Thursday, December 22, 2005

Rang De Basanthi

Rang De Basanti

This is the 2nd film of director,"Rakesh Mehra", who earlier made Anu Malik to come up with phenomenally different score with his debut "Aks". I still rate Aks as one of the very few best albums of Anu Malik because he gave a very unconventional score, steeped in contemporary-techno sound.I shall cover that album in another post.
For Rang De Basanthi,Rakesh Mehra ropes in Aamir Khan for lead-role,A.R.Rahman for music and Prasoon Joshi (ad-maker) for lyrics.Though the title reflects a period-film-revolutionary feel(bhagath singh song),the film actually is very modern and has lot of hep-look.The music reflects exactly the same.

Ek Onkar-- it is a short song, a punjabi Bhajan infact. just a recitation of some stanzas.
Khalbali-- its a techno great tune...Rahman sings it with two new singers.The song is too repetitive and doesnt boast of any compositional skills.after some time, it simply irritates.

Khoon Chala-Khoon Chala is a short song, but a slow one...sung by Mohit Chauhan, who was the lead singer of the band "Silk-Route". this song begins softly and rahman gives anthemic feel as the song progresses, with his instrumentation.However, the song doesnt linger in your mind for long..

Lalkaar is another short one..but it is not a is a recitation of poetry by Aamir Khan..backed by chorus.

Lukka Chupi--Rahman does the unexpected. He,as a singer, teams up with Lata Mangeshkar.This song is a "mother-son" song.The song has nice guitar strumming..with even the tweaks of guitar. Tune is good. Its typical rahman-experiment..with just one charanam instead of conventional pattern.Nice orchestration..bass-work..tabla and all..everything about this song is good, except the vocals. Since, its mother singing for/with son, probably Lata Mangeshkar suits (picturised on waheeda Rehman) it, but rahman spoilt the song with his vocals.He sounds like Lucky Ali with his terrible nasal twang and overly accentuated Tamil/South-Indian Accent (the way he sings "nayaa nayaa" charanam).Probably the only song of rahman, in which he screwed the song with his own vocals.The ending of the song is interesting though..rahman raises the tempo by classicalisation with swaras and Lata ends it with completion of crescendo.a better song of the album.

Paathshaala--this song has two versions, one of them being a remix.this is ultra-techno-heppy song..which is aimed at discotheques...not a single word is audible clearly during 1st hearing (u will eventually get the lyrics during 2nd or 3rd listening)except "apni tho paathshaala..masti ki paathshaala..."..laced with some people yelling "lose control" and "be a rebel"(in its remix version)...this song might become a rage with going chaps and all..after repeated hearings, even you might hum this tune bcoz its hummable..however, the bottomline is that the song is meaningless and doesnt qualify as a composition..All we need to compose songs like these is a computer with a good music software.

Rang De Basanti title song is typical punjabi bhangra song with techno stuff thrown in, sung by Daler Mehendi.Chitra makes a guest appearance. There is nothing different about this song..same punjabi string sounds..but overlapped on synth sounds.and i dont like those punjabi beats with single string stuff and all..hence, this song didnt appeal to me.

Roobaroo--this song again has simple guitar strumming and very simple tune..this song has lot of Indi-Pop kind of sound...nothing extra-ordinary but you will eventually like this song, compared to all the others in the album...the song at times, reminds you of "Smiyaai" from kandukondein..because of the multiple-vocal effect used for a jingle-like tune..this song again might become a hit because its too simple ..for the college-youth to sing/play with a guitar in hand...

Tu Bin Bathaaye-- This is the only romantic song of this album...the main melody, which is reminiscent of some hindi oldie, keeps playing and slowly instruments are added one by one...Nice rendition by madhushree...Though the tune sounds very simple without many variations,even in charanam(again single charanam only), it has that likeable quality because of that Breezy feeling stamped to it...The last saving grace of the album.

The album is certainly not rahman's one-of-the-best.It reflects his increasing-dependence on technology/computers to compose music and most of the music is synthesised using loops and other effects. except for few guitars and string section in 1-2 songs,i dont see any acoustic stuff at all.It may justify with the theme of the film but it doesnt showcase the compositional genius of Rahman.Given such resources, anyone can experiment with sounds and can come up with a score like this one...Some argue that techno albums cannot be that classy.My example would be "thiruda thiruda"(thee thee theeyani song is still ahead of present-times..its very techno..but laced with wonderful ideas) or even the more recent "Yuva"...

