This is very common with Raja’s work. He draws heavily out of kummi, esapattu and other folk techniques.
This is a staple Raja toolset and he has used it in several of his compositions. I will provide some samples from his 3 plus decades career. Mostly, it is the use of ‘than thanana’ type of singing, though there are situations where the folk chorus are given full lyrics.
Aasaiya Kaathula from Johny (Tamil 1979). Unusual tribal beats with extensive use of female chorus. The prelude uses the female chorus. The 1st and 2nd interlude uses very unusual folk female chorus.
Let's hear the tribal chorus of Aasaiya Kaathula...
Aayiram Thamarai Motukkale from Alaigal Oiyvathillai (Tamil 1981). This is the famous Raja track that uses the kummi tradition extensively. The prelude has the female chorus singing ‘than thanana’. The pallavi has the chorus repeating some lines after the main singer finishes her lines. During the second interlude, the chorus shifts to the subhapanthuvarali carnatic humming!
Kannoda Kannu from Palloti Valartha Kili (Tamil 1976). The song starts off with the female chorus singing traditional folk lines as its prelude. These are used in the pallavi too.
Kaviyam Paadava from Idhayathai Thirudathe or Aamani Paadave from Geethanjali (Tamil/Telugu 1985). This song has no indication to the listener that a folk chorus will be used anywhere. It is a typical Raja solo melody. The first and the second interlude has the female chorus in full folk form. The second interlude is executed as a full humming.
Let's hear the female chorus in Aamani Paaduve...
Kelade Nemagaaga from Geetha (Male western choir for parts) (Kannada 1980). This is one of Raja’s earliest choir masterpieces. He throws so many varieties into a single track. This song can qualify to be present in at least 3 categories. For now, we will focus on the female folk chorus parts. The first interlude has some good folk singing alternatively by the male and female chorus singers. Notice when in the final few seconds of the first interlude, when the female chorus sings folk, the male choir is singing western choir in a different register – perfect vocal harmony. We will cover this song in great detail under vocal harmony category.
Kothamalli Poove from Kallukkul Eeram (Tamil 1980). The first interlude has the female chorus in fully folk mode. The second interlude has the traditional ‘than thanana’ added before the charanam takes off.
Meenkodi theril from Karumbu Vil (Tamil 1980).The prelude is a tribal female chorus. The first and second interlude also continues with the tribal chorus.
Odai Kuyil Oru Paatu from Paatu Paadava (Tamil 1995) The prelude of the song is a folk style female choir. The interesting part is the shehnai accompanying the chorus parts. Now, does this become North Indian folk? The first interlude has some parts where the female folk choir continues.
Let's hear the innovative female choir in Odai Kuyil...
Ponnaram Poovaram from Pagalile Oru Iravu (Tamil 1979). This is one of Raja’s early compositions in the film that got masked by the success of Ilamai Ennum track. The first and second interludes have some female folk chorus apart from the regular strings/flute.
Pudhu Vannagal from Murattu Kaalai (Tamil 1980). The prelude has the female chorus repeating the Janaki humming.
Raman Aandalum from Mullum Malarum (Tamil 1978). This is a track with some great tribal female folk chorus work. The prelude starts off with the chorus. The prelude phrases for the chorus is repeated again in the track.
Rasave Unnai Naan from Thanikattu Raja (Tamil 1982). This is a great track with some pretty neat chorus work. The first interlude has some neat female folk chorus work that is is (tham tha tham) arranged as a set of discrete notes. Synchronizing the choir with the rhythm in the background is no ordinary work. I would rate this as very Westernized version of the Raja folk offering. Only, he can think of such phrases. Raja throws in some humming (melody) phrases too in the interlude. The second interlude has some very creative chorus arrangement.
Let's hear the westernized folk of Rasave Unnai Naan...
I am sure there are others that I may have missed. Readers may comment on their favorite ones...