Sunday, April 4, 2021

Nearest Neighbor – Guitar and Veena

Like the previous example, veena is the south Indian cousin of the sitar and is considered not so wise to place it next to the guitar in most compositions. In some Carnatic instrumental concerts that now have guitar as one of the instruments, they make it a point to avoid bringing veena into such adventures! Raja has done so much work with these two instruments as neighbors, I had a hard time, trying to narrow the clip as it can get very long if all examples are included. I will mention the tracks which made it to this shortlist, but could not be included in the clip you will hear in this post. Like the sitar counsin, the veena has been deployed by Raja with his slew of western classical techniques. 

The first 12 seconds of the audio clip is the interlude of the song ‘Kamalam Paada Kamalam’ from Moga Mull (1995) and these neighbors are on a call and response relationship as designed by the composer and it is such a pleasant combo. Between 15 and 30 seconds, the call is made by the Veena for which the guitar responds beautifully in the interlude of the song, ‘Velli Nilave’ from Nandavana Theru (1995). Between 32 and 48 seconds, is the first interlude of the famous Carnatic song, ‘Alai Payudhe Kanna’ from the film Ethanai Konam Ethanai Paarvai (1983), where the guitar and the veena participate in a traditional Carnatic format, where some of the swaras are played by one instrument and continued by the next. Between 51 and 1:12 seconds, it is the beautiful counterpoint being played by these strange neighbors in the interlude of the song, ‘Oru Chiri Kandaal’, from Ponmudi Puzhayorathu (Malayalam 2005). Only Raja can think of a counterpoint between these two instruments! Between 1:15 and 1:43 (end of the clip), is the title score of the film Aavarampoo (1989). This is a full-fledged counter melody that goes on for 28 seconds and Raja chose to use it as a title score for a film! He perhaps wanted us to take notice that such neighbors can take on the title of a film! 

Let’s hear these Nearest Neighbors – Guitar and Veena …. 

Here are some tracks that use the Nearest neighbors – Guitar and Veena, that I could not accommodate in the clip: 
  1. Poomalaye (Pagal Nilavu (1985) 
  2. Vasantha Niave (Sooryan, Malayalam, 2007) 
  3.  Nanna Jeeva Nenu (Geetha, Kannada, 1980) 
  4. Unnai Kaanum Neram (Unnai Naan Sandhithaen (1984)

Nearest Neighbor – Guitar and Sitar


Guitar and sitar are both string instruments and they are rarely placed next to each other in Indian music. Doing a counterpoint with these nearly close sounding cousins is generally ruled out. However, none of these things seem to deter a composer such as Raja. Both the examples in this post are examples of how well he handles the sounds of these two instruments, not just placing them one after the other, but also composing counter melodies that play simultaneously. 

The first 14 seconds of this audio clip is the famous prelude of the song ‘Nilaave Vaa’ from Mouna Ragam (1987), where the guitar and the sitar play their melody simultaneously and most of us can hum along! The second example is the second interlude of the song, ‘Poove Semboove’ from 'Solla Thudikkudhu Manasu (1988). Between 17 and 26 seconds, it is a guitar that repeatedly plays the melody. From 27 seconds onwards, the sitar joins the arrangement and starts its own melody, with the guitar playing its repetitive melody. For the 5 seconds between 27 and 32, there are three things in play apart from the percussion. The background guitar melody continues, with the foreground now shared between a calling sitar and a responding second guitar. This is PolyCare, which is typical of Raja’s work. It’s almost like placing two unwilling neighbors next to the third.  Such things cannot be imagined by composers before and after him, let alone execute it.

Let’s hear these Nearest Neighbors – Guitar and Sitar  …

Thanks to Usha Sankar, for showcasing a few more tracks where these neighbors feature:

  1. Sutha Samba Pacha Nellu from Annakili (Tamil 1976)
  2. Sugamo Aayiram from ThunairuppaaL Meenakshi (Tamil 1977)