Friday, July 06, 2007

New York Nagaram: Captivated

Before starting this review I would like to ask people a question, “What kind of thoughts or associations you draw while listening to a Tamil song?” If this question was asked to me, I would say that typically a Tamil song would be:
Classical/ Raaga based song
Folk Song ( Kuthu) etc.
Disco, Pop ( Trends started by Mr. Rahman himself)
Well since Rahman is relentless in innovation he thought of presenting his listeners with an exotic gift in the form of this song. Now he introduces another genre in Tamil: “Soft Rock”. With my limited knowledge in music I can classify this song in the rock genre. It is surprising that he introduces such songs in Tamil, gosh this man has guts to do the unthinkable.
This song is even special because the man himself is behind the mike and with his rendition its pure magic. Fasten your seat belts because you are going to embark on the journey of your lifetime.
I have always believed that Rahman as a singer is totally unique. His voice is a blend of a youthful charm, a passionate frenzy and currently a tinge of classical also. This song is from a film called Sillunu Oru Kaadhal starring the famous Tollywood couple Surya and Jyothika. The lyricist is Vaalee and all this I know because of Rahman as I wait eagerly for all his albums irrespective of its language. It sounds cliché but his music truly has a global appeal and transcends all barriers.
Though Rahman’s style has changed over the years one thing has still remained constant. Whenever he composes a track first he creates a base on which the rhythm is placed. This base can be heard right throughout the song. After this he gradually goes on adding layers of music in the form of instruments, chorus, programming and what not. Due to the base provided his songs are rock solid be it in the form of melody, orchestration, rhythm and etc. For e.g. Roja Jaaneman was entirely placed on a bass guitar which played from start to finish.
This song starts with a unique humming sound which is soon taken over by a Hawaaian guitar. The guitar strumming forms the base of the song or in my words it is the soul of the song. A soft piece of bass guitar announces the arrival of the magical voice of Mr. Rahman. Soon Mr. Rahman’s rendition spins a web on the listener and from this moment there is no looking back, it’s a chartbuster written all over. He creates a sombre mood for this song and somehow this feeling is instilled in the listener. His passionate rendition easily infects the listener as well. Without even understanding a single word I get emotionally associated with my beloved while listening to this number. The power of the song lies in the effects produced by the guitar and rendition by Rahman. As if this was not enough he goes on creating layers to form a beautiful bouquet of flowers.
The film was released after Rang de Basanti which created all sorts of records and Rahman won tonnes of accolades for his music. For heavy usage of guitar strumming this song draws a clear reference from Roobaroo. Though both the songs had a heavy guitar influence the treatment meted out to them is completely different.
· If we draw up a comparison Roobaroo as a song celebrates a youthful and a carefree spirit. On the other hand New York has passion and melancholy written all over it.
· Roobaroo is more of a country rock means one gets a feel of a song being played by a desi band. New York is more like a chartbuster single performed by a professional like Bryan Adams or say a group like Coldplay.
· If you close your eyes and try visualising Roobaroo you might get images of a rock band performing this number on a truck moving along the countryside. On hearing New York you would have wished to play the guitar yourself and move through the busy lanes of Times square singing this number. In fact you get a perfect imagery of the city with its tall buildings, busy traffic and a fast moving population.
· The only similarity comes in the form of the outcome since both Roobaroo and New York went on to achieve the status of a youth anthem.

