Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Mohd Rafi – a thank you note

December 24, 2016

Mohammed Rafi (generally abbreviated to Mohd) was born on Christmas Eve!  Pretty apt for a man about whom the worst that was said was that he did not back Lata Mangeshkar in demanding royalty from composers.  It is his birth anniversary today, but Times of India decided it is not worth remembering him.  So, I decided, I will.

Ironically, in my childhood (which wasn’t that long back…not yet!), Times played a significant role in introducing me to the living and long dead cultural icons of India, simply by making it a point to remember them on their birthday, whether it was Rafi saab or Kishoreda or Shammi Kapoor or Dev Anand (who were still alive at the time).  Not many among my schoolmates really cared about these tributes but I did. I was the ridiculous kid who stood up and proclaimed that old is gold (not sure that I’d still say THAT!).

Rafi mattered a heck of a lot to me.  He was the first singer who made an impression on me.  Enough of an impression to want to learn his name.  Perhaps, it was just me growing up because not too long after this ‘discovery’, I would spend afternoons wearing out an Asha-OP Nayyar tape and earning rebukes from mum.  But I do still remember the exact song which made me, then ten years old, a fan:  Jo Unki Tamanna Hai Barbaad Ho Ja/Toh Ae Dil Mohabbat Ki Kismat Bana De.

Not quite one of his oft-repeated classics, is it?  But that’s the thing about Rafi, which I didn’t know at the time.  Rafi is a gift that keeps giving.  There are so many songs stored away in that vault of timeless melody that you can never quite say that you’ve heard it all.  In the spirit of sharing, here’s another melody I had heard at the time:  Dono Ne Kiya Tha Pyar Magar.

Yes, a word or several more about the composers who came up with lovely melodies and tasteful arrangements for Rafi to sing over.  But he was verily the sone pe suhaga and added something extra to nice enough songs to make them unforgettable. And not once or twice, but hundreds, maybe thousands of times in his career.

As I grew, Rafi remained a constant in the playlist of my life.  Contrast that with Celine Dion whose show I had watched on TV in school with a lot of excitement and simply couldn’t care to return to anymore. That’s not a knock on Celine Dion, just saying that for me, Rafi was not a one time fad to grow out of; rather, the songs he sang came to occupy a special place in my heart.

My appreciation of his work only grew with time, as I got introduced to more of his songs and to more artists, including from the Western hemisphere lately.  When I realised that after hearing so many amazing singers from the world of rock and pop, I really hadn’t heard too many, if any, tones as silken as Rafi’s, it really put his achievements in perspective for me.

When I was 15 or so, we bought a 4 cassette compilation of Rafi songs, which is how I got introduced to the light-as-a-feather Jag Dil-e-Deewana or Aise to na dekho.  We bought it at the stylish Planet M store at the Times of India building near CST (Mumbai). We played it to our hearts’ content (my father is a huge fan of Rafi, needless to say, and introduced me to his songs in the first place) before giving them away to an aunt.

Or did we?  Can’t recall anymore.  We don’t listen to music on cassettes anymore.  And the swanky store I mentioned above is long gone too.  Much water has flown under the Vashi bridge since then. A lot has changed, including a burgeoning retro-culture in Mumbai.

Yes, Mumbai has not one but maybe three (don’t know if more have sprung up) radio stations featuring exclusively retro playlists.  And these are apparently the most successful stations; at least 92.7 is anyway. At a Rafi-Mukesh shradhanjali programme I attended a few months back where amateur/semi-professional singers presented their songs, somebody even took on Tu Ganga Ki Mauj and commanded the rapt attention of the audience where only a few years back, the mere selection of the song (forget about the quality of the singing) would have produced disinterested, restless fidgeting.

And now, yours truly, the old is gold guy,is the one trying to tell older generation people to just give a Rahat Fateh Ali Khan or a Shafqat Amanat Ali Khan a chance because they are damn good singers too.  Maybe I am just a compulsive contrarian, always ending up on a path that diverges from contemporary culture.

However it may be, one thing is for sure.  I am not going to stop listening to Rafi.  Have already knocked down a few of his gems for the day and surely will listen to a few more by the time it’s Christmas.  There are times when I am not sure if there is a God but Rafi reaffirms my faith in Him. Thank you, Rafi, for the music and thank you God for creating Rafi.

Shreya Ghoshal concert: An evening of melody and soul

December 20, 2016

‘Tis wedding season in India and this has been a particularly busy one for moi.  So amid attending weddings, overeating and falling sick, I simply did not get time to review a concert of Shreya Ghoshal I attended last month.  It was at the well known Shanmukhananda Hall (Mumbai) that once hosted Shankar Jaikishen’s concerts too. Ghoshal said this was her first concert at the venue.  When she wound down (or should I say, up) with Mere Dholna, most of us in the hall were hoping it wouldn’t be the last.

Speaking of hopes, while travelling to the venue, I wondered if the demo fracas would dent attendance at the show.  Any such ‘hopes’ were dashed by the familiar sight of traffic gridlock near the hall (I was fortunately walking it down from good ol’ GTB station).  It was a sold out show (would later learn it had been sold out for weeks) and patrons waited eagerly with enthusiasm.  I watched with not a little curiosity.

I wasn’t too sure what to expect from the show.  I did figure it couldn’t possibly be too bad but, mostly, I was curious to hear for myself what playback singers sound like live.  In the case of Ghoshal, the answer is pretty simple: way better.

Ghoshal’s voice sounds much thinner on studio recordings than it does live. The recordings also don’t capture very much of the dynamism of her voice.  Dynamism in this sense isn’t quite what the word might lead you to expect:  rather than explosiveness, I mean that she has a way of producing her voice in waves, soft ebbs followed by a powerful (but not overpowering) surge, all delivered effortlessly with nary a note out of place. These ebbs and surges (rather than a constant volume) keep the listener on tenterhooks, eagerly anticipating what the next note will bring.  Somehow, the studio recordings simply don’t seem to capture this quality at all.

Ghoshal is also adept at using the advantages of the live setting over recordings – both singing wise and ‘performance’ wise, to borrow Indian Idol terminology.  Performance wise, she is on the move almost all the time, making eye contact with left, center and right columns of the audience (no, not ideologies).  Unlike many playback singers, especially of the older generation, she does not refer to the lyrics on a notebook or tablet for most of the songs.  This already liberates her to express herself in ways that the older singers were constrained to because they needed to consult a notebook to make sure they didn’t mess up the lyrics.  And boy does she express herself!  At the millionth or so variation, I stopped keeping count.  And yet, all these variations on the recordings are conceived and executed very tastefully; it doesn’t feel like she’s showing off.

But the high point of the concert, at least for me, was her rendition of R D Burman’s Kya Janu Sajan (originally sung by Lata Mangeshkar).  She was able to capture that haunting quality which the song has and convey the sensation of the voice coming from some distant, even lost place.  It is amazing that she was able to do this in a live performance without overtly appearing to do anything different to achieve this effect.  In this performance (though not only this one), technique and soul were in perfect harmony (it is very difficult to sing the stretch from sau diye/jab liya tera naam cleanly without a break in the middle and she did it twice).

This and her many other outstanding performances of the day also brought home to me why hearing a singer in their prime is something else.  I have heard Bruce Dickinson and Klaus Meine give damn good shows, also Shankar Mahadevan with Shakti.  But – and this is even though I would take Shakti/Iron Maiden/Scorps over Tujhme Rab Dikta Hai any day – their singing did not quite blow me away the way Ghoshal did.  It felt like I had found in my backyard what I had searched for far and wide (had the same feeling when, a few years back, I went on a Ilayaraja binge after a gap).

