Monday, April 2, 2012

Use of Bhajan format for the chorus - Black Tulips

This could be set in North or South Indian style. This normally has both male and female voices though on occasions, only one of the gender is used. This comes pretty easy for Raja who is very spiritual in his lifestyle.

Raja has done quite a few compositions as he is spiritual as well. First, let’s take the North Indian style. The track  Maa Ganga from Naan KadavuL (Tamil 2009) is a brilliant bhajan chorus backed track. Kunal’s voice is nicely backed by the male chorus singing in the North Indian bhajan style complete with the laid back tabla rhythm that is steady and also has the jalra.

Let's hear Maa Ganga...

Tharai Varamal from the film Chandralekha (Tamil 2000) is actually a redo of the song Arumbum Thalire from the same film, which is orchestrated with all the techno sounds you can imagine for a duet. Raja re-composes the same track with a different arrangement – bhajan arrangement with Unni Krishnan singing Tharai Varamal with the male/female chorus backing him in typical South Indian bhajan style that reminds you of the annual thiruvaiyaru festival. That’s the handiwork of a genius!

Let's hear Tharai Varamal...

Guru Charanam from Guru (Malayalam 1997). This song is performed mostly by the mixed chorus singers.  The pallavi is done in an innovative way – partly by the female chorus and the rest my the male chorus. The charanam1 and charanam2 has the female leading with the male chorus backing the female chorus. The interlude 2 has some parts for the female chorus. The male voices are used at times to create a surrealistic atmosphere. Though the arrangement is very different from a typical South Indian bhajan, Raja uses several elements of it. The slow pace, the male choir creating the background tone.

Let's hear the mesmerizing Guru Charanam...

I am sure there are few other tracks from Raja's devotional albums. Readers may list them.

Female western choir singing - Pink and purple tulips

Raja has used them extensively in his compositions. The definition of what constitutes western choir is a bit loose. All that can be said is that they sing notes without any microtones (gamakams). This must not be confused with harmony singing. We will cover harmony singing on a separate section.

Given his WCM training, this is very common in his work. He has used female voices to sing in the western way on many tracks starting from the 70s.

Aatrirambile from Kaala Pani (Malayalam 1996). The song starts off with conventional female chorus. Observe the choir arrangement along with the flute in the first interlude. Kaala Pani was Raja’s first collaboration with HSO. The second interlude switches completely to WCM.

Aatama Paatama from Nadigan (Tamil 1990). The song has some cool scat singing by SPB to start. The second interlude has some neat female western choir arrangement.

Alai Meedu from Kadhal Kavidhai (Tamil 1998). Being a conventional Indian melody, this track is very misleading from a western choir perspective. Observe the first interlude where the violins and the female choir are almost indistinguishable. The charanams have conventional female choir backing the singer.

Let's hear the outstanding choir arrangement in Alai Meedu...

 Chinna Poove Mella Pesu from Poovizhi Vaasalile (Tamil 1987). The prelude of the song has some neat female choir parts. The first interlude has some very nice female choir parts along with violins.

En Iniya Pon Nilave from Moodu pani (Tamil 1980). This is almost a reference track for Western choir with female voices in the 80s in Raja’s music. The first interlude has some brilliant parts and the charanams are backed by the same female choir parts. Simply brilliant.

Enulle Enulle from Valli (Tamil 1993). Some may argue that this is conventional choir arrangement, but on close observation, it will become clear that this is a western choir arrangement handshaking with Indian. Some parts have Swarna’s voice in phase shift, which should not be confused with the female choir. In the first interlude, at the end of the interlude, there are two sets of female choir voices, one that sings conventional Indian melody and the other singing exactly at the same pitch, western choir. In the second interlude the technique is repeated with the same set of voices but with different musical phrases. The last pallavi has some outstanding female choir backing the two Swarna voices in phase shift. Stunning arrangement.

Let's hear the mesmerizing Enulle Enulle...

Kadhal Oviyam from Alaigal Oiyvathillai (Tamil 1981). This track is also covered with the category (?) that covers Sanskrit chant. The prelude has some neat female choir along with the Sanskrit chants. The first prelude has come conventional Indian female choir. The pallavis in the track have some Indian choir backing. The second interlude has some great female western choir along with some neat violin work.

Let's hear Kadhal Oviyam...

Kalalo Choosinadi from Shambu (innovative mix with flutes) (Telugu 2002). The first interlude has a short bit that is truly mindblowing arrangement. A synthesizer, flute and the female western choir – just makes me wonder – how does such a combo occur to somebody? The second interlude has some nice Western female choir with the flutes alone. In all, a very innovative use of voices and instrumentation.

Let's hear the modern arrangement with Kalalo Choosinadi...

