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Ilaiyaraja and Hariharan

25 Apr

We must be indebted to A.R.Rahman for introducing Hariharan to Tamil film music with the song Tamizha Tamizha in Roja. Hariharan is primarily a ghazal singer who had sung a few songs in Bollywood after making his debut in the Hindi film Gaman under composer Jaidev. Unfortunately most of his initial songs in Hindi went unnoticed though few were good. Once Hariharan started with Roja he started becoming a regular singer in Tamil and even other composers started using his mellifluous voice. Till date he must have sung around 300 songs in Tamil and another 300+ in other South Indian languages.

Ilaiyaraja took to Hariharan in Kadhalukku Mariyadhai with the superhit song Ennai Thaalaatta Varuvaala and the rest is history. Since then, Ilaiyaraja has used Hariharan quite frequently and this combination also has had its unique charm. ARR must get the credit for giving Hariharan some brilliant songs and their combination is one of the best ever in Indian music history as seeing both the geniuses complement each other is sheer joy for the fans. In this context the IR-Hari combo is different but it also stands on its own considering the different type of songs that IR has given Hariharan even outside Tamil. My best picks under this combo would be the following in mainly Tamil/Malayalam:

  1. Ennai Thaalaatta-Kadhalukku Mariyadhai
  2. Meetaadha Oru Veenai-Poonthottam
  3. Thendralai Kandukolla-Nilave Mugam Kaattu
  4. Nilavu Paattu-Kannukul Nilavu
  5. Vaanaville-Ramanaa
  6. Poongaatre-Friends
  7. Nee Paartha-Hey Ram (one of my personal favourites)
  8. Aathorathile-Kaasi
  9. Kaatril Varum Geethame-Oru Naal Oru Kanavu
  10. Aaro Padunnu Doore-Katha Thodarnnu
  11. Amruthamaay Abhayamaay-Snehaveedu ( a recent song in Kalyani raaga, so melodious)
  12. Vilayaataa Padagotti-Dhoni (very touching tune)

UNIQUE songs from Ilaiyaraja

21 Nov

In film music, the opportunity to innovate is quite limited for any composer as the situations for most the songs will be mostly romantic and lucky are those composers who get good directors who challenge them to compose something out-of-the-box for some uncommon situations. Maestro Ilaiyaraja has been extremely luck to have worked with many types of directors with different sensibilities, who have used the genius of the man to get some great music from him. I list down a few songs from Ilaiyaraja which have something different about them.

  1. Enna Samaiyalo-Unnal Mudiyum Thambi-A song having cooking as a situation and Raja uses four raagas in this song viz. Mohanam, Kalyani, Vasantha and Madhyamavathy. The lyrics by Kavingar Vaali are too good where the lyrics match the swara sung in the song exactly. This is a perfect example of two geniuses (Ilaiyaraja and Vaali) working together and complementing each other.
  2. Naan Porandhu Vandhadhu-Maaya Baazar-This is a stupendous song  from the Maestro having only human voices and nothing else. The vocals, interludes and everything in the song is done only by human voices. This concept is quite common in western music but Raja shows that he is the master of almost any genre by composing and orchestrating a song like this. You must hear it to understand the masterly arrangement of human voices making all kinds of sounds including the astounding use of rhythmic laughter! This song came in 1995 when A.R.Rahman was ruling the charts and hence was not noticed by many people. As we say “Class is permanent”, Raja composed such a song even in his supposed “bad days” when people almost forgot him as Rahman was producing some brilliant music.
  3. Om Sivoham-Naan Kadavul-Ilaiyaraja shows again here that he can compose a competent sthotram-like song but only that this is more intense according to the situation in this dark movie. To quote my favourite movie critic Baradwaj Rangan: “This song is six minute detonation of musical fury.” It is composed in Pantuvarali raaga and the best thing about it is the live percussions used which make you almost feel as if Lord Shiva is doing a Shiva Thaandavam. Special mention must be made of Kavignar Vaali who has written wonderful Sanskrit lyrics extolling the various virtues of Lord Shiva. This is the quality of geniuses that they continue to surprise us when we do not expect anything from them.
  4. Aalamadankala Mythavanalle-Pazhassi Raaja-If the previous song was for a devotional situation for Lord Shiva, Raja now cooks up a musical feast for an Islamic devotional song and this is as authentic it can get with all the Islamic chants. When I first heard this song, I forwarded it but when I saw it in the movie, I was stunned as it sounded so perfect in the movie when all the Islamic priests gather together to pray for the well-being of the country. This song will make you imagine the old Arabic tales, it is so haunting, hats off to Ilaiyaraja!!!
  5. Agandhaiyil/Kallil Uyir-Uliyin Osai-I have already written about the music of this movie and these songs are still in my playlist. This is the heights of classical mastery where Ilaiyaraja uses the concept of Gruhabhedham in these songs. Gruhabhedham is the process of shifting the shruthi (scale) to another note in the raaga and arriving at a different raaga. It is not as simple as it sounds and recently eminent violinists Ganesh-Kumaresh had brought out an album using this concept. Ilaiyaraja has used this concept as early as 1985 but I feel these two songs are simply outstanding examples of this concept.

