Category Archives: Music

Yuvan, Das & Gaana

Yuvan Shankar & Vasundhara Das Gaana singer

Yuvan wants to do a hip-hop album, while Vasundhara is peeved that she doesn’t get to sing more melodies. Both revelations make you go “Huh?”. Read more of this charming conversation at The Hindu. Yuvan even smartly evades the question about computer-generated tracks and talks about the one time in his life he used a 40-piece orchestra.

The part about Vasundhara not relating to ‘dapaankoothu’ is interesting. Of course, she doesn’t have to like it, but I wonder if she knows anything about its background. Not many “true” music lovers think highly of this distinctly unique genre of Indian music. I, for one, absolutely love it and while Deva may have bastardized pure gaana for the big screen, I still appreciate the fact that he gave it more visibility. For more insight into the art form, check out this article from Outlook India (registration required) where parallels are drawn to ghetto rap. Hear that Yuvan?

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Morphing Raja

Alaigal Oyvathillai Kizhakku Cheemayile

I’m not a trained musician, but I dabble a bit with the keyboard. And sometimes when you “dabble”, you happen upon some interesting ear-teasers. Take for example two Bharathiraja movies – Alaigal Oyvathillai (1981) and Kizhakku Cheemaiyile (1993). I’ve always wondered if Bharathiraja maybe asked Rahman to compose a song like, say, um…Vaadi En Kappa Kezhange. So Rahman fiddles with the notes of the original song and comes up with another fun song – Maanoothu Mandhayile. Don’t believe me? Then take a listen.

Maanoothum – Vaadi Kappa Kezhange

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Vidyasagar’s Chandramukhi

Chandramukhi

Disclaimer: The fact that I’m a Rajini fan could have possibly marred the objectivity, if any, of this review.

Devuda Devuda – SPB

The all-important intro song of the Superstar welcomes you with fancy fanfare and even while the words Deja Vu, Rahman & Muthu are running through your head, SPB, in his new Bhangra avatar, interrupts your thoughts with excited Arrey Arrey Arrey’s. Peppy rhythms take over and SPB takes a break at the AP-TN border, on his way down from Jallandhar, and launches into Devuda Devuda Ezhumala Devuda. (I had written some lyrics couple of years back, in a fit of sheer boredom, the chorus of which went, Devuda Devuda Thala-ezhutha Maathuda. I thought they were quite inane then, but looks like a copyright notice for the Devuda Devuda part wouldn’t have been a bad idea). So anyway, at this point, the rhythm, which for a few seconds borrows its peppiness from ‘Khaai Ke Paan’ from Don, soon loses the dholak sounds, gathers some bass & strings, and lets SPB take over. The Bhangra influence is undeniable in the chorus, but somehow SPB annuls the effect to some extent and makes you realize what a bad idea it was to have Shouter Mahadevan, blowing his raspberries, sing for Rajini in the Baba title song. The interludes are a formality as it makes way for the deluge of philosophical nuggets that typifies the saranam of a Rajini intro song. Appreciation for the sanitary workers, barbers, dhobis rounded off by a Pattukottai reference lead you into the next interlude that’s mostly a lot of uh-ing and jungle beats gone crazy. More thoughts for the day in the second saranam and the song finally reaches an energetic conclusion. The song is almost a pastiche of former Rajini ‘beat’ songs whereby you get a whiff of Muthu, Baba or even Ejamaan. But then, does one really judge a Rajini intro song by only it’s musical quality?! If the song can serve as a crystal ball into the near future where you can see the man make the camera pan in dizzy circles as he walked around dealing out his nuggets, hugging the very happy people around him, and make a few nifty dance moves, then it’s all good. And to that extent, Devuda works, even though I was left with a nagging thought that maybe Vidyasagar could’ve done better. In any case, I might not be playing this after Chandramukhi has come & gone, but until then, Rrrrepeaatt-u. {5.5/10}

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LOTR – The Musical

Lord of the Rings - The Musical

The musical version of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ will premiere in Toronto, instead of London as originally intended. While CNN explains it is because there is no theater large enough to accommodate the technically complex production, Sify c/o Reuters says it is because theatres in the British capital are so crammed with hit musicals like “The Producers” and “Mary Poppins” that they opted for Toronto instead. But Globe&Mail.com seems to clarify both these reports by saying, Toronto beat out London because all that city’s theatres big enough to handle the production’s elaborate sets and battle scenes were booked.

From Canada.com:

Also introduced to the audience were the diverse composers, A.R. Rahman from India, Finland’s folk music group Varttina and Brit Christopher Nightingale. Samples of their original work were performed for both the live and filmed presentation.

