This category involves use of male/female chorus to chant Sanskrit based slokam. This was very uncommon before Raja. Invariably, the ‘maangalyam’, chant that is used in marriages features at least in 10 of Raja’s songs in different formats – Carnatic, Western, folk, you name it. This is a Raja specialty and comes easy for him as he is very ascetic in his life style and he understands several schools of music deeply.
Nandri Sollave Ennaku from Udan Pirappu (Tamil 1993). The prelude starts off with ‘Sadhamanam bhavathi…’ executed by a male/female chorus. The expectation will be any musician would use the chorus in the same form. Not Raja. Observe the second interlude in the same song. The female chorus is used to do discrete notes very un-Indian!
Let's hear Nandri Sollave...
Om Sivoham from Naan KadavuL (Tamil 2009). This song has the chorus backing the main singer singing completely in Sanskrit. Perhaps the first Sanskrit song in Tamil films.
Paatu Solli from Azhagi (Tamil 2002).The prelude uses the famous slokam ‘Om Sarva mangala maangalye…’
Poo Mudithu from En Purushan Thaan Enakku Mattum Thaan (Tamil 1989) has the Sanskrit slokam by the choir sang in a Carnatic fashion. The first interlude uses the ‘maangalyam…’ slokam sang by a female chorus.
Let's hear Poo Mudithu...
Kadhal Oviyam from Alaigal Oiyvathillai (Tamil 1981) – This is perhaps the track where Raja started this technique, due to the situation of the film. The prelude uses the slokam ‘Om, sathamanam bhavathu…’ followed by a female choir.
Thendralai kandu kola from Nilave Mugam Kaatu (Tamil 1999) uses sanskrit chant and folk choir in harmony in the postlude in the Hari version. Raja sings 'Nave Vasasaankaleka..' when the female folk choral part overlaps singing 'Eramilla manasule'. This has all the hallmark of a genius at work. This is hard to replicate. Sanskrit chants overlapping with a folk choir - no ordinary mind can think of this. When Raja says that all musical systems are the same, he truly means it and he shows it in this track fully. He takes up a song in melodic minor scale that is Western in my view (Carnatic pundits may argue this to be Gowrimanohari – they resemble each other pretty closely), adds a Sanskrit slokam at the end overlapping it with a folk choir. Take a bow before the genius! This is one of my all time Raja choir favorites.
Let's hear Thendralai Kandu...
Sari Sari from the Telugu film Ninuchoodaka Nenundalenu (2002 Telugu) uses the famous Kausalya Supraja in the second interlude and continues to use the synthpad rhythm arrangement even for the slokam.
Enna Enna Kanavu Kandaayo from Valli (1993) uses just the word ‘Om’ in the second interlude brilliantly crafted with Western violins in the background. Hard to figure out how such combinations occur to Raja. Another stroke of genius! In the first interlude, Western harmony creates a pensive mood and Raja shows with his second interlude that with a kettle drum, a male background choir and a bank of violins to support the ‘Om’ chanting female choir in the foreground, he creates an aural environment that only a genius is capable of.
Let's hear Enna Enna Kanavu...
We all know that Sanskrit slokams have a musical quality and even Speilberg used it in his ‘Close Encounters of the third kind’. What we see with Raja is perhaps what we can claim as close encounter of the fourth kind! Folks who brand Raja as either a folk chorus artiste need to take a step back and look at how he approaches even Sanskrit slokams – there is a musical quality in them that resonates with WCM or folk for him!