Raja has used them selectively in his compositions. He has used mixed choirs in several of his compositions over the past 4 decades. Here are some top of mind examples.
Kelade Nemageega 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. 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. The second interlude has the male and female chorus alternating. There is some outstanding vocal harmony between the male (la la la – lower), female (la la la – higher) chorus singers and SPB (la la la – even lower register than the male chorus). The third charanam is another great piece of choral work only a genius can think of. It starts off with some male/female interchange of single syllables and continues with SPB speaking. Observe the background of SPB’s speech and how Raja embellishes it. The chorus of the male and female voices continue with increasing pitch. When SPB speaks about the lovers, the female chorus shifts into total melodic backing for the main voice! The last charanam has the male chorus backing SPB and no strings. Observe the last parts of charanam 4 :SPB’s voice is cut out and it is perfect vocal harmony all the way. Breathtaking. I have not heard such a film song by any music composer in Indian films. Take a bow before the master!
Let’s first hear the track Kelade Nemageega…
- Let’s do a deep dive into the arrangement of this track:
- I have Interlude 1, interlude 2, charanam 3 and pallavi 4 in this clip as all of them have some fantastic choir arrangement
- Between 0:01 to 0:33 seconds, it is a mixed folk choir of male and female voices, occasionally in C&C mode
- Between 0:33 to 0:40 seconds, the arrangement is pure western mixed choir, without anybody realizing the shift
- Between 0:41 and 0:52 seconds, it is Raja choir that cannot be classified in any way. Notice that the male voices replace a guitar strum. Raja used this later on in his Maya Bazaar song in 1995
- Between 0:53 and 1:08, the setting switches back to perfect Western choir, with some outstanding male voices interspersed with SPB’s voice
- Between 1:09 and 1:15, discrete male and female voices are crafted to convey the impression of revolt or disagreement
- Notice that till 01:30, the discrete voices accompany in the background while SPB continues the narration
- After 1:30, till 1:45, when SPB narrates the love story, Raja switches the choir to Indian conventional female choir to convey the emotion
- Between 1:46 and 2:14, SPB sings charanam 3 with only male choir in the background along with the guitar strum managing timing
- Between 2:15 and 2:37, Raja does what a genius would do. The arrangement of male voices as an ascending guitar strum with the female voices singing discrete notes, is only something he can think of. Extraordinary arrangement
Enadhu Vizhi Vazhimele from Solla Thudikuthu Manasu (alternates male and female choir) (Tamil 1988). There is male/female choir inter-singing with Janaki/PJ in the pallavi. The charanam has some conventional female chorus.
Idhu Oru Nila Kaalam from Tik Tik Tik (Some male parts as jathi) (Tamil 1981). This song’s prelude is perfect mixed western choir. Observe the charanam’s first few bars and focus on the female choir backing Janaki – fantastic arrangement. The second interlude has some cool scat singing by a lone singer.
Illalo Kalise from Anveshana (Telugu 1985) or Nizhalo Nijamo from Paadum Paravaigal (Tamil 1988). The first interlude has some great mixed western choir arrangement. Raja uses Balu to sing swarams on top of the western choir arrangement in the background and ends it with some fantastic violins. A real treat for the connoisseur of choir! The second interlude has the male choir in the foreground and the female choir in the background. Again, Raja uses different Balu swarams to overlap the choir arrangement.
Let's hear Illalo Kalise...
Mannava Mannava from Walter Vetrivel (Tamil 1993) – This is a typical Raja melody with no scope for any western choir. Based on the film’s situation, Raja turns the lullaby into a serious 2nd interlude with male/female Western choir. He uses the female choir in the foreground with male voices in the background.
Oru Naal Antha Oru Naal from Devathai (Tamil 1997) – traditional, western, male female, both choir – all inclusive. The song starts off with the male western choir followed by the female choir singing a few lines. Observe the prelude when the female choir sings the conventional ‘la la la’, the male choir sings perfect western choir in the background. This track has everything to do with choir. In the pallavi, the female choir has conventional, western and also lyrical lines. By the time you get to the end of the pallavi, Raja demos everything that one can do with choirs. Don’t hang up so quickly. The 1st interlude is a fantastic choir arrangement of sorts. Along with the violins, there is some great mixed choir arrangement before the woodwind/violins take over. The charanams are backed by both the male/female choirs in an alternative fashion. The second interlude is arranged brilliantly with some conventional female choir and mixed western choir along with the violins. This track is among the Raja top 10 in choir arrangement.
Let's hear Oru Naal Antha Oru Naal ...
Paruva Kalangalil from Moodu Pani (Tamil 1980) – some parts by female only choir. The song starts off with some neat scat singing. The pallavi has some female western choir backing the main singers. The 1st interlude has some neat passages with mixed choir – very nicely executed. The charanams have the female choir in conventional format taking on inter lyric space.
Let's hear Paruva Kalangalil...
Sundari Neeyum from Dhalapathy – 1st interlude (Tamil 1991). The first interlude has some nice horns and great male choir on one channel and female choir on the other with grand violins in the background.
Vanam Thottu Pona from Devar Magan (Tamil 1993) – The song’s melody line is similar to the other song in the movie – Potri Paadadi Penne. Observe the interludes – it has nothing to do with the folk lines – Raja uses western choral singing with a group of professional male singers to deliver the message of social grief. There is no string section, no percussion, nothing. I have never heard anything like this before in Indian film music. A fitting use of a grand western technique for a situation in a village where the headman dies and everyone grieves. That’s genius! The prelude of this song itself is a brilliant mixed western choir.