Madraspatnam:Pure Music

1 Sep

It’s a little rare nowadays to find a music album where almost all the songs are pretty good and its rarer to listen to an album where almost all the songs are melody-based. Madraspatnam is an album which would surely fit into that category. It is definitely one of the best albums to come out in recent times and it is like a whiff of fresh air in Tamil music. The best thing about it is that it has all kinds of songs: A soft number, an inspirational number, a classical-based one, folk numbers etc. G.V.Prakash has demonstrated in the past that music is in his blood and here he further vindicates this fact strongly. GVP is also lucky to get a period-movie like this where he gets to compose all kinds of tunes and he has made the best use of it, credit also to director Vijay for giving scope for good music. Madraspatnam has 5 songs and 2 instrumental pieces and my favourite songs are:

  • Pookal Pookum Tharunam: A wonderful classical song based in Darbaari raaga, well-sung by Roopkumar Rathod & Harini. The english portion in the middle (sung by Andrea) is also well done as it does not sound out-of-place. This song is very melodious and has very soothing interludes notably the santoor pieces.
  • Kaatrile: A fantastic song performed with LIVE MUSIC and superbly sung with energy by Hariharan. The charanams also have a nice tinge of melody in them and GVP has used so many instruments: trumpets/trombones/french horn/strings section. Kudos to him as such songs have become quite extinct now.
  • Aaruyire: A very slow pathos-like song in Charukesi raaga sung by Sonu Nigam and Saindhavi. It starts lazily making us dismiss it as another boring number but slowly turns out to be a beautiful composition, especially in the part where the singers go high. Sonu Nigam is a very good choice for this song.
  • There are 2 other folk numbers which are good to listen and they will sound better when seen on-screen.

GVP gets everything right in this movie and the choice of singers is spot-on. The tunes too are very good and they stand on their own even without the orchestration,thats the real test of a good album.

As a music-lover, I wish he gets to do more movies like this which gives scope to show his talent as his strength is melody.

Melodious Fast Songs

1 Dec

“Melodious Fast” song is almost like an oxymoron because generally fast songs are not expected to be very melodious but they will be foot tapping and dance-worthy. Indian music especially Tamil music has many fast songs but 90% of them are very noisy and they don’t last long in the minds of the listeners.

Thankfully amidst all this din, there are are many songs which are very peppy and also melodious. Such songs show the true class of the composers because they are not easy to compose because you have to keep the beat pretty fast and yet make it pleasing to listen. Here I am listing some beautiful such songs across languages in random order, read it as Song-Movie-Composer.

  1. Ooru Vittu Ooru Vandhu—Karakaattukkaaran—Ilaiyaraja—A kuthu-like folk in Shanmukhapriya raaga, the charanams are sheer joy with amazing variations by Malaysia Vasudevan, the singer.
  2. Meherbaan—Perummazhakaalam—M.Jayachandran—A Malayalam marriage song, extremely catchy with fantastic harmonium interludes.
  3. Kajraare—Bunty Aur Babli—Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy—A super-hit song, spanning multiple genres.
  4. O Ranga Srilanka—Singaaravelan—Ilaiyaraja—One song to show the modulation abilities of SPB, fabulous stuff.
  5. Kay Sera Sera—Pukar—A.R.Rahman—Begins like a disco song but becomes a mellifluous Hamsadhwani in the charanams.
  6. Prayam Nammil—Niram—Vidyasagar—A song I discovered quite recently, set in Madhyamavathy raaga, sung with gusto by P.Jayachandran & Sujatha especially at the end of the charanams.
  7. Varaaga Nadhikkarai Oram—Sangamam—A.R.Rahman—One of best-sung songs of Shankar Mahadevan.
  8. Peigala Nambaadhey—Mahanadhi—Ilaiyaraja—Set in Jog raaga with awesome ghatam beats and sung well by Kamalahaasan.
  9. Thanni Thotti—Sindhu Bhairavi—Ilaiyaraja—You can’t believe that Yesudas sang this number!
  10. Jogi Mahi—Bachna Ae Haseeno—Vishal & Shekhar—A catchy Punjabi-flavoured number which becomes very melodious in the charanams, Shekhar is indeed a very good singer.
  11. Soona Soona—Classically Mild (album)—Deepak Pandit—This Hindustani-meets-rock song is sung amazingly by Sonu Nigam, who does every possible vocal gymnastics.
  12. Unakkum Enakkum—Sri Raghavendra—Ilaiyaraja—Can a song sound sensual and catchy and melodious too, maybe it can when the Maestro composes! Credit also to Malaysia Vasudevan & S.Janaki, who have sung it brilliantly.

There are many more such songs, have just listed a few of them. These songs are what we call today “fusion music” and many of these have been composed many decades back, only that they were not called as such.

