Monday, February 03, 2014

A weekend of 4 concerts

Last saturday, I attended a wonderful Piano concert at museemusical, Hyderabad. The Pianist, Tanay Joshi, about 18 years in age, held the audience spellbound with his superlative performance. I went to the concert unprepared and hence I could not record it. However, I learnt that Tanay was coming from Bombay, where he performed the previous day and to my luck, somebody uploaded a video of his performance in Bombay, on YouTube. Here is the video:

I know I haven't seen any Pianists perform Live before, but after witnessing this guy's electrifying performance of classical pieces as well as his own compositions, I can say that he is one of the best Pianists in India. Even if he is not one right now, he is on the way to become one for sure. It is amazing that even his own composition reveal good deal of melodic sense and maturity. Scroll down to 49:00 in this video and listen along for about 15 minutes - the pieces are his Indian music based compositions. After several pieces of western classical stuff, Tanay closed his concert with these lilting Indian based melodies which continued to echo even after I walked out of the hall. Tanay started playing Piano at the age of 4 and finished the 8 grades from Trinity College by 12. What an inspiring artist!

Another concert I had been to, after Tanay's concert, on the same evening, is a Hindustani Vocal concert by Sameehan kashalkar, son of Pt. Ulhas Kashalkar. Sameehan is in late-20s I think, but the kind of vocal expertise he demonstrated was outstanding. Sameehan performed raag Kedar, Basant and few others and every rendition was very impressive. His rendition of raag Basant is on YouTube here:

It was quite a different feeling to experience to beautiful concerts within a span of 4 hours - one steeped in western classical and another in hindustani classical. And the next day, I attended a concert by Pt. Hari Prasad Chaurasia. There is nothing new I can write about his performance. I was a bit late to the concert and missed out the name of the raaga performed and I could not recognize it either. But the experience was quite beautiful, almost transporting us into the lap of nature, with mountains, fog, birds. After his concert, there was a concert by Padmabhushan R.K.Srikantan, a carnatic artist aged 94 years. He and his son Ramakanth performed together and needless to say, it was a jaw dropping sight to see a 94 year old man singing so well with such a strong voice. I wonder how do these people do it.

Here is a krithi sung by both of them (not performed at the concert I attended), that I got to like a lot:

What a weekend it was, to experience the rich music from a 19 year old to 94 year old. Quite special and rare experience I must say. And inspiring for sure.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Guitar Prasanna about Ilaiyaraaja

Back in the late 90s, when the internet boom was picking up, there was a website for Ilaiyaraaja, in which there was a list of his discography, few articles and some sound samples. I have no clue who built it or maintained it, but it would have been good if they kept it up. Sadly, it no longer exists. It was the website which had some very interesting sound samples (back then, in an era when mp3 culture was still nascent) and I discovered some compositions there. Among the articles, there was one article by Guitar Prasanna, in which he tried to highlight some of the elements of Raaja's music and quoted some of his favourite compositions. It was quite an interesting read. Today, out of the blue, I remembered that article and felt like reading it again. Since the website no longer exists, I had to google up the article and found it in (only)two websites. I am not sure if those websites will also vanish some day and I thought I must have that article shared here on this blog, for some reference, some day. So I am copy-pasting the article here:


“Have you written invertible counterpoint up a tenth?” Raaja (I am taking the liberty to call him affectionately as “Raaja” since he is, after all, a “Raaja” in what he does!) has asked me this question a few times– a question I don’t encounter much, at least in India. In an age where most musicians (of course only in India!) spend their time reading the latest software manuals rather than reading books on harmony, counterpoint, orchestration or Carnatic ragas or whatever, Raaja is and has always been an anachronism. 

I have had several intellectually stimulating musical conversations with Raaja on principles of counterpoint, Bach, Tyagaraja, jazz harmony and much more. (Raaja has often asked me about jazz and I remember how excited Raaja was when I played him great jazz like Charlie Parker and John Coltrane’s ‘Giant Steps’). Raaja’s vast knowledge extends far beyond music. For instance, I have seen him quote passages from “Tirukkural” effortlessly in casual conversation.

