Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Mind-The Unravelled Mystery!

Human Mind is a mystery.

It is indeed very difficult to unravel this mystery. How does the thinking process take place? What happens when we think?How and why do we get negative thoughts? If somebody is a criminal, is it because of his/her mind? If so, should we blame that person or should we blame the mind?

Our ancestors have thought a lot about this and that is why we are told to think of good things and channelise our thoughts.

But is there a link between our body language and the mind?

Bharata’s Natyashastra says,

Yatho Hasta Thatho Drishti
Yatho Drishti Thatho Mana:
Yatho Mana: Thatho Bhaavo
Yatho Bhaavo Thatho Rasa:

‘The eyes follow the hand
The mind follows the eyes
The expressions reflect the state of your mind that leads to the enjoyment of the same’.

This obviously means that the body and the mind are interdependent and therefore there is a direct link between the two.

If the body language is positive, our thinking is healthy.

If the mind is free from negative thoughts, we look positive and our face glows.
Kannadasan sang ‘Manam oru Kurangu’(Mind is a monkey).

As per the principle of Transcendental meditation, our mind is like a river and the thoughts are like ripples. In fact, Zen Buddhism also follows the same principle.

Saint Thyagaraja-who according to me was a great thinker- often spoke about the mind.

In his Malayamarutam kriti, ‘Manasa Etulo’, he asks ‘Oh mind! Why do you refuse to listen to me’?

In another Kriti in Abhogi, he says, ‘What is the use if we do not even know to control our mind?’(Manasu Nilpa Sakthi Lekhapothe).

He talks about how smart and crazy the mind is in ‘Manasa Mana Saamarthiyamemi’(Ragam-Vardhini) where he also quotes examples from Ramayana and talks about the minds of Kaikeyi-who was very fond of Rama until her friend sowed poisonous seeds in her mind- and Sugreeva-who was so selfish that he forgot the quid pro quo agreement with Rama after regaining Kishkinta.

In that blissful Sankarabharanam Kriti, ‘Manasu Swadheenamai’,he says ‘if one conquers the mind, does he need anything else in this world? Is it not the ultimate?’

His mind was so pure that he had the audacity to ask Rama to understand his mind,his innermost yearning.
The Kriti is ‘Manasuloni Marmamunu Telusuko’.

There is a very interesting fact about this Kriti.

As per history and authentic sources, Tyagaraja composed this in Hindolam.But some present day musicians choose to sing this composition in Varamu(Hindolam with the Chatusruti Dhaivatam) for reasons better known to them.

ILaiyaraaja, a great admirer and devotee of Saint Tyagaraja has used Tyagaraja Kritis in movies whenever possible.

Today’s rare gem is this kriti that was used in ‘Thanthu Vitten Ennai’(1991).

If Janaki’s voice infuses joy, the accompaniment of Tabla adds lustre to this composition.

The liberal sangatis strewn all over is unusual for a film song.

The pallavi and the anu pallavi have an evocative grandeur.
The short violin piece is like a pleasant drizzle.

The Charanam throbs with joy with smooth glides.

The Swara singing that lasts two-and- half minutes leaves us mesmerised.

It is subtle and powerful.
It is enticing and is peaceful.
It is a Rhapsody but is assiduous.
It disturbs us and it makes us calm.
It is magnificent and is simple.
It is immaculate…

…just like the human mind!

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Made For Each Other..

One of the most underrated talents in Tamizh Film Music is that of Deepan Chakravarthy.

As I have been mentioning time and again, I fail to understand as to how and why Raaja sir gave opportunities to some mediocre and below par voices while people like Soolamangalam Murali, Radhika, Krishna Chander, T.KS.KalaivaNan, Deepan Chakravarthy were not given their due despite being introduced by him.
(I can easily list out the mediocre voices now, but I would prefer to not do it now.. ).

But in a way, Deepan was fortunate that unlike Murali, Radhika , he was not ‘dumped’ after just one song.

To be born in an illustrious artistic family has its advantages and disadvantages.
The pluses are the environment, artistic discussions and getting an entry as a performer rather easily. But on the other side are the expectations from the public and the pressure to live up to the expectations. And even after one shines, the refrain would be ‘It is in his/her genes. So, what is great about it?’

Deepan Chakravarthy’s father was the legendary singer Trichy Loganathan, who has the rare distinction of being the first male playback singer in the history of Tamizh Cinema.Those days actors were singers and therefore, they would lip sync to their own voice in front of the camera. However, Trichy Loganathan lent his voice to some other actor thus creating history!

Known for his crystal clear voice and perfect diction, Loganathan gave many hits including the incomparable ‘Vaarai nee vaarai’.

One of his sons, T.L.Maharajan started singing in movies at a very early age. His ‘Thaazh thiravaai’ in ‘Thiruvarutchelvar’ was so majestic and classical that it became a huge hit. But after he grew up, the voice had changed and that feminine tinge in his voice had disappeared forever. Because of this or whatever reason, he did not get too many opportunities.

T.L.Tyagarajan, Loganathan’s second son focused more on devotional albums and live light music concerts though he did sing some songs in films too.

Deepan Chakravarthy is Trichy Loganathan’s son.

He recorded his first song with Janaki for the film ‘Enakkaga Kaathuru’on Apr14th 1980(Tamizh PuththaaNdu NaaL). Many people still think that ‘Poongathave..’ was his first song.

However, ‘Poongathave thaazh thiRavai..’ did open new doors for him and he started singing some songs for Raaja consistently at least for the next four years or so..No, I am not contradicting what I wrote in the first paragraph. What I meant there was that for the kind of talent Deepan has, he was surely not given enough opportunities.Except for a few songs during late ‘80s, I do not remember his having sung too many songs in late ‘80s .

