno sounds came into existence in Indian films in ‘90s.Such people must listen to this song (and ‘Vaalibame Vaa Vaa’-Ram Laxman).In any case, is there any use in waking up people who pretend to be sleeping?

The CharaNams are marked by lively touches with notes jumping suddenly and unobtrusively.The flute bits are elegant while the sax just at the end is euphonic.

The second interlude rocks us.It is agog with excitement moving at a fleeting pace.It is enticing and intoxicating. The harmony makes it quite irresistible.
Makes one forget everything.

Anger, Jealousy, Sorrow, Hatred,Enmity..
That is the power of Music!


Aakarsh said...

A very nice song. I never heard it before. Orchestration rocks as usual. I get to listen to so many rare songs, thanks to you.

And by the way, I have heard lot of stories floating around, about the Satyagraha by 'prominennt singers' to disallow Vani Jayram. I also heard the talk that the stories were false and no such thing ever happened. I didnt know which were true. I still dont know what is true. Any idea? i mean, How do we believe whatever that is talked about?

Secondly, I also read about some spat between Vani Jayram and Ilaiyaraaja. Is it true? what happened? I also read that nothing went wrong between them. Again, which is true? and how do we know?

Raj said...


It is a fact that Vani Jayaram was chased away from Bombay film industry.I know it because I remember reading a conversation between SPB and VJ way back where SPB referred to that bitter episode.Vani Jayaram was diplomatic enough and did not get into too much of details.

By the way, Pandit Ravi Shankar paid littel attention to all such threats and made her sing all the songs in the Hema Malini starrer 'Meera'in 1980.All 14 songs are gems!

Regarding her 'spat' with Raaja,I am not too sure though I have read about it.It is said that Vani Jayaram used to arrive late for recordings.But she has sung many beautiful songs in his music(even after this rumour of spat).In a recent radio show on Aaha FM, she waxed eloquent on Raaja sir and his music.She also said he had a lot of trust on her and that is why gave her many tough songs-like 'Naane Naana', Kavidhai KeLungaL','Vaa Vaa pakkam vaa' etc.,

Therefore, I feel her 'spat' with Raaja sir was only a rumour!

Aakarsh said...

Hmm... I read one interview of Gulzar in which he said that when he was making Meera, he and Pt. Ravi Shankar wanted his favourite singer.. but she declined since she already recorded Meera bhajans in her her brother's music in a separate album which became popular at that point of time.I dont know which is true.

Vani Jayram is a fantastic singer no doubt. but her voice sometimes (at high pitches) becomes little shrill, where the softness vanishes. Thats purely my experience though. I always felt that my ears hurt a bit,whenever she takes high pitch.Infact, very few female singers manage that softness even in high pitch.. Uma Ramanan for example. I might not be articulating properly, but i hope you get what i am talking about. still, i have many favs in VJ-IR combo.

Suresh S said...


Thanks for introducing this song. I have never heard it earlier. A very rocking song.

As you say it is an amalgamation of rock and jazz elements in the prelude and interludes. Raja did a lot in this style those days. One of the best is 'naa paruvam' (Yugandhar)which I love for the high energy and the way the musicians enjoy themselves in that song. I guess that song later got made as 'vaalibame vaa vaa' isn't it?

Raj said...

Thanks Suresh..

Yes..There were many songs during that period that had the jazz ,pop and classical elements-all in one.He was way ahead..

I have a hearty laugh whenever I read/see people say that 'fast beats' has never been Raaja's forte.
What can one say of such people's ignorance?

Yeah..The 'Yugandhar' song was rehashed as 'Vaalibame Vaa vaa..'but the orchestraion was very different.That is Raaja!

Have you listened to 'Yaava Shilpi'from 'Janma Janmadha Anubhanda'?

Suresh S said...

'Yaava Shilpi'. Yup. After I came to Bangalore I bought a tape of Raja songs and that had 'yava shilpi' and that outstanding, 'jeeva hoovagide'. Both are songs are terrific.

கே.ரவிஷங்கர் said...

நல்ல பதிவு ராஜ்.

//Unique because despite being a south Indian , her diction was impeccable.//
எல்லோரும் போய்விட்டார்கள்.


இந்த ஷ்ரேயா கோஷால்,மாதுஸ்ரீ,
சாதனா உச்சரிப்புகளைக்கேட்டால் சுத்தமா ஜிவனே இல்லை.குரலில் மழலைத் தட்டுகிறது.வீர்யம் இல்லை.சவம்.

// In fact, I have found it easier to remember lyrics of her songs and I am sure//

ராஜாவுக்கும் வாணிக்கும் கூட ஏதோ உரசல் இருந்தது.

//‘Ennullil Engo’(Rosappoo Ravikkaikari-1979), t//

This song is absolutely divine and out of the world music.What a brilliance!!!!!The song"s emotion sharing by Vani:Interludes ratio is 40:60?

//he song is ‘Mayakkama oru Thayakkama’ from ‘Naan Potta Savaal’(1980).//

your detaling is excellent.

நன்றி ராஜ்.

Raj said...

நன்றி ரவிசங்கர்!
முடிந்தால் மற்ற பதிவுகளையும் படியுங்கள்..

கே.ரவிஷங்கர் said...

சொல்ல மறந்து விட்டேன். நானும் ஒரு தீவிர ராஜா ரசிகன். என் வலையில் மொத்தம் 20 பதிவுகள் “இளையராஜா” என்ற லேபிள் கிழ் எழுதி உள்ளேன்.

முடிந்தால் கிழ் உள்ள பதிவுகளைப் படித்து கருத்துச் சொல்லவும்.
1.இளையராஜா- King of Heavenly Hummings


”ஞான் ஞான் பாடனும்”
(பூந்தளிர்)(என்ன ஒரு வண்ணமயமான இசை) என்ன ராகம் ராஜ்?

Raj said...

நீங்கள் ராஜா ரசிகர் என்பது முதலிலேயே புரிந்து விட்டது..கண்டிப்பாக மற்ற பதிவுகளைப் படித்துக் கருத்து கூறுகிறேன்.
தாங்களும் இந்த தளத்தில் உள்ள அனைத்துப் பதிவுகளையும் படிக்கும்படி வேண்டுகிறேன்.இந்த தளத்தில் இப்பொழுது கேட்பதற்கு மிகவும் அரிதான பாடல்களைப் பற்றி எழுதுவதுபோல், என்னுடைய இன்னொரு வலைப்பூவில் அவரது ராகங்கள் பற்றி அலசுகிறேன்:


நேரம் கிடைக்கும்பொழுது படிக்கவும்.
'ஞான் ஞான் பாடணும்..' மிக அருமையான பாடல்.கௌரிமனோஹரி ராகத்தில் அமைந்துள்ளது.ஹிந்துஸ்தானி பட்தீப் என்றும் கூறலாம்.

கே.ரவிஷங்கர் said...

நன்றி ராஜ். எனக்கு கேள்வி ஞானம் என்பதால் அவ்வளவாக புரிந்துக்கொண்டு (கெளரி மனோகரி)கண்டுபிடிக்க முடியவில்லை.

இப்போது,வருவதற்கு முன் கூடகேட்டேன்.பாட்டின் ஆரமப தபலா....அடுத்து வரும் இசை.prammipu...!

I strongly believe that he has some musical angels behind his house in a tree!