A fan’s tale

Part 5: The Flood Gates

The pressure when composing for 2nd movie is 10 times more than the 1st. 1st For A.R. Rahman it was x 100 times difficult. Roja was successful not only in South but it was making it big on the national scene. Expectations tripled in matter of few months. [A.R. Rahman is the only composer till date to win a national award for his first movie.]

Though he was working on movies like Gentlemen and few others, Pudiya Mugam was his second official movie, it did not disappoint even a bit, the composer who some called “one movie wonder” continued to grow, the word new and refreshing expanded.
The song சம்போ சாம்போ (Sambo Sambo) is one of the best arrangements from Rahman till date. Wild bongos, accordion and guitar sequences in the song were simply mind blowing. More over the vocalists, 1st they were not popular or never heard off. These brand new voices added new flavors that were unknown during that time. I was able to hear various kinds of new vocal harmonies and adlibs. Basically the adlibs during that time were limited to “தக துகு தக துகு or “ஜீநாகு ஜீநாகு ஜிஞ்சினகு”.

It looked as though Rahman had opened the flood gates of new singers. In his second movie he had few new names introduced. I was stunned to hear the final version of July Matham vandhal. I would never forget the line “கோடி மக்கள் வேண்டுகோள்”. The final one Rahman approved was not the one what Anupama sang in the recording that I happen to see. The final approved take was simply incredible. An initial proof that Rahman gets best from his artists;

நேற்று இல்லாத மாற்றம் என்னது, I fell in love with Sujatha’s voice why a singer of such standards and caliber ignored by music directors? Nevertheless Tamil film music was destined to witness new voices and surprises.

I would go hang around with my friends during lunch breaks around fountain plaza for “obvious” “wink wink” reasons. On a usual very hot summer afternoon I heard a song in the tea shop that really made my ear pop out. Movie Gentlemen, released by Pyramid audio. The audio tape had printed lyrics and I was reading the lyrics loud at work with my usual sarcastic jab. ஒட்டகத்த கட்டிக்கோ was really funny read, but my boss G.C. Basker told me “dude you got to listen to this song”. I have never seen GCB being musically savvy. At that time I did not know that this song was set to my favorite raga, Dharmavathi, I am fascinated by songs like அம்மானை அழைத்துவரும், காதல் காதல் என்று பேச, மீண்டும் மீண்டும் வா they have been my favorites. On the first go, ஒட்டகத்த கட்டிக்கோ was added to my elite list. This is when I started to follow Rahman's music sincerly.


A fan’s tale

Part 4: A Pause

I was anxiously waiting to get the audio tape of Pudhiya Mugam.
However, I am going pause for a moment to write about something that has been lingering in my head for past 20+ years.

Sub standard music tapes. Tamil film industry is notorious for poor distribution practices. I am against any audio piracy and my friends would vouch my claim. This habit did not form overnight, even way back even in the 80s when audio tapes were a luxury to a teenager, I use get original music tapes, LP records were totally out of my reach. Most of my pocket money was spent on music tapes.

Audio companies in Chennai never cared or knew the word “quality”. 1st in my list, a company called Echo. Many of the best and legendry Tamil classics were pathetically packed in a pink colored shell made from cheap plastic. The mastering process was just dumping music on to these poorly manufactured audio tapes. The little parts in the tape would wear out in few weeks and worst of all these tapes produced lot of white noise. Cost of a tape was Rs40 to Rs 50. The outer plastic case will break the moment the consumer open the case. If you ask the reseller he would blindly say “that’s how it came”. The consumer was totally ill treated by these music companies.

Sheer out of passion for music I would go and spend all my pocket money to get these substandard tapes. Music directors had no real say in the deal. Companies like INRECO, HMV, Lahari were in par with Echo. There was also audio companies like Pyramid that offered some good quality tapes, but was a rarity.

