Monday, November 15, 2021

Nearest Neighbor – Shehnai and Trumpet

 Bringing a western and an Indian instrument together is nothing new with Raja’s orchestration. However, in a rural comedy setting, Raja uses a trumpet next to a shenhnai and these are tonally very close to each other. Unlike other instrument pairs, Raja ensures that there is a very short interval between the two instruments to ensure that the listener can perceive the difference. 

The clip below is from the interlude of the song, ‘Ooru vittu’ from Karakaatakaaran (Tamil 1989). Hear the nice exchange between these two unlikely neighbors.

Let’s hear these Nearest Neighbors – Shehnai and Trumpet …

Nearest Neighbor – Male choir and distortion guitar

 Distortion guitar is a rare entity in Indian film music. It has always been relegated to night club settings, or some college settings of music competition. Raja takes this rare entity and uses it next to a male choir, What’s even more intriguing is the song is set to a folk tune!   Male choir is close to a distortion guitar and such out-of-the-box thinking in orchestration has never been attempted before, let alone, in a folk setting.

The clip below is from the second interlude of the song, ‘Marakudaiyal’ from the film, ‘Manasinakkare’ (Malayalam 2003). Hear the nice exchange between these two unlikely neighbors.

Let’s hear these Nearest Neighbors – Male choir and distortion guitar …

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Nearest Neighbor – Female choir and flute

Flute and female choir is not uncommon. However, when the female choir is in a pitch that is very close to the flute, you are walking in dangerous territory as one of the two components tends to become redundant. This favors the flute more than the female choir, as it is hard to conduct a choir than getting a flute player to play the notes. Why bother conducting a choir when you have the easy way of completing the phrases with flute? Raja has several compositions where he has used this combination next to each other with ease and mostly, his painstaking choir and the flute complement each other as the melodies they play are complementary. This is tough business in orchestration that most composers stay away from.

The first 28 seconds of the clip are from the interlude of the song ‘Halli Lavaniyalli’ from Namoora Mandara Hoove (Kannada 1997). Initially, you will hear the flute and the choir separately playing their complementary melodies. However, towards the end (after 22 seconds), the experiment of merging these two melodies to play simultaneously clearly demonstrates, that they do sound great, when in the hands of the master.

 From 30 seconds onwards in the clip, the interlude of the song, ‘Enna Varam Vendum’ from ‘Nandavana Theru’ (Tamil 1995) plays. The flute plays for at least 10 seconds in the background with the female choir adds phrases in the foreground. From 41 second to til end of the clip is a beautiful arrangement of female choir, flute and violins all playing their parts simultaneously, for about 40 seconds. It is a treat to hear such beautiful work in an area that composers never go. They should, as the master has shown the way.

Let’s hear these Nearest Neighbors – Female choir and flute …

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Nearest Neighbor – Female solo and santoor

 There are very few composers who have used the santoor in South Indian film music and today, this instrument is almost extinct in film music. A beautiful sound, similar to harp in western symphony orchestras, Raja has exploited the instrument extensively. In this post, we will see how Raja uses Janaki again as his orchestral instrument alongside the santoor instrument. This is not just a unlikely neighbor, this is also unimaginable for almost all Indian composers.

The first 18 seconds of this clip is from the song, ‘Maniye Manikuyile’ from the film, ‘Nadodi Thendral’ (Tamil 1992). Raja creates a counterpoint with Janaki’s humming with the santoor thoughout the clip The santoor is the background melody and the flute responds to Janaki’s call. This again in PolyCare, Raja style!

From 20 seconds to 47 seconds of this clip is from the song ‘Mannavane mannavane’ from the film ‘Thandhuvittaen Ennai’ (Tamil 1991) is a pure pot of gold in orchestral terms. The way this song is arranged is with the santoor and the bass guitar doing the background melody. A number of things happen in the foreground. A call from Janaki is responded by the flute followed by the violins. The second call by Janaki and the responses from the flute and the violins are all different from the first. There is a total of 8 melodies arranged as PolyCare by Raja in these 27 seconds, very Indian, but technically Western. The only two constant melodies are the santoor and the bass guitar. Salute the genius!