In every field of activity, there are a chosen few that transcend their idiom. Let’s face it! Film music is not classical music. By itself, film music as a medium does not have the spiritual depth or artistic dimensions of say, a Tyagaraja pancharatna kriti or a Bach “Musical Offering”. It’s a medium of popular entertainment just the same way pop music is in the west. That DOES NOT however mean that it CANNOT be artistic. (I think readers will get this ‘distinction’ that I am making), it’s just that its scope and purpose is a little different. Raaja has transcended the idiom and brought elements of ‘higher art’ into it while still maintaining the ‘immediate appeal’ that characterizes (and should characterize) a mass medium like film music. It is doubtful if any musician in the world dealing with a popular musical medium (like pop, rock, film music etc) has ever brought in such an immense and breathtaking array of musical vocabulary and has internalized and reflected it in so personal a way. (What can we call Raaja’s music? – Tamil folk melodies meets Carnatic music meets Hindustani music meets 70’s disco music meets Bach meets electronic music meets…….) What is amazing is that finally it bears a patent/trademark of homegrown Raaja. (It is not Bach, it is not Earth, Wind and Fire, it is not Carnatic music, it is Ilayaraaja.) In my personal opinion, Steely Dan and the later albums of Sting come closest to standing rock solid on musical and artistic sophistication, while still being couched in a ‘commercial’ medium.

I grew up with Raaja’s music and I can clearly see how I can revisit his old songs and find such technical virtuosity in his writing – his unmatched use of chormaticism inIndianish’ melodies, his extensive use of intricate counterpoint, his vast knowledge of Carnatic music, the ‘correctness’ of every chord in his songs and above all the speed with which he composes clearly show that the man is secure, knows exactly what he wants and delivers. Raaja has raised the standards of us, South Indian listeners so much, that there are many of us who never bothered to listen to Hindi songs for e.g.. (we never needed to, right?). He has raised the standards of musicianship to such a high level among studio musicians in Chennai (I realized the huge gulf, when I worked with string players in Bombay for e.g.) that many times I wonder how the musicians even played some of the parts that are there in his music.
I have never heard a guitar even remotely out of tune in Raaja’s songs for example (believe me, that’s very rare in general). I have to make a special mention of Raaja’s use of the electric bass guitar. I have never heard such meticulous written bass parts (its clearly written carefully), as it is in Raaja’s - song after song after song. Mention also to some brilliant acoustic drum work (a lost and ancient art in India) on Raaja’s songs.

I would like to end this article with what Raaja himself told me once (about the limitations of being in the film medium) “Enakku innum niraya ideas irukku. Ithule ellam panna mudiyathu. Ithu Mint Streetille okkanthu Jabam panra mathiri!” (translated as “I have lot more ideas. I may not be able to do all of them in this. It’s like sitting in the middle of Mint Street and meditating”). I am sure we’ll agree that he has meditated exceptionally well on Mint street!

Here are some of my personal favorites in no particular order (which just came up to me as I am writing) from a very 'technical’ perspective from certain chosen angles. Of course I feel these are great songs anyway to listen to without getting ‘technical’ about them.

