OK Kanmani – Not a review.

There is always that one song that lovers and newly weds can always identify with and I bet my money that in 2015 this song would be naane varugiren – a cracker jacker of a composition set in darbari kanada. It is often said that darbari kanada is the most apt raga to be played in the dark hours of the night , its richness enveloping you in comfort and enriching its emotion. As the song continues to play , I can’t but wonder what a masterstroke this has turned out to be . A song that heralds two minds and bodies coming together , set in a raga that is apt for the night , elevating the words of vairamuthu to a high. As Sasha starts serenading her man , the continuum thrums and leads to the whiffs of Sarangi/Esraj and sets the stage for the seduction of our aural senses.The seven (Not quite)beat tala adds to the urgency and When Satya Prakash responds with the chinanjiru line , the song takes a beautiful deceptive sojourn into jaunpuri and steps back into the darbari kanada domain , this time accompanied by synth and strings. The percussion reminds me of a train lulling one’s body to sleep , the raga the uber comfy blanket and I wake up with dismay as the song ends – boy 6 minutes never seemed this short.

Malargal Ketten reminds me immediately of vaishnava janato – in tune that is. Then the Kanjira steps in to weave a gentle web of joy with KS Chitra’s voice . The flute doesn’t want to be left out and joins in as Chitra whips those swaras into splendid shape. The tanpura is then heard – silent until then , she marks her presence and gives way to strings and jathis – boy quite an embellishment this song has. Behag is always so lovely , no matter what and with all these embellishments it sparkles and sparkles and sparkles and then ARR joins in with a surprising cameo. I’ve never known that this man could render a tamil krithi ( for lack of other descriptions) so beautifully.

Where the father shines , the son couldn’t be left far behind right? AR Ameen steps in with a cover of maula wa salim – his voice ringing with honesty and innocence. This simple prayer brings you peace and calm.

Parandhu sella va is almost an acapella and scintillatingly so. Karthik hums away to glory making ur feet tap to the beat. Karthik and Sasha are at their sensual best imbuing that naughtiness ( if u know what i mean ). And then like the sudden speed breaker on the smooth expressway , the singers break into an aalap on the hindolam detour and you go ada – doesn’t it sound similar to singaravelane deva at this place or oh there is this nod to varaayo vennilave.Oh and its a karthik – ARR song after ages and this man can sound really romantic and make hearts skip beats.Oh and the violins and Pararirarithaaaaaaa – and I can no longer write about the song cos I want pull my man into a dance before the song ends.

And the second Karthik song starts with chords and flute and a weird name ( who would ever call their kid or lover sinamika . What does that word mean Duh? ). Nee ennai neengathe begins and all the ennui flies away and boy this vairamuthu is one young guy in his mind – he has this absolute gamut of words to describe a woman.The strings and the chorus build the song into a crescendo mid way and I imagine Nitya Menon with her hair out in the wind riding pillion behind the hero on the bike. ( yes I am that crazy about the cliche) . Before I forget , the guitars and the drums deserve special credit . I was on a drive today , playing this song on the stereo and did this song sound awesome or what and the subtle sea board – ecstasy personified I say.

Mental Manadhil is the standard issue Mani – ARR love song. I found nothing great about it the first time and the song hasn’t grown for me – despite the play count in my iPod. But the female version of the song has a few variations and creates quite an impact. Jonita sounds ever so playful and I adore the way she pronounces taka taka , okay et al. She renders “like a like a laila Laila ” oh so differently and that just lifts the song with the male chorus – and orchestral work is kept simpler and smoother compared to the male version.I have a hunch that the leading lady is some one who is a singer cos Jonita gives those ever slight brighas and sangathis when she renders a western tune.

Theera Ula is meandering – its theera la after all and boy how radically different does sound. I love love love the drums and the singers render the words as if it will pain the words if any more stress is applied. I discovered sitar behind all those drums and chorus and how joyful did I feel! Darshana kicks in with her portions rendered like a carnatic musician and the veena underlines her words beautifully. No one aces fusion like Rahman does and boy this song gives a jil feeling to my ears.