So…my point is even if you just sort of like her but enjoy attending music concerts, please do not give it a miss if you get the chance.  Because (a) she is outstanding and (b) it may not be quite the same thing if you finally make up for it years later. Now, but for the fatwa issued by a certain political party in Mumbai, I would express my wish to hear a well known singer (who shall not be named) in concert….Bas itna sa khwab hai.

Ilayaraja melodies

May 28, 2016

Below is a tentative (and incomplete) list of good/hit Ilayaraja songs from 1976-1993, i.e., what could broadly be called his peak/prime phase, by whatever name called.  I have considered only Tamil songs and songs appearing more than once in a film (e.g. happy/sad, male/female versions) have been counted only once. Pl feel free to contribute more songs, especially the rural based films from late 80s to early 90s where memory fails me:

 Sr No Song title Movie Year
1 Annakilli Unnai Theduthe Annakilli 1976
2 Machana Parthingala Annakilli 1976
3 Sontham Illai Annakilli 1976
4 Naan Pesavanthen Paloothi Valartha Kili 1976
5 Kannan Oru Kai Kuzanthai Bhadrakali 1976
6 Kaalai Paniyil Gayathri 1977
7 Vaazhvae Maayama Gayathri 1977
8 Senthoora Poove 16 Vayathuniley 1977
9 Chinnakannan Kavikuyil 1977
10 Vizhiyile Malarnthathu Bhuvana Oru Kelvikuri 1977
11 Ore Naal Ilamai Oonjaladugiradhu 1978
12 Nee Kettal Ilamai Oonjaladugiradhu 1978
13 Ennadi Meenakshi Ilamai Oonjaladugiradhu 1978
14 Indha Minminikku Sigappu Rojakkal 1978
15 Ninaivo Oru Paravai Sigappu Rojakkal 1978
16 Chithirai Sevvanam Kaatrinile Varum Geetham 1978
17 Kanden Engum Kaatrinile Varum Geetham 1978
18 Oru Vanavil Pole Kaatrinile Varum Geetham 1978
19 En Kanmani En Kadhali Chittukuruvi 1978
20 Sorgam Madhuvile Sattam En Kaiyil 1978
21 Mancholai Kilithano Kizhakke Pogum Raiyil 1978
22 Poovarasam Poo Kizhakke Pogum Raiyil 1978
23 Malargale Kizhakke Pogum Raiyil 1978
24 Senthazham Poovil Mullum Malarum 1978
25 Nitham Nitham Mullum Malarum 1978
26 Adi Penney Mullum Malarum 1978
27 Uravugal Thodarkathai Aval Appadithan 1978
28 Paneer Pushpangale Aval Appadithan 1978
29 Ye Paadal Ondru Priya 1978
30 Enuyir Neethane Priya 1978
31 Naane Naana Azhage Unnai Arathikkiren 1979
32 Vaa Ponmayile Poonthalir 1979
33 Kanmaniye Kadhal Aarilunthu Aruvathu Varai 1979
34 Edho Ninaivugal Agal Vilakku 1979
35 Oru Thanga Rathathil Dharma Yudham 1979
36 Agaya Gangai Dharma Yudham 1979
37 Ilamai Yenam Poongatru Pagalil Oru Iravu 1979
38 Sindhu Nadhi Karaioram Nalladhu Oru Kudumbam 1979
39 Aayiram Malargale Niram Maratha Pookal 1979
40 Iru Paravaigal Niram Maratha Pookal 1979
41 Idhayam Poguthey Puthiya Varpugal 1979
42 Namthana Namthana Puthiya Varpugal 1979
43 Vaan Megangale Puthiya Varpugal 1979
44 Azhagiya Kanne Uthiripookal 1979
45 Geetha Sangeetha Anbe Sangeetha 1979
46 Enulil Engo Rosapoo Ravikaikari 1979
47 Orampo Ponnu Oorukku Pudhusu 1979
48 Solai Kuyile Ponnu Oorukku Pudhusu 1979
49 Aadungal Paadungal Guru 1980
50 Parandhalum Vidamatten Guru 1980
51 Perai Chollava Guru 1980
52 Edhan Kannil Guru 1980
53 En Vaanile Johnny 1980
54 Oru Iniya Manathu Johnny 1980
55 Senorita Johnny 1980
56 Kaatril Endhan Geetham Johnny 1980
57 Aasayai Kaathula Johnny 1980
58 Ennathil Yedho Kalukkul Eeram 1980
59 Siru Ponmani Kalukkul Eeram 1980
60 Yen Iniya Pon Moodu Pani 1980
61 Paruva Kalangalin Moodu Pani 1980
62 Entha Poovilum Murattu Kaalai 1980
63 Maaman Machan Murattu Kaalai 1980
64 Pothuvaka En Manasu Murattu Kaalai 1980
65 Madai Thiranthu Nizhalgal 1980
66 Ithu Oru Pon Malai Nizhalgal 1980
67 Poongathave Nizhalgal 1980
68 Dhoorathil Nizhalgal 1980
69 Azhagu Ayiram Ulaasa Paravaigal 1980
70 Naan Unthan Thayaga Ulaasa Paravaigal 1980
71 Deiviga Raagam Ulaasa Paravaigal 1980
72 Germaniyin Ulaasa Paravaigal 1980
73 Yae Thendrale Nenjathai Killathe 1980
74 Paruvame Nenjathai Killathe 1980
75 Uravenum Nenjathai Killathe 1980
76 Azhage Azhagu Raja Paarvai 1981
77 Andhi Mazhai Raja Paarvai 1981
78 Endrendrum Anadhame Kadal Meengal 1981
79 Thalattuthey Vaanam Kadal Meengal 1981
80 Manjal Veyil Nandu 1981
81 Idhu Oru Nila Tik Tik Tik 1981
82 Netru Indha Neram Tik Tik Tik 1981
83 Poo Malarnthida Tik Tik Tik 1981
84 Ramanin Mohanam Netrikann 1981
85 Mappillaiku Netrikann 1981
86 Anandha Ragam Panneer Pushpangal 1981
87 Kodai Kaala Kaatre Panneer Pushpangal 1981
88 Poonthalir Aada Panneer Pushpangal 1981
89 Ayiram Thamarai Alaigal Oyvathile 1981
90 Kadhal Oviyam Alaigal Oyvathile 1981
91 Vaadi En Kapakezhange Alaigal Oyvathile 1981
92 Chinan Chiru Meendum Kokila 1981
93 Hey Orayiram Meendum Kokila 1981
94 Radha Radhe Nee Meendum Kokila 1981
95 Oru Poovanathile Kazhugu 1981
96 Amudhae Thamzihae Kovil Pura 1981
97 Hey Aatha Payanangal Mudivathile 1982
98 Ilaya Nila Payanangal Mudivathile 1982
99 Mani Osai Payanangal Mudivathile 1982
100 Mudhal Mudhal Raga Deepam Payanangal Mudivathile 1982
101 Salaioram Payanangal Mudivathile 1982
102 Thogai Ilamayil Payanangal Mudivathile 1982
103 Vaigaraiyil Payanangal Mudivathile 1982
104 Kadhal Panpaadu Eeravizhi Kaviyangal 1982
105 En Gaanam Eeravizhi Kaviyangal 1982
106 Kanavil Midhakkum Eeravizhi Kaviyangal 1982
107 Janani Janani Thai Mookambhikai 1982
108 Bhoopalam Thooral Ninnu Pochu 1982
109 Thangachangili Thooral Ninnu Pochu 1982
110 Yerikkarai Poongatre Thooral Ninnu Pochu 1982