This greedy “taking consumer for granted” habit continues even today, “Surthilayam” that distributes Tamil movie aboard is doing everything it can to ruin the movie watching experience. In order to make more money, they bundle double movies on to a single DVD. However in order accommodate 2 movies on the DVD they kill the DTS or 5.1 sound tracks. In order to gain more space on the DVD, the sound channels are neutralized to mono and it is pushed to the 5.1 spectrum. You would get the same sound on all the 5 channels. As if this was not enough without any ethics they display a 5.1 logo or DTS on the label. Why? When someone pays $20 to get an original DVD, what not respect them? Why not provide the quality you promised on DVD inlay card? Tamil movie and music distribution is governed by non scientific distribution channels.

When situation was such, a Bombay based company called Magna sound published the songs from Pudhiya Mugam. Let alone the sound mix part, the overall manufacturing quality was few light year ahead from their Chennai counterparts. Tape Cost RS.35, it was worth the money, and the first track in the Tape said it all.

நேற்று இல்லாத மாற்றம் என்னது! (nEtRu illAtha mAtram ennAdhu)


A fan’s tale

Part 3: Meeting My Idol

One "fine" evening, my cousin calls me and requests a bike ride to a recording studio. I was busy at work, but still I asked who the Music director was, she told it was “A.R. Rahman” I had no second thoughts, took the bait, I wanted to meet him at least once.

We walk into a cozy little studio, air conditioner blasting to its maximum and I was formally introduced to as "Srikanth" "Software Engineer", I gave my business card, we shook hands and my cousin asked him if I could watch the proceedings, he smiled and said “that’s fine”.

I was very nervous but curious than the usual, my eyes scanned the surroundings. There was an 8 track spool recorder and a big mixing console with many volume control knobs. There was a vocal room with an adjustable boom microphone. And couple of keyboards in the room, I remember vaguely seeing Korg M1 or 01/w. I was quite amazed by how A.R. Rahman worked, he was operating the 8 track recorder and mix-board and he was fast like a bee, just doing all with ease. In first place, I was very surprised. A music recording would have many people surrounding the music director and he would give the music etc. I have never ever seen a music director operate the console himself with just one singer around.

With little fear and lot of amazement I stood there in the corner. Suddenly he called me to sit next to him. I never expected that I would be sitting next to the new sensation A.R. Rahman, and right in front to me was his sound mixing console.

They started rehearsing the track, all of a sudden he spoke to me, "so what language you program in [in Tamil]" and once again surprise, I never expected that, it took me few seconds to hydrate my senses, and I stuttered and replied "before anything congratulations on your recent success of Roja". For which he gave a humble simile and asked me again, what language? I replied, Turbo C, Clipper etc. He asked me how C is different from C++, I gave some technical reply and my voice sounded very tense. Hence I guess to make me comfortable, he then told me that he has friend in Canada who just look like me and speaks like me. Ya! I guess it worked, I became little more comfortable and told I am from T.Nagar and work for company called PC India and I loved his songs in Roja and looking forward for more, I also had guts to mention, I have a small midi setup etc using Cakewalk and play live on stage... He smiled and told "keep them coming", he was all the time multi tasking.

The recording was about to begin, for the first time I heard the track in full, all the channels have been powered up, I was blown away by the opening guitar prelude; later I came know it was played by Guitar Prasanna. It was mind blowing. The overall sound was new to me. I was not excepting it at all, and then suddenly SPB sings a line, from there on I was totally out of the world. It took me a lot of time to come back to my senses. Music I was hearing was something else to what I am used to. The song was unbelievable. It had Spanish guitar, fretless Bass and most of all a new Tabla sound and placement. When I heard the Cousin’s vocals, I was stunned by the quality. I have heard her sing, but not at this level. Rahman was giving her a lot of directions in a friendly manner. He had an amazing quality, he was able to say anything without hurting the singer.

About 15 minutes into the recording, I was told that director would show up and he would not like me there, I was all set to walk out. Director Suresh Menon walks in; to everyone’s surprise he permits me to be stay in the studio.