Kaara Aatakaara was the song I heard in the trailer and what a melange – the rap like a malayali boat song ( pardon me u mellus) , the chords , drum and then the refrain – very very interesting and catchy. I played it all evening trying to categorize this and nope I haven’t been able to nail it until now.

Now Mani Ratnam Sir , you have yet again , a so very beautiful soundtrack from ARR. Indha murai paathu picturize pannungo ūüėõ ( please please don’t ruin the picturization)…

Sandi Kudhirai and Serenading mogana

Imagine songs having personas¬†,imagine they have feelings – ¬†imagine that ¬†Vishwanathan vela venum and nadodi poga venum ododi met each other at¬†dinner , fell in love¬†, eloped and had a baby who was put on a crack / dope diet – imagine all this and you end up with “Sanda Kudhirai” the new sensation from Rahman’s newest soundtrack .

A goat bleats pitifully , the koel coos , the horse neighs and then Haricharan starts crooning to the Congo drums . The accordion and the Congos  then take a backseat and let the vocalists take over up until the first interlude . Come the interlude , they take the center stage and steal the stage. You start nodding your head to the beats and stop as soon as the various yaanai kuttis , poonai kuttis , aatu kuttis , aandha kuttis, maan kutti and muyals make an appearance . All these animals then join you in the dance , where you serenade an imaginary Mohana who laughs at your dancing skills.

The animals then start making these weird noises and the xylophones soon join in. You soon start stalking the imaginary lady as she walks off in anger . You jump , hop and trip , all in the pursuit of the lady , lost in the beauty of the song. Soon the lady too trips thanks to the beauty of the song and you catch up.

All her indignation is lost on you as you are lost to the song – the animals and the chorus catch up with you soon and you see them off to the zoo and mental asylum as the song ends on a pulsating crescendo

They say songs that captivate you are pretty rare. Songs that captivate you and paint strong visuals as you grasp the beauty of the song are rarer. Sanda Kuthirai belongs to the latter quality . As I looped the song again and again and again , I could visualize yesteryear heroes from the eastman era serenading their ladies with their smiles and steps . I could visualize the merry making that probably happened in the recording session as easily as I could visualize MSV , ramamoorthy , valee and kannadasan nodding with approval at this effort. Rahman knocks the song off the park and people all over the world hail mogana.

She came , She saw , She captured and She won – All hail Mogana the new beauty.

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The Raanjhanaa Distraction!

The Release of an AR Rahman soundtrack is like a festival for his fans . Rahmaniacs like self liken it  to being served with a feast after starving for a week. The wait for the album gets even more desperate when the music company decides to go for single releases. With the case of Raanjhanaa , the desperation , wait and the gamble seems to have paid off as the album is a winner. The songs hit your soul , creating an impact which will last forever and leave you smiling .This is not the review of the OST , and not a critique either. What this post is , is an acknowledgement of the sheer musical genius of  a stalwart and a nod to a director who knows how to get the best out of the said stalwart. Before you start reading further , I should warn you about disjoint sentences , abrupt exclamations and high number of spoilers Рfor reader , I am still listening to the songs on a loop as I write this !

You know you are in for a winner when a brilliant Sarangi wafts in followed by lilting percussion (the tic tic tic sound , kartal may be), mild strings and the ever dependable tabla – all within the first 20 seconds . That the song stars the ever dependable Shreya Ghoshal and the splendid flute (Naveen) is a very welcome addition. Banarasiya has super hit written all over it. Shreya Ghoshal nails her brief and I am sure that the lady will have a slew of award nominations this year , for this splendid outing.The Sarangi , flute and tabla set a sedate pace for Shreya and co to showcase their talents and cometh the interlude – the tabla hands the baton over to dhol even as you are blinded by the brilliance of the flute. The Dhols take center stage at this point and takes us through the latter half of the song which is equally brilliant. The bits and pieces of strings , the muffled kanjira and the thavil (not sure) vie for your attention even as Shreya lures you with her voice and you keep discovering more every time you repeat the song.