Coming back to the song soft drum beats have accompanied the heavy guitar strumming. Rahman’s choice of instruments has been impeccable right throughout his career. Though he has been daring most of the times but he has managed to create the mood even with the most unusual instruments that anybody can even think of. For. E.g. he used shehnai (an instrument mostly associated with marriages) in the song Yeh Jo Desh Hain Tera (Swades) to create the feel of an isolated and yearning soul.
The effect that it created cannot be described by words but can only be felt.
In this song he uses a Saxophone to create that melancholic mood. Hats off to you sir because again it suits to the mood perfectly and creates an ambience for which words are not enough to express.
The innovations used by Rahman in this song are par excellence to say the least. It is advisable that to absorb the effects use a headphone on your Apple Ipod or a Nokia NSeries phone. I am grateful to my Grandma as she gifted me a Nokia N70(Music Edition) which enriches my listening experience of this particular song. Why I am saying all this? Get a swoosh effect on your headphone when the sound of a helicopter (yes a helicopter) moves from one ear to the other. It just takes you to a different space altogether. His innovations in a song are just mind-blowing. The saxophone piece in the second interlude makes you feel too passionate about your beloved. Well Rahman’s skills in programming, recording, instrument usage and etc. are known to everybody. But this song creates a killer effect due to Rahman’s rendition. I just cant think of anybody else crooning this number. He does absolute justice to this song. Imagine he does a humming sound at the start of the song. Indeed a unique and innovative way to start a song. This man has taken music composition to a different level altogether.
The best part of his innovation is creating a different mood solely on the basis of vocals. First the humming sound forms the background for sometime till the drum beats start playing. Then from the first interlude a sound like ooh ooh forms the major part of the antara. Needless to say the sounds are so fresh and different and yet manage to elevate the taste of the listeners. The 2 antaras are again different in their formats. The first one follows a 4 line pattern and the second one has a 2 line pattern though the tunes are identical. The review would be incomplete if I don’t mention about the chorus. I don’t know the names of the female vocalists but they are awesome to say the least. They sing only a few lines but truly the effect it creates is just too good. In fact it is like supporting a lover who is hurt and sad. It’s a call to the lady to understand the man’s psyche and his pains. Wow!!! What a way to put expressions in the song. Am sure nobody else would even have thought on these lines. Listen to the ending of this song. The sequence is indeed interesting:
It starts of with a saxophone
Slowly the ohh ohh sounds take over
Rahman makes a high pitched sound to form the crescendo
Guitar plays in the background as usual and
Finally all of a sudden the song reduces pace.
Guitar again comes to the foreground to mark the ending of the song and this is what I mean by the base of the song. It starts and ends with the same instrument and this is a trademark Rahman stuff.
In an interview Rahman said that it’s his conscious decision to do something different from the formula masala stuff. The sole objective is to expose the listeners to new sounds, arrangements, instruments, formats and what not. In spite of all this he manages to give chartbusters at every opportunity. Over the years Rahman has also matured as a composer since he composes music to the demands of the script and screenplay. Indeed a tough job but the way his music complements the story is simply amazing.
If you are thinking that you wont listen to this number just because you don’t understand the language you are making a big mistake. Don’t worry about the language part because at the end of the day the entire experience of listening to this number is going to be fulfilling and enriching. Go for it and I assure that you won’t be disappointed. Now even I can sing the first four lines of the song. Happy listening!

N.B.: Am sure you are going to search the internet for the lyrics after listening to this number.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Drenched in Melody: Sun ri Sakhi