"Thanks to Anupama", my lucky day I guess, sitting near A.R.Rahman (and Suresh Menon) recording a new track “July mAtham vanthAl” for the movie pudhiya mugam . That was Anupama’s debut track. I still cherish the fact that I was among the first few to have heard the new track from A.R. Rahman after Roja. Of course, I was boasting all about it in my work place.

“It was an experience of life time”. This is where I realized making music is all about having fun. I walked out of the recording studio with a lot of memories not knowing that I would meet him again one more time during recording of another track, the track that created history and is being remembered even today.


A fan’s tale

Part 2: "New" & "Fresh", means what?

The following you are about to read is just my opinion, and my definition of “opinion” is very simple. OpiNION , if you check the word closely it has as “pi” (pi=22/7), world is yet to calculate this anomaly and the rest is “ONION”;

If you have observed like I do, songs that came during late 80s and early 90s had common sets of sounds in their instrumentation. Just to sample few,

1. Programmed drum pattern over live drum performance
2. A lot of keyboard flute over real flute
3. Violins playing counter to the lead
4. The most distinguished – chord punches on the bar using popular Yamaha DX7 bells sounds. Few keyboard players whom I know use to call it job security.

Besides, majority of the songs were sung by the same handful of singers. Fresh new voice seemed a rarity.

From a technical stand point, the structure of song and the melody progressions was very predictable. You might wonder, what the hell he means by it. I shall try and explain it see if you can grasp it;

Dissecting more, a song had a prelude, a very simple “Pallavi” that negotiates after 8 to 12 bars, this was followed few bars of very well or sometimes outstand background score [With the same set of sounds], followed by a “Saranam” that is mostly in Q&A format, meaning the first line will ascend and the second shall descend and, finally Saranam would end by pushing the same “Pallavi Sandam” to an higher octave which then returns to the Pallavi. [Read it again if you don’t get it]. Sixty to seventy percent of the songs were in this format. Examples are beyond the scope of this article, may be later if time permits.

Having said so much on the structure, sound and instrumentation, I also firmly believed that there were valid reasons for songs being in the format mentioned above -> Majority of Tamil music fans loved it. Also these songs are kind of easy to reproduce in light music shows. Why? The guitarist need not change his sound or amp model once he sets it for a song. Same sound model would work for 70% of the song.
To conclude my justifications, I had no choice to any alternate music. Hindi film music was pretty much ordinary during the period. I started to feel a repetitive pattern in songs of late 80s and 90s.

The day I heard the tracks from Roja, I felt something different, could this be the paradigm shift that I was looking in Tamil music? The usual sounds were missing. It sounded as though the AR Rahman had put meticulous effort to avoid violin counters, the usual Tablas pattern and violin sections.

Rather than hearing them as individual instruments, I heard them as sonic emotions. New sounds like fretless bass, reverberation over percussions were blend well. Best of all the usual stale DX chords punches vanished; instead pizzicato [plucking the violins] or a wide drone pad tone carried the chords. By this approach sound and the Chord harmony seemed expand and enhanced in the sound spectrum. It never distracted the melody.

In a nut shell, A.R. Rahman used the musical melody + harmony, and most of all, "sound spectrum" to convey the energy and emotion found in the lyrics to average human ears.

It is "somewhat" easy to play Highway Star(Deep Purple), a good guitarist will nail the notes and riff in no time, but that is just half the effort, getting the perfect guitar tone used in the by Deep Purple is another task, the guitar tone plays vital part in convening energy and mood. The point is ARR using the combination of notes, harmony, vocals and sound textures was able to convey the mood or “feel” much better than his predecessors.

This was the reason I was able to feel a lot of depth in songs like Pudhu vellai mazai . Moreover, check this, usually in an erotic number, vocalists will do their usual "mukal munagals" and the song would end up as banned by Radio Stations. "Rukumani Rukumani" was altogether a different package. Another feature I noted was - Free flow of melody. The melody lines had very minimal truncated notes. These notes had longer gliding lengths, and a lot vocal improvisation.

I discussed a lot with my friends, most did not agree with me, for days I had to confront people about my opinions on the repetitive pattern. All said and done, can A.R. Rahman be the best person to take Tamil film music to a new level”?