Rahman can hardly go wrong when it comes to sufi . Team him up with Irshad Kamil and you have a winner. Get Sukhwinder to render the vocals , and you have a classic . Piya Milenge is a classic example of a sufi ace from the Maestro. Right from the piano , violins and the backing vocal support from KMMC Sufi Ensemble РRahman gets every thing right The sound of the ghungroos , the tabla and strings provide ample support to Sukhwinder , who hits the ball out of the park with his rendition.KMMI sufi ensemble shine equally and the segment from 2:04 Р2:40 where they take center stage is captivating to put it simply.The lesser said about this song  the better as the divinity and the musical brilliance deserve to be experienced rather than being read about. It was quite difficult for me to move on to the next song , as I kept hitting the replay button for quite a few hours. Raanjhanaa may have nine songs , but when one thinks of a stunner , Piya Milenge is the only song which comes to mind.

Aye Sakhi is rendered by an all female quartet – but Madhushree is the one voice which I could recognize very easily. I am sure I can recognize the other voices with multiple replays , but at the moment Madhushree is the one which comes to mind – for her spotless rendition. A fun song , along the lines of naina milake , this one makes for an engrossing listen and the verbal embellishments added by the maestro add to the masti element.I’ve been going tyu tyu tyu pe pe pein all over the house – so much so that the room mate has threatened to take away my sennheiser earphones and shut my mouth up with tape if I repeat it another time ūüôā

Nazar Laaye sounds like a left over from Jhoota hi Sahi at the first listen . Is it because of Rashid Ali’s fluid vocals ? I am not sure and I do not want to take that road. Nevertheless , the song grows on you – thanks to Neeti Mohan , Rashid and the guitars ( Kebah Jeremiah – am not sure on this too). Nazar Laaye might not be the stunner that Piya Milenge is . It does not grab your attention and make you speechless neither does it make you wax lyrical.It eats you heart little by little and only when ¬†you start swaying to the guitars you realize that this melody has taken hold of you.

Tu Mun Shudi to me has an RDB air about and I mean it in the best way possible.The percussion , the part-techno , part desi string work , the shenai and Rabbi’s vocals scream energy and wow what an energy pack this number proves to be.Rahman and Rabbi provide a fitting reply to the criticisms received for their earlier collaboration and ¬†fans can feel relieved for the fact that Aanand Rai has better sense of music ¬†when it comes to Rahman. Tu Mun Shudi is one number which will play on my music system if I end up taking the cross country trip I’ve been wanting to for a while.

ARR dons the singing hat again for the jazzish Aise Na dekho – a song which has vintage written all over it. The strings are a winner and the accordion makes a lovely cameo yet again . The whistle and the accordion in the interlude are soon going to become a rage and while this is not the best song of the album , this is the loveliest.

Land of shiva is all about percussion. The Damrus , the holy chants and the tinkling bells take you back to the 16th century Kashi in all it’s glory preparing for maha arthi. Short and impactful , Land of Shiva will serve to be a superb visiting card to Benaras where the movie is based.

Raanjhanaa is one of the two songs which were released as singles. Much has been talked about the Shenai and the singing featured in the song on which I’ll take a pass. What i’ll focus on is the strings you hear in the background and the sitar which appears in a cameo and takes your breath away. I do not know who played the Sitar , but whoever did merits a special merit. The kinikinis , the shenai motifs and the dholaks pale in comparison to that sitar and just for that Sitar , I’d sing Raanjhanaa hua main tera ūüôā

Last , but not the least comes Tum Tak – the song which released first , the song which drew a lot of flak for the composition , the song I fell n love with almost immediately. The kinkinis , the strings , piano and sholkis providing ample support to Javed Ali , as he worships his lady love like a goddess. The shenai in the interludes give lead to the female vocalist Pooja AV mesmerizes one and all with her lovely voice. The song shifts into a bhajanish pace when Javed goes into the Nainon ki baant leja phase making you go Ada.

And thus ends my take on Raanjhanaa – which has completely erased the blemish that JTHJ had created in my mind. It is an album that belongs in the league of other classics like Delhi 6 and rockstar and Anand Rai deserves a pat on his back for giving Rahman full freedom and for his musical sense.

Rahman and Rai – Take a bow please !

