Saturday, March 2, 2019

Intricate harmonies in obscure films/songs – part 11/18

Our journey on uncovering intricate harmonies from obscurity continues…

Thathi Thathi Thaavidum (Periya Kudumbam - Tamil 1995) 

Though I have heard this song several times, I did not pay enough attention to some fantastic orchestration in the interludes. I want to highlight a few wonderful harmony touches in the song, Thathi Thathi Thaavidum from the film Periya Kudumbam (Tamil 1995).

Harmony passage 1 (interlude 1)  1:09 to 1:29   :  Initially the orchestration starts off with a sax and a synthesizer (you need to get a good pair of headphones to hear the synthesizer sharing the harmony part with the sax) adds another harmony part and the violins join the fray till 1:15. The fun has still not begun as Raja has already taken care of two parts to this harmony.  Raja throws a scat (sang by his female chorus singers)  into the mix along with the saxophone from 1:15 to 1:22 or so and the next 7 seconds is a harmony between the scat singers and the flute. And you think that he has covered it all, till you realize the masterstroke is waiting to happen.

Harmony passage 2 (interlude 1) 1:29 to 1:39 : This is harmony in gold. Raja plays with the Flute and saxophone, violins  when the scat singers return – brilliant creative rework of the previous 20 seconds. Show me one composer who can do such an arrangement – salute the maestro! These 10 seconds shows that he is the true master of orchestral brilliance.

Harmony passage 3 (interlude 2): 3:30 to   3:42 : What appears like simple saxophone play for the first 6 seconds changes suddenly to add the other harmony layers rapidly. Raja intersperses his scat singers again to take the harmony parts while the saxophone is on its frenzy.  

Overall, passage 2 is no walk in the park for any composer, though Raja would claim that. Such passages must remind you what the standard of orchestration is. Sadly, the current generation can’t tell a good one from a rotten one. I am sure future generations will wonder why Indians were living under the rock, when they had such an orchestral genius writing such music in 1995.

Let’s hear Thathi Thathi thaavidum

Kottum Melangal (Makkal Aatchi - Tamil  - 1995)

I learned about this song only recently, though it has been part of my Raja discography for long. Not sure how many such hidden gems are lying there. A very nice description of this song was done by Suresh as part of his Raja 90s series:

I will not go into the description of this song that Suresh has already done. We will focus on the beautiful harmonies weaved by Raja in this obscure song.

Harmony passage 01: 1:10 to 1:24 min- This may be a walk in the part for Raja, but requires very careful analysis. This passage has two parts and you can hear these parts nowhere else in the world. The first part, between 1:10 and 1:18  is arranged with violins and cellos in the background (Alto) with the flute taking the tenor and playing typical short western notes. This is typical Western harmony. What happens between 1:19 and 1:24 is the special aspect of this arrangement. Raja keeps the string parts as he kept it before, but switches the flute to ICM. That is one hellua masterstroke! This is pure music research material and this is the where you can understand the mind of the composer. Even, when he does counterpoints, he will keep one of the melodies very simple (it would have got boring had he continued). He could have just continued what he did with part 1, but to switch the melody to ICM is not something for an ordinary mind. This coexistence of different musical systems and the ability to see one within the other is what makes him the musical genius.

Harmony passage 02: 1:25 to 1:30 min- The background harmony with violins and cellos continue, but now the flute short notes are played with a 
bamboo flute to sound like a pan flute (confirmed by Napoleon on FB, who played it). Are these the same notes as the part 1 of passage 1? Not the same, if you pay close attention.

Harmony passage 03: 2:54 to 3:00 min- The harmony arrangement is completely different with the tenor taken up the synthesizer and it plays a beautiful tune and the bass is taken care of by the cellos and the bass guitar. The bass lines have a melody of their own - typical of Raja

Harmony passage 04: 3:01 to 3:24 min- This is a complete 4 part score with the violins now being promoted to the soprano and the female voices take on the Alto. This is why you can hear both very clearly. The  tenor is now left to the cellos and the bass tot he bass guitar. The melody is repeated twice and these type of harmonies is a rare commodity in Indian film music. Without the female voices, it will sound like a typical JW War Horse score. With the chorus, it is now firmly rooted as a Raja score, that few have learned to replicate. This is not easy as you need to keep the female chorus at the right pitch in its execution.

Another walk in the park for Raja, and a great piece of music for us.

Let’s hear Kottum Melangal