Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Fusion Demystified

I am sure some of you get lost with ‘knowledgeable’ Raja fans bragging about the fusion Raja does between various schools of music. These pundits use a lot of technical terminology of ‘ragams’, ‘scales’ etc, that you are not able to connect with. When they tell you about ‘Ninnukori’ or ‘Thoongatha Vizhigal’ from Agni Natchathiram (1989), you are lost as all you hear is a nice tune with heavy westernized rhythm work. However, you have a keen ear and can at least tell a folk number from a Western number or from a Carnatic number.

Raja has done great service by demonstrating what fusion is so that a lay person can easily comprehend. Here are four examples, where anyone who has a good musical taste (no formal training required) can easily understand how the various musical systems can beautifully co-exist. In other words, what musical fusion is all about...

Suramodhamu from Aditya 369 (Telugu 1991) is an excellent such number. To start with, the song sounds like Carnatic (set to Kalyani ragam) and towards the end, SPB jumps in and the rhythm arrangement switches from mirudhangam to drums. Even in the lyric, it talks about rock-n-roll! How did Kalyani become rock-n-roll? Let’s not worry about it. That’s fusion example 1.

That was easy, wasn't it?

There is a duet version of Vanamellam Shenbagapoo in the film Nadodi Pattukaran (1992). This starts off with a female voice in a Carnatic setting (set to ragam Madhayamavathi) and everything goes with mirudhangam and the works that you are led to believe that you are ready for a Cutcheri. From the second charanam, SPB jumps in with full folk and the rhythm switches to a folk melody based rhythm! When did madhayamavathi switch to folk? Leave it to the master! That’s fusion example 2.

Let's hear Vanamellam Shenbagapoo...

Again, simple stuff, isn't it?

There is an unassuming song by Jayachandran which begins ‘Naadirukkum Nilamaiyile’ in Ullam Kavarntha Kalvan (1987). Raja freaks out showing what fusion is all about – the song starts off as folk, switches to Carnatic (set to ragam Shankarabharanam). Touches on Western phrases (rum bum tu ru etc.) and finally switched back to folk! He liberally uses tabla, mirudhangam, ghatam and also demonstrates various emotions - all in one song. That’s fusion example 3.

Let's hear Naadirukkum Nilamaiyile...

In the hands of the master, everything gets easier. He does not even fuss about it!

Another example where the fusion is very obvious is En Jodi Manja Kuruvi from Vikram (1986). The song starts off with a Western rhythm arrangement and stays that way till it gets to the second charanam. When SPB goes ‘Eru pidikum’, the rhythm arrangement is suddenly the tabla with typical folk type arrangement! It’s easy for anyone to see the difference in arrangement and how Raja fuses two schools of music so flawlessly. That’s fusion example 4.

Let's hear En Jodi Manja Kuruvi...

I am not going to repeat myself anymore. In these 4 examples, Raja shows how easily he can switch between the three systems he is an expert, Carnatic, folk and Western.

We must all thank this genius for taking the mystery out of the fusion business. All the four tracks appear so effortless for this gifted composer.

No more confusion about fusion!


Giridharan said...

Informative and very well presented.

Thanks for sharing pearls of Raja.


bharat said...


naarayanan said...

SURAMODHAMU - it has vasantha also and that's where the rock n roll enters.