Collaborations with Professional Orchestras

28 Aug

The real test for any music composer is the ability to work with a full-fledged orchestra and create music by collaborating with them. Its a challenge because, any of these professional orchestras will have at least about 75 players playing instruments like violins, violas, cellos, flutes etc. There are very few composers in India have collaborated with orchestras abroad—Ilaiyaraja, A.R.Rahman, Yuvan and Sonu Nigam recently collaborated with the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra for the Rafi Resurrected album.

Ilaiyaraja has collaborated with the Budapest Symphony orchestra of Hungary twice—once for composing for Guru (Malayalam movie) and the second time for Thiruvasagam in Symphony and I believe he is working with them again for Pazhassi Raja, a Malayalam film. A.R.Rahman has worked with the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra of Czechoslovakia for Subhash Chandra Bose (fantastic songs with awesome orchestration). Yuvan worked with the Budapest orchestra for Pudhupettai. When we hear the songs of all these movies, you will find a totally different sound which is grand and all-encompassing. It is because the orchestras play the music live and this live recording is mixed with the singer’s voice later or sometimes it is done together. It’s a good change from the normal electronic sound we get to hear these days. Now, I am eagerly waiting with bated breath for the music of the magnum opus—Pazhassi Raja, starring Mammooty where Ilaiyaraja has again used the Budapest orchestra, am sure it will be worth the wait!

A.R.Rahman Felicitation: A Splendid Show

9 Mar

I consider myself blessed to have watched the A.R.Rahman felicitation function yesterday on T.V. I thought it must be like any other function where they celebrate a film’s success and I wanted to see it only because the legends MSV, Ilaiyaraja and Rahman were sharing the same stage (as you can see from the photos in the previous post below). The most striking feature of the function was that almost all the composers, singers, musicians from the Tamil music industry attended the function to congratulate and celebrate the achievement of their own son A.R.Rahman. This was the underlying spirit of the whole function and that is what made it so memorable. The function avoided all the trappings of a formal function and it was in fact very informal as it was a  family get-together. The compering by S.A. Rajkumar was top notch and his introduction of all the speakers was highly eloquent. All the speeches were from the heart (especially MSV Sir’s loving speech) and were brief except for Ilaiyaraja’s speech which was for about 10 mins (still short considering the other discourses we hear!). But Ilaiyaraja had me asking for more as his speech was simply spellbinding! The genuine affection that the music composers, singers showed for each other touched my heart. Many composers shed a few tears hearing the outpourings of love towards each other and towards music as music united all of them. Even Rahman did shed a few tears when S.Janaki spoke about Rahman’s father R.K.Shekhar sir. The defining moment for me was when MSV and Ilaiyaraja draped a shawl around Rahman just before his speech. The 3 trendsetters of Tamil music were seen together which will be one of the rarest moments in the chapters of Indian music. Towards the end, the ever-humble A.R.Rahman beautifully reciprocated the same feelings as he declared that the love that people have for composers (referring to Ilaiyaraja’s and MSV’s  huge fan following) is even more valuable than awards like Oscars. He signed off by saying that nobody should abuse other’s works and he said you can abuse me but not them as they are MY people!! I am not sure if we will see such a fantastic programme again but what we saw will remain etched in our hearts for many years to come! To get a taste of the feelings during the programme see Ilaiyaraja’s wonderful speech below, there is no better way to end this post.

Song Discussion

2 Feb
Today, I would like to discuss 2 songs both of which are Tamil songs.

1.Velli Nilave-This song is composed by Maestro Ilaiyaraja for the movie Nandavanatheru. It has been sung by the magical singer Shri. S.P.Balasubramaniam. It is an amazing song, very different from the normal run-of-the-mill stuff that we hear. The unique feature of this song is the wonderful tune and the combination of instruments that Ilaiyaraja uses. There is a continuous off-beat kind of bass strumming which I have never heard before. The talent of composers is shown when they do something radically different, it can be something very small but its effect will be big. That’s called genius and Ilaiyaraja shows through this song why he is one of the best composers ever in India. Mention must be made about the wonderful singing by S.P.B. the emotions he brings to his voice is unbelievable. Please don’t miss this one-of-a-kind song!!!

2. Ennuyir Thoziye– This song is composed by another genius A.R.Rahman. This song was not noticed much because the movie-Kangalal Kaidhu Sei, vanished in no time. It is sung by Unni Menon & Chinmayi. It is set in predominantly in Raag Aarabhi. It’s so melodious and soothing with the piano counters. According to me this is one of THE best songs composed by ARR, but sadly it did not get the accolade it deserved. The tune in the charanam is so innovative that first you would feel you are listening to some other song. Added to that Chinmayi’s ghatkas before the 1st paragraph are too good.

These 2 songs are great in their own ways and they just show what legendary composers are made of. Ilaiyaraja and Rahman are the 2 doyens of Tamil Music (of Indian music itself!!), whose tunes are timeless.