111 Kanne Kalaimaane Moondram Pirai 1982
112 Vaanengum Moondram Pirai 1982
113 Ponmeni Moondram Pirai 1982
114 Poongatru Moondram Pirai 1982
115 Ilamai Itho Sakalakala Vallavan 1982
116 Nethu Rathiri Sakalakala Vallavan 1982
117 Nila Kayuthu Sakalakala Vallavan 1982
118 Poo Vadai Kaatru Gopurangal Saivathile 1982
119 Endrum Vaanaveliyil Kelviyum Naane Pathilum Naane 1982
120 Vaa Vaa Vasanthamey Puthu Kavithai 1982
121 Vaarey Vaa Puthu Kavithai 1982
122 Vellai Pura Puthu Kavithai 1982
123 Neethane Enthan Ninaivellam Nithya 1982
124 Panivizhum Malarvanam Ninaivellam Nithya 1982
125 Rojavai Thalattum Ninaivellam Nithya 1982
126 Tholin Mele Ninaivellam Nithya 1982
127 Metti Oli Metti 1982
128 Santhana Kaatre Thanikaatu Raja 1982
129 Raasave Unnai Naan Ennithan Thanikaatu Raja 1982
130 Kuyile Kadhal Oviyam 1982
131 Naatham En Jeevane Kadhal Oviyam 1982
132 Nathiyil Aadum Kadhal Oviyam 1982
133 Poojaikaaga Kadhal Oviyam 1982
134 Poovil Vandu Kadhal Oviyam 1982
135 Sangeetha Jathi Kadhal Oviyam 1982
136 Velli Salangaigal Kadhal Oviyam 1982
137 Etho Mogam Kozhi Koovudhu 1982
138 Poove Ilaya Poove Kozhi Koovudhu 1982
139 Vaalai Paruvathile Kanne Radha 1982
140 Unnaithane Nallavanuku Nallavan 1983
141 Muthaduthey Nallavanuku Nallavan 1983
142 Geetham Sangeetham Kokarakko 1983
143 Ponvaanam Panneer Indru Nee Naalai Naan 1983
144 Mottu Vitta Indru Nee Naalai Naan 1983
145 Oru Killi Uruguthu Anandha Kummi 1983
146 O Vennilaave Anandha Kummi 1983
147 Oomai Nenjin Anandha Kummi 1983
148 Anantha Then Manvasanai 1983
149 Poththi Vachcha Manvasanai 1983
150 Andhi Varum Neram Mundhanai Mudichu 1983
151 Devathai Ilam Aayiram Nilave Vaa 1983
152 Sevvarani Thotathile Bhagavthipuram Railway Gate 1983
153 Aasai Nooruvagai Adutha Varisu 1983
154 Pesa Koodathu Adutha Varisu 1983
155 Rathiriyil Poothirikkum Thanga Magan 1983
156 Solai Poovil Vellai Roja 1983
157 Oh Maane Maane Vellai Roja 1983
158 Naanaga Naan Illai Thoongathey Thambi 1983
159 Thoongathey Thambi Thoongathey Thambi 1983
160 Varuthu Varuthu Thoongathey Thambi 1983
161 Paadavathatho Gaanam Ilamai Kaalangal 1983
162 Eramana Rojave Ilamai Kaalangal 1983
163 Kalidasan Kannadasan Soorakkottai Singakutti 1983
164 Uruginen Anne Anne 1983
165 Thendral Ennai Muthamittadhu Oru Oodia Nathiyaagirathu 1983
166 Vaanpole Vannam Salangai Oli 1984
167 Mounamana Neram Salangai Oli 1984
168 Thakitha Salangai Oli 1984
169 Devan Thantha Veenai Unnai Naan Santhithen 1984
170 Thalathu Maari Ponathe Unnai Naan Santhithen 1984
171 Vizhiyile Mani Nooravathu Naal 1984
172 Megam Kottattum Ennakul Oruvan 1984
173 Then Poove Poove Anbulla Rajnikanth 1984
174 Oru Nayagan Dhavani Kanavugal 1984
175 Vaanam Niram Dhavani Kanavugal 1984
176 Roja Ondru Mutham Koomberi Mookan 1984
177 Thaazam Poove Kai Kodukkum Kai 1984
178 Neelakuyilgal Magudi 1984
179 Maalai Soodum Vellai Naan Mahan Alla 1984
180 Kalyanam Vaibogam Naan Mahan Alla 1984
181 Paadavaa Un Naan Paadum Paadal 1984
182 Devan Kovil Naan Paadum Paadal 1984
183 Paadum Vaanampadi Naan Paadum Paadal 1984
184 Seer Kondu Vaa Naan Paadum Paadal 1984
185 Adiye Manam Nilluna Neengal Kettavai 1984
186 Oh Vasantha Raaja Neengal Kettavai 1984
187 Pillai Nila Neengal Kettavai 1984
188 Pottaene Poovilangu Poovilangu 1984
189 Kadhal Mayakkam Pudhumai Penn 1984
190 Kasthoori Maane Pudhumai Penn 1984
191 En Vazhvile Thambikku Entha Ooru 1984
192 Kadhalin Deepam Ondru Thambikku Entha Ooru 1984
193 Azhagu Malarada Vaidehi Kaathirunthal 1984
194 Inraiku Yen Indha Vaidehi Kaathirunthal 1984
195 Kaathirunthu Vaidehi Kaathirunthal 1984
196 Rasathi Unnai Vaidehi Kaathirunthal 1984
197 Megam Karrukaiyile Vaidehi Kaathirunthal 1984
198 Kannil Enna Un Kannil Neer Vazhindal 1985
199 Ada Machamulla China Veedu 1985
200 Chittu Kuruvi China Veedu 1985
201 Antha Nilava Than Muthal Mariyadhai 1985
202 Poongatru Thirumbuma Muthal Mariyadhai 1985
203 Vetti Veru Vasam Muthal Mariyadhai 1985
204 Yeh Kuruvi Muthal Mariyadhai 1985
205 Rasave Unnai Muthal Mariyadhai 1985
206 Poomalai Vangi Vanthaan Sindhu Bhairavi 1985
207 Kalaivaniye Sindhu Bhairavi 1985
208 Naan Oru Sindhu Sindhu Bhairavi 1985
209 Paadariyen Sindhu Bhairavi 1985
210 Thanni Thotti Sindhu Bhairavi 1985
211 Sangeetha Meham Udhaya Geetham 1985
212 Paadu Nilave Udhaya Geetham 1985
213 Ennodu Paatu Paadungal Udhaya Geetham 1985
214 Thene Thenpandi Udhaya Geetham 1985
215 Siriya Paravai Antha Oru Nimidam 1985
216 Kadhal Kasakkuthayya Aan Paavam 1985
217 Oru Jeevan Geethanjali 1985
218 Thulli Ezhunthathu Geethanjali 1985
219 Malare Pesu Geethanjali 1985
220 Poo Malaye Pagal Nilavu 1985
221 Poovilae Medai Pagal Nilavu 1985
222 Vaidhegi Raman Pagal Nilavu 1985
223 Kanmaniye Pesu Kaaki Chaththai 1985
224 Nama Singari Sarraku Kaaki Chaththai 1985
225 Poo Potta Dhavani Kaaki Chaththai 1985
226 Vaanile Thenila Kaaki Chaththai 1985
227 Pattu Kannam Kaaki Chaththai 1985
228 Adhikaalai Nerame Meendum Oru Kadhal Kathai 1985
229 Idhayam Oru Kovil Idhaya Kovil 1985
230 Kootathile Kovil Pura Idhaya Kovil 1985
231 Naan Paadum Mouna Idhaya Kovil 1985
232 Paatu Thalaivan Idhaya Kovil 1985
233 Vaanuyarntha Solaiyile Idhaya Kovil 1985
234 Yaar Veetu Roja Idhaya Kovil 1985
235 ABC Nee Vaasi Oru Kaidhiyin Diary 1985
236 Ponmane Kovam Oru Kaidhiyin Diary 1985
237 Aala Asathum Kanni Raasi 1985
238 Nilavu Thoongu Neram Kunguma Chimizh 1985
