Monday, July 2, 2012

Scat singing backgrounder

Many composers have used a whole bunch of Western techniques before Raja.  Kishore Kumar was very famous for his yodeling in the HFM world, much before Raja. The song, ‘Zindagi Ek Safar’ from Andaz showcased Kishoreda’s yodeling by RD Burman in the 70s. Another RD Burman favorite is the song sang by Usha Uthup in the 70s hit ‘Hare Rama Hare Krishna’ – I love you – simply brilliant rendition by Usha.  Asha starts off ‘Daa Re Tu Ru’ and Usha further scats ‘Doo Re Tu Re’, and takes off…

Here is the famous Usha Uthup scat song – One Two Cha Cha Cha…

If you dig through some old MSV tracks in the 60s, you may end up with a few such picks by AL Raghavan and others.

Before we dive deep into Raja’s scat journey, let’s try and understand what scat singing is all about.  Scat singing has its origin from the improvisational world of Jazz music though some experts do not entirely agree.  Some do argue that it existed long before Louis Armstrong came into the scene. In any case, most agree that it is a stock technique of several Jazz artists. Even yodeling is a form of scat. For the most part, scat singing involves short syllables sang in an improvisational way, varying pitch, volume and other vocal characteristics. Several Jazz artists have used different scat syllables such as "louie-ooie-la-la-la" or "shoo-doo-shoo-bee-ooo-bee"

Here is a great example of Ella Fitzgerald singing ‘How high the moon’ and she uses scat singing all over the place.

Jazz artists have used scat singing to bring in humor into their performances also. Here is a brilliant Western Jazz work by two great Jazz artists, Louis Armstrong and Danny Kaye..

SPB used to do a lot of yodeling as he was a budding singer in the 70s. Raja tried to use his friend’s unique abilities and wherever possible, threw in a Jazz improvisation, though the rest of the song was purely an Indian melody. Raja has done so many of these songs where he brings in scat elements. Raja’s favorite scat syllable seems to be ‘Ra Pa Pa..’. Let’s look at some examples.

Ninaivo Oru Paravai from Sivappu Rojakkal (1978) – Both Kamal and Janaki do scat singing as part of their humming.  Look at the pitch variations. This is not improvisation – rather, scat by design.

Netru Indha Neram from Tik Tik Tik (1982) – pay attention to the second interlude, where there is scat singing by a male voice, nicely executed. The tempo of this singing is arranged to be faster than the entire song.

Moodu Pani was Raja’s earliest scat adventure film. Three of the songs in this film use extensive scat…

En Iniya Pon Nilave from Moodu Pani (1980) has some brilliant scat parts for Yesudas. That ha tha tha tha tha.

Paruva Kaalangalin from Moodu Pani (1980) – Both Janaki and MV have several scat parts throughout the track. Again, Janaki excels with her modulation. (tha ka tha ka…)

Vaan Engum from Moondram Pirai (1982) – Observe the SPB scat singing in interlude 2. (tha tha thu thu…). Nice work to an otherwise pop song.

Kavidhai Paadu Kuyile  from Thendrale ennai thodu (1984) – observe the SPB scat singing (Ra Pa Pa) in this otherwise Indian melody.

Endhan Kannil Ezhulangal from Guru (1980) – Janaki freaks out with Scat singing. She starts off with scat singing (Pa Pa Pa ) in this track. The modulations in this track are just amazing. This is a Janaki-only track.  While others brought her classical dimension out, Raja dug through every faculty of here and showcased it.

Pudhu Maapillaiku from Apoorva Sagodarargal (1989) – this is the ultimate scat song by Raja. The male chorus and SPB freak out in Raja’s traditional ‘Ra Pa Pa’. In fact, I have not heard a Indian song that uses scat as much.

Raja, Rajathi Rajan from Agni Natchathiram (1988) – the song has several scat elements (Pa Pa Pa…) sang by the male chorus throughout the track.

Choir Scat singing - White with red stripes tulips

Raja has used scat singing in his music throughout his career using both male and female voices. We will explore scat singing later in detail. For the moment, let’s stick to scat by chorus. The first thing about scat singing in Indian film music reminds us of Usha Uthup in Hare Rama Hare Krishna in the 70s for RD Burman.

