Having served us a taste of his instrumentation and orchestration Ilaiyaraaja turned to a cappella; and the most obvious choice in this genre Naan Porandhu Vandhadhu Raaja Vamsaththilae from Maya Bazaar was performed. If not for social network and internet, I wouldn’t have heard many of Ilaiyaraaja’s compositions, but I am convinced that if not for social network and internet, even Ilaiyaraaja wouldn’t have picked a song like Naan Porandhu Vandhadhu for any of his concerts. The song is being sung by singers even in singing reality shows (which has now become the true measure of the popularity or worthiness of a song) on TV.Naan Porandhu Vandhadhu - Maaya Bazaar
I wasn’t really blown away by the execution of the song in Ilaiyaraaja’s Canada concert where they stretched the song by 35 seconds, the tempo dropped in the middle, we could see Ilaiyaraaja urging the choir to increase the tempo, singers in the group were looking at each other before proceeding to the next section of the song — all signs of lack of preparation. However, the quality of the composition is such, even a flawed performance that delivers 80% of the original blows your mind when you listen to it performed live. But that day, I wasn’t going to settle for anything lesser than the effect of the original.
These compositions are like our national Anthem, if it is set to run for 56 seconds, then 56 seconds it is and it should be, not a nano second more or less. There was a huge choir section in the stage, with singer spread across the horizon of the curved stage. I was astounded by how the singers were placed on the stage. Male voices are always in the background accompanying the female singers standing in the front singing the lead melody throughout, but instead of placing all the male singers together in one corner of the stage, they were distributed on both sides, the result was live naturally balanced stereophonic sound, and if I remember correctly, they even tried to pan a layer or two just through voices in the male choir group.
Though Naan Porandhu Vandhadhu song is referred to as an a cappella, it isn’t one like the Namachivaaya Vaazhgha section in Polla Vinayaen (from Ilaiyaraaja’s Thiruvasakam in Symphony) where the music is different strands of the choir group singing the same melody in different octaves and starting the melody with a lead or lag to the main vocals. Neither is this an a cappella with melodies cascaded and overlapped as counterpoints. There are parts within the song where some or all of these techniques are used but the song isn’t entirely that. It is a conventional song for the most part with a main melody, but with backing vocals imitating the instrumental accompaniment; you have strings, shakers, tabla, drums, even bass guitar parts performed by voices instead of actual instruments playing those parts, so it is just right that immediately after completing a cappella version of the song, to everyone’s surprise, an instrumental version of the song was played. Ilaiyaraaja demonstrated how he himself did an Alaa Wardi version of his own song decades ago.
Of course, the theatrics and drama of voices laughing melodically is the stuff of musicals and purely meant for the voices and they were repeated as it is in the instrumental version too. The song started with strings bowing the din-digi-din-digi-digi-digi to thunderous applause, and no one explained or spoke in between, what they are trying to do by performing the instrumental version of the song. However, only after listening to the instrumental version, it struck me how carefully every single junk word sung by the choir has been chosen to sonically and musically gel seamlessly within and with the main melody. You cannot swap a bimbak in place of jin-chigu-chigu in this song.