  • Kanavil Mithakkum from Eera Vizhi Kaaviyangal (1982) - Everything. This is a total classic. 
  • Pazhaya Sogangal from Eera Vizhi Kaaviyangal (1982) - Listen to the beautiful classical guitar parts and the Rhodes piano. 
  • Poonthalir Aada from Panner Pushpangal (1981) - The use of counterpoint in this song is at a staggering level. I would like to analyze this song in detail in a later article. 
  • Aruna kirana from Guru (Malayalam) (1997) - The orchestration in this is great by any standards. 
  • Dilwale from Mahadev (Hindi) (1989) - Has anyone heard this song or have it?, Its so hip, an exceptional arrangement!. 
  • Vaan Meethile from Raagangal Maaruvathillai (1983) - Has anyone heard this?. The groove, the bass guitar. 
  • Vaanam Keezhe from Thoongathe Thambi Thoongathe (1983) - Everything. To me this song is a mini magnum opus in its arrangement. It is quite stunning. 
  • Etho Mogam from Kozhi Koovuthu (1982) - Chromaticism, harmonies, the pastoral feeling. 
  • Illamai Itho Itho from Sakalakalavallavan (1982) - Quintessential disco – with Raja’s sophistication though. Look for SPB’s Homer Simpson like ‘hoohoo’s
  • Vikram from Vikram (1986) - To me, this sounds really hip even today. Look for the three-voice counterpoint in S. Janaki’s ‘humming’, the guitar/ keyboard chords behind Kamal’s ‘rap’. 
  • Ninnukori Varnam from Agni Natchathiram (1988) - Well! ‘Hip’ is the word!. 
  • Oh Butterfly from Meera (1992) - Stunning chromatic string passages in the end. 
  • Ilam Pani from Aradhanai (1981) - Great song. 
  • Kathal Pannpadu from Eera Vizhi Kaaviyangal (1982) - Stunning arrangements, harmonic changes. Brilliant!. 
  • Ada Machamulla from Chinnaveedu (1985) - The funkiest use of mridangam, horns. Another mini magnum opus. 
  • Devanin Kovil from Aruvadai Naal (1986) - Raja’s vocal harmony, bass guitar. 
  • Pattu Enge from Poovizhi Vasalile (1987) - Horn section arrangements, vocal arrangements. 
  • Paadivaa Thendrale from Mudivalla Arambam (1984) - Brilliant guitar parts. 
  • Illaya Nila from Payanangal Mudivathillai (1982) - Of course!. 
  • Naalum En Manam from Nilavu Suduvathillai (1984) - Guitar/ voice counterpoint. Great song. 
  • Vaa Vaa Pakkam Vaa from Thangamagan (1983) - Sophisticated Rhythm & Blues a-la Raja. This is super hip. 
  • Vaanengum Thanga from Moondram Pirai (1982) - Just the intro is enough!. 
  • Kaathal Oviyam from Alaigal Oivathillai (1981) - The song that taught me maj7 chords. 
  • Putham Puthu Kalai from Alaigal Oivathillai (1981) - Flute intro! The groove! Great song. 
  • Tholin Mele from Ninaivellam Nithya (1982) - Superb use of African rhythms that somehow transmogrifies into ‘raja’. Shall we say ‘Rajafrican?’. 
  • I want to tell you something from Anand (1987) - Stunning vocal harmonies and arrangements.

And so on and on and on…….I haven’t even touched the great Carnatic material yet!

                                                                                                                 - Guitar Prasanna

Friday, July 05, 2013


'Raanjhanaa' is a film directed by Anand Rai, a new film-maker whose first film was 'Tanu weds Manu'. I have not seen his first film and I have not heard its music too. For Raanjhanaa, he roped in A.R.Rahman for music and Irshad Kamil for lyrics. Rahman and Irshad have worked together before in 'Rockstar', where they did a wonderful job. I was curious to see the kind of music that this new director would tap from Rahman. In a way, it lets me gauge the director's taste and sensibilities. Rahman's last Hindi outing was the absolutely disappointing 'Jab Tak Hai Jaan' and his recent albums - 'Kadal' and 'Mariyan' were a bit underwhelming for me (though Kadal was better than Mariyan). So with zero expectations, I listened to the soundtrack of Raanjhanaa.

1. Raanjhanaa (by Jaswinder Singh and Shiraz Uppal): The song carries exuberance in its tune and its pace. Not sure which of the two singers actually sang the song but the singer did a fine job in carrying the exuberant mood of the song. The strings section layer adds some charm to the song throughout, enhancing the sound texture beautifully. The moment 1st interlude starts briskly with strings - something told me that Rahman is on a roll in this album. A premature conclusion no doubt, but it was just a hunch, triggered by the music vibes in this song. While i do like the 2nd interlude on sitar, I must add that I am not much a fan of the sitar-scribbling - the fast playing style that Rahman employs (hangover of Slumdog millionaire). In this song however, given the pace, it manages to impress. 