Also, unlike all other rahman albums, here, the soul is missing..there are many albums in which his hard-work is underlined by the raagas used,the innovative ideas interwoven, and the over-all feel he paints to the sound of the album.He infact makes an album into a beautiful pot-pourri of various genres of songs.Rang De Basanti lacks those elements and turns out to be just another techno-album on the block, which may become instant hit during film's release..but would be definitely forgotten 2 years down the lane...
Rahman!Its time for some retrospection.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Of Hindustani

The enlightening discussions by prc and aakarsh on mavericks forced me into thinking(literally!! I had stopped thinking for a while now!) about this...

Hindustani system has a definite signature for each raga, called the raagaanga, and a singer wishing to elaborate on a raga first provides the signature and then launches into in-depth analysis and experimentation on the raga ("Nee RaaNi chacchindi po!" types).

The signatures of some of the very well-known ragas are very very interesting:

ex: Yaman(Kalyani) and Bilawal(Sankarabharanam) have only a difference of madhyamam...

It seems quite obvious that their signatures have madhyamam in the starting phrases as well... but surprise surprise!!

yaman: n3 r2 g3, p--r2 s, m2 d2 n3 d2 p.

bilawal: g3 r2 g3 p, n3 d2 n3 s, d2 n2(uses both n s, n2 optional though) d2 p m1 g3.

In the above example, both m1 and m2 are not exactly necessary for fairly acquainted listeners to identify them as the respective ragas. In fact, just n3-r2-g3 is sufficient to dump a raga into the yaman catalogue.

Also, Todi (Shubhapanthuvarali) needs only 3 swaras as its signature: s-r1->g2->r1-s.
Of course, uccharana is of utmost importance.

The Hindustani system provides ample opportunity for-

1) having more than one raga with the same notes:

ex 1: Bhoopali, Deshkar, Jait Kalyan, and Audav Devgiri (never heard that one!) have same notes but since they have different raagaangas prominent, they sound differently. Since I am only an amateur, I can only guide you where to find the exact solution:

ex 2: just the intonation of the meend from p to r2 differentiates 3 ragas: Chhaaya, goud-sarang, and of course yaman:

2) creating composite ragas, called jod-ragas: Since each raga (well, most!) has its corresponding raagaanga, it is possible to interface two ragas and create a unique phrase for the composite raga borne out of the two parent-ragas. Of course it requires tremendous talent and skill to catch hold of the right parent ragas and the right sewing points-- points where shift of ragas occurs.

ex: Malhar anga is : m1 r2 p
i) malhar anga + Kaanada anga (deergha kampitha g2 m1 r2 s)= miya ki malhar (of course it also has some other ornaments such as both the n s),
ii) malhar anga + nat anga (s r2, r2 g3, g3 m1)= nat-malhar
iii)malhar anga + kedar anga (s m1, m1 p, p d->(m2)->m1, s r2 s) = kedar-malhar

There are more than 25 malhars...

Similarly, nat anga and Kedar anga are very popular and are a part of many jod-ragas.

I wonder if Carnatic music has raga-signatures, or does it leave to the performer on using the notes to create the required bhava. I just know that varnams are used to provide the basic support on what swara-phrases impart that characteristic colour to the raga.


Saturday, December 10, 2005

Pagal Nilavu-2: Vaidehi Raman

Pagal Nilavu

Analysis is a journey whose beginning is delight and the destination - a delightful revelation. The purpose of analysis is that revelation... a "goosebump"y feeling... which makes life livelier. The song "Vaidehi Raman" from Pagali Nilavu gives me such delight and joy that I'm already jumping in the chair just writing about it. However, some technical issues need to be mentioned upfront if I have to get through the writing and manage to convey some meaning across. In other words, imagine a bee sucking nectar from a blooming flower. The scene does not require a conscious being to think about it to make it beautiful... it is beautiful already... consciousness just recognizes it - but put an observer in the scene and he/she will enjoy the nectar vicariously. I hope the talk on tech issues will serve this purpose - as a conscious observer to be a guide to enjoy the beauty of this song.

