Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Vaagai Sooda Vaa Music Review
Gone are those days when I use to write so-called Music reviews for movie soundtracks. I wrote one for "Vaagai Sooda Vaa" soundtrack last year. I didn't post it then, because I took too much time to write it - two months since the release of the soundtrack. I don't know why I am posting it now.
A Cello Counters
With the quick staccato steps that the phrases take in the melody and with the backing of chirpy pizzicato strings, the supposedly Tamil folk song sung by a girl in love in 1960 - “Sara Sara Saarakaaththu” comes with a tinge of classical western music. This isn’t something new, Ilaiyaraaja has successfully executed such experiments decades before (remember, Yendha Poovilum Vaasam Undu from Ullasa Paravaigal) in Tamil film music. However, it is refreshing to see a composer making such an effort in his debut film. The song is easily one of the most addictive songs of year. Who else but Vairamuthu could think of such delightful parade of words for a song that a girl sings expressing what happens within when she meets and speaks with her ‘Sir’? In one line, Vairamuthu could capture the ambience – the gentle breeze, the characters – the information that the girl calls her Man ‘Sir’ and their feelings – the hiss in her heart the girl could sense when she speaks to her “Sir”. Not to forget the exquisite singing by Chinmayi with heaps of husk and silkiness in her voice. The recurring Violin motif, the Mandolin piece in the first interlude which surprisingly is also set to words by Vairamuthu and plays as a coda to the song at the end – M.Ghibran sprinkles such sweet little musical nuggets throughout the song. Yet, the one that really bowled me over while listening to the song is the Solo Cello that plays a deeply affecting counter melody to the main melody line throughout the second stanza (from when Chinmayi goes “Pullu kattu Vaasamaa”). The song would be popular even without that layer of Cello but the composer doesn’t stop with just what is necessary to make a mere hit song, instead he embellishes the song with intricate orchestral layers that add an emotional heft to the apparent fluff on the surface. M.Ghibran – Take a bow! (This Cello layer can be heard clearly in the Karaoke version of the track included in the Audio CD).
Erhu and Shenga
Sound - The New Sound is something every new Tamil film composer is working hard to bring in their music. A song can’t have a new sound anymore, by merely using a commercially available loop or sample, before others do. Those days are gone. Now the search is on for new tones and instruments that could make their songs sound distinct. Especially, there has been a growing interest in using Chinese musical instruments even since A.R.Rahman’s ‘Warriors of Heaven and Earth’ happened. However, most of the composers fail to localize the sound of the instrument enough to make it sound in sync with ethos of place and the period represented in the film. When they use a foreign instrument, they play the genre of music that the instrument naturally belongs to and there is nothing special about that. M.Ghibran does not seem to be one such composer and the instruments used in the song “Thanjavooru Maadhaththi” are a proof. Gab Gubi used in the song isn’t a Tamil folk instrument, it originates from West Bengal but there is nothing new in using Gab Gubi, we have heard its sound many times before in Tamil film music (the one that instantly flashes in my mind is Ore Oru Oorilae from Abhiyum Naanum). None would have imagined that a Chinese string instrument could sound totally in place in a Tamil folk song. The Erhu piece in the prelude of the song is a wonder. The earthiness of the melody played on the instruments totally sucks the Chinese sound out of the instrument and injects the spirit of Tamil folk milieu in it. That is how you bring in a new sound into a song, by using a new instrument but playing a native melody on it. Even in the other song “Poraanae Poraanae”, the prelude piece is not played with flute, it is on a traditional Chinese wind instrument Shenga. Did anyone found it sounding odd or alien?
In his “Aayiram Paadalgal” book release function, Vairamuthu told that out of thousand songs in the book, only for five songs the lyrics was written before the tune was composed. That is the common practice. Yes, it is true that lyricists are forced to write verses that fit into a melody, but the composers do take efforts to ornament the beauty of the lines with their orchestration. With the current music making process, where nothing is final or rigid, this lyric-ornamentation is possible. The way A.R.Rahman adds a layer of flute that doubles the main melody in the line “Yennai yaendha koodaadhena Kaiyyodu solladhu Pullangulal” written by Vaali for Roja Roja song from Kadhar Dhinam is an example of lyric-ornamentation. But, in “Poraanae Poraanae” song, M.Ghibran goes a step further in ornamenting the lyric by re-shaping the main melody to suit the literal meaning of the words penned by the lyricists (Karthik Netha – A pat on the back for the line “Seempaalu vaasam pola un sirippu”). When Neha Basin goes “Yeara yeranga paarkum”, the notes on the words “yeranga paarkum” beautifully descends down the pitch lane to sound perfectly in sync with the meaning of the words. M.Ghibran must have done it intentionally and that intention is all the more evident when in the second charanam, for the equivalent part Neha Basin goes “Adakaakkum kozhi pola”, the melody doesn’t take the path tread by “Year yeranga paarkum”. “Poraane Poraane” was originally composed by M.Ghibran 10 years ago for his band. Sargunam liked this melody and wanted to use this song in the film. It would be interesting to listen to that original song and check if the tune of “Yaera yeranga paarkkum” was there already in the original.
Debutante’s Symphony No.1
Is M.Ghibran the first ever composer in Tamil Film Music to get a symphony orchestra to records his songs in his debut film? That shows the level of confidence the producers of the film had in him. But, all the songs aren’t symphonic in style. I am not sure if these songs really demand a symphony orchestra. In most of the songs, only the Strings section is recorded with the symphony orchestra. Ilaiyaraaja has recorded far more complex orchestral stuff with his own musicians in Chennai. The song of revolution “Aana Avanna” (recorded with Lisbon Symphony Orchestra) is the only song that uses the grandeur and richness of the symphonic sound to the maximum. Generally, composers tend to become over excited and enthusiastic when they get access to such orchestras and that does impact the output. Listen to Yuvan Shankar Raja’s orchestral pieces in Pudupettai Soundtrack CD; you will know what I mean. M.Ghibran surprisingly shows total restraint and he seems to know exactly what he is doing. The song to sound anthemic, it isn’t enough if you write for an 80-piece orchestra, the anthem is in the melody and M.Ghibran has got that right with the main theme sung by a kid in the beginning of the song. But, these symphonic orchestrations of other composers ‘sound’ vastly different from that of Ilaiyaraaja’s, I don’t know why. It could be because of that the tonal balance and dynamics in the orchestration or just sound mixing.
Best Song of the Year 2011
That in which all the parts come together and fall perfectly in place to create a whole that is so poignant, moving and beautiful as the song “Senga Soola Kaara”, you do not even think of any of the elements of music – orchestration, choice of instruments, the melody, chords, interludes, preludes - in isolation. This is one of those rarest of songs which you cannot dissect to its basic elements and describe in words how satisfying the experience of listening to the song is. The song that talks about the travails in the lives of sand brick makers is atypically conceived without any melodrama or pleads of sympathy both in melody and lyrics. Anitha’s robust vocals and brilliant rendition with right expressions and emphasis on the words leaves an indelible impact on the listeners. Listen to the boldness, force and anger in her voice when she sings “Soranaketta Saamy (Senseless God)”. And what can one say about Vairamuthu’s lyrics? Phenomenal and Breathtaking! I wouldn’t be surprised if he wins his next National Award for this song. The line “Viththa Viththa Kallu Yennachu, Vinna Vinna thottu ninnachchu, Mannu Kuzhi pola namma parambarai pallam aagi pochchu” – What more can one write to convey the sufferings of suppressed society. Senga Soolai Kaara will be the best song of the year 2011 for me.