239 Pen Manney Naan Sigappu Manithan 1985
240 Mayanginen Solla Naane Raja Naane Manthiri 1985
241 Oora Therinchukitten Padikkadhavan 1985
242 Kavithai Paadu Thendrale Ennai Thodu 1985
243 Thendral Vanthu Thendrale Ennai Thodu 1985
244 Pudhiya Poovithu Thendrale Ennai Thodu 1985
245 Kanmani Nee Vara Thendrale Ennai Thodu 1985
246 Engey En Jeevane Uyarndha Ullam 1985
247 Kaalai Thendral Uyarndha Ullam 1985
248 Vanthal Mahalakshmiye Uyarndha Ullam 1985
249 Chinna Kuyil Poovae Poochuduvaa 1985
250 Poovae Poochuduvaa Poovae Poochuduvaa 1985
251 O Vaanambaadi Sadhanai 1986
252 Naan Thedum Sevvanthi Poo Dharma Pathini 1986
253 Aayirathil Nee Oruthan Naanum Oru Thozhilali 1986
254 Aarum Athu Aalam Illai Muthal Vasantham 1986
255 Hey Maina Maaveeran 1986
256 Mandhira Punnagaiyo Mandhira Punnagai 1986
257 Naan Kadhalil Mandhira Punnagai 1986
258 Chinna Mani Kuyile Amman Koil Kizhakaale 1986
259 Kaalai Nera Poonguyil Amman Koil Kizhakaale 1986
260 Un Paarvayil Amman Koil Kizhakaale 1986
261 Poova Eduthu Oru Amman Koil Kizhakaale 1986
262 Vaan Megam Punnagai Mannan 1986
263 Singalathu Punnagai Mannan 1986
264 Kavithai Kelungal Punnagai Mannan 1986
265 Kalamalaga Vaayum Punnagai Mannan 1986
266 Edhedho Punnagai Mannan 1986
267 Enna Satham Indha Neram Punnagai Mannan 1986
268 Mandram Vandha Mouna Raagam 1986
269 Oho Megam Mouna Raagam 1986
270 Chinna Chinna Vanna Kuyil Mouna Raagam 1986
271 Nilave Vaa Mouna Raagam 1986
272 Pani Vizhum Iravu Mouna Raagam 1986
273 Adi Athadi Kadalora Kavithaigal 1986
274 Kodiyile Kadalora Kavithaigal 1986
275 Poguthey poguthey Kadalora Kavithaigal 1986
276 Oomai nenjin sondham Manithanin Marupakkam 1986
277 Vaa Vennila Mella Thirandadhu Kadhavu 1986
278 Ooru Janam Mella Thirandadhu Kadhavu 1986
279 Dil Dil Manadhil Mella Thirandadhu Kadhavu 1986
280 Thedum Kanpaarvai Mella Thirandadhu Kadhavu 1986
281 Kuzhal Oodhum Mella Thirandadhu Kadhavu 1986
282 Vikram Vikram 1986
283 Meendum meendum Vikram 1986
284 Eanj Jodi Vikram 1986
285 Vanithamani Vikram 1986
286 Ilanjolai Unakkagave Vaazhgiren 1986
287 Kanna Unnai Thedukiren Unakkagave Vaazhgiren 1986
288 Oh Endhan Vazhvile Unakkagave Vaazhgiren 1986
289 Ennamma Kannu Mr Bharath 1986
290 Adhikaalai Subavelai Natpu 1986
291 Malaiyoram Veesum Paadu Nilave 1987
292 Kokarako Padura Paadu Nilave 1987
293 Chittirai Madha Nilavu Paadu Nilave 1987
294 Vaa Veliye Paadu Nilave 1987
295 Manathil Uruthi Vendum Manathil Uruthi Vendum 1987
296 Kanna Varuvaaya Manathil Uruthi Vendum 1987
297 Aararo Aararo Anand 1987
298 I want to tell you something Anand 1987
299 Thodatha Thaalam Anand 1987
300 Ola Kudisaiyile Anand 1987
301 Aethamayya Aetham Ninaive Oru Sangeetham 1987
302 Pagalile Oru Nilavinae Ninaive Oru Sangeetham 1987
303 Edutha Vecha Ninaive Oru Sangeetham 1987
304 Yeriyil Oru Jallikattu 1987
305 Hey Unnaithaane Kadhal Parisu 1987
306 Kaadhal Maharani Kadhal Parisu 1987
307 Koo Koo Endru Kuyil Kadhal Parisu 1987
308 Puraakale Puraakale Kadhal Parisu 1987
309 Oru Kadhal Enbadhu Chinna Thambi Periya Thambi 1987
310 Thenpandi Nayakan 1987
311 Nila Aduvanathu Nayakan 1987
312 Nee Oru Kadhal Nayakan 1987
313 Andhi Mazhai Megam Nayakan 1987
314 Naan Sirithal Deepavali Nayakan 1987
315 Shenbagame Enga Ooru Paatukaaran 1987
316 Madhura Marikozhumbu Enga Ooru Paatukaaran 1987
317 Kannan Vandhu Paduginran Rettai Vaal Kuruvi 1987
318 Raja Raja Cholan Rettai Vaal Kuruvi 1987
319 Chinna chinna roja poove Poovizhi Vaasalile 1987
320 Oru Kiliyin Poovizhi Vaasalile 1987
321 Thotathile Paathi Velaikaaran 1987
322 Vaa vaa vaa kanna vaa Velaikaaran 1987
323 Kannukkum Kannukkum Modhal Ninaikka Therintha Maname 1987
324 Jingidi Jingidi Guru Sishyan 1988
325 Vaa Vaa Vanchi Guru Sishyan 1988
326 Kandupidichen Guru Sishyan 1988
327 Malayoram Mayile Oruvar Vaazhum Aalayam 1988
328 Nee Pournami Oruvar Vaazhum Aalayam 1988
329 Thenmadurai Vaigai Dharmathin Thalaivan 1988
330 Muthamizh Kaviye Dharmathin Thalaivan 1988
331 Poove Sempoove Solla Thudikudhu Manasu 1988
332 Engirundho Azhaikkum En Jeevan Paduthu 1988
333 Naan Enbadhu Soorasamharam 1988
334 Neelakuyile Soorasamharam 1988
335 Valayosai Sathya 1988
336 Aasayilae Enga Oru Kavalkaran 1988
337 Thenpandi Tamizhe Paasa Paravaigal 1988
338 Oru Poongavanam Agni Natchathiram 1988
339 Ninnu Korri Agni Natchathiram 1988
340 Thoongatha Vizhigal Agni Natchathiram 1988
341 Raja rajathi Agni Natchathiram 1988
342 Vaa vaa anbe anbe Agni Natchathiram 1988
343 Idhazhil Kadhai Ezuthum Unnal Mudiyum Thambi 1988
344 Unnal Mudiyum Thambi Unnal Mudiyum Thambi 1988
345 Punjai Undu Unnal Mudiyum Thambi 1988
346 Kuyile kuyile En Bommukutty Ammavukku 1988
347 Adhikaalai Neram Naan Sonnathey Sattam 1988
348 Kalyana Maalai Pudhu Pudhu Arthangal 1989
349 Keladi Kanmani Pudhu Pudhu Arthangal 1989
350 Guruvayurappa Pudhu Pudhu Arthangal 1989
351 Gangai Karai Varusham 16 1989
352 Hey Aiyasamy Varusham 16 1989
353 Pazhamuthir Cholai Varusham 16 1989
354 Poo Pookum Maasam Varusham 16 1989
355 Maanguyile Karagatakaaran 1989
356 Indha Maan Karagatakaaran 1989
357 Malayala Karayoram Rajadhi Raja 1989
358 Enkitta Modhadhey Rajadhi Raja 1989
359 Vaa Vaa Manjal Rajadhi Raja 1989
360 Meenamma Meenamma Rajadhi Raja 1989
361 Athadi Yammadi Idhayathai Thirudadhe 1989
362 O Priya Priya Idhayathai Thirudadhe 1989
