Bitty Ruminations 72

In this Twitter era, populated by ADD-ed twits, everything either “sucks” or “rocks.” There’s no median, no room for the “hmmm… not bad… interesting.” Reactions to the Jab Tak Hai Jaan soundtrack led me to believe that that was AR Rahman’s worst ever album, and it was nothing of the sort. Was it a middling effort? A disappointment? Sure. But how do we get from there to “worst”? And now, apparently, the Kadal soundtrack is his “best” in [insert appropriately hyperbolic time frame]. Why this constant need to measure, rate, evaluate music on a continuum that apparently has only the levels “1” and “10”?

That said, Kadal is a very good album. Except for Magudi magudi, which I’m not sure what to make of, every other song is a keeper in some sense. If the slightly generic Chithirai nela took me back to early-1990s Rahman — the ambient sounds surround you like a cloud on a misty mountaintop, and Vijay Yesudas’s voice is reminiscent of his father’s, circa Pachai kiligal — then Adiye is a reminder that no one arranges harmonies better than this composer. Harmonies aren’t just about clean voices and coordination but also the recording, the spotlessness of which should blow away the murk around commingling pitches — the results are stunning. Why don’t our composers dip into gospel music more often? That surge of emotion is so suited to our drama and for staging song sequences. It’s a little mystifying that the last (and perhaps first ever) gospel-themed film song was Tu aashiqui hai in Vishal-Shekhar’s magnificent soundtrack for Jhankaar Beats, all way back in 2003.

The spare softer songs — Moongil thottamNenjukkulle — are lovely, evoking oceans of feeling, and as for Elay keechan, I have to say that, the addictive chorus apart, the Johnny Cash-meets-Mustafa-meets-Tere bina design is more arresting than the song itself, whose stanzas don’t quite live up to that exuberant opening. The song of the album, for me so far, is Anbin vaasale, where Haricharan follows up his astounding rendition in Aiyaiyaiyo aanandhame (Kumki) with a blow-the-rafters-off vocal performance. The number, filled with thrilling choruses and tolling bells, feels like the musicalisation of a tsunami that struck with an Old Testament God’s fury and eventually ebbed away into calm little tide pools. If that church is still standing, it’s a miracle.

PS: Is there anything as gooseflesh-inducing as a scale or upward octave shift in a dramatically charged composition? Again, a mystery why this technique doesn’t find more favour with our composers. Then again, if we heard it too much, we’d be complaining about its ubiquity.

PPS: Whether you believe in intelligent design or think we are just accidental spillovers from a cauldron of primordial soup, nothing can make you feel the presence of a higher power like a song can. Listen, again, to Tu aashiqui hai — the divinity that the lyrics refer to could be that of music itself.

31 thoughts on “Bitty Ruminations 72

  1. A back to the basics soundtrack for Rahman with subtle experimentation….Adiye is simply stunning…a marked improvement compared to raavan/raavanan..




  3. Was just listening to the songs, on you tube, and came by your blog and saw this! Thrilled :) The album is lovely, like it loads better than Neethane en P, in any case. Like Nenjukulley the best of the lot, and Elay Keechan blew me.


  4. “everything either “sucks” or “rocks.” There’s no median, no room for the “hmmm… not bad… interesting.”

    Ah, you hit the nail there B. The unwarranted amount of hype and praise that surrounds any half way decent movie like pizza these days, annoys the crap out of me and makes me want to hate it more. Maybe its time we stop giving heed to social media pranksters and begin to accept that art/entertainment is vast enough to be dumbed down by some ant of an opinion.
    And how did you like NEP? I thought GVM had finally learnt his lesson by getting right most of the things he had been awfully wrong at. But surprised to see alarmingly similar opinions deeming the movie “slow” and “long”


  5. Love it! It’s so nice to see ARR coming back to crafting an almost purely melodic album for Mani, especially since their last 2 collaborations, Guru and Raavan, a few tracks aside, simply didn’t do anything for me.

    Nenjukkule, Moongil Thottam and Chttirai Nela are cool breezes wafting over you after a sweltering day in the heat.

    There’s something thrilling about hearing music that’s technically a mismatch with the genre of film it’s featured in and to ponder how the picturization is going to fit it. I think Mani’s one of the best in song picturizations so I’m holding out hope that the country twang of Elay Keecham and Adiye, which evokes images of a smoky jazz and blues bar, finds a perfect synch in a movie that’s supposedly set in the world of fishermen.

