Saturday, April 15, 2023

SJ – Orchestral vocal instrument - Several (1980s)

This is a catch all use of SJ’s voice in several orchestral modes in a single track. Every track in this post will contain more than one technique, that it cannot be strictly fall under the classification of any one technique. While, there were a few tracks listed under PolyCaRe as well as CaRe, this goes beyond that. These are tracks as though Raja wanted SJ to play a bigger than usual orchestral role in his composition. 

 The first track we will list here is a song that we have analyzed before. This is the song, ‘Eriyile Elandha Maram’ from ‘Karaiyellam Shenbagapoo’ (1981 Tamil). This track has its several parts analyzed here:

Raja uses SJ for harmony, C&R in various parts of the composition as he uses her voice for a child singing with other children.

 The next track, is from the song, ‘Edalolaya’ from ‘Anveshana ‘(1985 Telugu). The orchestral parts are 100 second long in this track and definitely requires detailed analysis as there is no other such composition in Indian film music of this type. 

Most of the arrangement is between SJ and the flute while Raja does use the synthesizer as the responding instrument on occasions. The film situation has the female artist and her parrot in conversation and Raja turns this opportunity to a grand SJ instrument experiment. While he tried this with other singers later, nothing came close to this. 

The unique feature of this track is the use of Carnatic swarams and not just humming in the C&R parts on several occasions. The highlight of this track is that Raja uses one technique and demonstrates 7 variations to it within the same song. While classical composers have the freedom of time, Raja is constrained by the time he has for any composition due to the pressures of composing for films. We will analyze this by phrases. 

Phrase 1 – 0:01 to 0:19 secs: This is arranged as a Call and response between SJ and the flute with SJ singing swarams instead of humming. The call and response is an interesting one. Both SJ and the flute sing the entire phrase once and in the next when SJ sings part of the melody, the flute will finish the remaining part of the melody. Very innovative use of the technique, where the composer uses a melody and splits it between the human voice and an instrument! 

Phrase 2 – 0:20 to 0:28 secs: This is arranged as a Call and Response between SJ and the flute. The response from the flute is not SJ’s swaram but a different melody. 

Phrase 3 – 0:29 to 0:33 secs: This is arranged as a Call and Response between SJ’s lyrical words and a synthesizer.

 Phrase 4 – 0:34 to 0:47 secs: This is an arrangement, where the composer reverses roles between SJ and the flute within these 14 seconds. It starts off as a call from the flute to which SJ responds and at about the 40 second mark, they reverse roles and the call is from SJ and the response is from a flute! It is beyond comprehension how the three parties involved – the flautist, SJ and the composer can pull of such great work in less than a couple of hours! The SJ parts are all swarams. 

Phrase 5 – 0:48 to 0:57 secs: Another Call and Response experiment that is very unique to this track is the use of a single swaram as the call and the response from the flute with the same swaram. Raja uses the clever trick of sustainment to keep the listener interested 

Phrase 6 – 0:58 to 1:15 secs: One more variant to the call and response technique is the use of SJ is the ‘Aa’ (Akaaram) mode with a sustain as her call and the flute responds with exactly the same note. 

 Phrase 7 – 1:15 to 1:40 secs: Raja creates short melodies with several swarams and then turns it into a call and response between SJ and the flute. Each of the swarams in the melody phrase is mostly sang by SJ with the last one or two swarams alone by the flute. 

This song is almost like a treatise on what’s possible between two instruments, if a composer has rich imagination and the right cooperation from the singer and the flautist, there are no limits even with just one technique. Such great imagination is possible only for a genius! 

Let’s feast on the SJ and flute in complete set of C&R experiments with Edalolaya

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

SJ – Orchestral vocal instrument - Strumming (1980s)


Strumming is a staple technique with guitar and several Raja compositions use this technique. However, there is one song, where Raja uses this technique along with SJ’s voice instead of a guitar. It is true that Raja also used MV’s voice also in the same mode in this song.

The track is from the prelude of the song, ‘Paruvakaalagalil’ from ‘Moodu Pani’ (Tamil 1980). This is a rare 13 second clip, where he uses SJ’s voice in this mode backed by the bass and lead guitar. He uses her voice in this mode to convey the sense of the liberated young celebrating it. It begins as a simple melody and towards the 5th second or so, shifts into the strumming mode. Very creative use of the female voice. I did not hear any other track, where he repeated this experiment.

Let’s hear ‘Paruvakaalangalil’ strumming with SJ’s orchestral vocal instrument…

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

SJ – Orchestral vocal instrument - PolyCaRe (1990s)

 PolyCaRe is a Raja specialty, and we covered this in a number of posts a few years ago. This is basically a Call and Response arrangement within a polyphonic arrangement. In other words, it has a background melody and a foreground melody like every polyphonic composition, but the foreground itself has two or more melodies operating in a C&R format. 

