Friday, June 14, 2013

Naadi Thudikuthadi

Naadi Thudikuthadi is another obscure film from Ilaiyaraaja. I do not have any details about the film, so let me cut away straight to my thoughts on the album. This one again seems to be a low-key film with no big stars or production houses. The sound canvas, as expected, is more on synth rather than acoustic instruments.

1. You & I Young Forever: The male singer who starts the song sounded very much like Ramana Gogula, a music director and singer from Telugu Film Industry, who assaulted us in few films. Though it is not him here, the overall feeling is not that better. The song is built on Caribbean rhythms largely with heavy bass and drums and synth trumpets. The tune is just about hummable with more emphasis on some  percussions loops and some strong bass guitar work. The chorus work is extremely disappointing and it sounds almost like the stuff done for ad jingles. This is one of the rare instances where Ilaiyaraaja fails to internalize a genre, like how he usually does with his signature style, and ends up giving a typical Latino-Caribbean flavoured song where melody lacks meat and the flavour is more by percussions, the usage of which is pretty straight and  un-raaja-ish. This song is sung by 5 singers. 

2. En Poo Nenjai: The synth violin chords (and waw guitar sounds on keyboard) which open the song disappoint me big time because this is the sound I usually hear in tv-serials or low-budget devotional albums by some struggling singers. My expectations were lifted by the rhythm and the melody which actually sound much better. The best component of this song is the melody. The rhythm, though unique, has some tin sound in it which makes the song a bit mechanical. The interludes on the other hand flow flawlessly in Raaja's style that he typically reserves for some Malayalam films. Some flute, some piano and some chorus. The charanams are also constructed beautifully. If there is anything wrong in this otherwise good song, it is the sound of the percussions which are throbbing out of the song than needed for this kind of soft melody. It is not about the volume levels or mixing issues but more about the sound of the percussions used, which seem to be a bit harsh on this gentle melody. Rita, the singer, rendered it well. 

3. Kaadhale Illadha: Here comes the most cringe worthy song of the album (i use cringe-worthy here because of that atrocious opening of the song). I read a Ilaiyaraaja fan's tweet that this song has the faux-rock style and I agree with that. Right from the word go, the song sounds odd in every bit and the various elements in the song do not appear to be cohesively sticking together - like how they usually do in Raaja's music. Raaja's vocals do not appear to suit the tune. The chorus is absolutely cheap. The tune does not strike well. In constrast, the 1st interlude is good and the charanams seem like the left-over pieces of "Thaavi Thaavi" song from Dhoni. The shift from Charanam to Pallavi is too abrupt and it feels like a decent tune in charanam is bludgeoned to death with that pallavi and that chorus. 

4. En Devadai: Ilaiyaraaja flips our listening experience completely with this mind boggling composition, sung by Karthik and Anitha. Beautiful guitar strumming and a synth guitar prelude making way for an awesome tune embellished with some groovy keyboard chords. It is amazing that Raaja's style of chord progression continues to give goose bumps. The 1st interlude is a western classical piece that builds on a motif and completes a crescendo after which Raaja continues to shower his magic in the charanam. The way raaja used cello and strings in charanam - you can probably create one more composition out of those pieces alone. And yet, it all fits well and holds it all together brilliantly. The 2nd interlude however, is surprising because it relies only on scale changes. Yet, the song makes for a fantastic listening experience. Overall, this song is the pick of the album. I am afraid this song might end up as the underrated gem, if the film flops and this song doesn't grab as many ears. 

5. Velinaatu graama: The song has nice tune in pallavi although I feel there is nothing much "village-y" in the song that seems to be singing about/in a village (graama). This is surprising given that it is Ilaiyaraaja there holding the baton. What I find completely dissonant in this song is the heavy western classical based interludes, particularly the trumpets, that sound very much out of sync with the melody in the song. This could be a situational song, going by the dark theme reflected in the interludes. The charanams flow well with a melody consistent with the pallavi and they are backed by beautiful arrangements with strings and Piano. The rendition by Haricharan and Swetha is adequate. While this song is not bad as such, i doubt if this will really have as much shelf life as En Devadai. 

Overall, Naadi Thudikuthadi is a very average fare from Ilaiyaraaja although En Devadai's brilliance and the melodic quotient in En Poo Nenjai and velinaatu can tilt that. But the listening experience is mixed, empirically speaking. Ilaiyaraaja delivers the goods amazingly well only in En Devadai - the most brilliant one in the album. The other good songs have some misgivings and then, there are songs where Ilaiyaraaja disappoints big time. 

