Many composers have used a whole bunch of Western techniques before Raja. Kishore Kumar was very famous for his yodeling in the HFM world, much before Raja. The song, ‘Zindagi Ek Safar’ from Andaz showcased Kishoreda’s yodeling by RD Burman in the 70s. Another RD Burman favorite is the song sang by Usha Uthup in the 70s hit ‘Hare Rama Hare Krishna’ – I love you – simply brilliant rendition by Usha. Asha starts off ‘Daa Re Tu Ru’ and Usha further scats ‘Doo Re Tu Re’, and takes off…
Here is the famous Usha Uthup scat song – One Two Cha Cha Cha…
If you dig through some old MSV tracks in the 60s, you may end up with a few such picks by AL Raghavan and others.
Before we dive deep into Raja’s scat journey, let’s try and understand what scat singing is all about. Scat singing has its origin from the improvisational world of Jazz music though some experts do not entirely agree. Some do argue that it existed long before Louis Armstrong came into the scene. In any case, most agree that it is a stock technique of several Jazz artists. Even yodeling is a form of scat. For the most part, scat singing involves short syllables sang in an improvisational way, varying pitch, volume and other vocal characteristics. Several Jazz artists have used different scat syllables such as "louie-ooie-la-la-la" or "shoo-doo-shoo-bee-ooo-bee"
Here is a great example of Ella Fitzgerald singing ‘How high the moon’ and she uses scat singing all over the place.
Jazz artists have used scat singing to bring in humor into their performances also. Here is a brilliant Western Jazz work by two great Jazz artists, Louis Armstrong and Danny Kaye..
SPB used to do a lot of yodeling as he was a budding singer in the 70s. Raja tried to use his friend’s unique abilities and wherever possible, threw in a Jazz improvisation, though the rest of the song was purely an Indian melody. Raja has done so many of these songs where he brings in scat elements. Raja’s favorite scat syllable seems to be ‘Ra Pa Pa..’. Let’s look at some examples.
Ninaivo Oru Paravai from Sivappu Rojakkal (1978) – Both Kamal and Janaki do scat singing as part of their humming. Look at the pitch variations. This is not improvisation – rather, scat by design.
Netru Indha Neram from Tik Tik Tik (1982) – pay attention to the second interlude, where there is scat singing by a male voice, nicely executed. The tempo of this singing is arranged to be faster than the entire song.
Moodu Pani was Raja’s earliest scat adventure film. Three of the songs in this film use extensive scat…
En Iniya Pon Nilave from Moodu Pani (1980) has some brilliant scat parts for Yesudas. That ha tha tha tha tha.
Paruva Kaalangalin from Moodu Pani (1980) – Both Janaki and MV have several scat parts throughout the track. Again, Janaki excels with her modulation. (tha ka tha ka…)
Vaan Engum from Moondram Pirai (1982) – Observe the SPB scat singing in interlude 2. (tha tha thu thu…). Nice work to an otherwise pop song.
Kavidhai Paadu Kuyile from Thendrale ennai thodu (1984) – observe the SPB scat singing (Ra Pa Pa) in this otherwise Indian melody.
Endhan Kannil Ezhulangal from Guru (1980) – Janaki freaks out with Scat singing. She starts off with scat singing (Pa Pa Pa ) in this track. The modulations in this track are just amazing. This is a Janaki-only track. While others brought her classical dimension out, Raja dug through every faculty of here and showcased it.
Pudhu Maapillaiku from Apoorva Sagodarargal (1989) – this is the ultimate scat song by Raja. The male chorus and SPB freak out in Raja’s traditional ‘Ra Pa Pa’. In fact, I have not heard a Indian song that uses scat as much.
Raja, Rajathi Rajan from Agni Natchathiram (1988) – the song has several scat elements (Pa Pa Pa…) sang by the male chorus throughout the track.