Saarangi in Tamil Music

5 Dec

Saarangi is considered to be the musical instrument which is closest to the human voice. It is quite challenging to play and like every instrument it has a very unique signature sound of its own. Many composers in Tamil music have used Saarangi to great effect. Ilaiyaraja used it as early as in Kaadhal Oviyam (used to fantastic effect in Naadhan Enn Jeevane) and I would say Rahman brought back its usage in many movies during the early 90’s and it again became popular with many composers. Below is an incomplete list of songs with wonderful Saarangi interludes categorized per composer:


  • Naadham En Jeevane (from Kadhal Oviyam), a masterpiece tune with Hindustani-styled Saarangi interludes
  • Oru Pattam Poochi (from Kadhalukku Mariyadhai), again a magical first interlude which is very unique as its played very fast with counterpoints supported ably by the flute
  • Poongaatre (from Friends), the usage of Saarangi amplifies the effect of Chakravaaham raaga used here


  • Kappal Yeri Poyachu/Pachai Kiligal (from Indian)
  • Aayirathil Naan Oruvan (from Iruvar, starts with a nice Saarangi, played by the legendary Sultan Khan)
  • Snehidhane (from Alaipayuthey), my favourite use of Saarangi from ARR


  • Engengay (from Nerukku Ner), starts with Saarangi
  • Sivappu Lolaaku (from Kadhal Kottai), this is a Rajasthani-styled folk song with Saarangi

Other miscellaneous songs with Saarangi usage include:

  • SABESH MURALI: Oru Muraidhaan (from Thavamai Thavamirundhu)
  • HARRIS JAYARAJ: Edho Onru (from Laysa Laysa), brilliant Saarangi usage, a wonderful song too
  • YUVAN: Oru Devathai (from Vaamanan), one of Yuvan’s best songs with fantastic Saarangi pieces, Roopkumar Rathod just aces the songs
  • IMMAN: Marhaba (from Saravanan Irukka Bayamen), a Hindustani-styled song composed in Hindolam with nice Saarangi, suits the song very well
  • ANIRUDH: Neeyum Naanum (from Naanum Rowdydhaan), very innovative use of Saarangi with Piano in a slow, mellow tune

Noteworthy Songs of Assorted Composers: II

30 Oct

I have compiled another list of wonderful songs by assorted composers. Song-Composer-Movie.

  1. Unnai Saranadindhen Mannava: Sabesh-Murali from Ammuvagiya Naan: A wonderful composition in Dharmavathi raga with excellent singing by Harish Raghavendra and Kalyani
  2. Thavamaai Thavamirundhu: The entire album is fantastic, again composed by the underrated Sabesh-Murali
  3. Medhuva Medhuva: Chandrabose from Annanagar Mudhal Theru, a vintage song
  4. Ora Kanna: Prem G Amaran from Ennamo Nadakudhu, a peppy song composed in Reetigowla scale.
  5. Azhaga/Roja Poovin: Vijay Antony: By 2; the former song is just fantastic set in Brindavanasaranga raga
  6. Azhagai Pookudhey: Vijay Antony: Ninathale Inikkum, an extremely soothing number
  7. Ninaithaale: The whole album by Vijay Antony is worth a listen……all melody songs, a rarity these days…..
  8. Thendral Thendral Vandhu: Sirpy: Raasi: Set in Madhyamavathy raga
  9. Solla Solla: Bharadwaj: Athithi, another lovely song in Reetigowla raga
  10. Rayilin Paadhayil: Joshua Sridhar: Appavi, a song set in a rarely used Arabhi raga

Noteworthy Songs of Assorted Composers-I

31 Jul

Apart from the mainstream composers like Ilaiyaraja, ARR, Vidyasagar, there have some fantastic songs from other composers who composed for a fewer number of movies. I will list some songs from these unsung ones as they might not have been noticed owing to the sheer number of albums coming out from the other more-popular composers. Another reason these are not so famous could that the movie might have flopped badly. Read it as Song (s)-Composer-Movie.