Deepan’s voice is marked by sweetness, clarity, shruti unison and of course perfect diction.All these qualities he would have imbibed from his father but one can clearly make out that he has a unique style which is different from that of his father.

Sometime during 1983, he was roped in as a hero in a film called ‘Rani Theni’ a film that also saw the Shree alias Mahalakshmi (daughter of AVM Rajan-Pushpalataha ) make her debut. I do not want to discuss the quality of the film because the less said the better.

Today, let us take up a gem from the same movie, a movie in which singer Deepan sang for the actor Deepan.

The song is ‘Ramanukke Seetai..’

The song starts with a mesmerizing aalap of Janaki that has contours of Kalyani as well as the Hindustani raag Hamir.The elegant electric guitar and the beautiful bass guitar follow making it a very short, sweet, attractive prelude.

The Pallavi with the flute juxtaposed lingers tenderly.

The tempo and the colour change suddenly in the first interlude. The guitars and the trumpets exude radiance and take joyous flights.

The CharaNams have soothing passionate phrases. It is sensuous, erotic and lucid.The resonant and charming timbre of Deepan makes it more attractive..It is enlivened by the flute and the Bass Guitar.

The Flute continues its journey with its melodic charm in the second interlude. It is a subtext of tones as the guitars and the synthesiser vies with each other to allure the flute. The subtle and varied electric guitar vivifies the atmosphere.

The second extended charaNam is a surprise too with the male singing the notes of the Pallavi with different set of words.

Intensely beautiful!

Rama and Sita.
Krishna and Radha.
Raga and TaLa.
Raaja and Music.

Are these not made for each other?

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Old and the Gold

‘Old is gold’ is one of the oldest adages.

But sadly, our country is known for not respecting anything that is old. Most importantly, we also fail to recognise and appreciate genius stuff. Remember what happened to Bharati when he was alive!

We also do not utilise the ‘gold’ properly (no..I don’t mean the ornamental gold, the very mention of it send a chill down my spine).

One of the classic examples is the talent of Sivaji Ganesan. Many in the present generation identify Sivaji with the somewhat artificial modulated dialogue delivery. It is because of our film makers who with their contrived way of story telling, gave him stereotype roles with little scope of innovation. In spite of this, if Sivaji rose like a colossus, it was because of the huge talent he had.

Unlike what is popularly believed, Sivaji Ganesan’s forte was not just the dialogue delivery. Each and every muscle of his face would speak. In one of my earlier posts, I had mentioned as to how Rajaji-who hardly watched films- appreciated the expression of ‘Bharatan’(Sivaji) in the film ‘SampoorNa RamayaNam’. I had also mentioned about how Shri.Dhananjayan, the great Bharatanatyam exponent and Padma Bhushan awardee considered Sivaji Ganesan as one of his inspirations.

Today is the birthday of Sivaji Ganesan. This Blog has been carrying special posts every year (right from 2008) and a lot has been written about him and his talent in those posts. Therefore, let me directly get into the rare gem of the day.

It is ‘ILamaikkalam enge..’ from ‘Thaikku Oru Thaalaattu’(1986).

The song is very special.

ILaiyaraaja, a great fan of MSV found an opportunity to pay tribute to his idol in this song. He used the tune of ‘Unnai Ondu Ketpen’(Puthiya PaRavai).

As per the sequence in the film, Sivaji talks to Padmini about their younger days and the humming of this song appears in the film(If I am not wrong, the song is not part of the movie. It was either not picturised or it was removed). But I am still surprised that ILaiyaraaja chose to use this tune and not a tune from a Sivaji-Padmini combination. As many of you must be knowing, the original is a Suseela solo sung for Saroja Devi. Maybe the director(Balachandra Menon) wanted it. Or it is one of Raaja’s favourite songs.

Whatever be the reason, it is nice to hear a MSV tune with Raaja’s orchestration.

One more interesting detail is that TMS sang for Raaja after a gap of 6 years (and this song remains the last song rendered by TMS for Raaja till date).

The song starts with a humming of TMS. Pallavi follows in the voice of Suseela.
‘Pazhaiya Paadal pola Puthiya Paadal Illai’ says TMS.

Raaja’s intelligence is shown in the orchestration. As you all know, 1986 was the time when he would use close to 60 instruments for most of the songs. But he must have used just about 5 instruments for this song.In fact, the keyboard dominates the entire song.

I am sure, he must have done it so that the essence of the tune is not spoiled. One can in fact feel the respect Raaja has for MSV in the entire song.

The first interlude is graceful, mellifluous, gentle and beauteous.

Except for the sharp Tabla in the second interlude of course shows us the ILaiyaraaja we know, the second interlude more or less is subdued.

A great tribute to the Old and the Gold!

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Language of Music..

Last year, during the Music Conference in one of the most reputed Sabhas, a very senior Vidwan remarked ‘…….’ is the mother tongue of Carnatic Music. I refrain from mentioning the name of the language since I have a lot of regard and respect for that language ( it is not Tamizh anyway!).

I feel it was an atrocious and outrageous statement coming as it did from a very senior musician. This is chauvinism at its worst and deserves to be condemned. It also betrays the narrow mindedness of some classical musicians.

There is yet another category of classical musicians- Haters of Film music. Though likes and dislikes are personal and are subjective, what irks me is the fact that these people hardly listen to Film music but still pass on irreverent comments. Ostrich like, they dig their heads under the sand. This refusal to see reality is most disturbing.

