Katniss Everdeen – The Girl on Fire

(After yet another unplanned hiatus, here’s something by @amrith10 on Pataaka Guddi, a song from Highway, a movie that impacted me quite a bit! –Viju)

At first, it was the teaser. A city girl kidnapped; a ruffian, stubble et al; a lorry; a gag; perhaps a touch of Stockholm syndrome. All this was the promise. The premise, even. The backdrop was the scenic beauty of the hillside and the ghats. Aptly named, the movie captured the spirit of the road. For this visual, a techno-Punjabi beat started, quite plainly, if one may say so. But then came the voices. Those earthen voices that accentuated everything that was rugged about the premise.

The song was played. Over and over. And then over. There was nothing profoundly great about the music, save for, perhaps, one flute solo, or two. But those voices were, well, something else entirely. The entire package simply made for some compelling listening. And re-listening. And re-re-listening.

That, of course, was a teaser of sorts. After the previous effort that had an angry rocker as a protagonist led to such stupendous levels of brilliance, the expectations from this album, it is safe to say, were sky-high. And this, for a teaser. One could not wait.

Of course, when such teasers come out for an album, there is always the lingering feeling that the best song might just be the one that is put first. Of course, the song in question would well have qualified to be the ‘song of the album’ in any album. Then again, this was no ordinary album, was it? It never could be, could it? No; not after its predecessor.

And then the track-list came out. Zeb was crooning. The heart skipped a beat. Several, perhaps. The expectations were no longer sky-high. Sky was no longer the limit. Nowhere near.

And then the eyes wandered. And then they swooned. And then they looked incredulously. And then they lost focus. And then the focus returned. And those words were still there. There was ‘another version’ of the teaser. It was no ordinary version, however. He would be the centrepiece of it. Knees buckled. The anticipation was, quite simply, too much. Of course, the dread was too.

And so the album came out. And then, track by track, it was devoured. Zeb was drooled at; Alia, commended. Sunidhi was patted on the back and Jonita Gandhi was lauded for being yet another find. Wanna Mash Up was regarded as a drishti pottu that simply did not gel with the rest of the album but then again, that would have to wait for the situation in the movie might change that opinion. That song, however, was left for the end. It had to be.

The dread built up. How could the teaser be improved? I mean, of course, anything could be but… the hand quivered. The play button was pressed.

No techno. Simple guitar notes. Fifteen seconds in. Slowly, a drum beat. Softly. Nineteen seconds. The ear picks up the faintest sign of the start of a hum. This really is happening. It really is. Three seconds. The words begin. Tu ne naam… twice, that happens. And then something out of the corner of the ear is heard. Of course, not. That has no business being here. The ear is strained. That disappears. Of course, must have been a figment of the imagination. There is no other explanation.

And then it is back. There is no mistaking it. It is a constant presence now. A harmonium. Ah the audacity of it! Incredible. Absolutely incredible. And just when the mind begins to comprehend this, his voice again. This, the mind is not ready for.

This is not the easy singing. No, of course not. The eyes close. He is imagined, chest out, one hand donning a mic; the other, beating his chest. The pronunciation is long drawn. On purpose. Words are elongated. Syllables are stretched. On purpose. This is not a song. This is a statement. When the voice usually goes under certain words, in this case, it goes over them. The words are in command. They have their place. He is the king of the jungle. His is the word. What might usually be sung a few decibels lower in the same octave are sung louder. Not blaringly loud; that, of course, would be rude but louder all the same.

Then the point is made; or so it would seem. The voice dies down again. And then it starts again. Each ho is not sung; it is punched. The harmonium kicks in again. The cha in the chali is not a cha but a chha. Then, it becomes familiar. The pitch rises with every ali until it reaches a crescendo, and then it recedes. He must be a Monty Python fan. Must be. For, what transpires for the next minute or so, is simply him taking a back seat and letting the Carnatic guitar man do his thing, and telling the people, and now for something completely different.

The mind struggles to get to grips with all of this. All this is happening too quickly. No. this is quite criminal. He cannot do this to us; there is only so much that can be processed. This bit in the middle is totally out of place and yet, it is somehow perfectly there. Just when the mind is slowly registering what has been happening for the past minute or so, he decides to turn around and face the audience. He stands in front of us, with a nonchalant smile and holds his arms outstretched, and opens them. There is nothing.