Next: When did my expectations for ARR expanded exponentially?


அர்த்தமுள்ள ஹிந்து மதம்

Few days ago some of my friends sent me a link, Click here

Visitors to Hindu temple are welcomed by Lord Ganesh also called as Vinayaka, and in Tamil “Pillaiyar”, he is one of the best-known and most widely worshipped deities of Hinduism. Pillaiyar is widely revered as the "Remover of Obstacles" and "Lord of Beginnings" patron of arts and "sciences" , and the Angel of intellect and wisdom.

One of the most common sight in Hindu temples is worshippers performing an unusual squatting act in front of Lord Ganesh. Crossing their hands holding their ear lobes and they do a squatting routine. This is called "தோப்புக்கரணம்" [thoppuk kaRanam] in Tamil.

Hindus have been performing this act for centuries; today it has been proved that this squatting act is medically beneficial to the Brain. Holding the earlobes and squatting for five minutes create a lot of stimulation in the brain.
This is now called or given a fancy name “Super Brain Yoga” by doctors in the west. As per the CBS clip above, there seems to be enough medical proof that this exercise [தோப்புக்கரணம்] helps to improve brain activity in Children especially. The doctor in the clip has prescribed this method for Kids who have been slow in their academics and these kids have made very progress in academics just in weeks after doing this act for 5 minutes a day. Totally amazing

It matter of time, Nintendo WII would soon introduce a “தோப்புக்கரணம்” controller.


“Jambu” “Chaaiiish is Yovershhh”

Last week AVM productions filed a complaint to Chennai police that someone broke into their royal movie junk yard and took away a lot of old movies. Similar complaints have been received from other movie producers in recent times. Chennai police are looking into it.

Here is a clue to catch the culprit. -> SunTV and KTV producers.

We have seen Mr. Bharath, Ejaman, Muratu kalai and many more of similar crap being repeated every alternative day. For past few months these 2 channels have been slaughtering us all in name of broadcasting. Same movies are shown alternatively on these 2 channels. Even the so called badly dubbed Hollywood crap is being repeated. Moreover, 95% of their programs spill over or do not follow any time sense. Do they really care to manage a TV station?

The Movie clip/trailers are obnoxious, irritating, and horrible. Every 10 minutes why are we forced to watch the pathetic hero and his set of punch dialogues or some half naked Bombay chick record dancing. Just to balance act of half nakedness, we are now forced to see a naked C.Sundar walking. Why? What did we do to you?

We get it, the Marans are into producing movies, but they just don’t seem to understand people pay lot money to watch their programming. We are paying close to about Rs 20,000 a year. They have taken us all for granted.

Yesterday when watching the facilitation show for A.R.Rahman, the entire show was just less than 40 minutes however their advertisement and commercial craze extended this program for close to 3 hours and it was so irritating I had to quit watching it.

DO YOU THINK SUN TV + KTV ARE WORTH $30 a month? They are getting worse than the Doordharshan of the 80s. Tamils in US have been patronizing them for about a decade now, why aren’t they respecting their patrons?

Will Mr. Maran or the so called SunTV branch office here in US answer us?

Finally, Another joke on the same channel

Prasanna the singer who is now the judge of singer/dancer show on Sun TV was seen wearing a big ray ban look like sun glass in a well lit indoor studio

Why do we need sunglasses in an indoor studio?
1) Madras eye. Hope he recovers quickly.
2) A Clandestine method for “Sight” Seeing.

For more reality punch effects say it like our beloved Late M.N.Nambiyar –"Jambu" "Chaaiiish is Yovershhh" [Choice is yours]

Good week Guys!


A fan’s tale

Part I: Who?

Around 1992 I was a senior software engineer at PC India, Chennai. The work environment was vibrant. I was already a part time musician then, my keyboard playing abilities and of course my decent handsome looks, [ok! Ok settle down] attracted attention.