363 Paapa Laali Idhayathai Thirudadhe 1989
364 Vazhavaikkum Aboorva Sagotharargal 1989
365 Raja Kaiya Vachcha Aboorva Sagotharargal 1989
366 Annatha Aduran Aboorva Sagotharargal 1989
367 Puthu Maapilaikku Aboorva Sagotharargal 1989
368 Unnai Nenachen Aboorva Sagotharargal 1989
369 Adi Vaanmathi Siva 1989
370 Ennathan Sugamo Maapilai 1989
371 Maanin Iru Kangal Maapilai 1989
372 Maarugo maarugo Vetri Vizha 1989
373 Poongatru Un Per Vetri Vizha 1989
374 Velli Kolusu Mani Pongi Varum Kaveri 1989
375 Aathaadi Allikodi Thendral Sudum 1989
376 Ilam Vayasu Ponna Paandi Naatu Thangam 1989
377 Siru Koothu La Paandi Naatu Thangam 1989
378 Un Manasula Paandi Naatu Thangam 1989
379 Idhu Neeyum Naanum Udhayam 1989
380 Vanthathey O Kizhakku Vaasal 1990
381 Pachchai Malai Kizhakku Vaasal 1990
382 Paadi Parantha Kili Kizhakku Vaasal 1990
383 Oru Vittuku Kizhakku Vaasal 1990
384 Mazhai Varudhu Raja Kaiya Vachcha 1990
385 Irandum Ondrodu Pannakaaran 1990
386 Nooru Varusham Pannakaaran 1990
387 Silence Pannakaaran 1990
388 Agaya Vennilave Arangetra Velai 1990
389 Gundu Onnu Vachchuriken Arangetra Velai 1990
390 Mamannukum Machannuku Arangetra Velai 1990
391 Ila Vattam My Dear Marthandan 1990
392 Sattam Varadha My Dear Marthandan 1990
393 Paaku Vethala My Dear Marthandan 1990
394 Anjali Anjali Anjali 1990
395 Mottamaadi Anjali 1990
396 Something something Anjali 1990
397 Vaanam Namakku Anjali 1990
398 Vegam vegam Anjali 1990
399 Iravu Nilavu Anjali 1990
400 Kalyana Thenila Mounam Sammadham 1990
401 Aattama Nadigan 1990
402 Sorkathin Vasapaadi Unnai Solli Kutramillai 1990
403 Yerasathi En Uyir Thozhan 1990
404 Maalayil Yaaro Chatriyan 1990
405 Mannil Intha Kaadhal Keladi Kanmani 1990
406 Thendral Thaan Keladi Kanmani 1990
407 Nee Paathi Naan Paathi Keladi Kanmani 1990
408 Karpoora Bommai Keladi Kanmani 1990
409 Aracha Santhanam Chinna Thambi 1991
410 Povoma Oorvolam Chinna Thambi 1991
411 Thooliyile Chinna Thambi 1991
412 Ada Uchcham Thala Chinna Thambi 1991
413 Kaatukuyile Dhalapathi 1991
414 Yamuna Aatrile Dhalapathi 1991
415 Chinna Thaiaval Dhalapathi 1991
416 Sundari Kannal Dhalapathi 1991
417 Adi Rakkamma Dhalapathi 1991
418 Sundari Neeyum Michael Madana Kamarajan 1991
419 Sivarathiri Michael Madana Kamarajan 1991
420 Per Vachalum Michael Madana Kamarajan 1991
421 Ram Pam Pam Michael Madana Kamarajan 1991
422 Kuyil Paatu En Rasavin Manasile 1991
423 Parijatha Poove En Rasavin Manasile 1991
424 Vanna Poongavanam Eeramana Rojave 1991
425 Adho Mega Oorvalam Eeramana Rojave 1991
426 Vaa Vaa Anbe Eeramana Rojave 1991
427 Kadhal Kavithaigal Gopura Vasalile 1991
428 Keladi En Gopura Vasalile 1991
429 Devadhai Poloru Gopura Vasalile 1991
430 Thalattum Poongatru Gopura Vasalile 1991
431 Paartha Vizhi Guna 1991
432 Kanmani Anbodu Guna 1991
433 Aanenna Pennena Dharma Durai 1991
434 Maasi Maasa Dharma Durai 1991
435 Pottu Vaitha Oru Vatta Idhayam 1991
436 Idhayamae Idhayam 1991
437 Kangalukul Thanthu Vitten Ennai 1991
438 Varudhu Varudhu Bramma 1991
439 Ival Oru Ilankuruvi Bramma 1991
440 Aattama Therottama Captain Prabhakaran 1991
441 Annakilli Nee Sirikka Rickshaw mama 1992
442 Muthumani Maalai Chinna Gounder 1992
443 Chutti Chutti Chinna Gounder 1992
444 Adukku Malli Avarampoo 1992
445 Pudhucheri Kachcheri Singara Velan 1992
446 Sonnapadi Kelu Singara Velan 1992
447 Thoodhu Selva dhavani Singara Velan 1992
448 Pottu Vaitha Kadhal Singara Velan 1992
449 Ada Oranga Sriranga Singara Velan 1992
450 Innum Yennai Enna Singara Velan 1992
451 Kannakarunguyile Paandi Durai 1992
452 Pandiyanin Rajiyathin Pandian 1992
453 Anbe Nee Enna Pandian 1992
454 Chinna Chinna Thooral Sentamizh Paatu 1992
455 Kalayil Kethattu Sentamizh Paatu 1992
456 Kuttukoru Sentamizh Paatu 1992
457 Amma Endru Mannan 1992
458 Rajathi Raja Mannan 1992
459 Sandi Raaniye Mannan 1992
460 Pattu Poove Chembaruthi 1992
461 Nila Kayum Neram Chembaruthi 1992
462 Andhiyile Vaanam Chinnavar 1992
463 Kottukkilli Chinnavar 1992
464 Naan Erikarai Chinna Thayee 1992
465 Potri Paadadi Penne Devar Magan 1992
466 Sandhu Pottu Devar Magan 1992
467 Inji Idupazhaga Devar Magan 1992
468 Maniye Manikuyile Nadodi Thendral 1992
469 All The Time Nadodi Thendral 1992
470 O Butterfly Meera 1992
471 Pazhaiya Vilangu Meera 1992
472 Valli Valli Enna Deiva Vaaku 1992
473 Oru Mantharapoo Chinna Zameen 1993
474 Poongatru Pillai Walter Vetrivel 1993
475 Chinna Rasave Walter Vetrivel 1993
476 Mannava mannava Walter Vetrivel 1993
477 Kannale Kadhal Kaditham Athma 1993
478 Adi Poonguyile Aranmanai Killi 1993
479 Raasave Unnai Vida Maaten Aranmanai Killi 1993
480 Vaanmathiye Aranmanai Killi 1993
481 Aalappol Velappol Ejamaan 1993
482 Adi Raakumuthu Ejamaan 1993
483 Ejamaan Kaladi Ejamaan 1993
484 Nilave Mugam Ejamaan 1993
485 Oru Naalum Ejamaan 1993
486 Anbe Vaa Arugile Kilipetchu Ketkavaa 1993
487 Kalaignan Kattu Kalaignan 1993
488 Kokkarakko Kalaignan 1993
489 Dillu Baru Jaane Kalaignan 1993
490 Endhan Nenjil Kalaignan 1993
491 Aasai Athigam Marupadiyum 1993
492 Ellorukum Nalla Marupadiyum 1993
493 Ellorum Sollum Paatu Marupadiyum 1993
494 Nalam Vazha Marupadiyum 1993
495 Nallathor Veenai Marupadiyum 1993
496 Nenjukkule Innarendru Ponnumani 1993
497 Ennulle Ennulle Valli 1993
498 Oru Myna Myna Uzhaippali 1993
499 Vennilavu Kothipathana Chinna Mapillai 1993
500 Kadhoram Lolakku Chinna Mapillai 1993