  1. Oru Kadhal/Kanne Kanavu: Shankar-Ganesh: Idhaya Thamarai (almost all the songs of this album are good but these two stand out)
  2. Kannukul Nooru/Sandhikka Thudithen: Devendran: Vedham Pudhidhu (the former is a beautiful composition in Shanmukhapriya and the latter is in the Hamsanandi scale)
  3. Kadhal Kavidhai: Devendran: Ganam Courtar Avargale: I found this recently and to my pleasant surprise this is a song in one of the rarely used Bhupalam/Bowli scale, a fantastic composition sung so well by the evergreen SPB-Chitra pair.
  4. Pongiyathey/Idhazhodu: Devendran: Mannukul Vairam: Both these songs are excellent compositions in Hindolam raga and yet they sound pretty refreshing and different. Devendran seems like a good talent, he should have got more opportunities.
  5. Sutti Poove: Dhina: Kai Vandha Kalai: A nice composition in Sree ragam.
  6. Yaaridam: Manu Ramesan: Pidichirukku
  7. Mudhal Murai/Adhu Oru: Premji Amaran: Adhey Neram Adhe Idam: Premji Amaran is another under-rated composer who composes for 1-2 movies a year. These 2 compositions are as good as any!
  8. Ragasiyamanadhu: Sirpy: Kodambakkam: A very soothing composition
  9. Rameshwaram album by Niru: This entire album has very good songs, again the movie vanished soon, so the album was not noticed.
  10. Raga Raga/Kannadi Poopole: Arul Murugan: Anba Azhaga: Arul Murugan made his debut with this movie and he now composes under the pen name Arrol Correli. This debut album was decent and these two songs were very nice with a Hindustani feel.

I think this list a good start and I will get back with another list in this series soon, until then happy listening!


Ilaiyaraja’s Grand Slam Albums

6 May

I am liberally borrowing a phrase from Tennis, Grand Slam and using it in the context of Ilaiyaraja’s music. I have coined the word “Grand Slam” album just to mean all those albums where almost all the songs are very good. Every composer has had albums where all the songs are worth listening, though this trend is becoming a rarity these days. Considering the huge oeuvre of Raja, I am listing 40 albums across languages where I felt they were deserving of the Grand Slam tag, this is a random list in no particular order. I have excluded the albums of MSV-Raja collaboration as it is a topic for another blog post.

  1. Guru (Malayalam): Raja’s collaboration with the Budapest Symphony orchestra
  2. Mouna Raagam
  3. Agni Nakshathram
  4. Thalapathy
  5. Geethanjali (Telugu)
  6. Anjali: A case study on how to compose for a film based on children
  7. Amman Koil Kizhakkale
  8. Aboorva Sagodharargal (multi-genre album)
  9. Chinna Thambi (this movie also ran because of its music)
  10. Dhoni (contemporary Raja using live instruments)
  11. Eera Vizhi Kaaviyangal (what a masterpice album!)
  12. Karagattakaran
  13. Gopura Vaasalile
  14. Idhaya Koil
  15. Idhayam
  16. Kadhalukku Mariyadhai
  17. Keladi Kanmani
  18. Pithamagan
  19. Naan Kadavul
  20. Needhane En Ponvasandham
  21. Ninaivellaam Nithya
  22. Nizhalgal
  23. Pudhu Pudhu Arthangal
  24. Punnagai Mannan
  25. Sindhu Bhairavi
  26. Uliyin Osai (classical+folk+melody songs, one magical album)
  27. Villupattukkaran (folksy classical songs, each of them a gem)
  28. Ejamaan
  29. Uzhaippali
  30. Poovizhi Vaasalile
  31. Sri Rama Rajyam (a grand devotional Telugu soundtrack)
  32. Anumanaspadam (Telugu)
  33. Mahanadhi
  34. Olangal (Malayalam, a vintage classic)
  35. Geetha (Kannada, all masterpiece songs)
  36. Chinna Kounder
  37. Udhaya Geetham
  38. Kizhakku Vaasal
  39. Unnal Mudiyum Thambi
  40. Mudhal Mariyadhai


My Discovery of Ilaiyaraja’s music

27 Dec

I am posting after eons and I have made a resolution to blog regularly hereafter!

I will take off exactly from where I left. I was keenly following Tamil music during my Class X, especially after leaving Coimbatore and living at Jamshedpur (Jsr)in East India. I was kind of homesick to listen to Tamil songs as that was the time when I started appreciating the nuances of orchestration, the depth of a tune etc and my music quotient started becoming mature. Since I was in Jsr, there was only one Tamil channel, which was DD Podhigai and all others were Hindi channels. The Hindi songs of those years were just okay compared to the fantastic stuff that ARR was churning out. I remember those were the years when Kadhal Desam released and whenever the trailer was shown alongwith the songs, I was so happy and excited to listen to that refreshing music.