On cue, the song starts again, or so you think. He leads you to believe that. And you do. Because there is no evidence that anything happened. You look incredulously as he just stands there, shrugs his shoulders, and smiles. He simply stands there, with a glint in his eyes, shrugs his shoulders as if to say, ‘what are you looking at? Keep listening. I did nothing.’   Sure enough, it is all there. The harmonium and all else. Simply like nothing ever happened.

Before too long, that familiar feeling of something that is ending before its time dawns. You just know that you are in the last throes of this experience. The brashness is gone. The punches are gone. The decibel level is normal. The instruments do their thing. He lets them, of course. And then it is over. The oooo ooo oooo oooo ooooh takes over. There are still a few chatiyas left, though. He is smiling at you now. The chattiya is not so much a chattiya as it is chchattiya. That mischievous glint in his eye is there.

You look at that and you smile. He knows. You know. He knows you know. And yet, he lets the oooo ooo oooo oooo ooooh have the last word. He has finished. As ever, he lets someone else take the limelight, while he slinks away.

You press the rewind button and press play again. 

Dafatan

(A post by @techrsr which went missing during the move to WordPress, originally posted on June 23rd 2012)

Time seems to stand still, as a cavalcade of harmonies and this shrill, indescribably involved vocal melody pierce the ear. The brief silence that follows it is punctuated by an evocative arabesque of instruments, whence comes the confession: “My heart has fallen somewhere… suddenly”. Dafatan.

Free verse in Urdu-laden Hindi is rendered by Ash King, while a happy marriage of diverse instruments – a santoor, a jaltarang, violins, synthesizers and a bass guitar somewhere, provide the seemingly arbitrary soundscape for the vocalist’s initial outpouring, itself an unusual crossover between an uplifting Gospel melody and some Bollywood cliché. In one memorable interlude, Irish sounds abound in bagpipes, and lutes from some village in southern China and some synthesizer in A R Rahman’s studio too, and they all seem to yearn for your attention.

The meandering soundscape has this one constant background melody, as the other instruments wrap around it. They are all beautifully chaotic, as winds may deflect some hovering bird, or as waves may splash carelessly on feeble monuments of loose sand. They break into order from discord, as if to be destined to arbitrarily synchronize with the vocals by Chinmayee and Ash Singh. There – a mention of pearls and seashells – where the bass and the vocals conspire to describe some epiphany. There – a mention of ghazals and intoxication – a musical dopamine shot and a lyric that incites more than musicality; a lyric that suggests the infatuation of music itself.

As the lyric melds into an arbitrary synchrony with the soundscape of melodies and synth, it is revealed that the object of his affection is unaware – utterly ignorant – of this drama, and entirely oblivious to his little romance. Cruelly and carelessly, the sea seems to inundate the vocalist’s love and he conjectures if the sea herself sleeps, drowned and covered in her waves. An intoxication takes over, the kind that is ceaselessly interesting and yet tumultuous. As the song winds up, this treat to the senses that started with a confession, ends with a regret : “Tu, magar, hai bekhabar… hai bekhabar”.

Dil… gira kahin par… dafatan. In my opinion, this is the best song on A R Rahman’s exceptional album, Delhi 6.

 

Despondency

(For Valentine’s Day, a post by Deepi)

The whispers of love in the air carried in by the wind, wafting gently in through the open window. As the breeze playfully brushes against the chime hanging by the window, sounds of beautiful, tinkling music rips the silent air apart. The voice of a maiden humming a soulful tune (Latika’s Theme) speaks of a yearning—yearning for a long lost love perhaps. As her voice dies down, there is noise of soft footsteps approaching and then she speaks. She speaks of having lost herself. She struggles as she seeks the name of the thief who dared steal her heart (Kannalane). But even as she sways in distraction, the young thief finds that he is a victim himself. He too seems to have drowned as he attempted to retrieve his soul. (Yennai Kannavillayae)

Their paths cross and there is joy! They, like their counterparts of ages past, encircle tall trees and woo each other amidst nature’s beauty. (Aathangara Marame) Playful flirting gives way to more serious attachments. A love sheltered from prying eyes, she says he is a secret lover who fulfills her every small wish (Snehidhane). A brief separation—they sing in one voice, mirrored thoughts (Malargale). They unite once more in the scenic backdrop of snow capped mountains. The passionate bonfires become a metaphor for the passion they share (Pudhu Vellai Mazhai, Tu Bin Bataye). But calamity awaits these unwitting souls.