 

Shamitabh: End of an era and a new beginning?

January 18, 2015

Ilayaraja has managed to stun one and all – fans and detractors alike – with the music of his latest, R Balki’s Shamitabh.  It’s all the more surprising given that it’s for a Hindi film and one directed by Balki, for whom Ilayaraja had thus far reworked 80s classics.  Clearly not the context in which a surprise package was expected but there it is.  

He has gone all out contemporary, unabashedly embracing the brave new computer world of music.  It’s not that he has never attempted contemporary (apart from setting contemporary trends for nearly two decades in Tamil music).  But there was, if I may, a half assed flavour to earlier attempts, as if his heart wasn’t quite in it.  Say the dance track Rukku Rukku from the film Friends (which starred Vijay, Surya and Devayani).  It may have had a peppy beat but somehow didn’t feel well put together and didn’t really flow as a composition.  

In comparison, Sha Sha Mi Mi is pop perfection.  Lyrics haven’t been this hip in a Raja soundtrack for a long time, Swanand Kirkire as well as Kausar Munir having a blast with very funny and smart Hinglish.  Vocals haven’t been this strong in a Raja soundtrack for a long time either.  Tellingly, Suraj Jagan is the only other singer to have previously sung for Ilayaraja and he is by no means a staple in the Raja camp either. Caralisa Monteiro excels in Sha Sha Mi Mi while Shruti Haasan caps Sannatta a stunning Kraftwerk-like reworking of tribal dance track Aasayai Kathula.

As mentioned already, this has shocked detractors who opined that he was on autopilot and only capable of pleasing blinded fanatics of his music. This has also caused some churn for the longtime fans themselves. The ones who kept the faith even as commercial returns of his soundtracks dwindled. Because Shamitabh represents a new chapter in Ilayaraja’s career and possibly also the end of an era.

Since the mid 90s or so, Ilayaraja, the composer who once set trends for Tamil film music, whose work R D Burman had praised of being ahead of his time, seemed to have boxed himself into a Last of the Mohicans corner. This chapter probably began with Guru, a 1997 Malayalam film, and gained strength through Hey Ram and Mumbai Express, culminating in Neethane En Ponvasantham and Megha. Ilayaraja insisted that music of quality ought to have live instruments and ranted on the drawbacks of computerised synthesizer music. He even lamented that computer technology had made it too easy to compose. Whether such criticism was legitimate and fair is another story. But, to cut a long story short, as the rest of the film music world got more and more computerised, Ilayaraja only seemed to get even more steadfast in his almost ideological commitment to orchestral music. Only budget constraints could get him to ditch the orchestra and his reluctant acceptance of such ground realities could be seen in the noticeably less lustrous arrangements in such soundtracks.

In this majestic isolation, only loyal fans, for the most part, were his allies. And not without reason. There isn’t anybody else anymore in film music who can come up with orchestral arrangements to approach, let alone match, Ilayaraja. The Hindi golden oldies were by now long gone and even those 90s composers who attempted mediocre imitations of the then standard Hindi film music template were out of assignments. Thus, Ilayaraja’s isolation actually acquired brand value in a way. For those who still wanted to listen to live instruments in music, there was no better place to be than an Ilayaraja soundtrack. The perseverance of these fans was rewarded with the rich, lush recordings of the Neethane En Ponvasantham and Megha soundtracks. Complete with the majestic Budapest Symphony Orchestra, these soundtracks reached, in places, heights hitherto not scaled even by Ilayaraja himself as the fantastic classical musicians added nuance and a fine sense of dynamics to brilliant arrangements.

Unfortunately, neither film met with success in the Box Office. NEPV in particular was a rather costly failure, given that it was directed by the extremely successful Gautham Menon. Megha too sank without a trace. The writing was on the wall but it probably took Shamitabh for the fans to take note. Any hopes of more such expensive experiments would have to be shelved.

Having courted musos for a long time, Ilayaraja finally seems to have decided to appeal to the public at large. And as a one time box office king, he doesn’t seem to have found that very hard. A musician of his immense skill and know how would not find it impossibly difficult to adapt to the computer age. But in doing so, he is probably going to bring down curtains on an era. The era of gracefully orchestrated film songs. The Last of the Mohicans has finally moved on, at least so it seems.

He has signed off with a little something for the long time fans. Piddly, the Amitabh Bachchan sung track, has superb arrangements as always, with the second interlude in particular boasting the kind of twists Raja is known to conjure up. Long live the king!

Opera: The enemy within

March 17, 2013

I am not a singer by trade and even otherwise would not call myself one.  But I do sing a fair bit in my free time and have taken time to read (or watch) the extensive amount of literature on proper vocal function available on the internet.  I have learnt that many of the principles taught by Western voice instructors are essentially based on bel canto and, to satisfy my curiosity, listened to the great opera singers and read up on them (though, emotionally, that kind of singing is not really for me).