This is not to say that all classical musicians are like this. Nor do I have anything against classical musicians. I have the highest regard for classical music and musicians but I also feel that a true musician should have an open mind and appreciate anything which is good irrespective of the form.

Did not Saint Tyagaraja sing ‘Endaro Mahanubhavulu..Andarikki Vandanamulu’?

There is one more group of classical musicians- vidwans/vidushis who claim to have done a ‘lot of research’ on film music and spread the raga based songs to the world. While their mission is commendable, I feel it would be nice if they do their home work well. For example, a musician who regularly undertakes ‘musical journeys’ on stage and who explains the ragas fairly well always talks only about the popular songs(read songs known to her) and conveniently leaves the songs despite their being good.

This too, according to me is not a good trend since one has to have a good repertoire before venturing on any project.

This musician writes a fortnightly column in a national newspaper too and in the 3 ragas covered so far, some of the major compositions of ILaiyaraaja have been left out. While it is next to impossible to include all compositions in a raga in a small column, it would have been nice if some effort was made to mention some rare classical compositions which would kindle the interest of the reader.

Take the raga Shanmukhapriya.

Though some wonderful compositions have been mentioned, I was also more than surprised to see some great compositions being left out. Ignorance? Or Negligence?

Classic examples- ‘Abhisheka Neratthil’(Azhage Unnai Aaradhikkiren), ‘Vengaya Saambarum’(Panneer PushpangaL).

The aforementioned were great hits during late ‘70s and early ‘80s.
Of course, it is too much to expect a song like ‘Ponnu Paakka’(AvaL oru Pachchikuzhandai) to be mentioned when even popular songs were left out.

I shall take up yet another rare song now and if any of your friends’ friend happens to know the musician, please try and convey the message to that musician : ‘Please widen your horizon..’.

The Rare Gem of the day is ‘Podhum Podhum’ from ‘Oru Iravu Oru PaRavai’(1980).

The prelude itself is very interesting.

Synth in combination with the keyboard with the violins joining soon.Within the 12 second, the sketch of Shanmukhapriya is drawn.The elongated note leads to the flute which sings in the raga to the accompaniment of the single stringed folk instrument.
Towards the end, the flute sings the first line of the Pallavi itself.

Suseela in her inimitable style sings the Pallavi and with the wordings, it is clear that it is a ‘oodal’ song.The great SPB takes over and continues in pure Shanmukhapriya.

The powerful Bass Flute in the first interlude takes us through the lanes of Shanmukhapriya. The ‘Bird calls’ and the strings transport us to a ‘Beautiful New World’.

The CharaNams are designed meticulously and aesthetically with all the lines moving with vigour and vitality.

A surprise awaits us in the second and third interludes.It was the first time (and the only time) that he used same BGM for the second and third interludes.

But musically it is very interesting.

A single string of Guitar plays and repeats the same notes while the dexterous keyboard gushes on. The percussion jumps with joy. A joyful competition between the strings and flute follows.

Can such beautiful music have any language? Is music not a language by itself?

Let us shed our hypocrisy and closed mind and learn to appreciate anything beautiful!!

Friday, 15 July 2011

One who dispels myths and darkness..

‘Can there be any separate place for Guru’(Guruvukku Yedhu Sthaanam?) asked the gentleman with a beaming smile and sparkling eyes.. I was left speechless.

This happened on the 23rd of Jan 2009 when I fell at his feet and asked for his blessing from a ‘Guru sthaanam’.After that, I left for a divine village.Throughout the bus journey, I was left pondering at that statement..How we take things for granted..What do we mean by ‘sthaanam’? Can a Guru be pushed to that ‘corner’ as per our convenience and worshipped?

Well..no points for guessing as to whom I am referring to..

This gentleman has taught me so much about music and life in the last 35 years without his being aware of that. Like a colossus, he rose and guided me through his music. Without him, would it have been possible for me to have deciphered the difference between Mohanam and Pahaadi? Or Tisram and Khandam? Or even known about Graha Bedam? Or known about Base lines?...Apart from appreciating his music, if I have gained some knowledge(though very miniscule) in music, don’t I owe it to him?

Given these facts, is it fair on my part to give some small ‘sthaanam’ to him?Is he not omnipresent with his music?

Today is Guru PoorNima.It is believed that Sage Vyaasa-who wrote the Magnum Opus Mahabharata- was born on this day and also organised the Vedas into different parts on the Guru PoorNima day (much later).Veda Vyaasa - as he is called- is also considered to be the first Guru. This day is celebrated(more in N.India) with great reverence and the people( mainly of Fine arts) offer their PraNaams to their respective Gurus.It is somewhat equivalent to Vijaya Dasami celebrated in the South.

On this day, I offer my humble PraNaams to my Guru through the only way I know.Writing and dedicating the post and the song to him.

Today’s song is ‘Anbu Enum’, a composition from ‘Shri Ragavendrar’(1984).

The opening of the song itself dispels the darkness(‘Guru’ means the one who drives away ignorance and darkness!).It is set in Vibhas, one of the morning ragas.The Sitar, the strings and the Jalatarangam show us the morning rays of the sun as the Pallavi in pure and simple Kaapi starts.

‘The Mantra called Love is enough for all of us to come together’.

The raga beautifully changes to Chakravaagam in the first interlude.
The CharaNam that continues in Charukesi talks succinctly about the Guru and his Grace.

‘He knows no anger.. He is serene..’

The second interlude is a kind of question and answer session between a Guru and his disciples. The luminous flute towards the end is graceful as the Guru and symbolically represents the Guru’s calm demeanor.

