Thursday, January 28, 2010

Kuwait Awaits! :)

Off to Kuwait tonight for a show. First trip abroad, so pretty excited! Loads of songs, some packing and a computer which crashed last night just before I went to sleep, only to refuse to wake up in the morning. Windows needs reinstallation. What timing!

Flying Emirates en route Dubai I am told. Ragini, Ranjani and Ajesh are part of the show too. Anything exciting to look out for in Kuwait? Suggestions welcome!
You folks have a great weekend! :)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Of dogs eating dogs, headbanging and eggless cakes

Monday morning. A weekend gone by like a school time summer holiday. A week ahead that always seems much longer than the weekend that just went by. Because it really is. The best part of a Monday like this one of course, is the Tuesday that follows. But alas, it isn't often that such a phenomenon as a holiday should occur on a Tuesday and incidentally, follow a Monday so immediately. Hence let's realize its significance and celebrate this wonderful occurrence.

Coming to the weekend that went by. Started off wonderfully well. Sleep. Returned in a sleep deprived world's-a-bitch-why-isn't-it-my-day mood from office and beyond. Fell blissfully asleep listening to Vinnai Thandi Varuvaya, dreamed about some random gig somewhere and woke up without being woken up. Which was pretty late in the morning.

Is it fate or negligence that I haven't seen Avatar yet while most of my friends have and so they wouldn't give me company? I choose to blame the former. I can't help if I were destined to be lazy! Ended up watching Sherlock Holmes in the evening with a friend. Good movie. Devi Bala seemed like an extension of one of our office conference rooms, the only difference being, no one slept through the movie.

Decided to go to Saarang after the movie to watch the light music finals. Entering IIT felt eerie. The last time I was here… well, it was the last time I was. The music had stopped then. Something was surely missing this time, and I knew precisely what. One of those life defining moments you'll not want to write about till you're old enough and yet can't resist mentioning. By the time we'd entered the oat the crowd had lessened and we were in time to catch the last two bands. I've always wanted to perform at Saarang but missed out. Someday I hope I will. It's one of the best crowds you could perform to!

Shreya has won the National Award again. That's her fourth in the seven years she's been around in the industry. Way to go. Love you loads! And Hariji's got his second. Well, he perhaps deserves a lot more, but then they're national awards, meaning they come with a delicious serving of sodium chloride. So, while I’m immensely happy for Shreya, I don't think she'd be a lesser mortal(read angel) had she failed to win a single national award. Listened to the song that fetched them the award. Jiv rangala from Jogwa. Beautifully sung and well composed. Recommended.

Loitered around Saarang yesterday afternoon, catching half of the light music solo competition where Ragini was the judge. Incidentally a couple of contestants from Supersinger were participants :p! Had super fun watching Powerchord prelims; double bass, headbanging, screaming, growling and mostly hilarious occasionally good music.

Friend reports, as I type, that SEL gave one of their best concerts ever last night. Missed it because I didn't feel like going and hence didn't buy tickets. Fate I reckon.
Cut a midnight cake for my sister. Eggless pure vegetarian, just the way she likes it. Here's wishing her a wonderful birthday and a great life ahead :)

Hope this week's eventful. Should be if things go as per plan. Now back to betrayed-by-dog-eat-dog-world-where-every-dog-has-its-day-yet-I'm-still-waiting-for-mine mode. You folks have a swell week :)

PS: This post was typed on my mobile's miniscule keyboard. Some really bad music on the bus gave me no other option.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Music Review: Vinnai Thandi Varuvaya (A.R.Rahman)

Composer: A.R.Rahman
Director: Gautam Vasudev Menon

Ok, perhaps a little late, but decided to take my time, listen to the songs and let them sink in before I wrote this.

While the idea of a Hindu-Christian wedding song itself isn't new, Anbil Avan boasts of a cool church organ interlude and some nice harmonies. I think it's success largely depends on how it is picturized and used in the movie. Commercial stuff.

Hosanna got leaked before the audio released, and we were left wondering why the arrangements were kind of empty. When the actual version came out, the song was in a completely different plane. The chord progressions Rahman uses to transit between the major scales are brilliantly thought and arranged (a voice inside me goes "ahem we're talking about Rahman here"). A very commercial yet cute song, with nice singing by Vijay Prakash and lovely rap by Blaaze. The very cleverly placed "Hello"s lend recall value, and I can already see college crowds responding to the singer's Hello's ;-)

The opening bell chords, Benny's earnest crooning, some brilliant voice processing work and a kickass carnatic nadaswaram backing bring a vintage Rahman flavour to Omana Penne. The Malayalam portion blends beautifully with these elements and you have a killer of a song which, despite being modern, arrangements- wise, still makes you wish Rahman came back to his Kizhakku Cheemayile days and gave more of this stuff.

Aaromaley, the malayalam song Rahman gave as an addition. If add-ons were this good, I'd settle for an album of add-ons and no main songs :P The first thing that struck me when I heard this song the first time was : hey, what's that note he's reached! A bluesy guitar groove, carnatic distortion violin *jaw drops* and a beautiful mallu chorus with Rahman written all over superbly compliment Alphonse's I've-arrived-now-shut-up-and-listen singing! Reminds me of Steve Tyler of Aerosmith, as he goes "Crazy". A little too much for TFM to digest in one meal I suppose. That note is top D by the way, and top D is a mighty high note to reach. Song of the album? Read on.

The title track is a breath of fresh air, or should I say a whisper rather. For that's how Karthik has sung this, with romance sottifying all over. I haven't yet got the hang of this song fully, given the mind blowing guitar chords that back this song only to be taken to a totally different level after the scale change. Another genre definition by Rahman in this song, and though I'm not quite sure about its commercial success, the experimentation deserves full marks, and Karthik finally gets a killer after a spate of ajiligujilis.