A theme I have noticed in recent writing on opera is the multitude of rants by opera singers or followers of opera against the trend of some singers masquerading as opera singers when, apparently, they are not.   It goes like this:  somebody (say Jackie Evancho or Andrew De Leon) sings a classical aria (usually Nessun Dorma!) on a reality TV show and instantly get incredible airtime and the kind of youtube hits that only Psy can hope to best.   In short, they get popular ‘overnight’ while opera singers toil day in day out (singing without a mike, please note) with little recognition.  Said critics are at pains to point out that merely singing a classical aria with a so called operatic sound (and there’s no such thing as that, to be very precise) does not make one an opera singer.  I have some views about this, which I’d like to elaborate on.  Yeah, a rant of my own.

First off, I do agree with the limited point made by the critics (much to the consternation of Jackie’s millions of devotees, I presume).   The point is well taken that merely singing an aria with that supposedly serious and ‘big’, ‘mature’ tone does not make one an opera singer.  As I said before, opera singers have to sing without amplification and still project their voice in a hall.   With my limited knowledge of singing, I can still appreciate the difficulty of this.

Meantime, I’d like to point out two things.  (1) ‘We’ who sing rock/pop and such other light music also sing over instruments that are ‘amp-ed’ (usually in a very loud and intrusive way with near zero dynamic range if you’re in India) so unless you have a very helpful engineer, your voice would get drowned out unless you project your voice properly.  So I’d contest the lofty claim made by some opera followers that non-classical singers do not know how to sing.  There’s no doubt, though, that a non classical singer would likely find it very difficult to project voice as well as an opera singer without amplification.  (2) Projection of voice in classical singing is also about acoustics, not just volume.  When I once watched a mezzo soprano sing arias with piano and had a good seat, she was very clearly audible to me, every nuance of it.   But when I watched a performance of Beethoven’s Symphony no.9 in a hall with seats arranged in an incline, I found it harder to grasp the details of their singing.  When the acoustics of the venue are favourable, they aid the task of the opera singer.

This is not to take away from the difficulty of what they do and they are indeed the super-athletes of the singing world.  I have no reservations in echoing that claim made of their talents.   I can sympathise with their angst at seeing the technical excellence of their craft being devalued as opera somehow comes to stand for a ‘sound’ rather than a technique, a very demanding one, of singing.  But I’d like to probe into the source of this confusion.   How did the public get familiar enough with opera to hail somebody who sings an aria as a special talent?

To answer this question, I reflected on how I myself got familiar with the word ‘opera’ long before I really began to get any handle over what it really was.   To be precise, who were the first few names that I recognised as opera singers and why.   Why, Luciano Pavarotti, of course, and the famous football stadium concerts.

And this is important.   The person who popularised the notion of opera as a sound or style rather than vocal function was somebody from,er, the fraternity.  Not all alone, of course, they were three of a crowd.  The Three Tenors – Pavarotti, Carreras and Domingo.   Domingo is quoted thus, “I understand the complaints of the purists. But I do not want purists to go to the Three Tenors”.  So much, then, for respect for the core fanbase.

I will choose not to infer whether the whole thing was orchestrated in pursuit of commercial success and $$$ or a genuinely noble desire to spread the word about opera and take it to the masses.   But the point is, it is a dilution of what opera is essentially about.  Singing with amplification at Dodger stadium is not opera.  The catch, unfortunately, is that the singers indulging in this were tenors and three of the very best in the history of opera at that.   It immediately conferred tremendous legitimacy on ‘opera-genre’ singing and made the other, sweaty, hard working kind of opera relatively irrelevant, except of course to loyal opera followers.

And yet, while The Three Tenors business was criticised in some quarters at the time, I do not see nearly the same amount of scorn heaped on the singers who executed it as on little, innocent Jackie Evancho.   She is just a kid, most probably doing what somebody said she should.  The three gentlemen however knew all about opera and therefore knew what they were doing.

And where does opera go from here?  They could take a tough view and disown the legacy of Pavarotti but perhaps the individual has (had) already become larger than his chosen field in this case and to disown him might be to disown opera.   Whole hearted acceptance of this might pave, well, an Autobahn to stardom for the Evanchos and opera might as well cease to exist.  And so, they choose not to talk about Three Tenors when the conversation is about Pavarotti and to condemn the Evanchos in the hope of educating readers about ‘real’ opera.  Ah, but when the greatest superstar of ‘real’ opera is not satisfied with the real thing, then what do you do?

The irony is that the masses still recognise that opera implies something difficult even if they may not process the technical reasons why.  Also, the answer given by those who dislike these exhortations by critics not to call it opera is uncannily similar to Domingo’s words, “At least a few more million people would have heard about opera because of him/her.  Be happy and quit being resentful.”    Dare I say it, but this is typical of the uncomfortable dilemmas Westerners (in particular, those attempting to stand for ideals of some sort) seem to face more and more often lately.   Perhaps, the time for “Do as I say” is over and more of “Do as I do” is the need of the hour.  I am thankful I got to acquire invaluable knowledge about singing from the right people rather than mountebanks masquerading as experts.   I hope that that will be possible in the distant future as well but that would depend on enlightened leadership making the right choices rather than picking a fall guy to blame.

P.S:  I am not a big believer in bashing a strawman and I did not. So I am going to link the articles that I referred to here:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/susanne-mentzer/opera-voices_b_1834809.html

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/culture/stevesilverman/100061641/katherine-jenkins-hasnt-got-the-voice-or-the-technique-to-sing-opera-so-why-does-she-pretend-that-she-can/

http://www.trcommons.org/2011/06/prodigy-or-why-i-don%E2%80%99t-like-jackie-evancho/

Neethane en ponvasantham: a masterclass in dynamics

September 7, 2012

I have been going through a strange phase in life, where I am getting back in touch with things that I had enjoyed not so long ago but forgotten for sometime.  Simple things like playing carrom, watching business news channels (not very appetizing, I know), picking up Reader’s Digest, etc.  In the same time, two superstars whose achievements I have followed for a long time enjoyed a resurgence.  One was Roger Federer, who ended his longest grand slam drought this year at Wimbledon.  The other, of course, is the return of the king, Ilayaraja, with the Neethane En Ponvasantham soundtrack.

It seems Gautham Menon wanted to bring back melody in film music when he approached Ilayaraja.  I had a different reason to look forward to a Raja OST for a big banner film – dynamics.   I listen to lots of rock and jazz and like it when the music is dynamic instead of all the notes played the same way again and again.   And if there is one person in Indian film music who does use dynamics very well, it is Ilayaraja.

Of course, Ilayaraja has not been inactive by any means and has come up with superb tunes every once in a while even in the last decade or so.  But I hoped that the budget that a big banner release could afford him would result in better recording quality, something which has plagued memorable tracks like Enakku Piditha Paadal (Julie Ganapathy), which in turn would hopefully capture dynamic contrast in sharp detail.

And from the moment the Sunidhi Chauhan-rendered Muthal Murai crashed out of the blocks, I knew my hopes would not be dashed.  It was like Sangeetha Meham all over again, with some riders.   One, there is a simmering tension in this track which is more reminiscent of Ananda Raagam.  Two, the recording quality is way better (especially if listened to on a good set of speakers at a hefty volume instead of any old crappy earphones).   Three, it’s never going to feel like the first time I heard Sangeetha Meham which was pure musical discovery, no matter how good it is.   But the crisp, clear and full sound did complete justice to the fabulous playing of the musicians.   An aspect which I had discounted or not been aware of, but Ilayaraja’s ‘friends’ from Hungary really raised the bar and the crackling drum fills were worlds apart from the rendering on songs from his hey day in the 80s.