Rahman's music has a unique effect on me. His compositions are like a piece of art or should i say it's like a sculpture of the likes of Leonardo da Vinci , Michael Angelo and etc. It makes me search for every minute detail that the genius crafts on his musical landscape. Rahman's musical score everytime leaves an indelible impression on me.
Before going any further I would like to dedicate this review to 2 wonderful persons: my bhabhiji and my dearest buddy Ramya.
The year was 1994 when a film titled Hum se Hain Muqabla (dubbed from Kadhalan in Tamil) was released. Directed by Shankar this flick starred Prabhu Deva, Nagma and Girish Karnad. If I have to describe the music of this film in one word I would say that it is simply futuristic. The kind of sound, fusion, western elements, hip hop beats were never heard before. Amidst all these elements there was this song which is so soothing, extremely mellifluous and an awesome experience to say the least.
Sung by Hariharan Sun ri Sakhi can also be described as futuristically melodious. The kind of rhythm and melody used by Rahman was never heard before. It did set a benchmark for other romantic songs to be followed till date.
The song starts with a beautiful piece of flute played by none other than Naveen. Nobody would have ever come to know about his exemplary talent of playing the flute but for Rahman who ensures to give credit to all his musicians. The flute piece has been played with different sound range and it reaches a crescendo from 0:11 to 0:15. It is an amazing experience to just listen to this starting piece. If you have thought it was enough there was more to come. The flute then makes way for a beautiful chorus. Wow. I have never heard a chorus as beautiful and as melodious as this one. Listen to this awesome piece starting from 0:23 to 0:47. This chorus can be further divided in 2 parts. The initial part from 0:23 to 0:37 builds the tempo of the song. But the part to follow from 0:37 to 0:47 was deftly handled by Rahman. It was as if the chorus was about to make way for Hariharan to initiate his rendition.
Hariharan with his silken voice starts singing this number. The song is a mix of classical due to Hari's rendition but again contemporary due to Rahman's unique treatment and arrangements. Listen to the 1st interlude beginning from 1:33. I have always maintained Rahman's handling of bass guitar is simply special. Notice carefully the light bass guitar playing in the background while a single violin takes centrestage. With minimal background music the violin makes the song unique. The violin piece can be compared to the flow of a river. Smooth, exotic and extremely elegant. Rahman goes for the kill by sprinkling a tinge of the chorus we have heard in the beginning of the song. The transition is smooth and continuous which makes the listening of this song even more enchanting. Hariharan begins the antara with his trademark style. He treads the classical path while singing this part. The introduction of tabla and mridangam just enhances the classical feel. Rahman keeps the song contemporary as well due to the unique treatment with the accompanying bass guitar and violin in the interlude. Listen to Hariharan singing from 2:32 to 2:47. It bears testimony of the fact the amount of talent he possesses. He can change his scale of singing effortlessly without any tinge of break. He builds a crescendo and then flawlessly moves into the mukhada. His collaboration with Rahman has always been magical from "Tu hi Re" in Bombay to "Ae Hairathey" in Guru. I always believe Rahman and Hari makes 1+1= 11 rather than 2.
With all the innovation that Rahman does in a track he is extremely aware of the pulse of the audience. The USP of this song is the chorus and he has used it in right doses in the entire number. The background vocals comprising the chorus needs a special mention as they maintained the pace of the track and made it exuberant. Listen from 2:54 to 3:05 to get the beauty of the chorus. The bass guitar is still accompanying the chorus which makes the sound so special. Rahman never ceases to surprise. With bass guitar he also introduces piano from 3:05 with the chorus. Is that enough of your creativity Mr. Rahman? The answer is a resounding "No". Naveen starts the flute from 3:11 which simply keeps the chaos in order. The flute piece is just mindblowing. Naveen must have been given full independence by Rahman to explore the world of melody. His interludes are also so minutely detailed. The bass guitar as if competes with the flute and proves to be a perfect partner in rhythm. The review would be incomplete if there is no special mention of Kabuli whose bass guitar simply keeps the song peppy. Imagine I am using words like peppy in a romantic melodious song. It is because of the fusion that Rahman does keeping the song clasically rooted but presenting in a contemporary fashion.
Lyrics by P.K. Mishra is totally unique and just heightens the strong undercurrent of a person falling in love. Considering that the song is originally a Tamil one he does a stupendous job in conveying the expressions of the song. It is quite a tough task of writing lyrics for a dubbed song. Just a sample of his poetic brilliance :

"kaise tujhe izhaar karooN main haalat is dil ki
tan mein man mein is dhaDkan mein ho rahi halchal si
dekhe binaa tujhe lagti hai ik yug si ek ghaDi
sab nazren jo dekh rahi mere dil mein dahshat si
ye svarg hai yaa nark hai mujhko hosh nahin
meri zindagi aur maut hai ab haath mein tere hi.."

Rahman just sets new standards everytime he composes a soundtrack. The songs in this movie were a landmark and the rest as they all say is "history".
N.B. Unnikrishnan won the national award for best playback singer for the original version of this song.