The vacuum persists; he cannot survive any longer (Raasathi).  What greater forces have snatched her away from him, he wonders. He longs to know of her well being, her surroundings, her smiles, her sorrows, and her anger. (Anbe Sugama, Kahin Toh)

Unrequited love –so beautiful is her face, so terrible are her actions. Her presence fills his breath, his mind. The window snaps shut and the breeze is ousted (Tum Ko).

The White Dandelion

Rahmania is back! We apologize for the very long break. We have no excuses.

A very Happy Birthday to A.R.Rahman. We have a special post written by Amrith. Enjoy! 

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                                           White-Dandelion-Flower-640x400

A long day’s work. A long bus journey to get back home. The usual grind. Unfortunate but, needs must. The bus journey, you look forward to a little less apprehension for you know that you have the comfort of your music.

So you get on the bus and you, hopefully, find a seat on it. You sit down and put the earphones – or headphones – on. You then play something. You feel better. And then you play something else. You feel better still. Slowly, you begin to relax and as you do, music takes a step in the backward direction. Before you know it, the songs that you had lined up are done. You are far too busy looking at something else – a pretty girl, a sleeping child, the bus conductor’s rhythm. Something else.

And then you come back to the music. It has stopped. Something is not ajar. There is nothing in your ear. But now, anything will do. So you do the easiest thing you can – put the playlist on shuffle and settle in once again. You, maybe, close your eyes. The world of the bus is exhausted. The world outside the bus window is uninteresting. So you look inward. And then you try to enjoy the music. And yet, you can’t really do that.

At first, the music fills your mind; it captivates you. You sing along. And then the mind wanders. You think of the unfinished piece of code, that stray comment that you meant to add but did not, that report that is not quite formatted, that template that is due first thing in the morning. Just as easily, the mind thinks of what is to be – the food that you are going to make, the vegetables that are there at home, the fruits that are to be bought, that shirt that needs to be pressed for tomorrow and all else.

The music, all this while, is still playing. It is, however, a mere detail.

While all this happens in your head, your destination arrives or, rather, you arrive at your destination. You alight. You walk towards your house, the usual packet of milk bought at the corner store. You exit the bustle of the main road and leave behind the traffic. The music is still playing. You are aware of this, no doubt. And yet, it is still only a detail. Your mind is still thinking of what you’re going to cook.

You glance, that usual cursory glance, at that balcony of that building hoping to catch a glimpse of that friendly man who waves at you. He is not there. You are impatient. You want to be home. You want to be rid of all the grime and the sweat. Your eyes wander. You look at the opposite side of the road. A couple of silhouettes emerge from the distance, the yellow streetlight almost halo-esque behind their heads. The silhouettes – An old man and a child – approach. And then they stop.

Suddenly, you are aware of a silence. The music has stopped. You notice, surprising yourself. The child is holding on to the outstretched index finger of the left hand of the old man, presumably, his grandfather. The little one stretches to hang on to the finger. The child does not really know what a pull-up is, as yet, and yet, he is executing something that resembles it.

Suddenly, he lets go of the grandfather’s hand. Something else has caught his fancy. Suddenly, you are aware of the strumming of a guitar. The strumming builds up. It is interspersed with notes. Twenty seconds pass. Time, it seems, is a four-beat cycle. A voice. It is not the greatest you have heard but, somehow, it is apt.

You stand. You are transfixed by the child. Or is it the voice? Or is it the music? No, it cannot be the music. It is way too simplistic. It cannot be the voice; it is nothing extraordinary. It must be the child, you think. Surely.

And so you continue to look at the child. He is jumping up and down wildly. You squint to see why. At first, you don’t see it. And then, as the song lilts and flows, you see it. Three and a half minutes have elapsed. Another instrument, you hear. A flute. You see what the child sees. You see the white dandelion. The little white flower bobs up and down. As soon as the child thinks that he has caught it, it just escapes and bobs up before coming down to tease the child again. And then again. And then again.