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Deal with it, Darbar

Mr.Whiny: Ismail Darbar

It’s bad enough when composers have to defend their music with words, rather than let the music do the talking. But it’s downright pathetic when they have to do it by belittling their peers. Check out what Ismail Darbar has to say about AR Rahman in this Rediff interview:

But my work has always been better than his. Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam was better than Taal. Even Devdas was better than Saathiya. But it is destiny that he got international fame. Angrezo ne uska haath pakad liya hai toh logo ko lagta hai ke yeh kuch zyada hi hai (Foreigners encouraged him so people think he is very good).

Present-day Bollywood composers, shrouded in the insecurity of their limited talents, seem to be stricken with an inferiority complex, which for some reason is foolishly put on display when they talk about Rahman. First, Anu Malik, and now Ismail Darbar. Does this guy really believe that when someone picked up Taal or Saathiya, they were thinking, “Angrezo ne iska haath pakad liya hain, Darbar jaise composers ka nahin”/? Jeez! it’s not like Rahman hangs around music stores to force his music down our throats.

So Darbar, you retard…wake up & smell your failure. If your music is good, we’ll buy it. Never mind your HDDCS ( in which you conveniently passed off two “lifted” songs as your own), or the grossly over-rated Devdas, but how about you rummage through your CDs, all six(?) of them, and listen to those classic compositions from Deewangee? Guess you composed that crap while having a nightmare. And if like you claim, you really are your own harshest critic, then you’d be reaching for that gun a minute into the first song.

R.I.P Mr. Ravindran

Ravindran

In my frenzied attempt to finish watching all the Netflix & other DVD rentals before the weekend, I missed out on some tragic news from Friday.

Music director Ravindran dead

While still in high school, during one of my many sleepovers at my sister’s place, I came across yet another Malayalam audio tape with a photo of Yesudas on the cover and music by someone called Ravindran. I asked my Yesudas-crazy bro-in-law if it was just a “Hits of” collection, upon which he launched into this interesting story about an independent album that had become a huge hit in Kerala. About how Ravindran was this talented composer who had been looking for a break, and that Yesudas had signed him to cut an album for Tharangini Records. Together they had scoured the famous Yesudas voice bank and found the perfect female voice to accompany him. A singer called K.S.Chitra. And out of this alliance was born, Vasantha Geethangal, Ravindran’s debut album, and a remarkable effort by any standards. Two songs stand out fresh in memory. The outstanding Maamaankam sung by Yesudas, and his lovely duet with Chitra, Kaayal Kanni Olangal. Ravindran of course, went to bigger & better things after that, with albums like His Highness Abdullah & Bharatham bearing testimony to his abilities as a composer.

And now, he is dead!

Somehow for me, the passing away of a true musician always makes Death seem a tad more cruel. I know there is no good way to rationalize the feeling, yet I can’t help feeling depressed about it.

MS aka Murali Venkatramam, has paid tribute to Ravindran on his blog, and the following are some links where you could sample some of the songs mentioned in that write-up.

RAAGA – Music Dirs. – RAVEENDRAN

Music India OnLine – Rasikan Oru Rasikai

Instant DJs

Paid music downloads, DVD Audio, and now, Di music. Artistes & Labels are coming up with more & more innovations to get music lovers to actually buy some CDs. So, what is Di? This is what the creators, Digimpro, have to say.

‘di’ is an intelligent new digital music format from Digimpro that allows you to choose how you listen to your favourite music. Once you have a track in the ‘di’ format, you can customise it using extra material supplied by the artist, you can listen to a unique improvised version of the track, and you can even remix it while it is playing.

The diPlayer software is a free download, but it only allows you to experiment with the pre-existing tracks provided with the *.di file. I downloaded the player & a sample *.di file and got tired of it pretty soon. But that’s just me.

Digimpro Screenshot

I’m guessing the CDs come equipped with the diMaker software, which will let you include your own tracks. Studio execs are of course “excited” and have lured artistes like Moby to promote the technology. In fact, the first mix of the Moby single – Lift me up has already been uploaded to the Digimpro website.

Now, to wait & see how fast these *di files & a crack for diMaker hits the Net.

Oscar Night 2005

Kauffman wins…from BeingCharlieKauffman.com

Unfortunately, the Oscars were not as entertaining as the Grammys. A watered down Chris Rock was boring except when he pointed out the stupidity of presenting the less glamorous awards in the aisle and commented, “Next year, we’re gonna have a drive-through presentation”.