The last musical piece leads towards Senchurutti, a very beautiful raga.

‘Everyone is equal before him.He knows no partiality’.

Unconditional Love.. Unbridled Affection.. Ever flowing Grace..

Guru-Can we even attempt to put him in a Sthaanam?

Friday, 24 June 2011

Music of Words, Dance of Music

What determines a great film song? Wordings or the tune? Meanings or the orchestral arrangement?

Well..this topic has been discussed and debated ad nauseam in the media and in many forums.But I am not sure if a proper answer has been found. As a matter of fact, it is next to impossible to find the answer because we are all guided by our perceptions, tastes and most importantly the way our ears have grown up over a period of time.

For example, a song like ‘KaalangaLil AvaL Vasantam’ or ‘Pon enben..’ still linger in our memory because the words, tune, rendering have gelled together so well(these are just 2 examples of the many immortal songs of the past).

During the earlier days, songs were tuned for the already written lyrics. Post-1970, this scenario changed and the wordings had to follow a metre set by the music composer(unlike what is popularly believed it is not ILaiyaraaja who introduced this concept though he was the first one to implement this fully!).But still, the final output-the songs- were great.

After 1976, all music directors invariably started following ‘words for tune’. But the difference between others and ILaiyaraaja was the orchestration, arrangement and the way instruments were used even as the lines were being rendered. But this does not mean that his tunes were in anyway inferior (in fact, I had discussed about this in detail in one of my earlier posts).Being very knowledgeable in Tamizh, Raaja always gave importance to the wordings.

And being a musically inclined person, Kannadasan had no difficulty in adapting to the new scenario(the same applies to Vaali).His creativity was as great as ever with words flowing like a non-stop stream as soon as the tune was played to him. His wonderful meaningful words added beauty to the music. As already mentioned in this community before, he gave as many as 16 different stanzas for ‘Ezhu SwarangaLukkuL’(Apoorva RaagangaL) and MSV sir and the director Balachander were in a quandary as to which one to use and which one to leave.

On his Birthday, I salute this greatest poet tamizh cinema has ever seen(and will ever see).He continues to live in his songs..

Much has been written in this blog(on the special birthday posts in 2009 and 2010)about the special relationship ILaiyaraaja and Kannadasan shared. And that is why, he respects Kannadasan a lot and even today given an opportunity, he praises Kannadasan to the sky (and not without reason).Starting with ‘Kannodu Kannu’(Paalootti VaLartha KiLi-1976), the Raaja-Kannadasan combination has given some marvels until ‘Poongaatru Puthithaananthu’ and ‘Kanne Kalaimaane’.

On this special day, we are going to see one of the gems which also has a very interesting story.As mentioned in the fifth paragraph, the names ‘orchestration’ and ‘arrangement’ acquired new dimensions after the entry of Raaja.At the same time, his detractors kept insisting that his music was drowning the lyrics and that he did not pay proper attention to the words.

Not sure if Raaja took this to heart and if wanted to prove a point. But one day during a composing session, something struck him suddenly.Maybe it had to do with the request of the Director I.V.Sasi-who would often quote a old hindi tune and ask for a tune similar to that.Raaja, who always loves challenges and who is also known for his rebel streak immediately decided to do something different.

The session was for a movie called ‘Pagalil Oru Iravu’and the year was 1979.I.V.Sasi explained the situation. The character(played by Seema) dreams of her marriage with the Hero Vijayakumar.The joy, ecstasy, happiness have to be shown in this sequence. As usual, he hummed a old hindi tune(I think a song from the film ‘Junoon’) and asked for a tune similar to that.Raaja took the harmonium, hummed a tune, wrote the notes and went straightaway for recording. And yes..before that Kannadasan was called and the lyrics were written in a jiffy(writing was a child’s play for Kaviyarasar).

Raaja now told him that he was planning to record the song without any melodic instruments and that the lead singer and the chorus would either hum or say dance jatis during the prelude, and the interludes.The baffled Director was all at sea. Already, it was not the tune he had asked for..Added to that was the absence of the instruments.But still he gave Raaja the green signal since he had a lot of confidence in his abilities.

The prelude: Just the humming from a set of lady chorus voices. The next set joins.Very subtle sound of the bells in the background and the voices climb up reaching a crescendo. Mohanam is in full flow in a matter of seconds. The first set of lady chorus again but this time the male chorus accompanies them in lower octave. New addition-Bass Guitar (conceived, and composed by Raaja without any trace of doubt!). A short question and answer session between the female and the male chorus is followed by the tisram ‘Dheemta’ 12 times.It is rounded off with the graceful humming that sounds similar to the beginning but a close listening shows the subtle change that leads to the Pallavi.

Now substitute these 7 variations with instruments like violin, veena, flute, guitar.Will the sound be different or will it be the same?

Pallavi:The poet uses the jatis beautifully and says, ‘My heart that dances ‘tam ta’ ‘dheem ta’ sings an epic.Tala is ‘dheem ta dheem ta’ Mela is ‘dheem ta dheem ta’and the Ragam is Mohanam. The entire sequence depicted in a matter of 3 lines!

1st Interlude: ‘Dheem ta’ ‘Ta dhi na’ ‘Ta ri ki ta tham’’Ta ri ki ta ta ka’.Dance syllables wonderfully sketched and painted with the colours called Laya and Raga.Marriage between Mohanam and Tisram!