PPS : Isn’t ¬†Dhanush a lucky bugger ? Nothing for 13 years and then two back to back masterclass albums from ARR .

Maryan – The deep and mysterious ocean…..

If there is a musical equivalent of magic , it should be Allah Rakha Rahman’s music . This may not be the universal truth , but it does sound true when one listens to some of his soundtracks which deserve to be called classics. This evening when I laid my hands on Maryan’s OST – I had a question on whether it will be magic to the ears . It took some time for me to get my answer , but once I had it , i felt it had to be shared and hence this blogpost.

Nenje Ezhu kicks off with chords and percussion which remind you of Rahman’s earlier works . The man himself takes¬†center¬†stage thereafter to sing about eternal hope , a hope which is born out of divine love. The song talks of never ending hope and eternal love and the superb lyrics make you repeat the song again and again and again. As ARR croons kadhal endrum azhivathillai , the song reaches it’s¬†crescendo and takes you another world – a world where fairy tales come true. Yet this song is not without glitches. The tune has a heard before feel which I couldn’t shake off and I felt that the pronunciation of the inspirational words could have been better. That said , the flaws seem minor when compared to the feel of the song.

Innum konja neram is true to its words. By the time the song ends you wish that the song could have lasted longer , that lovely it is. The ghatam , accordion and the flute create a lovely menage e trois , which becomes all the more lovely thanks to the fantabulous lyric and the superlative singing by Vijay Prakash and Shweta Mohan. As the song goes on , one is taken back in time to a journey in a bullock cart , with the lovely bells from the bull’s anklets ringing in your ears .The singing , tune and the orchestra work is so very reminiscent of MSV , so much so that one wonders if this is ARR’s tribute to the maestro. The song clocks 5 minutes and 14 secs , yet once the song ends , you wonder why the song was short. Innum Konjam Neram Irunthathan enna indeed.

Vijay Prakash is on a roll these days. He completely pwns Innum Konjam Neram with his Hariharan-ish rendition and nails down the brief completely with Netru – so much so that , when one listens to this songs with eyes closed , his rendition reminds one of a young K.J yeshudas in superlative form. Vijay creates magic with the¬†mellifluous¬†tune , Chinmayi and the orchestral work adding to the glory. The orchestral work is very minimal but sweeping – like a banked fire , if one can call it that. In a matter of hours , this song has become a favorite and to me its one of the best songs of the OST , if not the best – you know you’ve hit pay dirt when you listen to a song for 30 minutes on loop.

Sonna Pareeya is the masala song of the album , if one can call it . To me it is that song of the album , where people take a break from the analysis and just go ho hum to the tune. To me it is one of the weakest song of the album and sounds almost like a kuthu song. What redeems the song is that nayanam in the interludes and the guitar work in the background in addition to the orchestral work. May be it’s because the song appears after two killer melodies , it didn’t stick with me at all.

Sakthisree Gopalan sure can make a living out of angsty tracks . She is almost as heavenly as she sounded in Nenjukulle and it is her singing which redeems the song along with the splendid tune and superb string work. Just like Aditi Paul’s version of ayyayyao was called a lady and the violin , Enga Pona can be called the Siren and the guitar – as they are the only things that stay with you even after the song ends.What works against the song are the horrendous lyric – wonder if the lyricist was not paid enough or on time , to turn in such¬†third¬†grade work .That said , a superb sophomore effort from Sakthisree.

Africa can as well be used by Africa’s tourism department or by the African Cricket team – cheenu mama able and willing. Blaaze collaborates with AR Rahman after a long time and ends up creating an almost Carribean sounding¬†visiting¬†card for the African Continent.One need not be an oracle to know that this song will be placed when the titular¬†character lands on Africa and the song may sound better with Visuals.

Last but not the least comes Kadal Raasa. When I heard that yuvan had sung this number for AR Rahman , I thought it was prone to be a disaster but Yuvan surprises ( with or without processing) and how ! Kadal Raasa is all about a man’s yearning for his land and roots. The nadaswaram makes an appearance yet again and segues infinitely with the percussion work which goes on to take center stage.The lyrics are again crafted beautifully and give away the titular character’s feeling and¬†condition¬†and an inkling of the story. The song is a keepsake , just for the nadaswaram in the interludes , which stays in one’s mind hours after one is done listening to the song. While Kadal Raasa is not the best song of the album , its not the worst either and may be could have sounded better had Velmurugan sung it as initially planned.

