Friday, January 2, 2009

Moods of Raja

In the introductory part of this blog, I touched upon the moods that Raja has tried to create with his music. Time to get into the detail to see the difference the genius of Raja brings to this important facet of film music. Unlike classical music, which focuses on technical perfection, film music in general focuses on expression. Expressions vary according to the situations in a film script/story. Without exception, all film music composers have to deal with different expressions. If so, what makes Raja different from the rest of the composers?

As I mentioned before, Raja broke a number of long held conventions in the use of musical instruments for both songs and background music. I will focus more on the use of musical instruments in film songs – especially interludes, which has been the focus of this blog.

At a high level, Raja changed the playing field by using instruments that were counter to the norm in film music. Raja has given everybody the boldness to use any instrument for whatever the composer wants to create a ‘feel’ for. Time for some examples:
  • Shehnai is no more for just pathos - Raja has used it for every form of expression opposite of the norm – celebration, joy, anger.
  • Veena is no more for just an auspicious situation – Raja has used it for devotion, pensiveness, melancholy.
  • Flute does not always signify a village – nobody can rival Raja’s use of flute for romance, joy, competitiveness, pathos, devotion
  • Sax is no more for youth – Raja has used it as an instrument for romance, mischief, anger, despair.
  • Guitar is no more for just romance – Raja being a guitarist by training has used it for the entire spectrum of expressions from anger, sorrow, joy, melancholy, celebration to romance
  • Violin is no more for just melancholy – Even Raja detractors agree that nobody has used violin so well in a thousand situations that it is hard to list. Raja has used just the solo violin for bringing out the entire band of human moods.
  • Synthesizer is no more a filler for anything the composer cannot figure – Raja’s use of synthesizer is truly amazing. I find that some of his work in Malayalam/Tamil film music with synth is mind blowing. He is so gifted that he is able to bring expressions such as devotion and melancholy easily with the synth.
The bullet points above illustrate how the mind of the genius works. Given any instrument, he is able to create any mood that is required for the situation. The key difference of the Raja experience is this – he decides the moods and the musical instruments and writes notes that are able to deliver the output. Musical instruments do not limit or influence his decision. Or is he so clever that we are unable to surface the limitations that he has with some musical instruments? That’s a question only Raja can answer.

To the best of my knowledge, the association of colors to musical moods is an area of research and there is no agreement among researchers on which color represents which mood. This is due to a large number of musical systems and practices in world music. Let’s not step into this controversial area, and make our own claim. However, in order to make it interesting, I am suggesting a few colors for the next few sections on Raja’s moods that will serve one objective – how he covers the entire spectrum (expressed best by way of colors) with each instrument in his interludes in primarily Tamil, Malayalam and Telugu film music. Some of the readers may not agree with some of my classifications. However, as long as you see the spectrum of moods that are being conveyed by Raja with each lead instrument, my objective is achieved. Please try not to associate the film situation when you hear these interludes – most visualizations of Raja’s music are at best childish in South Indian movies.

Towards this objective, let’s choose some colors for our discussion.
1) Red signifies Anger (aggressiveness)
2) Yellow signifies Happiness (joy)
3) Violet signifies sadness – melancholy
4) Green signifies pleasant recollections
5) Blue signifies romance
6) Orange signifies relaxed party mood (celebration) and
7) Pink signifies devotion

This will be a seven part series exploring the rainbow of colors and the entire spectrum of moods they represent.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Why cant u post your blog posts in Orkut Raja Community?Many weren't aware of your blog and they too can enjoy the essence of the raja's compostions..