During lunch break, “Maria” our receptionist and few others mentioned about a song from the new movie “Roja” on TV, and were going gaga over it. I had no idea about this movie. It seems director Mani Rathnam was breaking away from his old acquaintances was introducing a new music composer.

On my way back home I got the audio cassette for Rs35.00 from an audio shop in fountain plaza. I had an Akai sound system, the songs did sound fresh and unique, and I recognized the song “china china asai” I was really surprised to hear “reggae”, just few months ago I heard the same words in a different format. I do not know how many know the history of “China China Asai”. Poet Viramuthu wrote this song for a special program on Doordharshan and music was composed by the genius composer MSV, sung by T.K. Kala [If I remember right]. Though MSV’s composition was the usual TV type, the words were fantastic. The same song was now presented in a different sound. Moreover, each and every song in the album surprised me. Kadal Rojave [in middle on side A &B], Pudhu Vellai mazai [Side B 1st song] and Tamiza Tamiza [Side B last song] had some something in them; this was later termed as “freshness”. I was also surprised by the new set of singers 1) Minmini, 2) Unni Menon 3)Sujatha, 4) HariHaran who are they? Where did they come from?

Somasundram grounds T.Nagar was the face book of our times, sitting on the "wall" we discussed Gavasker , Rajainee to Kamal et everything. Our main point of discussion was Roja. We were wondering why did Mani Rathnam (KB -Kavithalaiya ) take a big risk on their big movie, a new unknown composer with new set of singers? I checked with my friends in the music industry and there was already a buzz about this new composer, “Dileep” was popular among some of my friends and my cousin who worked in the advertisement industry.

There were many rumors and stories floating around. The famous one was “Being at the Right Place at the Right Time”. Those days there were no cell-phones. It seems Mani Rathnam often walks out to a private office to take phone calls. He gets calls every few minutes hence it would be very hard to get his attention. But when Rahman came for the discussion, it seems there was no single phone call for 30 or 40 minutes. Rahman was able to play all this tracks without any external disturbances.

How true the story was , who cared! it was a perfect juicy story for guys sitting on the wall to discuss.

Like every other Tamil public I did not know that this brand new music composer is destined to create history for India.

What did I find new in Roja songs? Next Thursday in detail!


Temperature is crazy

A very cold weekend in DC with a lot of snow, the temperature is crazy and currently we are well below the dry ice levels.

I was watching a recording of the Sun TV singer show, singer [Trivia: How many film songs you have to record to get this title?] Prasanna is quite a personality. The verbal war between Vijay Anthony and him often gets obnoxious. The musical pair have been given the license to “eve tease” every other young contestant in the program. If a juvenile utters the similar language in a bus stand or a train stations he/she would be behind bars in no time for eve teasing. I am no behavioral police, I believe music is divine and judging in a competition is an honorable portfolio, please maintain the sanity of the portfolio. Do you believe that singers Karthik and Chinmayee were Sun TV finds, Mr. A.V. Ramanan Sir we miss you. Where did that quality vanish?

When clean Tamil is a rarity these days on TV, I had a glimpse of Rani Maharani host “Mamathi” (மமதி) , her powerful Tamil language diction and screen presence was quite awesome. If it sounds like a crush, let it be it. Every Video jockey out there on Tami channels must get trained by her.

Please pardon this sinner for the ittle technical talk.

Microsoft Cloud Computing buzz, “AZURE” joins the crowded cloud computing market that is already dominated by IBM [no real proof :)], Sun Microsystems, Google, Amazon etc. Microsoft might be a late entrant into this market, “thought late it would be the latest”. :)

AZURE could be a paradigm shift for Microsoft, contradicting their desktop OS philosophy.

.NET amazes me a lot than any other technology platform today. I have been working in the software industry right from the days of Turbo C in the early 90s till now and have seen/been through a lot of technologies. Microsoft .NET frame work is one technology that amazes me. Microsoft is pumping in lots of tools for the AZURE development, most of them are free. I have signed up for an account to evaluate the architectural perspective with AZURE and its service platforms. You can read more about AZURE here the job market is slow and this would be a good time to learn a new skill set.