The flute, meanwhile, has merged with the voice. Four minutes have elapsed. The guitar joins in, albeit, most succinctly. And then the voice goes higher. The flute follows. The guitar strum becomes more pronounced. It all just comes together in only the way it can. The result, it seems, is magic. And then the flute fades out. It has done its bit. The guitar strums a little more loudly. The voice is steady.

And then the voice begins to fade in volume, ever so slightly. The guitar is in its last throes. You know it is. You suddenly snap out of it. You leave the magical world that Rahman has transported you to for the past five minutes. You realize just in time, that the voice is now completely gone. There is one last strum of the guitar left. You look up, instinctively.

The child looks at you, a look of satisfaction, neigh, achievement writ large on the face; a face lit up by a wonderful smile. You know that the guitar strum is not going to last much longer. You know that the end is now and yet, you do not want it to end. And yet, it must. You wait for that last strum. It comes. You are hit with a pang. You look up. The child extends his right hand.

He has caught the dandelion, the white flower. You look at that and you smile. The world, suddenly, is a much better place.

Addiction

(A short post with a nice playlist by Deepi. –Viju) 

A strong cup of filter coffee. Breathe in deeply, take a gentle sip, savour the flavour, attain nirvana.

A good song is like filter coffee. You dwell in the moment, enjoy the song and no matter how many times you listen to it, you only want more. That addictive bitterness, you keep going back to it. Such is the quality that no matter how much I try to convince myself that I am indeed tired of the taste, there’s a relapse and I immerse myself in that bitterness once more.

I abstain for a week or maybe two. Something feels different; you feel like you are missing an arm maybe. I resist but I keep thinking back to that beautiful few minutes I spend everyday, cradling that cup, more precious than ambrosia.

My craving grows as only one thought is passing through my mind. I can hear strains of notes in my ears and it sounds so wonderful. Then my resistance breaks. Why should I stop myself? The addiction takes me over again; the obsession begins. All is well with the world.

And that is how one falls in love with a song.

Playlist–>   http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLcgPnIWvGIftGsG6RoPsFaRZNjhRNvJKf

Nee Mazhai – Nee Yaaro (Aayitha Ezhutthu)

Thee Thee – Thiruda Thiruda

En Mel vizhundha – May Maadham

Salvador – Couples Retreat

Dil Gira Dafatan – Delhi 6

Pachai Nirame – Alaipayuthey

Do Nishaaniyaan – Jhootha Hi Sahi

Water – Between Heaven and Earth

Kuru Kuru – Couples Retreat

Poo Pookkum – Minsara Kanavu

Jiya Jale – Dil Se

Chotta Chotta – Taj Mahal

Tu Bin Bataaye – Rang De Basanti

Jason and cynthia Suite – Couples Retreat

Moongil Thottam – Kadal

New Face/Phase

(A post by Venkateswaran Ganesan aka @_DrunkenMunk. And coincidentally, it was on May 28th 1993 that the movie Pudhiya Mugham released. A good 20 years back. –Viju)

In any sphere of life, be it sports, cinema or career in general, the biggest challenge is to give a second success which makes the flash in the flame, if there’s one, evidently not one in the pan. That way, looking at Rahman’s early career now in hindsight, Pudhiya Mugam is an interesting album to look at, coming on the back of the monstrous success called Roja (he did compose Yodha in Malayalam but I shall stick to Tamil). Though it did not quite scale the heights that Roja did, commercially or otherwise, the album taken separately works big time.

