Wednesday, 23 April 2014


Yesterday I was listening to ‘Oru vaanavil pole..’ in the car.Of course, I have lost count on the number of times I would have listened to the song in which the guitar and the flute are extraordinary, but this post is not about this song anyway. As I was listening to the CharaNam, I closed my eyes and immersed myself in Janaki’s voice. 

‘What a voice’, thought I. At the same time I did a H G Wells and travelled back to my childhood. The first time I came to know the existence of a singer called Janaki was in a cinema hall during a song sequence. My mother asked my father ‘Isn’t it Janaki’ and he said ‘Yes, seems like..’ I turned back and asked y father,’ Who is Janaki?’ He said ‘She is a singer’. That came as a rude shock to me. Can there be any other singer than Suseela? What is this Janaki?

Let me tell you that the song was ‘Unnidaththil ennai koduththen’ from AvaLukkendRu or manam. There is a reason behind my mentioning the name of the song and I shall say that a little later.

After this experience, I hardly came across that voice (even if I had, I paid scant attention). After about 4 years, a movie created ripples in the Tamizh cinema circuit mainly because of music and 3 songs-including a super hit song- were rendered by Janaki. As mentioned in some of my posts, the first exposure to ‘machchanai paartheengaLa’ did not have much impact on me.Added to this was the fact was this was sung by Janaki, an ‘alien’. For at least the next 2 years, though I became a full- fledged fan of the Master, I would wonder as to why he was giving so many songs to Janaki.

I don’t remember how-just like I don’t know why I did not have a special liking for this voice until then- but the turning point happened after our shifting to a town in Tamizh Nadu. Even then, I wouldn’t say I became a great fan like how I am now, but at least the opinion started changing. I now started liking the voice, and enjoying the voice. It was then a gradual process and when ILaiyaraaja mentioned in an interview to a Tamizh magazine in 1982 that Janaki is the greatest singer in Asia and that she was way ahead of Lata Mangeshkar, I couldn’t agree more. ‘Yes, of course!’ I thought.

In my humble opinion, no voice in film music is as versatile as Janaki’s. She can sing a disco song with a quiver and render a classical raga song with gamakams and brigas. She can sing like a child; can sing like a old woman; can sing like a boy. She can touch the taara sthayi panchamam and immediately go to a mandara sthayi shadjam with consummate ease. She can make us dance, smile,cry, laugh and be erotic too.

Janaki- the magician!

PraNaams to my most favourite female singer in film music on her birthday!  

The rare gem of the day shows the sensuous Janaki(can any voice be more sensuous than hers?). In one of the recent shows, ILaiyaraaja mentioned this song to be the precursor to ‘Nila kayudhu’ and said he felt inspired by the way she handled this song. By the way, the combo organ in ‘Unnidaththil..’ was played none other than the young Raaja

Andha aattorama’ from ‘Nalladhu Nadanthe theerum’(1981)starts with the strumming of guitar giving shades of Kaapi. The ankle bells-4 beats- are followed by the ghatam-4 beats again- and the Pallavi starts in ‘ateeta eduppu’. The ankle bells sound again. With the ‘chenda’ like percussion giving the impetus, the Pallavi is surely romantic- I would say softly romantic.

The long flute and the bass guitar continue this romantic feel before the ‘chenda’ percussion takes over. ‘But when I have the voice of Janaki, why any instrument at all..’  the composer seems to think and lets her voice do the rest.

The CharaNams with the backing of that resonant percussion are pleasing.

The second interlude is another marvel with the electronic instruments dominating. The different violin sound is echoed (he used this instrument prolifically during early ‘80s). It is then the turn of electric guitar to take us on a short trip with the flute responding with a smile. All these happen without any percussion with the bass guitar providing the rhythm. The sharp percussion joins only towards the end of the interlude to guide us to the second charaNam.

The postlude speaks volumes of Janaki’s talent and capability..

Janaki- The Banyan tree!

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