I had a neighbour who lived next door who was also a music lover and he also used to play many Tamil songs and they were not just the Rahman ones but another composer. We became good friends and when we started discussing about music, I was raving about Rahman and his recent albums. He said that there is another composer who has been composing for over 25 years and he was explaining about the genius of Ilaiyaraja and his achievements and I was very impressed. I asked him for the songs of Ilaiyaraja and he gave me many of his audio cassettes. When I started listening to the songs, I was captivated and realised that many of those songs were ones that I too loved and since I was small that time, I did not bother about who the composer was! Some of those songs were Sangeetha Megam, Rasathi Unna, Nilaave Vaa. I started keeping an eye for new Ilaiyaraja songs from that time and I basically started enjoying good Tamil music, irrespective of the composer. That was the time, Kadhalukku Mariyadhai had released and Ilaiyaraja’s music in it was quite different than his usual stuff. To digress a bit, from the 90’s, Raja had changed his orchestration style as many composers were having “techno” music and he too adapted himself to the changing trend though sometimes his synth sounds were terrible.

Kadhalukku Mariyadhai was refreshingly different because Raja skilfully mixed the synth sounds with his trademeark live music (he was using Saarangi after a very long time) and it was a welcome back to form, considering Rahman was ruling the roost with back-to-back hits.Almost all the songs in the album were very good with special mentions for Ennai Thaalatta and Oru Pattamboochi (which had the fantastic Saarangi interludes). My uncle had been to South and knowing my interest in music, he purchased the cassette and gifted it to me. I started listening to the songs and it became like a daily ritual, I was very happy because here was a hit album from Raja in the midst of hits from other composers. During that time, the songs of Poomani too had released but I found the songs pretty bland and this coming after that was a welcome respite.

Once you become a fan of someone and its pretty much a lifetime relationship with them and a maestro like Ilaiyaraja is no exception to this rule. Over the decades, my love and interest for Raja’s music has increased exponentially and being a voracious reader, I have read innumerable blogs, forums discussing Raja’s music and it has made me appreciate his music even more. All this has led me to one of my permanent hobbies of digging, collecting rare Raja songs and to popularize them. Many of these songs are as good, if not better than the known hits.

One point I would like to stress here is that though I am a Raja fanatic, I am not blind to other’s music and I enjoy listening to music from all composers and some of them are really good and in terms of talent, they can even be compared to Raja. There are no barriers with respect to composers/languages/genres in music and any music that gives us happiness and bliss is always welcome.

On a parting note and at the risk of sounding parochial, I must admit that I consider myself very fortunate to be born a Tamilian as I got introduced to Raja’s music and it has almost been like the centre of my life. Even those who know Raja’s music in other languages are lucky (basically all South Indians) because they have been introduced to the highest standards of music. I will write more about Raja’s music in the ensuing posts and will share more insights and details of his unknown gems.


My Journey with Ilaiyaraja and A.R.Rahman-I

6 Jun

Tamil music (especially) and Indian music is extremely blessed that these two genius composers have been the pillars of their music. Both these maestros have diametrically opposite styles of working/composing but they have been equally effective. They do not have a fan following but only fanatics! People swear by their music and consider it as a part of their everyday life.

In my teens, quite strangely, I was first introduced to ARR rather than IR though I used to listen and enjoy IR songs much before on radio without bothering about the composer. Just as all music-loving Indians, I was instantly fascinated by the new sound that ARR created for Roja. I remember seeing Roja in a theatre in Coimbatore and I strongly believe the movie was a success also because of its path-breaking music. After that Pudhiya Mugam audio cassette was released and it was definitely as good as Roja, ARR was clearly the pioneer in introducing a refreshing, melodious, techno sound in Indian music.

I had to move to Jamshedpur and I lost touch with Tamil music for a few years. In those days, the only way to listen to music was to buy the original cassette or to get a cassette recorded from the original (which was done only by cassette shops having Tamil music). The advent of ARR popularized Tamil music so much that one or two shops in JSR started stocking pirated cassettes of new Tamil music! The recording quality was tolerable and as a fan I was desperate to listen to the songs irrespective of the mediocre quality.

Just about the same time, we started getting a few Tamil channels in our cable television and it was as if the skies opened up after years of drought. I was so ecstatic and used to wait for all Tamil movie trailers to see who the composer was and if it was ARR, I used to rush to the town centre to get the pirated cassette as I could not afford the original cassette (which was around Rs 45-50, while the pirated one was just Rs 25-30). One more relief was if someone used to come to my place from South, I used to ask them to get all the latest songs recorded and enjoyed listening to them in original quality. I listened to the songs of Thiruda Thiruda, Gentleman, Aasai (Deva) etc. I remember vividly when my sister came from Chennai, she was having the original AVM audio Minsara Kanavu cassette and I loved the songs so much that I asked her to leave it for me. I listened to the songs so many times that the cassette became blank.