Do I now need to say more? Enjoy and keep listening.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Serene Night: Khamosh Raat

Rahman has been constantly reinventing himself since he began composing film music. He can be called a master of innovations. His style of composing cannot be categorized into one formal pattern. For me I would prefer calling it the Rahman genre of music. It will encompass all sorts of music, rhythm, sound etc. that can be ever thought by human brain. Something that constantly puzzles me is that he has never stuck to a particular style of composition or a genre of music and yet gives a unique treatment classified as Rahman sound. After evaluating all possible reasons for this uniqueness I found one aspect consistent with his composition and i.e. Melody.
Thakshak as an album is any music lover's delight since one can find an amalgamation of different types of songs:
  • Classical : Rang De
  • Goanese folk: Jumbalika (originally from En SwasaKatre)
  • Rain song : Boondon Se Baatein
  • Punjabi folk: Dholna

It is difficult to pick one song for review but I found something unique about Khamosh Raat. It was just not possible for me to fit this song in some particular genre. So lets dissect this song a bit.

The lyric of this song is written by Mehboob and sung by RoopKumar Rathod. Initially it was little surprising to see his name but after listening to the number I don't think anybody else could have done justice to it.

The song starts with a smooth guitar strumming. The initial part sounds like someone is just getting the chords right and doing some checking of the instrument. The tune starts from 0:28 and one can feel that the person is ready to mesmerize you with the rhythm. This tune captivates the listener for a brief period of 7 secs. The melody in this tune is absolutely mesmerizing and forms the backbone of the song. In fact the entire number is based on the rhythm created by a guitar. RoopKumar Rathod begins singing from 0:37 and it starts off indeed slowly with no accompanying beats at all.

The song genuinely progresses in a step by step manner where beats get on added as one goes through the entire number. Rahman's tunes are so complex that it is difficult to understand in the first hearing itself. The simple reason is that he never follows a set pattern of antara mukhada type of a song. On top of it the layering of orchestration makes it even more difficult to understand the tune of the number.

From 1:13 slow beats start accompanying the number : can't tell you much about the instrument but definitely not tabla or drums. The voice of the singer suits the mood perfectly and forms a serene atmosphere. Along with this Rahman starts introducing the Bass guitar along with the normal Hawaaian guitar. Its hardly a minute and a half into the song but the maestro does so many things. Absolute genius. The hint of some solid orchestration comes in the 2nd minute of the song. He uses some accompanying beats along with the guitar. Listen to the beauty of a Hawaaian guitar from 2:23 to 2:37. The beauty of guitar in the song lead me to do some research. It was found that Rahman collaborated with Nadaka, a French-Canadian, who calls his guitar a geet-taar (string of songs). A quintessential Indian in thought, he has several stage shows and albums in melodic fusion to his credit. He also lent additional vocals for this number. An ample proof of the fact that music has no barriers.

Now the beats have started in the form of claps accompanying the guitar. The best part (2:38) starts when the singer starts singing "Jhooki Jhooki Palkein Jab Uthi Nainon main thi madhyam madhyam". Wow. I am really in short of words to describe the tune here. The tune, singing, orchestration, lyrical brilliance seems to have culminated at this point in time. The entire combination simply enthralls the listener and makes one jump with joy. Rahman's songs can make you express the emotions which in itself is so difficult to capture in a number. The goosebumps starts again at 3:14 when the singer follows the same tune and sings,"Sooraj tha pe Noor sa ,Uski tham madhyam madhyam" and this time accompanied with the clap like beats. This time it sounds even better than the earlier stanza. Rahman knows how to add to the beauty of a song and this number is an adequate proof for that. The drums slowly take over from 3:50 when RoopKumar Rathod sings "Aur Door Kahin Roshan Hua,Ik Chehra". From an initial sombre mood of the song one gradually gets into the groove and starts swaying with the beats. As if this was not enough Rahman introduces a female chorus singing "Sa Pa Ma Ga Ma Pa..etc etc." just lifting the overall mood of the song.

The song as if comes to a standstill at 4:20 when RoopKumar sings "Jeene Ka tha Hum mein Dum Par nahin tha koi Humdum". A beautiful piece of poetry just magnifying the importance of one's beloved in life. Now the song gradually reaches the crescendo with more orchestration and beautiful usage of instruments. From 5:25 the song reaches it's high when violin is also played in the background. The chorus this time the male one probably Nadaka's voice joins to give the classical feel.