The weird/funny moment for me came during the 1800th Beyonce performance of the night, when they cut from her face to show a monkey figurine sitting atop a grand piano, then transitioned slowly to reveal the man sitting behind it…Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber. It’s bad enough that most of the nominated Brits got snubbed, but did they really have to incorporate symbolism to pick on Webber’s somewhat simian features? :) Oh, and it was ironical that none of the Beyonce performances won the Oscar for Best Song. That went to the Raema Raema something number from Motorcycle Diaries, performed by Antonio Banderas and a disinterested Santana.

Charlie Kauffman winning Best Original Screenplay for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was the high point of the night. And while the softie in me did root for Before Sunset in the Adapted Screenplay category, I was at least glad it was not ‘ClintE & Posse’ who beat them to it.

PS: Kate Winslet looked good enough to eat.

47th Grammy Awards 2005


More photos taken from my Hi-Def TV: Flickr: Grammy 2005

Strangely enough, the award I applauded for the most was not even presented tonight. It was Best Compilation Soundtrack Album For A Motion Picture, Television Or Other Visual Media won by Zach Braff for Garden State. Other than that, it didn’t transcend beyond the usual awards show. The usual faces won. Same old speeches & increased applause for the more popular dead musicians mentioned during the In Memoriam segment. Death, alas, is not the great leveller! In fact, Rick James received more applause than Jerry Goldsmith, thanks to Dave Chappelle.

What I remember from the show:

– Bono from U2 performed a song in memory of his father, who was apparently an opera singer. Then went onto mention that he believed he had inherited his father’s tenor voice. The song even had the lines You’re the reason the opera is in me. Huh?
– Prince was not present to receive his award. Thank God!
– Penelope Cruz said Led Zeppelin was all about great rok. Spoken like a true Mallu, Pene-mol. Oh wait, aren’t you Spanish?
Rock ‘n Roll can be dangerous & fun at the same time, said Billie Joe Armstrong, lead singer of Green Day. Profound.
– Matthew Mcconaughey added an extra note to his Texas twang while introducing the Southern Rock tribute segment. Nice job, cowboy!

Complete Winner List: GRAMMY.com

Yuvan Shankar Raja’s Raam


Starring – Jeeva, Gajala // Direction: Ameer
Listen to Raam @ Raaga.
Raam – Official Website (Flash required)

Jeeva, true to his name, is defying an early death to his career and making a comeback with this movie. And maybe a weird hairdo is what Jeeva needs now to salvage his career(!). Of course, his Dad, Super Good Choudhary also has something to do with this, but atleast this time father/son picked a director with atleast one hit to his credit. Raam will be former Bala assistant, Ameer’s second venture after Mounam Pesiyadhae. And he has decided to stick with Yuvan Shankar Raja for the music. Apparently the music is hot in Madras, atleast according to Sify.com

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Elephunking Raja

Black Eyed Peas and Ilaiyaraja

Last night I was telling a friend how some remix enthusiasts had gone to work on a relatively obscure Ilaiyaraja song, layered it with some Black Eyed Peas music and rechristened it the Elephunk Theme. Well, how stupid did I feel today when I discovered that the “enthusiasts” were the Black Eyed Peas themselves, this year’s 4-time GRAMMY nominated hip-hop group.

After Dr.Dre’s experiment with Bappi Lahiri’s Thoda Resham Lagta Hain ended in a lawsuit, maybe someone told BEP to lay off Indian composers. The song from the Rajinikant starrer Sri Raghavendra, of all movies, called Unakkum Enakkum Aanandham was originally on their album, but for some reason, seems to have been pulled out from later releases.
As for the remix itself, only S.Janaki’s vocal track has been retained, alongwith Raja’s funky bass from the original. Guess the fascination is only for female Indian vocals. Poor Malaysia Vasudevan!

For the curious few, this is what S.Janaki is singing about. (mp3: Unakkum Enakkum)

Ikkuchakaangu Ikkicha Ikku Chakkangu Chaan
(Verily Verily I say unto you, Blah Blah Bleh Blook)
Unakkum Enakkum Aanandham Dham, Vidiya Vidiya Sondham
(You & I will find hap-hap-happiness by dawn)
Padukkai Araiyil Aarambam-bam, Pudhiya Pudhiya Inbam
(In the bedroom beg-begins, newfound pleasures)

Do not doubt my translation skills, the lyrics are actually that pedestrian.

Super Bowl bares Rahman

Well, not a visual treat like the Janet Jackson episode from last year, but a disappointing auditory revelation about the source of one of his song bits.