Kottum Kuzhalvizhi from Kaala Paani (parts have traditional male choir too) (Malayalam 1996). This is one of the top choir arrangements of Raja. Being his first collaboration with BSO, he has used the talent of both the overseas as well as local artists brilliantly. Observe the first pallavi closely – there is no use of any choir techniques anywhere. However, Raja uses a placeholder synthesizer bell note which will be used later on with a brilliant replacement in the later pallavis. Towards the end of the pallavi, the Western female choir and the rushing violins raise the song to a crescendo that is typical of WCM. Control is truned over to the male choir who have lyrics to sing. The first interlude has one of the finest choir in Indian film music with some outstanding violin work only that can come from Raja. In the charanam, Raja uses the conventional male chorus backing Chitra and the female chorus backing Sree. The second pallavi again is worked with placeholder synth work instead of the chorus. The second interlude is a great match for the first one for the Western female choir – only Raja can beat the Raja! The final pallavi is another masterpiece – he replaces all those placeholders with Chitra singing in an opera style 4 notes. The single note is replaced with 4 notes, with the 3 additional notes overlapping with Sree.  I cannot think of any song that can be compared with this in Indian film music.

Let's first hear Kottum Kuzhavizhi...

Let’s break this down, one more time. Please use some quality headphones to follow along:
  • The clip contains Pallavi1, interlude 1, interlude 2 and Pallavi 3
  • Observe closely Pallavi 1. At 0:07 seconds, you will hear the placeholder synth tone 1. At 0:10 seconds, you will hear placeholder synth tone 2. At 0:13 seconds, you will hear placeholder synth tone 3. At 0:16 seconds, you will hear placeholder synth tone 4. At 0:19 seconds, you will hear placeholder synth tone 5. At 0:23 seconds, you will hear placeholder synth tone 6. At 0:26 seconds, you will hear placeholder synth tone 7. At 0:29 seconds, you will hear placeholder synth tone 8
  • Between 0:30 and 0:38 seconds, you will hear a fantastic female Western choir
  • Between 0:51 to 1:02 seconds, you will hear Sree repeat the pallavi with 4 placeholder tomes, exactly placed as we saw when he sang it the first time
  • These 12 placeholders are replaced in Pallavi 3 by Chitra singing at an Alto tone like an opera singer
  • Between 1:03 and 1:36, Raja arranges one of the best violin and female choir passages I have heard in Indian film music
  • Between 2:05 and 2:20, Raja arranges the second interlude a bit differently with sweeping violins and flutes. This time, the female choir has a few notes overlapping with male choir, if you observe closely
  •  From 2:22, the third pallavi starts and you can see the eight placeholders set in the first pallavi being replaced by four notes sang by Chitra as Sree leaves her with the exact room! Talk about musical precision! All this happens between 2:22 and 2:44. In Pallavi 1, the 8 placeholders were covered in 22 seconds and in the final pallavi, with the Chitra 4 notes replacing the placeholders, it is still navigated in 22 seconds
  • Between 2:55 and 3:20, Chitra repeats her 4 notes 8 times over as the initial lines of the pallavi are repeated twice
Maasi Maadam from Dharmadurai (2nd interlude and prelude) (Tamil 1991) The prelude has some conventional Indian female choir nicely sculpted by the violins. The second interlude has some neat female western choir that has a whole bunch of very discrete notes

Marugo Marugo from Vetri Vizha (Tamil 1987) Prelude – 2nd interlude is traditional female choir. The song starts off like ‘Kadhal Oviyam’ with Sanskrit slokams overlapped with female western choir. The second interlude has some folkish female chorus.

Minnaminumgam from My Dear Kuttichathan (children) (Malayalam 1984). This song is executed with children backing Yesudas. The song starts off with some neat children Western choir. In the charanam, the children sing conventional Indian choir in between phrases. Some of the charanam’s mid bars are backed ( 5,6) by children singing in a scat mode. The final transition between the charanam and the pallavi is executed with Das in scat. The second charanam is executed very similar to the first one.

Oru Kiliyin thanimaiyile from Poovizhi Vaasalile (Tamil 1987) - Has children choir and some good traditional and western female choir. There are two versions to this song. From a choir perspective, both the versions are arranged the same way. The children sing some lines in the pallavi and the female choir backs him – all in the pallavi. The charanam has some neat female choir that is perfect western choir with Tamil words – nicely written by Vaali. It’s not easy to get such simple repetitive words that fit the notes so perfectly. Hats off to the combo. You will easy figure this out if you approach these phrases from a musical note perspective. The second interlude has some great innovative choir arrangement. Again discrete notes backed by the bass and lead guitar to give you the impression of a western choir, with perfect Indian ‘la la la’ phrases. It’s hard to match this composer’s one faculty – choir and arrangement!  The children’s choir is used as the transition between the charanam and the pallavi.  

Let's hear Oru Kiliyin...

Pillai Nila from (Yesudas version) from Neengal Kettavai (Tamil 1984). The prelude has some conventional Indian female choir. The pallavi has the female choir singing some inter-lyric lines. The first interlude has some neat female western choir.  The choir arrangement between the Janaki track and the Yesudas track are different.

Let's hear Pillai Nila...

Rangu Rangu from Prem Kahani (Kannada 2009). The prelude of this song is arranged with the synthesizer and female choir. The postlude after the charanam has some conventional male chorus. 

Unnai Naan Sernthirukka from Ilaya Ragam (Tamil 1995). The female choir has alternate lines with Chitra and scatting in the next lines.

Vandhal Vandhal Rajakumari from Oru Oorile Oru Rajakumari (Tamil 1995). We have discussed this song as part of the waltz discussions. This has a heavy choir component. The prelude has some fantastic female western choir arrangement. The first prelude continues with some nice western choir and also some scat singing by the female choir. The second interlude continues the work done on the first interlude.