2. Banarasiya (by Shreya Ghoshal, Anwesha and Meenal Jain): The saarangi strains that open the song made me sit up because Rahman used it after a long time. This semi-classical/folkstyled situational song has some playful vocals by Shreya with wonderful gamakams. Rahman fleetingly enters the zone of songs like "Mehendi hai Rachne waali" (Zubeidaa) and "Damadam mast kalander", but adds enough twists to the melodic lines thus shaking off any influences. Rahman also brilliantly uses a variety of the indian percussions, both North Indian (dholaks, chenda) and South Indian (kanjira and all) and instruments like sitar which sit perfectly well in the composition. My only gripe - Why only 1 charanam? Irshad too, matches Rahman with clever wordplay such as "Banaa rasiyaa".  This song is one of the best compositions in this album and will have shelf life.

3. Piya Milenge (by Sukhwinder Singh and choir): Just when I am all tired of the qawwali style songs in Hindi, Rahman comes up with a song that is not exactly into-the-face or perfect-to-genre and yet retains the essence of it. Rahman's experimentation is at a high in this song and with Sukhwinder Singh on vocals, it gets perfect. This raag-jog styled song has atmospheric arrangements with Piano riffs, strings, keyboards, electronic percussions and dholak. The 1st interlude has the choir moving from one raaga (which one?) to another (Ahir Bhairav) without breaking the mood of the song. This Ahir Bhairav is repeated in 2nd interlude too, with a solo violin added (superb touch by Rahman). The lines "Usiko paana Usiko choona" in the end highlights the key differentiating factor between Rahman and others - clever improvisation. Irshad Kamil's lyrics are good. 

4. Ay Sakhi (by Madhushree, Chinmayi, Vaishali and Aanchal Sethi): Another playful song by female singers and this one goes a little more ahead in the 'situational'/funny territory. Native Indian instruments clearly seem to be Rahman's focus in this album and particularly in percussions. This song too has a variety of them like ghatam, tabla etc. And he keeps changing the rhythms all through the song. The singers have all done a nice job while the only irritating aspect is their vocalization of instruments in interludes. But since it is meant to be a  funny song, we can't hold it against the composer. Rahman could get folk-ish flavour very well in this song, much like the he could do it in albums like Lagaan, Swades etc. 

5. Nazar Laye (by Rashid Ali and Neeti Mohan): Compared to other songs, this song seems to be a bit in template-mode, working within the confines of guitar songs by new bands. It is like taking a step back, in the overall listening experience. Yet, what works for me in this song is the portion by Neeti Mohan. A small twist here and there and the colour of the tune changes, impressively. I am not a fan of Rashid Ali's vocals and Neeti Mohan too is just ok. It is the way the tune flows that keeps interest levels a bit up. Again, no major interludes in this song and has only 1 stanza. This song ranks in the bottom.

6. Tu Man Shudi (by Rabbi and Rahman): This song is the attitude-show-off song. While it is not as anthemic as the song in Yuva, Rahman does a good job in constructing hook-lines that work big time. While Tu Man Shudi line is hummable, Rahman debunks it by adding a far more hummable line "Humse wafaayein lenaa". And the way it keeps recurring in this song - it adds to the effect. The arrangements border on hip-hop and but lounge and yet don't completely play there. This song might not be a favourite of mine, but rahman's improvisation in the tune is commendable, particularly from the lines "woh dil se...", where we do not know how and where he is taking the tune to. And he ends it perfectly well in that hypnotic hook-line. 

7. Aise na Dekho (by Rahman): Rahman off-late seems to be favouring accordian a lot, for many of his recent albums had this instrument. This song is fashioned along the lines of Rahman's own "Jaane Tu ya Jaane Na". Can't call it jazz per se, but a diluted jazz-ballad perhaps. The song has simple but nice tune. The arrangements are bit underwhelming though, with only that whistle adding a lot of appeal and instruments being so subdued. I loved the more stronger jazz quotient in instruments in Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na song than this one. Rahman's choice to keep this song for himself to sing, is apt i feel, given the raw-ness (conversational tone) in the tune.

8. The Land of Shiva: This is a pointless instrumental piece, with percussions. I don't know why Rahman at times relies on percussionists to build these short rhythm pieces that do not tell anything specific, musically. Instead a good melodic instrumental piece would be much better, laying out the theme and mood of the film. Rockstar was the last album in which he composed two beautiful instrumentals. This film, being set in Benaras, had ample scope for a theme - be it location specific or story-specific.