1st CharaNam:’Time has come to realise and cherish my dreams.Love God has brought a lot of poems.Physically I have changed; mentally I have changed.The new river breaks the sluice gates and dances’.
Look at the brilliant use of words by the poet and the beautiful use of the raga by the composer with the subtle changes in the octaves until they reach the uppermost in the last line.The ‘janta swaras’ make the already beautiful Mohanam a Beauty Queen!

2nd Interlude:Three sections. First one only the jatis.Second one –a set very innovative and novel syllables.Third one- Just the sangatis in ‘akaaram’.

Laya Natana Raga Raaja!

2nd CharaNam:’’Beautiful new relation’ says the God today. The boon of youth-shyness- I feel it today. Fruit has ripened. My heart has blossomed. My happiness knows no bounds.But is this the end?Are there not many more things to follow?’

The last line is the clincher- Music, Dance and friendly spats..

Meaning and realities of life in just one line.

Spontaneity, creativity, intelligence and most importantly the propensity to do something new and different- Are these not the features that distinguish geniuses from mere mortals?

And that is why the songs of Kannadasan and the music of ILaiyaraaja exist and will continue to exist forever!

(Tailpiece: The awe stuck I.V.Sasi praised Raaja non-stop after the recording of the song and cursed himself for asking such a genius to imitate some other used tune.He went on to say that he would show many images of Seema while picturising the song to which Raaja replied that his duty was over and picturising was not his cup of tea.After watching the visuals about 30 years after the release of the movie, I felt that if only Raaja had interfered in the ‘visualisation’….one of the greatest compositions wouldn’t have been murdered so garishly and grotesquely!)

Friday, 3 June 2011

Let New Flowers Bloom..

Recently I was on a short vacation to a Hill station.What attracted me-more than the mountains, breathtaking views and the weather- the most were the flowers in different colours in the garden close to the place we stayed, and in two Botanical Gardens.

Strobilanthus,Orchids,Cyanotis,Rhododendran,Justicia Simplex,Dahliya,Rose..

How beautiful are the flowers..How Fresh they look..Don't they teach a lesson or two to us-the morose human beings..

Today is the Birthday of the greatest living film music composer and what better way to celebrate than taking up a beautiful gem of his that literally breathes freshness?

It is ‘Madhu MalaragaLe’ from ‘Magane Magane’(1982).

It is a beautiful amalgam of sorts as we hear a folksy tune with western interludes in a carnatic ragam.

We feel the breezy air as the folk string instrument and the Bass Guitar welcome us.The breezy air now becomes effervescent as the Flute joins. The single violin followed by a group of violins give a gentle and feathery touch to the entire atmosphere.

The pallavi-that gives shades of Kalyani- is full of suspense.

First, the female voice and the male voice sing only the first part of their lines.
‘Madhu MalargaLe’-Female
‘Pudhu Rasanaiyil’-Male

Both give a tonge-in-cheek ‘la la la la’.
The string that is juxtaposed between the lines add to the suspense.

Then, we get the answer.

At the same time, there is one more suspense-the Tala pattern.

The lines are rendered in 4 beats while the percussion is played very differently.Is it 7?or is it 5?We are confused just for a moment.

But finally, it turns out to be a 8-beat cycle with a division of 3, 2 and 3 with the last 3 being played in faster pace(mel kaalam).
So, it is 1 2 3 1 2 (1 2 3 4 5 6)-the last one in the brackets being 1 2 3 in faster pace.

The third and the fourth line are again short and are soaked in melody.

The first part of the first interlude is in western style with the violins playing within a well defined grid.The Bass guitar and the lead guitar that appear now and then rather subtly add to the beauty.

Suddenly, the gait changes and the flute moves rather fleetingly.The reverberating percussion beats-that now follow the normal division of 4/4- are appealing and revealing.

The CharaNam is different with the first 2 lines repeated and the last line being very short.But it succeeds in giving a sparkling melody with sustained vibrancy.

The entire Pallavi being repeated before the second interlude is another innovation by the Maestro!

In the second interlude, the guitar and the vibrant bass guitar followed by the needle sharp flute give a very sublime feeling. The vivifying strings give a feathery touch.

The mesmerizing tone of Janaki and the rather rustic tone of Malaysia Vasudevan lend impetus to the marvel.

Let new flowers bloom ..
Let the taste for good music and aesthetics grow ..

Sunday, 10 April 2011

A Special Place In Our Hearts..

The spherical shaped white object was up in the air. Exuding a unique calmness, the pair of eyes followed the object with the timbre held high. The object finally reached its destination-the boundary line- without pitching anywhere in between. And that is it..History was re- written. India wins the Cricket World Cup after 28 years.

Though one can go on and on in their own style describing the victory and how it was made possible, to me, that last shot played with a calm demeanour with determination written all over typifies India’s campaign.

Calmness blended equally with Aggression.

Marriage between instinct and intelligence.

Right combination of leadership and management.

Comparisons are odious. People who do not realise-or pretend that they don’t- compare this victory with that of 1983 and some ‘old timers’ (read as cynics) have gone to the extent of saying ‘whatever it is, there is nothing to beat ‘that victory’ against the ‘Goliaths of Cricket’. Unfortunately, these great souls miss the wood for the trees.

I still remember that Saturday, the 25th day of June when we all rushed to a family friend’s house to watch the finals , only to see our Team being bundled out for a mere 183(1983 and 183-did anybody notice the coincidence?) in the 55th over(it was a 60 over contest those days!).We all reconciled to the fact that after all India was losing to the ‘superpower of cricket’ and India entering the finals itself was a great honour.