    Haricharan just knocks Anbin Vasale right outta the park.

    Which leaves Magudi Magudi, the hair in this sumptious feast. I hope this is a snatch of background score that wound it’s way into the album. Sounds like the sort of cacophonous shit HJ, YSR or VA crap out on regular basis.


  6. I’ve only heard the album in its entirety once. (although the Magudi Magudi track does turn in to silence 3/4 of the way through a relief to my ears.) I don’t know why but Rahman has for a while had a knack of putting a very bad song on a decent album (Baazi Laga on Guru, Magudi Magudi on this) and a very average song on a very good/great album (Anbil Avan on Vinnaithandi Varuvaya)

    I would say its a decent album, compared to recent offerings its probably on a par with Rockstar. It’s more catchy than Ravanan (but admittedly doesn’t mean its better)

    On the Jab Tak Hain Jaan album. It was disappointing. But I’m leaning towards it being a bad album, there didn’t seem to be any redeemable songs. Jhoota Hi Sahi was a bad album with two good songs. I can’t even say that about JTHJ. Although I am wondering that if the lyrics were in a language I didn’t understand like Tamil or Telegu whether I would appreciate the music more. Having said that I don’t understand Challa and think the song is too long and the music is ok at its best and worst.


  7. Brilliant Gospel music by ARR from Minsara Kanavu – Anbendra… Sung by Anuradha Sriram… ;-) Ilayaraja has done it too… Way before.


  8. Ritesh: But but but the people around me follow scores of people, right? Call it perceived wisdom :-)

    Angeli: “Anbendra” is gospel? Haven’t heard it in a very long time, but don’t remember it that way…


  9. To me, this is possibly the most varied album that Rahman’s come up with in a long time covering all emotions from hope, joy, despair to longing and more while keeping the overall style fairly same, despite the infusion of different genres.

    It is such a throwback to his golden days of the 90s. The moment of realization comes right at the start of “Chithirai Nela” where the cry of the kid kicks in memories of “Ennatha Ponnatha”. And then there is “Elay Keechan” which in my imagination plays out similar to “Ota kaara Maarimuthu”. Or “Nenjukulla” which is a decent patch on “Poraalë”. The strangest of pairings would be “anbin vaasale” and “Strawberry Kanne” if only for the sudden changes in pitch and tempo. And so on.

    In short, this is a mish-mash of some of his best from the 90s. And that is not such a bad thing, is it?


  10. OK even I am not quite sure of what falls under the bracket of “gospel”, but I had heard from more sources than one that Ekla Cholo and the Coke Studio song were gospel-based. They even did seem to me similar in genre to Tu Aashiqui Hai. If they aren’t, my bad.


  11. Adarsh Radhakrishnan: From what I define of gospel music, harmonies play a large part. Wouldn’t something like “Yesu pirandhaare” be a hymn or a carol, rather than gospel?

    Alpesh Patel: Yeah, it’s just the genre. Listening to this, I’m reminded more of Eric Clapton/Robert Cray songs than “Adiye.”


  12. apparently anything with a choir = gospel.

    to be fair, Tu Aashiqui hai isn’t really gospel either, we’re only willing to accept it as gospel because of how it was used in the film. (the lyrics could be taken at face value and u think its a guy singing to a girl)


  13. i don’t Adiye is a rip off. the music is just a very very generic blues.
    It;s like someone trying to do bhangra music and having “balle balle” and the dhol on a loop in the background


  14. paartha mudhal naaley is just a nursery rhyme sounding like one of those junior school choir Christian songs. It is not Gospel. Neither is anbendra mazhaiyile.

    Rare, but nice to see a Haricharan-Rahman collaboration. More MDs have to realize that there might be talent out there beyond the bla(h)nd Karthik

    BR, in your future “Conversations with Rahman” I expect you to address his occasional fascination for singers whose diction/style is totally alien to the language/style/genre of the song


  15. ‘Why this constant need to measure, rate, evaluate music on a continuum that apparently has only the levels “1” and “10” ?’
    Reminds me of the joke – there are only 10 kinds of people in this world, those who understand binary, and those who don’t.


  16. Anbendra – listen here:

    Definition of Gospel Music – noun

    A now popularized form of impassioned rhythmic spiritual music rooted in the solo and responsive church singing of rural blacks in the American South, central to the development of rhythm and blues and of soul music.

    Like the song in Kadal, this too had all the makings of a brilliant gospel song… to me, it was… :-)


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