You can see more on the definition and the exploration of PolyCaRe here…

PolyCaRe Introduction

Though I did cover SJ being used in a PolyCaRe orchestration by Raja on a few occasion in this analysis 

1. Pagalile Oru Nilavinai (Ninaive Sangeetham)

2. Ennathial Edho Jillendradhu (Kallukkul Eeram)

3. Maniye Manikuyile (Nadodi Thendral)

However, one composition that is reserved for a beautifully orchestrated PolyCaRe with SJ’s voice in the 90s is what we will analyze in this post. 

The track is from the song  ‘Mannavane Mannavane’ from ‘Thandhu Vittaen Ennai’ (1991 Tamil). This 32 second clip is a gem that has no parallel in Indian film music. It begins with a simple melody with a santoor. This continues throughout the 32 seconds as the background melody – no change at all. Now, we need to focus on the foreground arrangement. The foreground is a bewitching melody arrangement where the call is made by SJ and the response is from the flute followed by the violins.  The santoor continues its background melody. SJ sings her second melody and the flute and violins respond one after the other to complete the masterpiece. You can clearly see that SJ is used as an instrument in this sophisticated PolyCaRe arrangement and the major role here is for the santoor, flute and the violins. Such arrangements were never attempted before and after this song. It is easy to think of an orchestral arrangement such as harmony. However, to think of a polyphonic arrangement is much harder. The next level of sophistication is to think of a PolyCaRe arrangement as you must have an endless supply of melodies that fit in. The ultimate sophistication in my view for a composer is to create such compositions, where he can think outside the box – within a PolyCare arrangement, why can’t I replace one of the instrumental piece with a human voice? That’s Raja!

Let’s hear Mannavane Mannavane, PolyCaRe with SJ’s orchestral vocal instrument…

Sunday, January 15, 2023

SJ – Orchestral vocal instrument - Counterpoints (1990s)

The use of SJ in Raja’s counterpoint compositions continued into the 1990s also. 

The first track is the prelude from the song, ‘Ponnil Vaanam Poothadhu’  from ‘Villu Paatukaaraen’ (1992 Tamil). The track begins with a simple melody played on a synthesizer – this is typical way of Raja preparing the listener that ‘more sophistication is on the way’. This melody is played twice. The parallel counterpoint , which is the central part of this composition is beautifully packaged with two melodies. Let’s call this the top cover melody. The next thing that Raja has designed is to introduce a three foreground melodies. Yes, there are three parts to this foreground melody. SJ, the bass guitar and the flute do their melody parts while the synthesizer plays a simple but different melody in the background. I consider this as one of the most soothing counterpoints written by him! I have also included the last part played by the sitar which is nothing but the same melody that the synthesizer played in the beginning. This is the bottom cover melody. It is also designed beautifully and plays exactly twice like its synthesizer counterpart. Now, this is how the most beautiful pearls are created by nature. The two melodies (like shells) beautifully cover the beautiful counterpoint inside it. Genius!

Let’s hear, ‘Ponnil Vaanam Poothadhu’, counterpoint with SJ’s orchestral vocal instrument… 

The next track is from the song, ‘Raasaave Unnai Vida’ from ‘Aranmanai Kili’ (1993 Tamil). The track begins with a simple C&R between SJ and the synthesizer (it has bass parts too). The synthesizer part is designed to be the background melody for the following counterpoint. Following this brief C&R, both SJ and the synthesizer launch a parallel counterpoint with the synthesizer given the job of the anchor – constant background melody. There are several variations to SJ’s melody parts but the synthesizer stays put. I have also included the following counterpoint after SJ’s part – this is where SJ becomes a part of the Raja orchestral composition. The foreground melody now is played by a flute with the exact same synthesizer melody in the background. Another back to back CP within a minute – typical Raja. 

Let’s hear, ‘Raasaave Unnai vida’, counterpoint with SJ’s orchestral vocal instrument…

Thursday, December 15, 2022

SJ – Orchestral vocal instrument - Counterpoints (1980s)

Readers regularly reading this blog will be familiar with counterpoints and their usage by Raja. There were several posts dedicated to Raja’s counterpoints from 2008 onwards. Here is some basic information on musical counterpoints.

 In these posts, we will explore how Raja used SJ as one of the counterpoint instrument. This obviously requires two melodies that need to be playing simultaneously. Sometimes, there are several melodies in Raja’s work and SJ is one of the melodies. Let’s begin our analysis with the tunes of the 1980s. 

Let’s begin with the prelude of the song, ‘Ennathail Edho’ from ‘Kallukkul Eeram’ (1980 Tamil). The track begins with a synthesizer playing at a constant rhythm being the background melody throughout this part. SJ’s humming is composed as a counterpoint along with the bass guitar. This is actually a PolyCaRe composition, as the SJ/bass guitar parts are answered by the flute with its own melody when the background synthesizer keeps playing its repeating melody. The SJ/Bass and the flute parts are different for each phrase. The whole composition is engineered with the lead singer playing an orchestral part for the prelude. It is arranged as a staggered counterpoint by the composer.