Sa Ri Ga Ma Pa Da Ni Sa constitute the notes of any melakartha scale (chromatic scale in the Indian system akin to do re mi fa so la ti do in WCM using all seven notes). Each raaga therefore takes different pitches for Ri, Ga, Ma, Dha, Ni to establish its scale (scale only not its essence). Raagam Kalyaani follows the scale - Sa Ri2 Ga3 Ma2 Pa Dha2 Ni3 Sa (refer to Carnatic Ragalist)(in WCM notation, in the scale of C, that translates to - C D E F# G A B C). Sa is called the aadhara shruthi or the root note of a scale (which plays on in the tanpura along with the fifth note Pa and higher octave Sa). From this elementary concept we jump to a relatively advanced idea. If the root note of a scale is changed, for example from C to G or Sa to Pa in the above Kalyaani scale, while still playing the same keys/notes- it sometimes becomes another Raaga (not always the case- in some cases it might not be any raaga at all). That is if the root note is changed from C to G/Sa to Pa (hence making G/Pa the aadhara shruthi or the root droning note but still using the exact same notes of Kalyaani), Kalyaani changes into a different raaga (in this case Shankaraabharanam). In fact, this exercise can be done to each note of a scale to see what raaga results from it. This is called Sruthi bhedam in the classical circle. Kalyaani is one of those wonderful scales which produces a different Melakartha raaga on sruthi bhedam with almost every note. Almost. In fact, Kalyaani (Melakartha number -abbr. as M#- 65); Hari Kambhoji (change shruthi to Ri or D; M# 28); Nata Bhairavi (to Ga/E; M# 20); ( change of shruthi to the 4th note F# or Ma2 does not produce a melakartha raaga); Shankaraabharanam (change to Pa/G; M# 29); Kharaharapriya (change to Dha/A; M# 22); and Hanuma Thodi (Ni/B; M# 08) form this set of raagas which can be derived from each other just by Shruthi Bhedam . With this knowledge let's proceed fearlessly into magical "Vaidehi Raman".

The song Vaidehi Raman is in the scale of D# (also represented as Eb). It just means that the Sa is D#. That's all. We shall talk about the song in the Indian Classical System notation, i.e., sa ri ga etc.

The song begins with the sound of Ghungroo (Gajjalu/dancer's anklets) and Bells/Xylophone leading to an orchestral string section piece. The delight has already begun to take shape. We know here that the harmonically sound piece is pointing to the development of the Raaga Kalyaani. A mridangam solo follows the orchestral piece. This idea of using mridangam next to an orchestral piece might sound ridiculous. But the execution in the song's intro is almost unbelievable. The idea is simple - use the rhythm of the orchestral piece. Follow it and build it up to a crescendo with the Mridangam. The genius is in that simplicity. From melody to rhythm and viceversa. If Kalyani didn't spring up in the mind of the listener yet, IR plays the scale in bells immediately following the mridangam solo. Sa ri ga ma pa da ni sa on bells and then vocals begin "Vaidehi Raaman"... and we definitely know now that it is the blissful Kalyaani beyond all doubt. IR uses all the instruments that are most perfectly suited to bring out the joyous flavor of Kalyaani - Bells and Bass combo, the ecstatic pair of mridangam and tabla, Sitar, Flute, Violin Orchestra, and a female voice! So we bask in Kalyaani's divine beauty and the images of brightly lit huge temple alleys suggest themselves to my mind (I donno how Mani picturized it! never seen the song). A beautiful Kalyaani interlude follows the pallavi on Sitar and flute (mainly) leading to the charanam.