The entire song can be described as a journey of a lover. It begins with his infatuation, where he is still absorbed by the feeling of getting close to his beloved. Then it gradually progresses to his feelings and a greater passion to be closer to his lover. Ultimately it reaches a point where the lover feels, this is it, "Done, full and final".She is the one and then one is committed for life.

I just cant stop myself from writing but guess it's already a long post. I am hopeful to pick up the guitar one day and sing this song for my beloved. The underlying beauty of this number is again "Melody" as described earlier and this is what I call Rahman genre.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Classical treat:Sowkiyamma

"Rahman is repititive":"Rahman is full techno":"Rahman is more of a sound engineer":"Rahman is an arranger rather than a composer":"Rahman is all Western"
Well after his maden venture Roja and successive albums that followed critics labelled him with all those aforementioned comments. A humble and dignified man as Rahman thought to answer his critics in the best possible manner that he could,i.e.Music.
So come 1999 a Tamil film called Sangamam was released. Well I promised the journey would be full of twists and turns in my earlier post. After a lot of deliberation I picked up this song called "Sowkiyamma"which fits the bill perfectly. Before I begin the following should be kept in mind:
  • I have no classical music background so analyzing this song is a risky proposition for me.
  • Tamil is not my mother tongue nor do I understand it so the analysis would reflect more of my emotions and feelings associated with this number.

A little bit about this movie: Released in the year 1999, directed by Suresh Krishna and the cast included Rehman(not A.R.Rahman) and Vindhya. The film came as a complete cropper in the box office. It was no less than a disaster. What stood out was the music. After listening to the entire album, selecting one song from it, believe me was an arduous task. Each one is a masterpiece. The reason for selecting this song was the amount of variation in vocals and usage of unthinkable instruments in a classical number.

Coming back to the song: Well this one is based on the Raag Maand. After doing a bit of research I found that this raag has 24 variations and its origin can be traced back to Rajasthan. It is basically an earthy raga used for the folk tunes of India. The folk flavour is eminent as soon as you start listening to the song.

Similar to the introduction of a product in the market this song also follows some distinct processes.

It starts with a female chorus creating an awareness of the flavour of the song. It is folkish and is dedicated to the South Indian classical music.

The 2nd stage comes when Nithyashree Mahadevan begins to sing the number. Similar to the product introduction process it creates a mindshare for this mellifluous number. The voice of this extremely talented singer just transports us to the musical space. Her range and variation throughout the entire song leaves one awestruck. Not only mindshare this song creates an aura which is irresistible to let go off.

Then comes the process of innovation. Well after listening to the number you have to give Rahman full marks in this department. The amount of variation showed in the number is just unthinkable. Just imagine a classical number having interludes of Saxophone , an instrument classified in the Jazz category. This is totally unheard of so I thought I should delve into a little more research. It was found that Rahman collaborated with Padmashri Kadri Gopalnath also crowned as "Saxophone Chakravarthy". Kadri Gopalnath took a bold initiative of playing carnatic music on saxophone. Just listen to the Saxophone bit starting from 2:00 to 2:26. Its not fusion but a jazz instrument being sounded like a classical one. Kenny G should be proud of this piece and may follow the footsteps of Kadri.So this is one lethal combo which just took the critics off guard. Rahman enhances the carnatic music feel by the use of veena and mridhangam in the entire number. Chorus can be so beautiful and made an integral part of an entire song, well this was something not in my knowledge. The way both the singer and chorus complimented in the entire number is absolutely mesmerizing. The variation in the song is another noteworthy thing.The chorus starts, Nithyashree takes over, suddenly the song takes a turn with the introduction of Saxophone, again the vocalist takes over associated with the chorus. Amidst all this mridangam and veena playing in the background. Ohh God so much happening in one song.

Then comes the process of making people use the product or what is known as product loyalty. Well after listening to this number one gets easily addicted and so creating loyalty is no big issue here. In fact after listening to this number it made me do some research on the rich Indian classical music. Its usage in the film context and that too maintaining its essence is really worth appreciating. Rahman has done that successfully and actually converted me into a classical music lover.