When the W.Indies began their run chase, the great Greenidge was bowled by Balwinder Sandhu and we thought ‘Ok..some consolation.Defeat not by 10 wkts-as some of us had predicted’. Enter the Master Blaster with a face full of nonchalance which bordered on arrogance. Chewing the Chiclet, he was sending the red cherry to all corners.Though I was a big fan of his, we decided to leave.

Almost one and half hours had passed by the time we reached our home. Something inside me kept saying that something dramatic was happening.As we neared our home, I heard people saying in Hindi ‘Bas..iska wicket lena hai..India jeet lega’.I rushed to the radio and switched on the BBC and what did I hear?The Windies tottering at 117/7 with Jeff Dujon-the last recognised batsman at the crease.

Within a few minutes, he was bowled by the player with indomitable spirit whose name was Mohinder Amarnath . The battery of pace bowlers who would send shivers down the spine of all the batsmen were now struggling to face the military medium pace of Amarnath and Binny.Finally, the inevitable happened.Holding leg before to Amarnath!It was all over..India, the underdogs who were least expected to win even two matches in the tournament when it kicked off on the 9th of June were crowned the champions.

The idea behind writing all this is not to make any comparison but just to relive the moments so that the present generation gets to know how it would have felt to the millions of Indians 28 years ago.

That victory was unique. The Captain led from the front scripting a victory from the jaws of defeat against a minnow nation Zimbabwe in the Group stages and running some 30 meters to catch the ball hit by the irrepressible Richards. At the same time, it was a Team effort with a bunch of youngsters and all-rounders chipping in with useful contributions and performing when it mattered the most.

But let us also not forget that the 2011 victory is unique too. The Team had to play with the Sword of Damocles hanging above its head. They started as favourites-unlike the 1983 team- and it is not easy to keep the momentum going with the millions of ‘fans’(who would very easily turn foes the moment India starts losing) following them and the statistics and records stacked against them(no home team had won the World cup playing in its own soil in the previous 9 editions). The team had to get past the big teams in the knock out stages with its’ famed’ bowling attack and above average fielding skills.

Therefore, let us avoid comparisons and enjoy the moment giving full credit to both ‘Kapil’s Devils’ and ‘Mahe’s Men'.

It is a week now but the entire Nation is still celebrating.
India is now the World Champions.But this does not mean that we will be the champions forever.It does not mean that we will continue to win all matches henceforth .Let us accept this fact and celebrate.

On this great occasion, let me dedicate a rare gem to the Indian team.This song typifies the Indian Team and is apt for the occasion.

It is ‘KaalangaL MazhaikkalangaL’(Idhayaththil oru idam-1980).

Most of the Maestro’s songs never fail to give us goose bumps. But there are some songs that give us goose bumps throughout.’KaalangaL..’ surely falls under this category.

The opening itself is soaked in melody.

The rich stringed instrument-ubiquitous in his early years compositions- set the tone. The satin smooth flute jumps with joy and the guitar bows its head in appreciation.

Mohanam in full flow-reminding us of the opening partnership between Sachin and Sehwag.
Musically vibrant!

The Pallavi in the sweet voice of Janaki and the majestic voice of Malaysia Vasudevan is salubrious and evokes memories of the cover drive of Sachin.The last line –‘KalaimaangaL PookkaL’- where the alien note is mixed is like the Upar Cut of Sehwag.

The String continues its journey with the Bass guitar when the flute nonchalantly plays a note.This sets a stream of melody gushing from the sluice gates.It flows like a Yuvi ondrive.The serene guitar enters the fray now like Dhoni and it has a calming effect.

The first CharaNam glissades with the flute dancing in between the lines.Aural treat just like how a Raina innings is a visual treat.

The meticulously arranged violins in the second interlude reminds us of Gambhir while the dexterous flute played with vigour symbolises Kohli’s determination.

The intense first part in the second CharaNam is like a Zaheer’s Yorker while the fluid second part is like the carom ball of Ashwin.

The wonderful lyrics of the greatest poet of Tamizh Cinema-Kannadasan and the translucent music of the greatest composer of Indian Cinema music make it a perfect blend of poetry and music.. just like Team India..

No doubt they have a special place in our hearts!

Friday, 4 March 2011

Where are you now..

I heard a real life story recently in a Lec-Dem at the Music Academy.

It might sound strange but it is true.

This happened long back-say 80 years ago- when stage plays drew a lot of audience. Those days, music dominated the plays and it was mandatory for a drama artiste to have singing ability.People would throng the Halls just to listen to the artistes and they hardly cared if there was any ‘acting’ at all (even story for that matter!).

It seems one day the Hero went on and on in Kamboji ragam and the audience was spell bound. After the scene was over, the Hero rushed to the Green room where his friend was sitting and asked him ‘Pacha.. Please do me a favour. Tell me what ragam I sang now’.

The ‘friend’ was Shri.T.S.Parthasarathy, erstwhile Secretary of the Madras Music Academy and the Hero was Shri.S.G.Kittapa, known for his golden voice(many people now know his wife better. She was none other than Smt.K.B.SundarambaL).

This incident throws up a lot of questions-prominent one being ‘How can somebody sing a pure classical raga with gusto and aplomb without knowing the name of the ragam?’

Now, read the second line of this post again-It might sound strange but it is true.

I have seen many people with ‘KeLvi Gnanam’ render very tough sangatis with consummate ease but if one asks them the swaras of the sangati or the ‘eduppu’ or for that matter any technical question, blank expression will be the reply.

How many of you have seen/heard pure folk songs sung by the people in the village?
To trained ears, it might sound Ananda Bhairavi(with or without the Kakali Nishadam), Sri Ragam(without the ‘pa dha ni pa’ usage), or Nadanamkriya or Neelambari.But try and say these names to the villagers and see what happens..They would only look at us with innocence.