Bottomline: Ilaiyaraaja's mixed bag ranges from awesomeness to pointlessness. 
Not to miss: En Devadai

Note: My opinion is strictly based on how I enjoyed the album now and how I might enjoy it in the long run. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Chithirayil Nila Choru

Chithirayil Nila Choru is a low-budget tamil film directed by a film-maker named R.Sundararajan, who collaborated with Ilaiyaraaja in the 80s. Now, they united again after a long gap. Like in most low-budget films scored by Ilaiyaraaja recently, the songs in this film too are largely on synth soundscape and less orchestral. I have come to believe off-late that budget largely dictates the instrumentation and sound canvas employed by Ilaiyaraaja. My take on the songs from this album:

1. Kallale Senju vacha: This song has two versions, one by Haricharan and one by Priyadarshini. This song begins on synth chord progressions which give away the Sindhu Bhairavi raagam. The synth percussions used are in poly-rhythms. The song has some of the usual Sindhu Bhairavi phrases, particularly in the charanams. While it is surprising that Raaja does not avoid the typical phrases, the melody quotient is strong enough in the song, particularly in the charanams. I felt Haricharan's rendition is a notch better than Priyadarshini's. 

2. Kaalyile Maalai vandhadhu: This composition is sung by a bengali singer named Saptaparna Chatterjee. The song begins with Veena playing the pallavi (again giving away the raaga - Abheri in this song) and the singer repeating it. The synth percussions (electronic drum kit) very closely resemble thavil while electronic drones sounds make the composition quite groovy on sound. The 1st interlude is quite a bit of fusion with Veena and electro-funk. Ilaiyaraaja's arrangements in this song are brilliant with Ghatam-like percussive elements setting the tone for charanam. After the 1st line of charanam, Raaja releases a riff of synth-chorus and guitars - which I felt was a brilliant idea. Its amazing to see Raaja adorn so much of contemporary-ness in this song. The 2nd interlude which starts with Nagaswaram moves to a superb guitar phrase that reflects the western sensibilities of Raaja. I felt the singer's rendition is good enough and this song is one of the best Abheris composed by Ilaiyaraaja.

3. Unga Appan peyar: Ilaiyaraaja himself croons this composition which sounds a bit anthemic and a bit folk. The opening of the song reminded me of the anthemic "Manidha Manidha" song by Raaja of 80s. The characteristic of this song is the peculiar rhythm employed. The percussions are almost like tapping a bench. And the way Raaja fits the melody of this song into this unusual rhythm is absolutely interesting. It is difficult to categorize the sound scape of this song under acoustic or synth because both exist hand in glove. The interludes are signature 80s Raaja while the charanams have slight change in percussions. The violins (synth or real) add the Raaja's touch to a great precision, particularly the 2nd charanam. Raaja's rendition is not without flaws, since the strain in his voice is discernible. Yet, he carries some lines pretty well. I felt this song is a long distant cousin of ilaiyaraaja's own blues flavoured "Vaangu Panathukkum" (Dhoni) - the similarity being not in tune or instrumentation but in the idea and execution.

4. Nandri Solla Venum: Ilaiyaraaja has composed many a hamsadhwanis and if I remember it right, not even one is a sub-par composition. This song, the best in this album, is perhaps one of the finest compositions by Ilaiyaraaja in his career. From dense layers of violins (both synth and acoustic), guitar, flute setting the stage for the celebration of this beautiful raaga to the unusual tala pattern on mridangam - the sound scape in this song is a perfect example of how Ilaiyaraaja can create effective arrangements from the confluence of acoustic and synth sounds. The melody is a time-less one. The 1st interlude, replete with violins, is a wonderful throwback at the era when music was all about melody. There is something eloquently beautiful in the way Raaja constructs the charanams. The opening lines of charanam are short but punctuated by flute flying out and then the next line by the singer is unexpectedly lengthy, traversing the whole of hamsadhwani scale, taking along with it the violins which gather up in the high note and flow separately again. beauty. Every line in the charanam seems to be carefully carved. The 2nd interlude has violins repeating a motif much like some interludes in few of Raaja's 80s songs and a cello emerging out into a new tune. This was the classic Raaja that we all enjoyed back in 80s and it is amazing to see the same school of thought, being used with synth and acoustic violins combination (i think). This is what I mean when I say that the DNA of Raaja's music has not changed and that's exactly why I continue to enjoy his music. Karthik and Priyadarshini have put up their sincere renditions in this gem of a composition. 

I rate Chithirayil Nila Choru among one of (Ilaiyaraaja's and even in general) best albums in recent times. All the songs are melodious, with gorgeous arrangements. Ilaiyaraaja touches that wonderful sweet spot between acoustic and synth arrangements in a way that not every Ilaiyaraaja album manages to. The songs have some modern arrangements, classy tunes and elaborate musical pieces - all of which reiterating that there is still so much of beautiful music that Ilaiyaraaja's ocean of talent is capable of. 

Bottomline: Ilaiyaraaja uses classical raagas to deliver strong melodies that are among his finest in long time. 

Not to miss: Nandri solla and Kaalayile Maalai