Well once the product is successful its important to increase the reach of the product which is termed as product missionary. The song or the entire album should be spread throughout the entire nation. It is certain that the album will surely be accepted by worthy audience no matter where they belong to. Rahman once again proved that music knows no language and has no barriers.

Well just to conclude I thought that somehow its important to have a feel of the lyrics to better understand the context and the song in particular. After some research I found the lyrics as well as its translation. The lyrical brilliance of Vairamuthu can be gauged from the following:

'anbu nathane aNindha modhiram vaLayalagave thurumbena iLaithaenandha modhiram oDDiyaNamai Aagum munname Anbe azhaithaen'

I have been thinking so much (lost my weight)) about you that my wrist can now wear my ringLet me express my love, before my waist slims even more, that it will fit my ring

It is my sheer inability to analyze this melodious number intricately. It is my humble attempt just to pen down my feelings for this song.


Saturday, August 26, 2006

The first attempt

Hmmm...well this is difficult...I have to now choose a song of Rahman and try to discuss it..Well to take the easy route let me take the song "Dil hain Chota sa" from his maiden venture Roja.
Lets first try to visualise the scene in 1992 when Roja hit the screen and of course our ears too. Bollywood music was at an all time low. Nadeem Shravan showed a spark of brilliance with Aashiqui(1990) but then they became too repititive. Like an assembly line they used to compose music with not an iota of innovation be it in rhythm, sound, genre...absolutely nothing. But then the audience had no other way but to rave about these ordinary numbers as masterpieces.
One more thing which became prevalent was blatant copying. Music composers simply lifted tunes of the west (though they humbly call these as inspirations) and fitted it with hindi lyrics. The audience were really treated with some junk piece of music.
Come 1992 and enter a young, humble looking ad jingle composer. Mani Ratnam chose to be different and handed over the mantle of music composing to Rahman rather than his usual choice IllayaRaja. It seems Rahman was on a mission. He wanted to be a revolution and free us from the bondage of some very ordinary music composing. From the entire feel of the music of Roja (be it songs, back ground score etc.) there was something enjoyable happening and we listeners were feeling the joys of independence.
Dil hain Chota Sa: This song was sung by Minmini(nobody heard of her before) and original Tamil lyrics by Vairamuthu which was dubbed in Hindi by P.K.Mishra. From the very beginning of the song we felt that there was a drastic change from the erstwhile ordinary composing. Nobody has ever heard such beautiful usage of bass guitar. It was considered to be an instrument played mostly in the background. Nobody dared to bring it to the fore. Rahman not only did that but made it the soul of the song. The tune was such that it actually expressed the aspiration of a village girl. Nature was just written so beautifully all over the song. You can in fact listen to the discordant sound of a cow at one place which gelled so well with the rhythm. The sound of sticks in the 2nd interlude just highlighted the occupation in a village. The use of flute in the entire song gives a feel of the rustic charm. The beautiful part of this song is the conflict of composition. Nature being highlighted by western style and also the fusion of ethnic sounds was just too much to handle. Listen to the voice of Rahman as well who does a sort of alaap in the 2nd interlude. It was just a spark of his singing ability which has of late flourished like anything.Special mention needs to be given to the voice of Minmini as well. I didnt hear much about her after this song but she just sang it with loads of aplomb.
Beyond doubt it redifined contemporary Indian music. It broke all barriers and made everybody in this world to listen to Indian film music. Music can have so many dimensions: really nobody thought about it. Songs with Indian base, western influence and global is like an entire package. Nothing can get better than this.
The journey has just begun and now you will notice unexpected twists and turns very similar to Rahman's style of composing.

About the posts

Just to begin with I would like to mention the type of posts you are expecting here. This blog is solely dedicated to the music genius A.R.Rahman. All the posts will discuss about his vast array of music and also the exemplary personality of this man.
So sit back and enjoy and yes all of you are free to rip apart my posts. I seriously need some feedback as this is my maiden attempt in writing a blog.