To sum up , Maryan is not the masterclass that kadal was but its not mediocre like Jab Tak hai Jaan. What it is , is the musical equivalent of magic , thanks to innum konja neram , netru and yenga pona raasa.

Elay Keechan – A Harbinger of Joy

This past month had been part frustrating , part interesting thanks to the wait for some huge sound tracks to release – Viswaroopam , Matru and last but not the least ARR -Mani’s Magnum Opus : Kadal. Ever since Sakthisree sang her way into our hearts with Nenjukulle , people have been waiting for the OST to release and the official release of Elay Keechan makes the expectations increase a hundredfold. Here are my thoughts on what will be the song of the year unless another song from Kadal upstages it.

Whimsical Guitars with a Reggaish rhythm , ARR going hey and that hmm hmmm humming make you realize that there is nothing wrong with this song. ARR takes what could have been a simple fisherman’s song and adds layers of musical magic to make it memorable. The super choral work and that catchy percussion along with that slight Tirunelveli/Toothukudi slang , not to mention ARR’s voice create a heady mix making you hit the repeat button multiple times. You do take a break only to start humming the song and its back to the repeat button.

The song begins with

Elay Keechan Venthachu Namma Susa ponnu Vathachu , hey Eesaa varam pozhinchachu!
Vaa le Kondale , kattu Maram Konda le , Gundu Meena Alli Vara Konda le!
Ela – Pai Viricha , Ayyo Ava Ava vasam Thedi Thedi Varaan Keechan

and then delightfully takes a deviation and starts describing the title character ( I assume ) with the nickname Keechan. Come the interlude , the song starts talking about Keechan’s ( I assume) feelings for a lovely lass who I guess would be the soosai’s daughter .

Your efforts to decipher the song ends as that kick ass guitar interlude begins , and you simply close your eyes , tap your fingers and dance , not bothered about who is watching and who is not. Once the song ends you simply hit the repeat button and the process repeats itself again…

Nenjukulle – a translation

I’ve tethered you within my heart
I’ve tethered you within my heart
In which direction is my livelihood destined?
You gave me a sweet glance
And this heart of mine became a mirror glazed by water

A colorful pearl ornament , that watch in your right hand
That presence commanding enough to tame elephants and tigers
Your shadow has stayed back even after you’ve left and has imprinted itself in my heart
This lass who looked up then has not lowered her glances since , her mind erect like an umbrella’s stick.

I’ve tethered you within my heart
I’ve tethered you within my heart
In which direction is my livelihood destined ?

The birds have slept , the milk curdled
The leaves on the eechi tree have slept too
In an hour where even TB patients have slept
this lass afflicted by disease of desire has not slept a wink

I’ve tethered you within my heart
In which direction is my livelihood destined?

Not a bite has gone in ,
The throat has not been wet for ages ,
For the past week or so , even saliva has refused to be consumed
This poor young lass is not able to say anything
Rubber bangles do not have the capacity to make sound

I’ve tethered you within my heart (a repeat of stanzas 1 and 2)

Note : This is a very rough translation of the song done in a hurry for a friend. I will update this post as and when I get time

Jab Tak Hai Jaan – Starring Yash Chopra – his brood , his khandani Dholkiwala and a Cameo by ARR

In an interview from a long time ago , ARR candidly admitted that there were directors who did not have a sense of what clicks when it comes to music , and in such cases it was a tad bit difficult¬†for him to decide what suits the film and hence the output was not so great. Yash¬†Chopra’s supposed Magnum Opus ‘Jab Tak Hai¬†Jaan’ does not¬†fall into that category – not because the songs are¬†epic ; but because the not so great¬†output has more of Yash Chopra’s influence written over it than AR’s¬†genius.