Finally, I had a reunion with all songs on a real-time basis when I moved back to South for my college studies. So, my relationship with ARR’s music strangely preceded that of my relationship with IR’s music though I was not new to IR’s music. The most-listened song by me from ARR’s list is Ennavale, I must have listened to it at least 500 times, it was like daily medicine. This was the story of my initiation into ARR’s music and I also admire ARR as a person for his remarkable humility and for starting the KM Conservatory so that many others get the privilege of learning music.


Needhane En Ponvasandham: Rise of Raaja

22 Sep

The greatest joy for an Ilaiyaraja fan is to see the maestro come back to his past pristine form as he was in the glorious 80’s. It surely has happened with Needhane En Ponvasandham (as it has with a few albums recently like Sri Ramarajyam, Dhoni etc). Almost all the 8 songs are brilliant and here are the best things (worst only where applicable) about each of the songs. Saying that I was awaiting this album would be an understatement and I was very scared whether the album will match the hype and I am so elated that Raja has indeed delivered and how! Its like having your prayers answered.

  1. Kaatrai Konjam: A song which became an instant hit at the time when it was previewed itself. It triggered lots of discussions in the web and increased the hunger of all the fans. Its a masterpiece as its quite complex and the staggering variety of instruments used in this is heard to be believed. I have listened to it almost 50 times in the last 20 days and its a song with so many layers. The usage of strings (London Orchestra), the mild electric guitar, the piano, the 7/8 beat. the saxophone counters, we can go on & on about it. The choice of Karthik also is perfect and he sings it with great gusto and gaiety. The tune progressions in the charanam and the supporting counterpoints are too amazing and Ilaiyaraja’s class is written all over the song.
  2. Mudhal Murai: This is called an high-energy song. IR shows that you need not create a heavy-beat Kuthu song, you can infuse enough energy into a song with a bunch of cellos/double bass/a great voice like Sunidhi Chauhan! What a wonderful song it is and the most striking thing about it is the first interlude where the violin is played in a high-pitched western style, its pure goosebumps stuff. Once again choosing Sunidhi for this was a great idea and she delivers more than expected.
  3. Sattru Munbu: Ramya is a revelation and her western-styled voice suits this song to a T. Once again a fantastic tune by the maestro and he leverages the power of the live orchestra very well in this song. As usual, the charanams are fabulous and so unique with the notes being multi-layered. This is a song in the album which just grows on you after a few listens.
  4. Saaindhu Saaindhu/Yedhi Yedhi: I have purposely added the Telugu version of this song beause Yuvan is unbearable in this song. He just kills the glorious tune. That is why I have the Telugu version of this song sung wonderfully by Shaan & Ramya. This is a vintage Ilaiyaraja tune loosely based on Mohanam and makes for a great listen. Yuvan definitely must not sing and his voice is suitable only for niche songs as the one below.
  5. Pengal Yendral: This is a song which I used to skip as I stupidly assumed that it would be bad owing to the rock tune and Yuvan singing. I was totally wrong and this song suits Yuvan’s voice and is a killer tune. The distortion guitar usage and the unpredictability of the tune are the things that make it unique. I strongly feel that this is one of the best songs sung by Yuvan ( I know that list is very small). One more beauty in this song is towards the end where the distortion guitar starts playing after skipping one beat after Yuvan finishes the line and its gives an awesome effect.
  6. Pudikale Maamu: Somehow I have not yet started liking this song, who knows I may be wrong again 🙂
  7. Vaanam Mella: Once again a good tune and maybe the choice of singers could have been better. IR & Bela Shinde singing this diminishes the beauty of the song and I strongly feel that with better singers singing it would have been much better. Strangely even Bela who normally sings well, sounds out of sorts in this song especially in the higher octaves. The orchestration again is very good with great usage of strings and some wind instrument (not sure what it is, maybe Oboe).
  8. Yennodu Va Va: A superb song sung amazingly by Karthik, it has a retro feel to it and the first interlude is sheer magic. The charanam progression is almost like waves falling on each other and I am constantly humming this song., the second interlude becomes a little synthy but thank God its not too overpowering and Karthik’s voice stands tall. IR again uses a blowing instrument which sounds totally apt for this retro’ish tune.

In my opinion 6 of the 8 songs are extremely good and this is definitely a Grand Slam album by Ilaiyaraja. A million thanks also to Gautham Menon for making Ilaiyaraja push his boundaries. Somehow he has the knack of having great music for all his movies.