Damn the Internet. Atleast that’s what Indian composers must be saying everyday. Plagiarism in Indian music, which for a long time was kept under wraps & unleashed on an unknowing audience, has been coming to light over the past some years. You hear a song that sounds vaguely familiar and 1/2 times, a combination of Google & some file sharing technology leads you to the source without too much effort.
Like today, while watching one of those Super Bowl ads for Diet Pepsi, I heard a song that immediately triggered off warning bells about a AR Rahman song from not so long ago. For what its worth, the tune I heard did not make up the entire song, rather it figures during the final 20-30 seconds of the title song from Daud. But it sucked for me personally because that was probably the favorite portion of the song for me.

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Mohana & Sindhu in China

AR Rahman says in this news article,

“My previous film was ‘Warriors of Heaven and Earth’. This is a Chinese film. I had to fly between Chennai and London to complete the film’s re-recording. Chinese people like Mohana raaga. I had composed most of the tunes based on this raga and on Sindhu Bhairavi. They loved the tunes,” he said.

Interesting. Some googling ensued & revealed the following information about Mohana from this site.

Gamakas for all swaras. Found in Chinese, Japanese and Swedish music

Ilaiyaraja, from what I’ve read, is sometimes called Mohana Raja considering that many of his songs have been in this raagam. Some of my favorites:
Malargalil / Singer : SP Shailaja / Movie: Kalyanaraman (1979)
Meenkodi Thaeril / Singer: KJ Yesudas / Movie: Karumbuvil (1980)
Naanoru ponnOviyam / Singers: SPB, P.Susheela and S Janaki / Movie: KaNNil theriyum kathaigaL (1980)
Poovil Vandu / Singer: SPB / Movie: Kadhal Oviyam (1982)
Vei Vela Gopemmala / Singers: SPB, SP Shailaja / Movie: Saagara Sangamam (1984) [in Tamil, Vaan Pole from Salangai Oli].
and arguably, the best one:
Ninnukori Varanam / Singer: Chitra / Movie: Agni Natchathiram (1988)

I’m sure MSV has also some gems in this raagam, but from the songs I know about, the best one has to be Kamban Yemaandhaan / Singer: SPB / Movie: Nizhal Nijamaagirathu (1978)

Now, if only someone could come up with a list of Great Mandarin Hits in Mohana & Sindhu Bhairavi.

The Bulla mystery

Rabbi Shergil looking thoughtful. With a guitar, no less

Rabbi Shergil’s Bulla Ki Jaana Mein Kaun is apparently the desi mantra these days. While I don’t understand what the song actually means, and I don’t care, the first line interpreted itself to my retarded poetic sense as Yo Bulla dude, listen up yo. This might sound stupid, er…but I really have no frickin’ clue who I might be *hic*. An useful mantra, if you really think about it. Imagine a scene at the coffeeshop where a frustrated girlfriend poses the mind-bender,“So, who ARE you, Rahul? Kaun Ho Tum?”. And you respond. heh-heh. Main Kaun Hoon? Hum Aapke Hain Kaun? Sholay sahin pikchar tha na? But I digress.Hold on, while I reach for my guitar. What I mean to say is this. Bulla Ki Jaana Main Kaaaaaaunnn”.

The song is infectious though. Atleast the first 3 times you listen to it. An average song, at best. But dost being infectious a good song make, me lord? Apparently, yes. And in this age of bad Bollywood music and talentless hacks churning out remixes by the dozen, a music-starved audience lapped it up. So while I stand here on the outside, trying to rationalize this phenomenon, I’m still mostly surprised that this Sardar has enchanted an entire nation with his deep Sufi shit. Oh yeah, and a pinch of good music.

(For comments posted about this blog, go here)
For the mp3, go to Coolgoose (free registration).

Garden State OST

Garden State Soundtrack

Yeah, I know…its already 2005 and I’m talking about a soundtrack that by now adorns the CD rack of anyone with good taste. But then, watching the movie again on DVD brought back not-so-distant memories. And I cannot stress enough on how essential this CD is for your OST collection. Zach Braff of Scrubs fame might look like someone who draws energy from nursery rhymes, but in compiling this soundtrack has shown remarkable maturity in taste. Personally, it was not just the joy of discovering artistes like The Shins, Iron & Wine and even Frou-Frou, but also the thrill of seeing eternal favorites like Nick Drake and trip-hop favorites, Zero 7. And even though, I’m not too big on Thievery Corporation, their Lebanese Blonde is a song that’ll make it on Side B of one of my trip-hop compilations. Throw in some Simon&Garfunkel, Coldplay etc. and voila! there’s my near-perfect OST.


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