This aspect is most evident in the dramatic Sattru Mumbu but it also lends that vital verve to a more pleasant, lighthearted track like Kaatrai Konjam.   The reason I attach a lot of importance to dynamics is more subconscious than anything:  I just like to feel the music, feel the sticks crashing on the drum skins, feel the vocal cords straining and relaxing, feel the bow over the violin strings and so on.   Ilayaraja’s music always had all of this and with this super duper recording, the effect is enhanced.   I would not consider this soundtrack a masterpiece but it still feels like an oasis given the state of things in the film music scene.  Which brings me to….

A news report on the NEP soundtrack mentioned a whopping 1 lakh advance copies sold and the audience’s enthusiastic reception of the soundtrack.  I quote, “After several years, people were really thrilled to listen to some soulful music away from electronic instruments”.

Hmmm, I am a bit circumspect about all this.  I sense a mania for real instruments, real feeling and more ‘real’ things lately.   The way critics raved about Fiona Apple’s The Idler Wheel is a case in point.  Oh yes, it was a beast of an album, a masterpiece to me (and many others).   But why the disenchantment with the synth stuff?

After raving about NEP, I was listening again to the Endhiran soundtrack. I feel A R Rahman captured the energy of the Indian/Jeans years again in this soundtrack and while it was out and out commercial, it was enjoyable at full blast on the speakers.  Not to be taken seriously, but entertaining.  Yeah….

So the reason I am cautious about this new wave of old school is around the time ARR had hit the bigtime, critics had written advance obituaries for the sake of the orchestra.   Composers claimed keyboards had advanced to the point where they could reproduce all kinds of instrumental sounds on it and wouldn’t need an orchestra anymore.   In less than two decades (and somewhat longer than that in the West), music seems to have come full circle.

It is an inflection point in the evolution of the music business.  The influence it exerted over mainstream culture has steadily, but vastly, diminished over the years.  I remember the Bombay/Dil Se years vividly.  I have never since seen music induce such emotions from a large section of the audience again.   When I watched the final part of the Nolan-Batman trilogy in theater, the audience got up and clapped at the end of the movie.  That kind of stuff… it’s gone.  Music is now just some stuff to play on the car stereo or restaurants for a lot of people.  It always was just that for lots of people, but up to the 90s it could capture the imagination of the youth, before they got jobs and got boring.  For better or worse, bands like Metallica and Linkin Park did.  The last band to do so was probably Slipknot.   I don’t like any of them, by the way, barring the early stuff of Metallica, but that’s not the point.

Searching for that level of engagement with the audience, musicians seem to be returning to old tricks in the hope of capturing an older demographic (maybe because they remember what old school music sounded like and it might whet their nostalgic yearning).   No problemo, but will it just be another passing cloud, like the synth obsession?  If so, what next after people get bored of instruments again?

Was it that we the listeners were not adventurous enough in embracing electronic sounds?  Or was it that too many musicians got a bit too enthusiastic and did not adequately humanize these electronic sounds (like Radiohead)?  Whatever it is, it is an interesting juncture in the journey of music.  For now, I will enjoy both worlds, happy that the old school is not dying out yet and happy also that it may take a bit more than just that to completely wipe out the new.

Whitney Houston (RIP) and my disconnect with pop culture

February 13, 2012

Pop diva Whitney Houston, 48, passed away on Sunday.  I was never a huge fan of her or that approach to singing per se but knew she was a talented singer.  When I read her obituaries, I became curious about reports of disappointing performances in 2009 and thereabouts.  Perhaps, I shouldn’t have got curious because what I read wasn’t pleasant.

Apparently, her voice was shot and raspy and she struggled in her comeback gigs, unable to reach the famous high note on I Will Always Love You.  That wasn’t really so surprising because it happens with age and especially to singers who put such extreme demands on their voice.  Houston wouldn’t have been the first or last singer whose voice failed.

What did sting was how the media tore her to shreds for it.  Footage of fans demanding refunds was played and the line “Houston, we have a problem” repeated.  I can relate to criticism and would always support pointing out of serious flaws.  There is no need to make believe that somebody who once was a great singer was flawless and ageless.  But the sentiment expressed in these reports was as if Houton had cheated audiences by not living up to expectations based on what she could do, what, 13-14 years back.   I remember a fan quote which was along the lines of, “If you charge superstar fees, you must produce superstar results as well.”

Initially, I was in disbelief.  I realized slowly that I have never seen the full blast of pop culture in this country, certainly not in connection with singers.  I have seen archival footage of faltering performances by an aging Talat Mehmood.  I remember a Lata Mangeshkar concert organized in the 90s.  Of course, she was touted to still have the golden throat and all that and I wasn’t buying it for a minute.  It was not the most edifying experience, let’s leave it at that.  S Janaki’s farewell concert was a struggling affair too.

At least all these singers were old enough that people weren’t too disappointed to see their voice fail.  But Mohammed Rafi began to decline when he was in his 40s.  Swarnalatha evidently had some problems through the noughties (which were mercifully not played up) and eventually succumbed to some lung disease.

But so what, I reasoned.   How many times is a singer supposed to prove himself/herself?   A singer’s prowess may fade with the passage of time; surely, people can’t feel cheated about it.  I know they say that a singer is as good as his last performance and I would not suggest that a once-great faltering singer should be somehow accommodated.  But it would surely be no great shock to know that a pop singer in her 40s had lost her most precious gift?

I then paid more attention to that fan’s rant, particularly the first half of it.  Superstar fees.  Apparently,  tickets for that ill fated Australian tour of 2009 cost $200.  I have no clue what was the actual figure.  But I wouldn’t be surprised if the tickets had in fact been priced so steeply.  I could then put the censure she attracted for those performances in perspective.

So, was Houston eventually just a cash cow for promoters of these shows?  Did they not know that the backlash would be severe if her voice didn’t hold up?  Would it not have been prudent for her to soft launch her comeback?  Wasn’t the billing for that ‘comeback tour’ unrealistic if deep down, the people involved knew what she could and couldn’t deliver?

The answer is, not really, it’s not that simple.  Houston may have well known her voice was shot beyond repair.  She had been having problems from 1994 onwards and it was only getting worse with the passage of time.  Perhaps, she needed the money.  Perhaps, the easiest way to make money was to massively promote a comeback trial and book tours banking on her reputation?

And why not, really?  It makes sense when you look at it that way.   The promoters got a lucrative show, she got money she may have needed badly, the media…er, the media got stories to go to town with.  And what of her legacy, what of her integrity then?  Why would a singer want to expose herself to stinging criticism with a hoarse throat?

That probably didn’t figure in the picture for a long time in her career…or that of such mega stars.   Perhaps, the sad inference is Houston just became a pawn in the hands of the industry and the allure of fame and wealth drew her further and further into a path that would take away from her the very thing that made her world famous:  the voice.

If that sounds disgusting, that’s probably what pop culture is all about now.  I am glad in a way that I am not really a fan of any of the reigning popstars because it would be a terrible feeling for me to see one of my favourite artists end up this way.  On the day of Houston’s death, I watched John McLaughlin, Zakir Hussain and Co relive their glorious association dating to the 70s for a contemporary audience…and enthralling us like nothing had changed at all.   Did they ‘deliver’?  I don’t know and I don’t care.   Were we eating out of their hands that night? Absolutely.


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