Paruva Kalangalil from Moodu Pani (Tamil 1980) – some parts by female only choir. The song starts off with some neat scat singing. The pallavi has some female western choir backing the main singers.  The 1st interlude has some neat passages with mixed choir – very nicely executed. The charanams have the female choir in conventional format taking on inter lyric space. 

Let's hear Paruva Kalangalil...

Pudhu Maapillaiku from Aboorva Sagodarargal (Tamil 1989). The ’Ra Pa Paa’ in this song is famous work of Raja where SPB and chorus keep the scat singing going throughout the song. In fact, there are some nice vocal counterpoints that we discussed in our section on Counterpoint with voices. The other track in the same movie, ‘Raja Kaiya Vacha’ also has the interludes with innovative scat. Some parts of the charanam are also backed by the chorus singing scat in between the main singer’s lines. Both these tracks are all male scat singing.

En Uyire from Poonthota Kaavalkaran (conventional choir too) (Tamil 1988). The prelude of the song starts of the song starts off as an Indian melody humming. It slowly morphs into scat singing between Chithra and the female chorus. This track also uses female chorus instead of strings to back the charanams.

Let's hear En Uyire...

Kadhal Needhana from Time (Tamil 1999)– Some parts have traditional female choir too. The prelude starts off with male chorus scat singing and this continues as Unni sings the pallavi in the background. The first interlude has some female conventional chorus parts. 

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 Thottavadi from Pachakuthira (Malayalam 2006) has scat singing by both male/female choir. There is also traditional choir in the track. This is a very busy track with several musical ideas thrown in freely. The first interlude has some interesting scat parts for the female chorus after the sax play (Daa a did da) followed by the scat by the male chorus. The second interlude has some great trumpet play to start off and it switches to some shehnai!  Again, Raja uses the female chorus scat followed by the male chorus scat.

Let's hear Oru Thottavadi...

Pon Veyilile from Oru Yaatra Mozhi (Malayalam 1997)– pallavi has some brilliant female scat singing. This is innovative use of scat in melody mode. When Chitra sings the pallavi, the female chorus sing ‘Tha thoo tha tha tho’ in the background in a very non scat way – fitting the melody structure perfectly. The interludes have extensive conventional female chorus. 

Raja Rajathi Rajan from Agni Natchathiram (Tamil 1988) – uses extensive vocal harmony. The second interlude of this track uses scat singing by the male chorus extensively.

Rojapoo Aadi Vandhadhu from Agni Natchathiram (Tamil 1988) – the prelude uses female scat singing in this track. The first interlude uses traditional and scat parts from the female chorus. The second interlude has female chorus scat parts in several places.

Vaan Meedhile from Ragangal Mudivathillai (Tamil 1983)– the prelude of this song uses scat parts from the female chorus and Janaki. The rest of the song does not have any scat parts

Vanam Enna Kezhirukku from Vetri Vizha (Tamil 1987). This is one of those rare songs sang by SPB and Malaysia Vasudevan. When SPB sings, Vasu scats and vice versa. There is female chorus in scat mode as part of the 1st interlude. The first charanam has a lot of scat singing by SPB and the second one Vasu takes his scat turn.

Let's hear Vaanam Enna...

Anando Brahma from Shiva (Telugu 1989). The first interlude has female choir in scat mode with some great violins. 

Sorgam Madhuvile from Sattam En Kaiyil (Tamil 1978). The prelude has some female scat singing. The pallavi has also has female choir scatting in between SPB’s lines. The charanam has a few bars with some nice Western female choir backing SPB. The second pallavi has both the choir and SPB in scat mode. 

Let's hear Sorgam Madhuvile...

Unnai Thedi Vennila from En Mana Vaanil (Tamil 2002) – the prelude has male choir in scat mode and the song has a lot of female choir support. The first interlude has some nice scat parts too. The charanams and the pallavi have some nice female choir singing in between the main singer’s lines. The second interlude has some more scat parts too. The last pallavi has some nice vocal harmony as the icing on the cake. 

The second interlude of Devathai Pol Oru from Gopura Vasalile (Tamil 1990) has the three main singers singing in scat chorus mode.