Rahman’s music almost avoids evoking Raaja’s music. This, in my opinion, is understandable for Raaja strode the Tamil film music scene of the 80s like a colossus pretty much trampling the Tamil and, to a good extent, the Telugu film industry with his virtuosity. For a young composer in the early 90s to evoke Raaja would have been redundant and pointless, especially when the ears were pretty awash with Raaja’s music and style. It is no surprise then that we see MSV’s music being evoked pretty much right through the 90s in Rahman’s music. MSV is pretty much an oeuvre to even Raaja. His early music too evoked MSV, quite naturally as a tribute. If we are to hear Sugamo Aayiram, from Thunai Irupaal Meenakshi, unless someone told us this was a song by Raaja, we wouldn’t hesitate to think it is an MSV song. Same with a few more of his early songs like Naan Pesa Vandhen. This is an interesting trend in the late 70s. Raaja pretty much unleashed his genius in the 80s but what he tried in the late 70s fascinates me. To evoke another composer beautifully without imitating him takes some doing. This we see with Rahman also in the 90s. He conjures MSV without imitating the latter. When Rahman did evolve into his own in the 2000s (Paarthale Paravasam a good place to start maybe), there arose new composers who evoked him far less subtly than he did from MSV but that is for another day. I will pretty much stop this thread of thought with the opinion that if Rahman did not evolve in the 2000s, he, in my mind, would currently sound redundant.

PUDHIYAMUGAM

Pudhiya Mugam in this context offers quite a good palate of songs. Sambo Sambo is a favorite of mine. The prelude itself sounds like a composer running away from clichés. The tune is a joy with the Goan/Lankan beats and feel but what is again fascinating is the lingering thought that Rahman might be bringing a bit of MSV into this. The final lines of the charanam of Angam Pudhu Vidham, by MSV, might offer food for thought. That was the time when MSV’s music was submerged in the craze for Hindi music. In my humblest opinion though, MSV’s music in the 70s and almost till 80-81, was very good. Rahman brings his sound and creates what is supposed to be a naughty song in quite an unorthodox way. Do listen to the Hindi version of the song from Vishwa Vidhaatha, where he improvises a little more from the Tamil version. Quite interesting!

July Matham takes a detour. The guitar that starts off gives a salsa touch to the Pallavi which flows quite beautifully into the charanam through the interlude with the finger claps forming a lovely mediator for the dialog between guitar and piano. SPB is charming as always and the instrumentation is quirky, for the want of a better word. The synth which is tuned in a low octave goes well with the tabla forming an pretty interesting pair.

Kannuku Mai Azhagu is one of those things described by John Keats as a joy forever. I prefer the P Suseela version, for I am a sucker for her voice, over the Unni Menon song. Both songs have the same tune but deserve to be treated as different songs. Be it the sangathis P Suseela gives at avaraikku poovazhagu or the way she carries the entire song, this woman is something else only. Wasn’t she “supposed to be” past her prime when she sang this? Quite rightly described by Rahman as having the best voice ever among Indian singers, she easily makes Lata Mangeshkar North India’s P Suseela in my opinion. Unni Menon is quite good too. The instrumentation is kept simple. The song loosely flows in HarikambOji and the world would be a finer place if the Vairamuthu who wrote this song writes more such songs.

Idhu Dhaan Kadhal Enbadha defines this album for me. Right from the prelude, everything about this song still sounds fresh. Sujatha is wonderful. So is Vairamuthu, especially with Gangai nadhiyin suvai, kadalil serum varai. The flute in the second interlude again takes me back to MSV who said that in every great melody is a lurking melancholy. The flute here is tempered by a joyful hum but taken separately; the song is full of moments like these which quite easily bracket it all the way on top of the best melodies composed by Rahman.

The sad version comes after the protagonist dies leaving a grieving family behind. The background score that precedes it is very interesting. When the protagonist leaves his wife, the background score starts with a piano and a violin. You get the feel of Netru Illadha Matram because of the violin and sit back to see Rahman pull out Azhagu Nilave. You also feel a rabbit being pulled out of the hat. The score extends up to the lead entering his son’s room and going out. The warmth in the nuclear family of husband-wife-son is beautifully conveyed through the score. The score is repeated again, after the protagonist’s death when the son goes to the room to be with his mother, coming alongside, yes, Idhu Dhaan Vazhkai Enbadha which wafts about wonderfully to conclude the film.

This Rahman was indeed a flame and not a flash.

Of a thousand suns and a hundred moons

(Probably a first for Rahmania, a post on the music of an album that just released. We usually wait for a while to post our thoughts on Rahman’s music. However, we made an exception for Sudharshan’s (@sdhrshn) post on Maryan.)

