Sunday, September 2, 2018

Intricate harmonies in obscure films/songs – part 5/18

Our journey on uncovering intricate harmonies from obscurity continues…

Poonkaatinodum kilikalodum (Poomuggapadiyil Nineyum Kaathu - Malayalam - 1986)

One of my all-time basslines favorite is the song 'Poonkaatinodum kilikalodum' from Poomuggapadiyil Nineyum Kaathu (1986 Malayalam) sang brilliantly by Yesudas and Janaki. Basslines is only one part of the story. Listen to the harmony in both the interludes. Harmony so beautifully written can be turned into a music school lesson.


Harmony passage 1 (0:08 to 0:18): This is a nice melody line played by the flute in (A). The guitar plays its melody in (T) and the bass guitar plays its repetitive melody in (B).

Harmony passage 2 (0:18 to 0:33): Between 18 and 23 secs, the violins and cellos play it melody along with the flute in (S). Between 23 and 33 seconds, the violins take over and the whole harmony now goes to another level. The foreground and background violins have a dialog while the cellos the bass guitar and the main guitar continue. What a pleasure to hear this arrangement!

Interlude 1

Harmony passage 3 (1:29 to 1:45): The instrumentation is similar to the prelude, but arranged in another nice melody. The violins take up both the S and A parts and you can hear that clearly with the bass doing its B part. You will notice that the flute take the S part from the violins and the violins in the A part continues and it turns it back to the violins that played the S part before. This type of arrangement requires a solid grounding in harmony and this song demonstrates that.

Interlude 2

Harmony passage 4 (2:43 to 3:00): This interlude is arranged differently from the first one and is also rapid compared to the first. The interesting part is that the harmony parts get filled with time and the composer keeps playing with the parts to deliver the aural delight that is greater than the parts. Initially, you will hear only the violins (A) and the bass (B) playing their melodies with the flute joining the harmony (S) later.

Harmony passage 5 (3:00 to 3:14 ): The composer chooses synthesizers in harmony for this part.  The part begins with the synthesizer playing a simple but constant melody in A. Such a simple melody is a Raja composition means that it is in prep for a polyphony that is about to happen. The bass guitar takes care of the B and the violins play their melody in T. The second synthesizer plays its melody in S to make the harmony complete. However, the composer ensures the aural pleasure by keeping the various parts in dialog. Only the A and B part continue throughout this period. The S and T are alternated to deliver a bewitching melody.

A solid WCM 
music school lesson material.

Let’s hear Poonkaatinodum kilikalodum…

Mandhira Punnagaiyo (Mandhira Punnagai - Tamil - 1986)

Songs such as Mandhira Punnagaiyo from Mandhira Punnagai (Tamil 1986) are the ones Raja fans will brag with each other as 'rare' ones. The obscurity of this song is non-controversial. I heard this song only a couple of years ago, 3 decades after the song got created! This is a free flowing melody that is vintage Raja. However, inside this obscure track, as I have come to accept, Raja weaves harmony as though he is writing a piece of music for a prestigious Western orchestra. To him, writing such harmonies, as I have repeatedly said, is a walk in the park.

While there are several harmonies he has written in this song's instrumental parts, I would like to callout two or three really impressive ones.

Harmony passage 1 (1:21 to 1:45): This starts off as a solo violin part (Alto) and Raja adds Flute, cellos, violins to take care of the other three parts and if you just hear these 24 seconds, it is hard to tell if this is film music. Separate this and you can see how he has found a place for such great WCM work in a B-grade film.

Harmony passage 2 (3:07 to 3:23): The initial parts are written as simple C&R between the flute and the violins. Do not get fooled by it as that is just a precursor. There are 6 C&R arrangements between 3:07 and 3:19. Now there is a part that he does between 3:19 and 3:23 (part 2) and this has the flute playing in harmony with the 
violin. Now, you may think that this is business as usual for Raja. There are a thousand songs that he has done this. If you look at this part in isolation, the argument is true.  Step back and listen to the song between 3:11 and 3:15 (part 1) . The flute melody he plays is exactly the same as the one 3:19 and 3:23. The second part is however contrapuntal. That is a fugue part cleverly hidden inside several simple C&R parts. The part 2 is an imitation of part 1 but it is contrapuntal. 

It is hard to find a composer who would write such fugue parts casually for such B-grade films, unless writing such harmonies is trivia for a genius such as him.

Let’s hear Mandhira Punnagaiyo…