The last 5 seconds of the clip is arranged as a harmony of violins and Janaki’s voice bridging to the charanam from the interlude.

Let’s hear these Nearest Neighbors – Female solo and santoor …

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Nearest Neighbor – Female solo and guitar

As I mentioned in the previous post, Raja tends to use Janaki’s voice as an orchestral element in his compositions. While flute is an unlikely neighbor, as its tone is pretty close to a female voice, for some reason, female voices also have never been used alongside electric guitar in Indian film music. As always, he is the first to try this combination and it turns out to be a great one. It is hard to play Indian melodies with electric guitar, but today with the accessories, it has got easier.  Both these clips are with Janaki’s voice and the electric guitar in this post.

The first 18 seconds in the clip is from the song, ‘Vaa Vennila’ from the film, ‘Mella thirandhadhu kadhavu (Tamil 1986)’. The Janaki humming is played by the guitar in response initially, and later by the synthesizer playing guitar tones. From 20 seconds onwards, is from the song ‘Poomaalai Oru Paavai’ from ‘Thanga Magan (Tamil 1983)’. Throughout this clip,  the guitar plays the melody first and Janaki hums it back. A very nice marriage of unlikely neighbor that only Raja colonizes!

Let’s hear these Nearest Neighbors – Female solo and guitar … 

Sunday, August 8, 2021

Blog trivia

If you are visiting this site for the first time, it is important to read this post. The intention of this blog is to present arguments in a pre-determined sequence. OLDER posts are actually NEWER posts within a month. As I keep adding new posts I change the time stamp to an earlier time so that you can read the posts in sequence. If you notice, all the posts within a month have the same date. Only the time stamp varies. Newer posts have earlier time to help you read in sequence.

If this site interests you and you want to read the earlier months (I would recommend starting from month 1 before reading month 2) start from the earliest month. I have ensured that within a month the posts are sequenced properly.

YT Notes

The Raja team is taking down YouTube sites on copyright infringement grounds. Some of the YT videos may not be viewable as a result. Let's wait for the dust to settle down.

For those who read this blog regularly, please treat this as a little nuisance and continue reading.


Ravi Natarajan

Friday, July 16, 2021

Nearest Neighbor – Female solo and flute

 Raja has used Janaki as his main female voice for several reasons. One of the reasons is her voice can be used as an instrument along with another musical instrument. In this post, all the songs but one are by Janaki and the musical instrument is the flute. While using female voices for humming is a very old technique, very rarely, composers have used great female voices as instruments and have demonstrated it as an orchestral element.  The female voice and the flute are close neighbors and very rarely they are placed next to each other. Of course, Raja is all about standing out from conventional thinking.

The first 100 seconds of the clip is from the song Edalolaya from the film Anveshana (Telugu 1985). The whole song is an orchestral experiment with Janaki’s voice and the flute. Some parts are arranged as musical notes sang by Janaki and others as humming by her. The flute responds to every note she sings or hums and it is a very clever use of her voice along with an unlikely neighbor, flute. Between 23 and 46 seconds, within this clip, Raja uses the keyboard as the steady background melody with Janaki and the flute as the foreground melody. The foreground melody uses a call and response technique. This is PolyCare at the next level where Raja simply replaces one of his foreground instruments with Janaki’s voice. Brilliant masterstroke!

Between 1:42 qand 2:24 seconds is from the song, Kogile Kooguvaa, from Prem Kahani (Kannada 2009). Here Raja uses Bela Shinde’s voice along with the flute and synthesized keys to place them initially farther and towards the end of this segment, brings them pretty close. 

Between 2:26 and 2:49 seconds is from the song, ‘Oru Kili Urugudhu’ from Ananda Kummi (Tamil 1982), where Raja uses two voices to simulate a flute and towards the end of the clip brings in the actual flute itself to show the tonal difference.

Let’s hear these Nearest Neighbors – Female solo and flute …