Remove the AR label and no one can find fault with Challa. The song begins with an addictive guitar hook and has lovely guitar arrangement. Rabbi Shergill makes his debut for ARR in a song which feels more like a part of one of his albums than a Rahman composition. The extra strong punjabi tadka and the out of tune singing at times , fails to prop the song up . A dated and middling effort from  the master which is pleasant on the ears.

Violins , Cellos , Flute and vocal harmonies circa Yuvraaj¬†herald the beginning of Saans¬†with Shreya¬†Ghoshal¬†and Mohit¬†Chauhan¬†doing the honor behind the mike . The song also features the standard punjabi¬†beats which acts as a dampener. There is nothing extraordinary about the tune as such , but the orchestral work while sounding dated is commendable . I loved the flute and¬†the string¬†bits totally. What didn’t work for me in this case was the choice of singers¬†: I felt that an Anuradha¬†Paudwal¬†or an Alka¬†Yagnik¬†would have made the staid tune work much better¬†accompanied by may be a Vijay¬†Prakash or Hariharan¬†and yes the Dholki / Punjabi beats could have been done away with.

Ishq¬†Shava¬†begins with a neat riff that is more Rahman than Yash¬†Chopra and you end up playing the song multiple¬†times just to dig into the superb string work. Ragav¬†Mathur and Shilpa¬†rao¬†do a commendable job with the vocals but its the string work which scintillates¬†and serenades one into submission¬†. Is it me or does the ‘Ajj¬†Ki Raat¬†kiski¬†hai¬†, kal¬†ki raat¬†teri¬†na meri’ phrase (1:45 into the song)¬†have a striking resemblance to ‘Mazhaithuli¬†enna¬†thavam¬†thaan¬†seithatho’ phrase from then merku¬†paruva¬†katru?¬†¬†Ishq¬†Shava is one of the better songs of the album and¬†grows on you with multiple plays¬†thanks to the string arrangement.

A rose is a rose by any other name . Similarly , call it whatever you want but Heer to me is one of the best picks of this album. Harshdeep Kaur enchants everyone with the dreamlike quality of her work and the dholki for once , adds to the beauty of the song instead of acting a spoil sport. There is also excellent guitar work to dig into and that whiff of violins when you catch it is very soothing.

Guitars and a peppy Neeti¬†Mohan¬†make a lethal combo and the fact is best highlighted in ‘Jiya¬†Re’ which is where ARR makes his full-fledged¬†appearance along with Gulzar.The Jiya¬†Re phrase is a total earworm¬†and the tempo used makes you want to tap your feet in tune to the song.If you liked Neeti¬†in ‘Ishq¬†Wala¬†Love’ , you’ll love her in ‘Jiya¬†Re’. In fact Jiya Re gives stiff competition to Heer in terms of standing and as I write this review , has tipped Heer to become no 1 song of JTHJ for me.

The lesser said of the title song , the better . Jab Tak Hai¬†Jaan is¬†one horrendous excuse of a song ,¬†and the superb beginning is ruined by what follows. One wonders if Rahman composed the¬†first minute and then the baton was taken over by YRF’s¬†khaandani¬†dholkiwala¬†– so misplaced and overwhelming the dholkis¬†are – even distracting¬†one ¬†from Sakthishree’s¬†hatke¬†voice texture. Cutting and Otting¬†scene from KanduKonden¬†KanduKonden anyone?

Saans reprise has more of the Punjabi Beats and the tempo is slower than Saans . Even a kid can guess that this is the quintessential sad love song . One can even imagine Katrina Kaif dressed in immaculate designer wear , crying with desperation over her breakup/departure of her beloved . But does the song work РNO.

Remember that dance contest between Madhuri¬†and Karisma¬†in Dil¬†Toh¬†Pagal¬†hai¬†to an instrumental tune? Ishq Dance to me is just an upgraded version of that. While the fact that tune¬†is dominated mostly by percussion instruments and choral segments is interesting , it is not that good to hold one’s attention.

The second instrumental , works much better with the guitars and sweeping string arrangements take the sting away from the inane poetry .

To sum up – quite an ordinary soundtrack for a supposedly extra ordinary love story