3/11/09

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?



3 comments:

krishna said...

Great introduction:
Keep them coming:
Also request u to specifically dissect some of u'r fav Arr songs..

sakthi said...

its excellent to read

Ganesh said...

SO good to read about the transition of music......

and how ARR paved a new path