9. Tum Tak (by Jaaved Ali, Kirti Sagathia and Pooja): If we ignore the spray of word "tum tak" on us, this song is actually a well constructed composition. The tune flows so naturally from one line to another, without letting in any kind of monotony. Indian rhythms and shehnai take us into non-urban North India and the tune meanders by adding melody line after line. The portions of female singer which start with the lines "Ik Tak Ik Tak" are beautifully composed, especially when the song takes a bit of Rajasthani colour in the lines "Maaro Nainaa tum". Again, getting the song's ebb and flow perfectly right without predictability is Rahman's genius here. The lines "Nainon ki naiyyaa" with those rhythms and sitar and the subsequent lines make this song distinctly delectable melody with Indian soul - something long pending from rahman. Again, true to the strengths of Rahman, this song too is free-flowing in structure and yet, is not way-ward but perfectly complete.

Rahman has this strange habit of throwing in a beautiful album after a series of not-so-impressive ones. Rahman's genius in this album lies constructing tunes that go perfectly hand-in-hand with the Indian sounds in the arrangements. He seems to have experimented very well with Indian percussions and with riffs of instruments like sitar, flute, shehnai - which together formed a distinct sound canvas that was missing in many of his recent albums. I find it curious & interesting that Rahman, by adding a layer of strings in many songs (raanjhaanaa, Banarasiya, Piya Milenge, Ay Sakhi), elevated the overall sound-scape in the songs. And no, Rahman is not just 'sound' in this album, as his critics say, but here, he is more on melody and improvisation. Banarasiya, Ay Sakhi, Piya Milenge and Tum Tak have some really melodious phrases and I have not seen Rahman giving so many "improvised-on-melody" songs in a single album. Not many after Lagaan/Swades at least. That Rahman gets the North-Indian film music ethos very well is a known fact and this album is another step in that direction because of the way he used those folk-based Banarasiya/Ay Sakhi/Piya Milenge/Tum Tak or the Punjabi-hip-hop flavoured 'Tu Mun Shudi'.

Bottomline: Raanjhanaa is certainly a brilliant album in his repertoire, matching the eclectic bouquets such as Meenaxi or Delhi-6. The album is musically far more richer than many of his recent albums and I like it because Rahman, for a change, discards his "global appeal" approach (with which I don't have an issue, but just that I don't want it in every album) and instead keeps it more earthy and rooted with more of Indian flavour. 

Not to miss: Banarasiya, Piya Milenge, Ay Sakhi, Tum Tak, Raanjhanaa (in that order)

PS: Contrary to public perception about Rahman's albums, this album did not take time to grow on me. One listening and I was at it.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Naadi Thudikuthadi

Naadi Thudikuthadi is another obscure film from Ilaiyaraaja. I do not have any details about the film, so let me cut away straight to my thoughts on the album. This one again seems to be a low-key film with no big stars or production houses. The sound canvas, as expected, is more on synth rather than acoustic instruments.

1. You & I Young Forever: The male singer who starts the song sounded very much like Ramana Gogula, a music director and singer from Telugu Film Industry, who assaulted us in few films. Though it is not him here, the overall feeling is not that better. The song is built on Caribbean rhythms largely with heavy bass and drums and synth trumpets. The tune is just about hummable with more emphasis on some  percussions loops and some strong bass guitar work. The chorus work is extremely disappointing and it sounds almost like the stuff done for ad jingles. This is one of the rare instances where Ilaiyaraaja fails to internalize a genre, like how he usually does with his signature style, and ends up giving a typical Latino-Caribbean flavoured song where melody lacks meat and the flavour is more by percussions, the usage of which is pretty straight and  un-raaja-ish. This song is sung by 5 singers. 