Which brings us to a very basic question. Is it necessary for a singer to know the intricacies of music?

It is of course a debatable issue and my objective is not to get into any debate now.

All I can say is that while a classical music singer must know the intricacies of music, it is not necessary for a cine music singer to get into too much of details.

This does not mean that the cine music or light music singers need not have knowledge. It certainly helps if the singer is knowledgeable and one can give a lot of examples.At the same time, there have also been singers who were not classically trained but still were able to make a big mark in Tamizh Film Music.
One of the classic examples is Malaysia Vasudevan.

It is a fact that he had little knowledge in classical music. It is also a fact that he was not endowed with a great voice. But what he had were determination, and dedication. These qualities more than made up for what he lacked and took him to great heights.

Though his mother tongue was Malayalam, he was more inclined towards Tamizh language and Tamizh films. With an eye on acting, he came to Madras from Malaysia during the late ‘60s and also acted in a movie called ‘Raththa Pei’.But destiny took him to singing.

Many think that his singing career in movies started only after 1976.But he had sung some songs before that (including the popular ‘Indhiya naadu en naadu’ in ‘Bharata Vilas’).

However, the fact remains that it was only after that great year 1976 that people started recognizing him. It was ILaiyaraaja who recognized the immense talent and the potential of Vasudevan. He made him sing in his third movie BadraKaaLi. He also made him sing in movies like ‘URavadum Nenjam’ and ‘ThuNai IruppaL Meenakshi’.But the biggest breakthrough came about in ’16 Vayathinile’ and there was no looking back after that(how and why he sang in this movie was discussed long back in this community!).

‘Kizhakke Pogum Rail’ revealed a new dimension of Malaysia Vasudevan. For the first time, he rendered songs based purely on carnatic ragas(though the ‘Harichandran Drama song’ in ‘ThuNai IruppaL Meenakshi’ was also in based on carnatic ragas, it did not have the‘sangatis’).The two songs-‘MalargaLe NaadaswarangaL’(Hamsadhwani) and ‘Kovil MaNi Osai’(Suddha Saveri) proved that he was adept in this genre too.

But my personal favourite in this genre is ‘MalargaLile Aardhanai’(Karumbu Vil) which is purely based on Keeravani.

He has also sung in Hindolam(Aananda Thaen Katru-MaNipur Maamiyar), Lalita(Madana Moha Roopa Sundari-Indru Poi NaaLai Vaa)- both in C.S.Jayaraman’s style.

His Laya grasp came to fore in ‘Endrendrum Aanandame’(Kadal meengaL).

And how can one forget his ‘Aasai KiLiye’(Thambikku Endha Ooru) in Aarabhi and ‘Vaazhvinil un ninaival’(Pattanam Pogalam Vaa) in Charukesi?

The year 1981 saw one more dimension-ability to sing very softly.

It was a like a pleasant summer breeze.

In fact, I can go on and on discussing the various genres (many have already been discussed/will continue to be discussed in this Blog)..

But who else except Raaja sir could have even imagined giving such wonderful songs to him.

“I studied in one music school.. and all I know is only this school as far as music is concerned. The school is called as ‘ILaiyaraaja music school’ “.
This remark of Yugendran on TV a couple of years back puts in a nutshell the respect, awe and love the singer and his family has for the Maestro and his music.

Malaysia Vasudevan was a jolly good fellow who believed in enjoying life to its brim and that is why, he was able to bring out the emotions so well..

Today, let us see a very rare song of his which is a ‘jolly song’ with a folk flavour.

It is ‘Ye en aasai vaazhai kurutthe..’ from ‘Aayiram Vaasal Idayam’(1979).

The prelude is resonant with the chorus voices wooing us. The invigorating percussion in typical folk instruments is enticing and makes us sway and vibrate to the beats.

The Pallavi has an effervescent air with Malaysia Vasudevan joined by the two female singers(Shailaja and Sasirekha).

We see the sustained vibrancy in the first interlude. The folk string instruments and the accordion move with palpable joy while the vocals with the subtle bass guitar vivify the atmosphere.

The lines in the two CharaNams are meaty, colourful, tender and gorgeous.

In the second interlude, the meticulously arranged chorus voices and the pithy flute make it a lilting experience.

What is very special about this song is the pleasant feeling and it is immaculately captured by Malaysia Vasudevan.

We need not ask him ‘Nee ippo enge irukke..’(where are you..) Don’t we all know that he is present in all his songs?

Monday, 14 February 2011

Oh..Love..We worship you!

Episode No.1:

The young Music Director who took the Tamizh Film world by storm was in the recording studio when he was told that the veteran Film Director wanted to see him to book for his next project.He was astonished.

The astonishment was because the Film Director had until then worked with a very senior music director for many movies.

Episode No.2:

The same Music Director-after having worked with the Film Maker for one movie that was a smash hit- gets a call from the Film maker .This time the Film maker wants a song( that the music director had composed and recorded for some other Director) to be given to him.

Episode No.3:

The Film maker-Music Director combo has worked very well for two movies(both silver jubilee hits in 3 languages!).The Film maker wants to book him for third movie but the Music Director now politely refuses.

No prizes for guessing the Music Director.

But if you are wondering who the Film maker was, let me tell you that it was none other than the great Sridhar!

The song he wanted(episode 2) was ‘ManjaL Nilavukku Indru Ore Sugam’ from the movie ‘Mudhal iravu’-the speciality being the train background throughout the song. Of course , he could not get that song since it was already given to somebody else.