The charanams in this song are goldmines of musical information. The composer takes the leading vocal close to the note "Ni" toward the end of the charanam. Ordinary composers might have left it at that and returned to the pallavi (cuz the beginning note of Pallavi is Sa). But IR, being the maverick he is, uses this as the perfect time to change the sruthi to "Ni". But if you've observed there is no tanpura in the song. He accomplishes this Sruthi Bhedam through the use of Bass guitar and strumming the note Ni (where Janaki sings "ni sa ni ni sa sa").
So the phrases - ni sa ninisa sa - ni sa ri ninisa sa - ni sa ga ri sanidapa dapamapa;
pa da mama pa pa - pa ni damama pa pa - sagama- gamada- madani-danisa-belong to Hanumathodi scale with the Ni of Kalyaani being droned with the Bass (If you look up our Sruthi Bhedam scheme for Kalyaani above you will notice that the scale that is produced by a tonal shift to Ni is Hanuma Thodi. ) Numerous other posts on this blog have devoted themselves to the bass lines in the compositions of IR so there is no need to dwell on that subject anymore. He hints at "Hindolam" by the use of the phrases "gamada-madani-danisa" (hindolam uses the same notes in its scale sa ga ma da ni sa but is not a derivative of Hanumathodi)...and he joins back to the Pallavi via a simple phrase "ni sa ga ri" and a shift to Sa in Kalyaani. The devil of an idea! For an unintiated listener it might definitely sound like voodoo... but we know its only sruthi bhedam. Also the use of hindolam phrases is not an accident. It is a hint that he is going to use hindolam again.

After a single rendition of the pallavi, IR uses an unusual format. Swaras follow the Pallavi. The primary idea he uses to join to the Kalyaani in the second charanam is the use of pentatonics. Or ragas that use only 5 notes. Similar to melakartha ragas sruthi bhedam can also be applied to the pentatonics. Saving you much calculation and trouble, mohanam, hindolam, suddha dhanyasi, suddha saveri, madhyamavathi all form a sruthi bhedam set (all derived from the melakartha ragas mentioned previously). IR touches every one except suddha saveri in this song.

With the swaras they are -
ga ga gaga riri- ga ga gagagaga - ri gapaga ri sa ni sa ni (they still are in Kalyaani , but note the use of the swaras as if deriving a pentatonic from Kalyaani using sa ri ga pa ni which actually is hamsa dhwani but the swaras dont do justice to hamsadhwani) and conecting to a real pentatonic
ma ma mama - saga mamamama - gamadanidamadasama (in Hindolam - by sruthi change to Ni ; as mentioned earlier hindolam shares its notes with hanumathodi)
ga ri ga papapa- magamada (alternating between kalyaani and hindolam)
ga ri ga papapa - ga ma da ni ( " )
sa sasasa- ni ni sa sasasasasa - nisasa nisasa nisasa nisasa nisa nisa nisaga gagasanipa - pa ni sa sasa ni pa ga ( all of this in suddha dhanyaasi - tonal shift to Dha of Kalyaani - suddha dhanyaasi is a derivative of kharaharapriya as expected from the shruthi change to Dha -refer to the list of melakartha ragas mentioned above which are sruthi bhedam partners of kalyani)
sa ri ga papapa ri ga pa da sa gapadasaa (in mohanam - sruthi change to Ri gives HariKambhoji - Mohanam is a derivative of HariKambhoji--- end of story!) And join back to the actual second charanam in Kalyani.

So the movements in the song can be described as going from Sa (Kalyaani) to Ni (Hanumathodi/hindolam) to Dha (Suddhadhanyaasi) to Ri (Mohanam). It is the play with these movements that creates the beautiful effect which is the trademark of this jewel of a song in Kalyaani. All that is left for us is to enjoy the song in the light of this observation opening up a new world of ideas and more joy.

P.S: Apologies for the size of the post. Believe me if I could make it any shorter I would.

--Random Walker.

To add my observations(or to make it more lengthier..):

1.The blend of sitar+violins in the 1st interlude and towards the end of 1st interlude..Intermittent Usage..How to name it?a classical symphony!!!well!Only the Emperor can name it.

2. the Violin pieces used in the charanams are simply master-strokes. A restricted single stroke on violins,after 1st line of charanam adds beauty and what is restricted to a single stroke in those given a freehand to finish the counter melody in the next lines..thats Killer of an Idea..and these are my fav pieces.

3. Not just the beat(mridangam) but even the Sound of it changes as soon as she takes over the swaras from charanam lyrics. infact, he brings in Tabla also which swaps its place with Mridangam and vice-versa..for very short duration that too.

4.There is no 2nd interlude, as Ravi implied...only vocals play with swaras..backed by mridangam+tabla...and he effortlessly pulls into 2nd charanam.