2. En Poo Nenjai: The synth violin chords (and waw guitar sounds on keyboard) which open the song disappoint me big time because this is the sound I usually hear in tv-serials or low-budget devotional albums by some struggling singers. My expectations were lifted by the rhythm and the melody which actually sound much better. The best component of this song is the melody. The rhythm, though unique, has some tin sound in it which makes the song a bit mechanical. The interludes on the other hand flow flawlessly in Raaja's style that he typically reserves for some Malayalam films. Some flute, some piano and some chorus. The charanams are also constructed beautifully. If there is anything wrong in this otherwise good song, it is the sound of the percussions which are throbbing out of the song than needed for this kind of soft melody. It is not about the volume levels or mixing issues but more about the sound of the percussions used, which seem to be a bit harsh on this gentle melody. Rita, the singer, rendered it well. 

3. Kaadhale Illadha: Here comes the most cringe worthy song of the album (i use cringe-worthy here because of that atrocious opening of the song). I read a Ilaiyaraaja fan's tweet that this song has the faux-rock style and I agree with that. Right from the word go, the song sounds odd in every bit and the various elements in the song do not appear to be cohesively sticking together - like how they usually do in Raaja's music. Raaja's vocals do not appear to suit the tune. The chorus is absolutely cheap. The tune does not strike well. In constrast, the 1st interlude is good and the charanams seem like the left-over pieces of "Thaavi Thaavi" song from Dhoni. The shift from Charanam to Pallavi is too abrupt and it feels like a decent tune in charanam is bludgeoned to death with that pallavi and that chorus. 

4. En Devadai: Ilaiyaraaja flips our listening experience completely with this mind boggling composition, sung by Karthik and Anitha. Beautiful guitar strumming and a synth guitar prelude making way for an awesome tune embellished with some groovy keyboard chords. It is amazing that Raaja's style of chord progression continues to give goose bumps. The 1st interlude is a western classical piece that builds on a motif and completes a crescendo after which Raaja continues to shower his magic in the charanam. The way raaja used cello and strings in charanam - you can probably create one more composition out of those pieces alone. And yet, it all fits well and holds it all together brilliantly. The 2nd interlude however, is surprising because it relies only on scale changes. Yet, the song makes for a fantastic listening experience. Overall, this song is the pick of the album. I am afraid this song might end up as the underrated gem, if the film flops and this song doesn't grab as many ears. 

5. Velinaatu graama: The song has nice tune in pallavi although I feel there is nothing much "village-y" in the song that seems to be singing about/in a village (graama). This is surprising given that it is Ilaiyaraaja there holding the baton. What I find completely dissonant in this song is the heavy western classical based interludes, particularly the trumpets, that sound very much out of sync with the melody in the song. This could be a situational song, going by the dark theme reflected in the interludes. The charanams flow well with a melody consistent with the pallavi and they are backed by beautiful arrangements with strings and Piano. The rendition by Haricharan and Swetha is adequate. While this song is not bad as such, i doubt if this will really have as much shelf life as En Devadai. 

Overall, Naadi Thudikuthadi is a very average fare from Ilaiyaraaja although En Devadai's brilliance and the melodic quotient in En Poo Nenjai and velinaatu can tilt that. But the listening experience is mixed, empirically speaking. Ilaiyaraaja delivers the goods amazingly well only in En Devadai - the most brilliant one in the album. The other good songs have some misgivings and then, there are songs where Ilaiyaraaja disappoints big time. 

Bottomline: Ilaiyaraaja's mixed bag ranges from awesomeness to pointlessness. 
Not to miss: En Devadai

Note: My opinion is strictly based on how I enjoyed the album now and how I might enjoy it in the long run. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Chithirayil Nila Choru

Chithirayil Nila Choru is a low-budget tamil film directed by a film-maker named R.Sundararajan, who collaborated with Ilaiyaraaja in the 80s. Now, they united again after a long gap. Like in most low-budget films scored by Ilaiyaraaja recently, the songs in this film too are largely on synth soundscape and less orchestral. I have come to believe off-late that budget largely dictates the instrumentation and sound canvas employed by Ilaiyaraaja. My take on the songs from this album:

1. Kallale Senju vacha: This song has two versions, one by Haricharan and one by Priyadarshini. This song begins on synth chord progressions which give away the Sindhu Bhairavi raagam. The synth percussions used are in poly-rhythms. The song has some of the usual Sindhu Bhairavi phrases, particularly in the charanams. While it is surprising that Raaja does not avoid the typical phrases, the melody quotient is strong enough in the song, particularly in the charanams. I felt Haricharan's rendition is a notch better than Priyadarshini's. 