After the polite refusal(episode no.3), the pair went on to work for many more movies and almost all the songs are great.

Coming to think of it, I have discussed 4 songs from this combo(a ‘privilege’ not enjoyed by any other film maker!)in my other blog Ragaranjani(rajamanjari.blogspot.com)

Sridhar ‘s first film was ‘KalyaNa Parisu’ in late ‘50s.

What was unique was the way he conceived the shots. His different camera angles won him accolades.

Never averse to new techniques, this gentleman also introduced new faces.Some of his introductions include Muthuraman, Jayalalitha, VenniRa Aadai Nirmala, Vennira Aadai Moorthy-just to name a few.

His themes were bold and though they bordered on ‘sentiments’(one of the many banes of tamizh cinema!), his presentation and the treatment were different.

His ‘Nenjil Oru Aalayam’ was shot in a single set. The movie also had a O’Henry type ending.

His ‘Kaadalikka Neramillai’ is still considered to be one of the best comedies ever made in tamizh cinema.

His ‘Sivantha ManN’ was the first ever tamizh movie to be shot in foreign locations.

There are many things one could write about this legend but three things need special mention.

One- his sense of aesthetics.
Two- his taste for music.
Three-His Love for 'Love'

In short, he was a Romantic who enjoyed life to the brim.

Therefore, I have decided to dedicate this Feb14th post to this great legend.

As already mentioned,he had a very good ear and music in his movies would always be great.

It is not surprising that he was a great fan of the Maestro's and the association that started with ‘ILamai OonjalaadugiRathu’(1978) lasted till his last movie ‘Thanthu Vitten Ennai’(1992).

The song that I present today epitomises and symbolises the gentleman himself.

It is ‘Azhage Unnai Aaradanai SeigiRen’(from ‘Azhage Unnai AaradikkiRen’-1979).

The song lasts just a little above 2 min.Is it not a fact that all beautiful things lasts only a little while?

It starts with the Bell sound followed by the beautiful guitar.

The melodious voice of Jayachandran takes over and we are transported to a different world.

The interlude has the western flute and whistle(!).

It is simple and at the same time dexterous.

It is piercingly sharp and at the same time velvety.

It is mesmerising and intoxicating.

It radiates soothing light!

Beauty at its best..
Beauty that is to be appreciated and worshipped.

And this what the late Sridhar was doing throughout his life.
And this is what the emperor of music has been doing in the last 35 years..

Oh..Beautiful Music..we worship you!!
Oh..Beautiful Love.. we worship you!!

Monday, 10 January 2011

Flowery Moon..

One of the many misconceptions about Raaja is that he is averse to encouraging new talents. People who have been following him religiously know there is not an iota of truth in this too.

He introduced a lot of new singers like Deepan Chakravarthy, T.K.S.KalaivaaNan, Krishnachandran, Unni Menon, Jency, Sujata, Chitra..(this list is a huge one..).

His spotting and encouraging new talents did not stop just with singers. He has (and continues to) encourage young and new Directors. But what should be of particular interest is his introducing new lyricists.

There are many and I do not want to list them here. M.G.Vallabhan was one of them.

M.G.Vallabhan started his career as a journalist going on to become the Editor of a Film Magazine when the opportunity came knocking. Selvaraj, a very close of friend of Raaja and who until then was only writing stories for movies (AnnakkiLi was his story) decided to wield the megaphone. He introduced Vallabhan to Raaja.

Soon, they were together in the composing room when Raaja sang a tune in pure Madhyamavati-the tune that was earlier decided for 16 Vayathinile- and Vallabhan started writing ‘Solaikuyile.. Kaalaikathire’.

The song became a huge hit along with ‘Saamakkozhi’ and ‘Oram po’(which were written by Gangai Amaran).

Vallabhan had a style of his own and his love for tamizh language and nature clearly reflected in his songs.

Vallabhan wrote more songs for Raaja in the year 1979..This includes songs from ‘Karumbu vil’, ‘Aayiram vaasal idhayam’etc., He also wrote the Malayalam song ‘Gnaan gnaan paadaNum’ in PoonthaLir.

Vallabhan also directed a movie called ‘Thai Pongal’.

Today’s rare gem is also from this movie.

The song is ‘Pani Vizhum poo nilavil..’

It is a lullaby and gives us some very special feelings.

The prelude itself carries an air of serenity with the sweet bells, soothing flute and the soulful strings.

The lucid Pallavi in the voice of Malaysia Vasudevan and Shailaja makes us sway. We see the musical mastery in the ‘podi sangatis’. Mention must also be made of the simple but beautiful words. ‘VaLarvai tamizh pol nee’ (you will grow up like the language of Tamizh).

The flute in the first interlude lingers tenderly while the violins give the beauteous shades of a lullaby.

The CharaNam is dotted with fine phrases like ‘maarbinil un abhinayam’ ‘maan vizhi sol kavi nayam’ (your gestures are as wonderful and expressive as the poetic beauty of the eyes of the deer!).

The tune of the last two lines-where it touches the higher octave and land safely and exquisitely-melts our hearts.

The second interlude is a stunner. The Guitar shows its face for the first time with a winsome smile. It is sweet, soft and sedulous.We see a mélange of colours in a matter of seconds. The flute that follows the strings flows like a lucent stream. There is a touch of melancholy as well..

’Thaai madi un uraividam’ ‘vaan mathi pon thirumugam’ (Mother’s lap is where you lie you little one whose face is like the moon..) says the second CharaNam.

The song itself shimmers like the flowery moon as we lie on the lap of the composer..