Friday, June 30, 2017

A.R.Rahman's MOM

Rahman truly believes, in music, there is assonance in dissonance, symmetry in asymmetry, rhythm in randomness and that consistent uncertainty could also be comforting inevitability. The lack of imitability in music can be counteracted with intrigue.

In the soundtrack of “Mom”, the songs are strung together with musical phrases set on a journey without a destination and the concern is only on what is happening at the moment, and it doesn’t care whether it seamlessly entails the last phrase or for that matter leads to the next phrase. There are no cyclical and metrical comforts here. If these pieces were mathematical equations, they are the ones in which the left hand side never tally with the right hand side. There is always something off balance, unsettling, unfinished, and inconvenient in the song. It expands and flows in entropic measure like the ever evolving universe that never stops to look back. There are of course motifs but there is no telling the moment of its recurrence in the time span of the piece. It occurs and recurs when it does. Music has to move you emotionally, yes, but, wonderment and excitement are emotions too. Rahman plays to that.

There is nothing here that Rahman hasn’t done before, but he takes everything a notch higher, a step further. In Andhimandhaarai (1996), Rahman goes extempore on Piano while Unnikrishnan is crooning a classical Carnatic song; Set to a foot-tapping rhythm and synth layers, it felt like Rahman lit up a dull Carnatic Katcheri stage with a flood of modern neon lights. Yet, it has a definitive form, structure and a comforting flow. Now, in “Be Nazaara”, an improvisatory classical piece of music, vocals hit infinitesimal frequencies in between notes and with multiple variations of it in each iteration of the thematic verse, and Rahman builds around it an enigmatic soundscape where any e-sound goes. You can’t help but be hypnotized by the amalgamation of the two breathlessly flowing layers of randomness. It sucks you into its intergalactic musical warm hole and traps you till the end.

You could go on and on about the oddities and experiments, but Rahman does deliver a few standard easy tracks to play to the gallery (O Sona Tere Liye). Every theory you form in your mind while listening to a piece of Rahman’s music, Rahman fiercely confounds in the immediate next song in the soundtrack, and sometimes in the very next section in the song itself. For all the meandering qualities of the exquisite “Chal Kahin Door”, there is that earthy flute section in the interlude, which is as affable a piece of music can get. A.R.Rahman’s music contains both its yin and yang within itself.

At this juncture, Rahman is not playing God creating anything at whim, he is rather a kid playing with his toys and having fun for his own amusement. A. R. Rahman, in the 25th year of his career as a composer, screams loud and clear “Mera yeh freaking freaking freaking music” through this spectacularly quirky, experimental and zany soundtrack. MOM – WOW!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Saarattu Vandiyila - Kaatru Veliyidai

Saarattu Vandiyila - Melody is easy, rhythm is zingy, percussive arrangement is crisp, mood is festive, the whole song is conventional, comforting and an instant ear-worm. The song is Rahman’s take on the most popular tamil folk riff “Thanna na naa dhinam, Thanna na naa dhinam, Thanna na naa dhinam, Thandhaanae”. Vairamuthu pours into the one-trick melody lots of beautiful words and phrases filled with playful imagery and innuendos. Sample this, “Avan kaigalil udayattum kanni kannadi” — the image of bride’s virginity as a brittle glass that would be broken in the hands of the groom on the wedding night. Vairamuthu’s earthy Tamil syllables have always had problems sitting comfortably on Rahman’s polished musical phrases and sophisticated production (example, purusan in Yaaro Yaarodi), but in Saarattu vandiyila marriage between the two sounds almost perfect. That final crescendo, where all the best riffs of the song come stacked in many layers, blossoming together like petals of varied colours in one flower, it makes you go “Pudhu Ponnae, Adhu dhaandi Rahmanin baani”. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Vaan Varuvaan - Kaatru Veliyidai

Vaan Varuvaan - Here comes again, flying from above, the sound, that Rahman Sound! The sound defined not by contrapuntal layers of melodies, but by endless layers of sparkling e-sounds enmeshed together to be a carrier and a cushion for the voice, the melody and the mood. After the opening Piano chords, any hint of acoustic instrumentation in the layers underneath the melody is avoided fearing they might hurt the serenity of the central melody. Even the omnipresent flute and choir do not play or sing any definitive melody; maybe they do, but they are not allowed to be heard in its original form; a whiff of the sound, just a whiff of it, picked at a moment precisely before the basic sound dissolves into silence is used to fill the sonic canvas. Despite the seductive soundscape and Saasha’s sensuous rendition, it took a while for me to embrace Vaan Varuvaan. The first few times I heard the song, the long opening line of the melody, with  multiple “Vaan” words in succession, remained elusive. Melody sounded constrained by the monotonic words in the poetry (which isn’t a problem in the equally wonderful Telugu version “Mairmarupaa”). But, that was, only in the warm-up phase. Suddenly, when you are totally unaware, the contour of the melody reveals itself, and in that moment of Rahmanealization, Vaan Varuvaan does what every magical Rahman song does — finds a sweet little spot in our memory, digs a tiny hole, locks itself up to stay in there, forever.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Azhagiyae - Kaatru Veliyidai

Azhagiyae - Fresh as the first dew at dawn; Warm as a tight hug; Sweet as a gentle kiss on the forehead; Cute as a cream swirl-topped Cupcake; Light as a snow flake; Breezy as the ride along the coast; Beautiful as a just blossomed flower; Frothy as the tide crawling to the shore; Romantic as the twilight at dusk. 

It has been twenty five years since Roja, Maniratnam and A.R.Rahman get younger by the day and continue to churn charming, irresistible tunes.