5.I have heard many Kalyanis(classically sounding ones..) of IR and i have observed that, in majority of them, he has used Sitar/Veena.(this discussion will form another post).As far as i remember,the latest "kaatril Varum Geethame" (oru naal oru kanavu) is the only exception.

6.I think this song is the first song of Mani-IR combo which falls in pure-classical category..i mean..a song which has more traditional instruments like Mridangam etc.,.

The song is definitely a mile-stone among IR songs(among his Raagamaalikas too..) and hence, we are compelled to come up with a post this, Blame it on Maestro.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Maniratnam - Ilaiyaraaja....Pagal Nilavu-1

Pagal Nilavu (1985)

Pagal Nilavu is Maniratnam's third film and debut tamil film. Starcast comprised of Revathy,Murali & Sathyaraj. The story was about a Village Dictator, his henchman and a Police Officer & his sister. I read somewhere that this film was a flop but it has got couple of fantastic songs like "poomaalaye", "Vaidehi Raaman" & "Vaaraayo".

In this post, I would like to discuss the song "Poo Maalaye...Thol Seravaa", sung by Janaki & Ilaiyaraaja himself.This song is regarded as one of the best songs of Ilaiyaraaja, for the innovative ideas he has used musically.

The prelude of this song is very interesting. A section of Violins play on , which are overlapped with another section. His facsination for WCM is stamped right from word GO...This string ensemble ends with keyboards with flute which play alternatively and then together, as in a Symphony style.But they are immediately cut by Sitar notes, which are replayed by Flute. The most notable element here is Bass which takes over the background when the flute plays the final lines.The rhythm is on Jazz+Dholak kind of instrument and Janaki starts off the pallavi. When she sings the 1st line for the 2nd time, Ilaiyaraaja cuts in with a different connecting tune in background which comes into foreground as next lines of pallavi.When he sings it in base,she catches the higher scale and vice-versa.and Pallavi ends with a lenghty line as ilaiyaraaja's voice fades into background. Infact, this song catches your attention right in the first hearing because these alternative humming in lower and higher scales sounds interesting.

Another wonderful aspect of this song is the pace. There is hardly any gap between one instrument and another. The instruments take over the interlude, the very moment the pallavi ends.And Ilaiyaraaja's first preference is always String Section.The ensemble of Violins, Cellos and Bass aptly fill that class feel.The flute and guitars play a tune which has nostalgic feel after which the sitars end the interlude.

Here comes the tricky part. The rhythm shifts to a more traditional Tabla and ilaiyaraaja starts off the charanam.After singing the first line once, he repeats it again...but now, it is interspersed with Janaki singing a totally different tune but of same length. Her humming ends with a note on higher scale, which forms the starting note for his next line.This exercise is repeated one more time.The 1st time i heard this part, i was really baffled by the idea as such, given the fact that Ilaiyaraaja conceives the entire score in his mind first.And here, you can virtually see a mixing of vocals in two different tunes.How could he do it? its only a revelation that there is a mixer & sequencer in his mind. Anyways, the following lines highlight the guitars and bass work in the background and the charanam completes in the same the pallavi a complettion of a loop.the tabla piece ends and only here , u get to hear a very small pause in background..before the main rhythm takes up.

The 2nd interlude is not that behind..a guitar melody plays on, which is dominated by Key-board.This sound is very peculiar..i isindeed a peculiar sound to be used in a conventional romantic song because generally this kind of sound is used in comical situations as BGM.The string section plays a very brief piece after which the sitar plays a tune, which is a very fast descent of notes.This piece is immediately (no time gap) hummed by ilaiyaraaja as an initiation for charanam-2.this idea has been used several times by ilaiyaraaja where he signals the listener about the tune you are about to listen, by playing that bit on an instrument just before it is actually sung/hummed.

The 2nd charanam has the same Blending of tunes idea but in role-reversal. Another interesting idea is mxing the last word and first word of lines: "poo maalye thol seravaa." and connecting line is "vaasam oru Poo"..but he connects it as "poo maalaye..thol seravaa..Vaasam oru poomaalaye thol seravaa..".
i dont know if the credit should go to composer or lyricist but definitely Ilaiyaraaja has displayed his compositional skills and more so, the mixing skills by weaving very beautiful musical phrases, which made this song a memorable one, among the best of ilaiyaraaja gems.