2. Kaalyile Maalai vandhadhu: This composition is sung by a bengali singer named Saptaparna Chatterjee. The song begins with Veena playing the pallavi (again giving away the raaga - Abheri in this song) and the singer repeating it. The synth percussions (electronic drum kit) very closely resemble thavil while electronic drones sounds make the composition quite groovy on sound. The 1st interlude is quite a bit of fusion with Veena and electro-funk. Ilaiyaraaja's arrangements in this song are brilliant with Ghatam-like percussive elements setting the tone for charanam. After the 1st line of charanam, Raaja releases a riff of synth-chorus and guitars - which I felt was a brilliant idea. Its amazing to see Raaja adorn so much of contemporary-ness in this song. The 2nd interlude which starts with Nagaswaram moves to a superb guitar phrase that reflects the western sensibilities of Raaja. I felt the singer's rendition is good enough and this song is one of the best Abheris composed by Ilaiyaraaja.

3. Unga Appan peyar: Ilaiyaraaja himself croons this composition which sounds a bit anthemic and a bit folk. The opening of the song reminded me of the anthemic "Manidha Manidha" song by Raaja of 80s. The characteristic of this song is the peculiar rhythm employed. The percussions are almost like tapping a bench. And the way Raaja fits the melody of this song into this unusual rhythm is absolutely interesting. It is difficult to categorize the sound scape of this song under acoustic or synth because both exist hand in glove. The interludes are signature 80s Raaja while the charanams have slight change in percussions. The violins (synth or real) add the Raaja's touch to a great precision, particularly the 2nd charanam. Raaja's rendition is not without flaws, since the strain in his voice is discernible. Yet, he carries some lines pretty well. I felt this song is a long distant cousin of ilaiyaraaja's own blues flavoured "Vaangu Panathukkum" (Dhoni) - the similarity being not in tune or instrumentation but in the idea and execution.

4. Nandri Solla Venum: Ilaiyaraaja has composed many a hamsadhwanis and if I remember it right, not even one is a sub-par composition. This song, the best in this album, is perhaps one of the finest compositions by Ilaiyaraaja in his career. From dense layers of violins (both synth and acoustic), guitar, flute setting the stage for the celebration of this beautiful raaga to the unusual tala pattern on mridangam - the sound scape in this song is a perfect example of how Ilaiyaraaja can create effective arrangements from the confluence of acoustic and synth sounds. The melody is a time-less one. The 1st interlude, replete with violins, is a wonderful throwback at the era when music was all about melody. There is something eloquently beautiful in the way Raaja constructs the charanams. The opening lines of charanam are short but punctuated by flute flying out and then the next line by the singer is unexpectedly lengthy, traversing the whole of hamsadhwani scale, taking along with it the violins which gather up in the high note and flow separately again. beauty. Every line in the charanam seems to be carefully carved. The 2nd interlude has violins repeating a motif much like some interludes in few of Raaja's 80s songs and a cello emerging out into a new tune. This was the classic Raaja that we all enjoyed back in 80s and it is amazing to see the same school of thought, being used with synth and acoustic violins combination (i think). This is what I mean when I say that the DNA of Raaja's music has not changed and that's exactly why I continue to enjoy his music. Karthik and Priyadarshini have put up their sincere renditions in this gem of a composition. 

I rate Chithirayil Nila Choru among one of (Ilaiyaraaja's and even in general) best albums in recent times. All the songs are melodious, with gorgeous arrangements. Ilaiyaraaja touches that wonderful sweet spot between acoustic and synth arrangements in a way that not every Ilaiyaraaja album manages to. The songs have some modern arrangements, classy tunes and elaborate musical pieces - all of which reiterating that there is still so much of beautiful music that Ilaiyaraaja's ocean of talent is capable of. 

Bottomline: Ilaiyaraaja uses classical raagas to deliver strong melodies that are among his finest in long time. 

Not to miss: Nandri solla and Kaalayile Maalai