Let’s hear, ‘Ennathil Edho’, counterpoint with SJ’s orchestral vocal instrument… 

The next track is from the song ‘Isai Medaiyil’ from ‘Ilamai Kaalangal’ (1983 Tamil). There are several melodies in this part and the two main parts are melodies sung by the female choir and SJ’s parts. You will notice that the female choir is given the simple melody that keeps repeating throughout this part. The SJ part has nuances to its melodies as it changes every time. The counterpoint has two distinct arrangements placed back to back. I have included some instrument parts following the SJ part. Observe that the female choir continues even after SJ’s part is over. The SJ part is replaced by the synthesizer playing a new melody and even the background female choir has its melody changed. Brilliant! When composers brag about writing counterpoints, Raja has written several such gems, where he alters both the foreground and the background melody and nobody notices, as the listener is transported to a different world by the sheer strength of the melody!

Let’s hear, ‘Isai Medaiyil’, counterpoint with SJ’s orchestral vocal instrument… 

Even within these posts, you can see how Raja used SJ in instrument parts that are dominated by flute in the first and the choir/ synthesizer in the second. I am sure there are a few others I may have overlooked. Feel free to include them in your comments…

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

SJ – Orchestral vocal instrument - Harmony (1990s)

 The technique was not used by Raja is a big way in the 90s with SJ’s voice. However, I found one example of him continuing this in the 90s too.

The track we will hear is from the song,’ ‘Thanneer Kudam’ from the film ‘Sarkarai Devan’ (1993 Tamil). The harmony is buried inside the charanam and it is used in both the charanams in the same format. The harmony is between the synthesizer, flute, bass guitar and SJ and it is a three part harmony.  Focus on the parts that SJ hums along with these instruments.

Let’s hear, ‘thanneer kudam’, harmony with SJ’s orchestral vocal instrument…

Sunday, October 16, 2022

SJ – Orchestral vocal instrument - Harmony (1980s)

 In the 80s, Raja expanded the use of SJ in several of his harmonies. There are several dozens of examples and I have chosen a few to analyze how he integrated her into his harmonies in this decade. 

The first track we will hear is ‘Azhagu Aayiram’ from ‘Ullasa Paravaigal’ (1980 Tamil). This is such a beautiful use of her voice inside a harmony that it requires elaboration a little before and after her harmony parts. The first few seconds is a harmony that is arranged between the synthesizer, flute and the bass guitar. This follows a long harmony part between the electric guitar, SJ, bass guitar, synthesizer and another guitar with a wah wah pedal. Absolutely staggering piece of orchestration. Following this are harmony parts with the violin, synthesizer and flute serving as a bridge to the charanam.  Such harmonies are impossible to hear with today’s music. Worth every second in gold!

Let’s hear ‘Azhagu Aayiram’, harmony with SJ’s orchestral vocal instrument…

The next track is from the song ‘Raja Magal’ from the film, ‘Pillai Nila’ (1985 Tamil). This track can easily be argued as a C&R track as it has two back to back C&R between SJ and the recorder. However, I chose to categorize it as a harmony to illustrate the final harmony that follows these two C&R arrangements, where SJ is just one part of an otherwise violin harmony. A simple synthesizer bridge connects these parts back to the charanam (this is the part almost every composer today struggles, but Raja has a few thousand ideas that today’s composers fail to study).

Let’s hear ‘Raaja Magal’, harmony with SJ’s orchestral vocal instrument…

The next track is from the song, ‘Rojavai thaalaattum thendral’ from ‘Ninaivellam Nitya’ (1983 Tamil). This is a nice violin harmony that SJ is a part of.

Let’s hear ‘Rojavai thaalaatum’, harmony with SJ’s orchestral vocal instrument…

The next track is from the song, ‘Vaa Vennila’ from the film ‘Mella thirandhadhu Kadhavu’ (1986 Tamil). This is a dense 4 part harmony between the violins(T), flute(S), bells(S), bass guitar (B), and SJ(A), each taking the respective parts and delivering a beautiful hearing experience. 

Let’s hear ‘Vaa Vennila’, harmony with SJ’s orchestral vocal instrument…

The next track is from the prelude of the iconic song, ‘Vaan Engum Thanga Vinmeengal’ from the film 'Moondram Pirai’ (1981 Tamil). SJ shares her part with a female choir in turn. The harmony has the lead guitar, bass guitar, piano, flute, SJ/choir playing their parts.

Let’s hear, ‘Vaan Engum’, harmony with SJ’s orchestral vocal instrument…

I am sure there are a few more examples of SJ being used as part of a C&R arrangement in the 1980s. Feel free to include your picks in the comments…