Sunday, December 2, 2012

Usage of choir for string section, bass sections, wind sections - Black and Red tulips


This is a Raja specialty. No other composer can match him as this seems like a bit of improvisation at the last minute before conducting the piece. There are so many situations where he has replaced the notes written for an instrument with the human voice. It is interesting to guess the instrument for which the notes were originally written!

In order to understand what we mean by string, wind sections backing songs, let us take three examples from Raja’s music, the first one where strings back the main voices, the second where wind sections back the voices and a third one where there is nothing to back the main voices. Following this, we will analyze songs where Raja replaces instruments completely with just chorus.

Let’s hear the charanam of the song ‘Deva Sangeetham’ from the film ‘Guru’ (Malayalam 1997), Please do not focus on the rhythm or the voices and focus on what plays in the background. You will hear a lot of violins backing the main singers. This is an example of strings backing the charanam. 

Let's hear Deva Sangeetham's charanam...




Let’s hear the charanam of the song Yerikkarai Poonkatre from Thooral Ninnu Pochu (Tamil 1982) and you will notice that the only instrument backing the main singer during the charanam is the flute. 

Let's hear Yerikkarai Poonkatre charanam...




Let’s next the charanam of the song ‘Siru Ponmani Asaiyum’ from the film Kallukkul Eeram (Tamil 1980) and you will hear no instrument backing the main singer at all.

Let's hear Siru Ponmani charanam...




Having got a good sense of how typically Raja does his orchestration of his charanams, let’s move to his specialty – replacing that with choir, sometimes male, and at other times female or mixed. Now, conducting an instrument based backup for the charanam is hard enough. This is a greater challenge as the wrong choir can spoil the melody completely. Such challenges are too small for the genius. Time for examples.

ABC Nee Vaasi from Oru Kaidiyin Dairy (Tamil 1984) – This song appears like a typical Raja melody till you closely pay attention to it. Set to Mohanam ragam, Raja embellishes it in many ways using the female choir.  The prelude has some neat carnatic humming by the female chorus. The pallavi has the female chorus humming along. The charanams have no strings backing the singers. The female chorus backs the singers fully. The second interlude has some neat Western choir by the female singers in the scat mode.  This track strikes me as one, the choir could be replaced with both strings and wind sections.

Let's hear ABC Nee Vaasi charanam...




Azhagiya Nadhiyena from Paatukku Oru Thalaivan (Tamil 1989). The prelude starts off with the female chorus. The interlude 1 continues with a similar female chorus. Notice that the charanam is backed by only chorus and not by strings. Interlude 2 uses the female chorus in a different mode. 

Khel Thendrale from Nenjathai Killathe – prelude (Tamil 1981). The prelude is filled with female chorus. The pallavi has the female chorus backing the main singer. The charanams have the female chorus backing the singer fully – no strings.  

Ade Neevu from Abinandana (Telugu 1990). The pallavi has the main singer backed by female chorus.  Even the interludes have a lot of chorus work. The charanam is also backed by the female chorus 

Let's hear Ade Neevu charanam...




Chinnakuyil Paadum Paatu Ketkudha from Poove Poochoodava (Tamil 1985) (charanams use choir and claps instead of strings). The track also uses chorus for transition between the charanam and the pallavi.

Let's hear Chinnakuyil charanam...




Etho Mogum Etho Dhagam from Kozhi Koovuthu (Tamil 1982)– observe the use of chorus in places that are actually string passages. Part of these passages are for flute and others for strings in my view.

Let's hear Etho Mogum charanam...




Inimael NaaLum Ilangalaithaan from Iravu Pookal (Tamil 1986) (charanams use choir instead of strings). This song is a classic, where the use of chorus is all over the track. The prelude, the charanams all, use brilliant chorus arrangement that carries the Raja stamp every moment. In my view, the entire chorus passages could be easily replaced with flute passages, given the classical nature of the tune. This is the track that made me sit up and take notice of the fact that a composer can replace his entire background instrumentation with choir, if he is talented enough!

Let's hear Inimael NaaLum charanam...




Keladi Kanmani from Pudhu Pudhu Arthangal (Tamil 1989) (charanams use choir instead of strings). Observe the way Raja plays around with the choir that is used instead of the strings (violins, my guess) – he moves the voices from left to center to right and then back to left navigating through center again. Only the first 16 bars have the choir backing the singer. The last 8 bars have only percussion and bass.

Let's hear Keladi Kanmani charanam...




Kootathile Kovilpura from Idhaya Kovil (Tamil 1985) (charanams use choir instead of strings).This again sounds like violins being replaced by female choir.

Unnai Ethir Paarthaen  from Vanaja Girija (Tamil 1994) (charanams use female choir instead of strings). The arrangement of the female choir to back the main singers is very innovative. You can observe that the female choir is in counter melody to the main singers and at times sing into the main singer’s lines. You will never find that intruding. My guess is that this is perhaps flute lines converted to chorus lines. The first few and last few bars have the choir backing the main singer with the middle ones being void of choir. When you hear the track closely, you can also hear the synthesizer track guiding the choir.

Let's hear Unnai Ethir Paarthaen charanam...




Malargalile Aradhanai from Karumbu Vil (Tamil 1980). The entire charanam is backed by female choir. The interludes are heavily ornamented with choir.

Oru Kaaviyam from Aruvadai Naal (Tamil 1986) – the first and the second charanam iare backed by female choir with the exception of the first few bars where the table backs the main singer.

Oru Naal Antha Oru Naal from Devathai (Tamil 1997) – traditional, western, male female, both choir – all inclusive. The entire charanam is backed by male/female Western choir. The interludes are heavily ornamented with choir. However, the last few bars have violins backing the main singer. Though it deserves mention in this category, it does not entirely fit into this.

Poongatre Theendathe from Kunguma Chimizh (Tamil 1985). The entire charanam is backed by female choir. The pallavi is also backed by the female choir. The prelude has the female chorus along with flutes and violins starting this Brindavanasaranga based tune. The first few bars have veena backing the main singer thus disqualifying this song from this category.

Raathiriyil Poothirukkum from Thanga Magan (Tamil 1983). The entire charanam is backed by female choir. The interludes are filled with female choir.The first few bars have only the guitar and the percussion backing the main singer. Following this, the female choir takes care of the rest of the bars. My guess is that these are perhaps flute passages replaced with female choir.

Let's hear the charanam of Raathiriyil..



Thamtha Theemtha from Pagalil Oru Iravu (Tamil 1979)– only some parts are mixed, majority is female choir. Charanams are backed only by voices. Set to Mohanam, the charanam female choir parts appear more like violin passages replaced. This track in general has some fantastic female choir backing the main singer as well as filling the ludes. You can never hear this track on stage due to the complexity of the arrangement. Some parts include male choir too and not everything is strictly Carnatic. It’s hard to put your finger and call it as dance, folk, western or Carnatic – typical Raja!

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