And so I logged into Twitter one fine morning, to the whole timeline discussing/spoiling the joys of Maryan’s OST, propelling me into the last lap of hunt towards the soundtrack. A wait that was eating into my sleep the previous night, surprisingly ended on a beautiful morning as though Maryan brought it with it. I mean like, how was that possible? Quite a cloudy and cool Trichy in the middle of the Agni Nakshatram season. And one of the city’s best possessions, the Tanjavur highway (that led to my college) felt like some dream way. And then I played Netru Aval Irundhal.

“Aagaayathil Nooru Nilaakalum, Angange neela puraakalum parandhana..”

I knew this was a line that would stick to me for life. So I gave in my best efforts to assimilate all the tiny pulses that went through the first listen. It is at these moments, you understand how fragile the human brain is. Brain vs ARR. The Mozart won hands down. There’s always @ursmusically’s post for you to understand how you would feel while listening to this one.

What I saw though, was this ( of course, in the background of the soaring tremolo strings, and a divine chorus)

Maryan

How does a goodbye feel musically? A tango between an accordion, a flute, and a ghatam. And there’s Kabilan’s fundamental, but aching lyrics, to which Vijay Prakash and Shwetha Menon do enough justice, and more in the lovely Innum Konjam Neram. But lining all this is that tiny spark between the lady and the lad, a little quirk that isn’t drowned in an overwhelming sense of separation; That’s how seriously the song has been looked at, and shaped up. It’s quite interesting how the most minimal of ARR’s tunes can hold so many layers beneath (or how these ‘invisible’ foundational layers hold strong the skyscrapers of his compositions). One of the more prominent hooks here, is how the string section just plays along the singer’s notes. Simple, but poetic.

Shakthisree Gopalan, is someone I can never thank enough for two songs. The very underrated Jab Tak Hai Jaan, and the much adored Nenjukulle. With Enga Pona Raasa, she blends the fragility, and affection of her earlier songs with an element of pathos that works on another plane that the other two did not. There’s this breath in her voice that makes me dizzy; not to forget how heartbreaking deep voices can be. The beautifully done acoustic arrangements of the first minute, culminate into an impacting tryst between Shakthishree’s divine humming decked over Rahman’s very intricately arranged harmony ft Abhay Jodhpurkar. It’s beautiful how the entire orchestration and the rendition are a phase apart in the harmony. That sends this subtle element of disconnect, her anguish of separation  And oh, the song is an absolute heart-ache.

maryan-audio-release-poster01

Sonapareeya and Kadal Raasa are identical for the fact that they took more time to settle over me, or like I needed time to move over the first three. On the album’s scale, they’re one down; But there’s so much to look into yet. The brilliant nadaswaram interludes in Kadal Raasa. A seamless cross between African beats and namma ooru dappankoothu. And relatively much likable singing from Yuvan, quite splendid in the first two minutes (after which he attempts to sing high notes in ARR’s scale, botching down the feel). Sonapareeya, I felt Haricharan’s choice here was quite cliched and not as exquisite as Javed Ali’s, which just felt so apt. Killer singing from the man. And delicious use of the violins; an interesting motif with a slight distortion twist and much appreciable when it goes all crying over “Kenjumpadi vekkuriye Sonapareeya.” Only Rahman.

One number that was given step-motherly treatment on album release was Nenje Ezhu, thanks to this single release business. It’s quite an uncomplicated tune. But it compensates for its simplicity with the depth in orchestration and the personalized stories it sings to your mind. There’s this broad wide desert like synthscape, he creates around the song that worms into us subliminally, and as if every touch on the harpeji just sent us deeper into that universe. It starts with just those drums in the beginning, then the guitar enters and then the harpeji, then the chorus section and then a whole orchestral section rises over the scale change; You could close your eyes, lose track of the language and find yourself in the journey of a man biding all his strength from scratch, and struggling to his last breath to rise over his handicap. That’s simply how metaphoric the aural medium could be put to use. And I wouldn’t need Kutty Revathy’s middling lyrics at all here.

I got to admit here I haven’t listened to I love my Africa enough times to write on it. And by next week probably, there’ll be even more backlog coming in the form of Raanjhanaa. Despite that, it’s an amazing feeling when you are already listening to a great Rahman album, and have another one coming in very short time. Rahmaniacs understand this best.