As if Shreya weren't enough reason to raise my expectations sky high, Rahman sings in Mannippaya. And how! If Shreya's initial pleading melts, Rahman's take in this song is out of the world. Lovely chord progressions again, and on repeated listening, I get the feeling Rahman's outdone Shreya in this song. Shreya, if you're reading this, Mannipaya?? :(
I was desperately wishing this would be the best song in the album. But Aaromaley, Omana Penne and the title track keep announcing themselves, leaving me in a dilemma. Four equally brilliant songs in one album is nothing less than a treat!

Kannukkul Kannai Katti fades in comparison to the four other songs that scream of the Rahman stamp, and offers nothing fresh. Again, largely visual dependent stuff.

Just when you're hoping Rahman comes up with something as good in Tamil as the stuff he's been churning out in Hindi, here comes VTV. Four brilliant trend-setters, one excellent commercial number and a couple of average yet hit-potential filled-tracks. Quite a package!

Rahman raises the bar yet again and offers new challenges to other composers!

PS: Couple's Retreat has been nominated for the Oscars. Not quite Oscar Winning material if you ask me. But who cares! Here's hoping the Midas touch works again! Go Rahman sir Go!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Untitled Poem

Reposting a meme from my office blog. Rules:

> The tags should include poem-with-no-title
> The poem should preferably be just random thoughts and abstract-ish

This was my post :

A vast expanse of blue sky
Disappearing into a golden horizon
Of dust and sand
Where do I see my destiny?
What is the direction I take?

This lifescape’s so beautiful
Like a picture waiting to be painted,
Colours so many, possiblities endless,
Yet why this temptation to paint it blue?

I trudge along, like I will,
Like I have.
Colouring, layering, blotting, erasing…

Where am I in this horizon,
Where will I be tomorrow?
And when I look back, will I see again
The vast expanse of a bluer sky,
Disappearing into a yellow horizon
Of dust and sand,
That I’ve left behind?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Rejection- 2

The blood boiled in him. Although his mind that had been screaming this very outcome throughout, he was in absolute denial when his thoughts actually manifested themselves in the form of the gruff voice of the Dean, telling him his nomination had been cancelled. It was the scuffle. Of course there had been but one witness, Mandira when it actually happened. To think it was an elaborately hatched plan executed so skillfully well amazed him, adding to his increasing frustration. It was no mean achievement to be among the top five students in this prestigious college, and just when his dreams of becoming the college leader seemed one step away having been nominated for the post, they were disintegrating right in front of his eyes. A woman's tears were tearing them apart, shred by shred. Fake tears, as he now realized.

It had never occurred to him that when he went to stop the two thugs from misbehaving with Mandira- about whom he hardly knew except that she was a friend of Dhanraj, his competition for the elections- that her association with Dhanraj could be close enough for her to do this. She had screamed for help, he had rushed to help, a scuffle had ensued, and short tempered that he was, he had given one of the thugs a broken nose. The next day the entire college had seemed weird to him. People seemed to regard him with a certain apprehension. Closer friends chose to try and convince him it was better that he wasn’t contesting in the elections.

He was summoned to the Dean's room, where he saw Mandira crying. The two thugs, students from the college who had never been seen in the college were present too. When Mandira looked at him through her tears, she suddenly turned furious. Everything that followed seemed to be right out of a movie. Dean had told him he was extremely disappointed with his behaviour with the "lady" and that instead of being a paragon of leadership and excellence, he had set a wrong example to the students, and hence his nomination would have to be cancelled. Something about the way the Dean put all of this seemed artificial to him, almost as if he were saying it with a tinge of guilt and a gun to his head.

It indeed was like in the movies, he thought. Mandira's testimony was enough for the college to believe. Not too many knew of her closeness with Dhanraj, though Dhanraj's closeness to his MLA uncle was known to all and advertised by the Mercedes Benz that he used to sometimes skid around college.
But in the movies, doesn't the hero win?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Jammin’ with Srishti- Live @ Chennai Sangamam- Invite :-)

Hi Folks,I am performing with my band Srishti on the 14th (Pongal) as part of the Chennai Sangamam extravaganza that’s going on in the city. Please treat this as a personal invite to attend the concert :)

The gig:

Date: 14th Jan, 2009

Venue: Elliot’s beach

Time: 6 to 7.30

The band: Srishti is a Tamil Rock Band, one of the winning bands of Ooh la la la (Tv show), adjudged by A.R.Rahman.We will be performing a range of own compositions and rock adaptations of folk and popular film music.Lineup:

Vocals: Vijaynarain, Nrithya

Guitars: Arvind

Bass: Saajith

Keys: Natasha

Drums: Soundar

Wind, Sand, Rock and Pongal!! It’s all there!

PS: Entry is free (in case you didn’t notice it’s the beach peeps :P ) so BE THERE!

Friday, January 08, 2010

Rejection - 1

She loved animals… to the extent that she had almost made up her mind to quit her newfound job and join the Blue Cross. She was sure she could afford to do that, though she knew it was definitely not what her parents had in mind for her. Her mother had shrugged the idea off when she had told her about it rather amusedly. Almost as if the thought of her daughter working towards animal welfare was outright hilarious. Her father had been more understanding, telling her it wasn’t what the daughter of a renowned businessman of his stature should be doing. He had been nice enough to add that she could join the family business if she didn’t like her IT job and perhaps visit the Blue Cross now and then. She had reminded him that she was already visiting the Blue Cross once a week, and that if he paid a little attention to family, he would know. This had irked him and further logical conversation was thwarted.

Her friends were a jolly bunch. Though she had this constant feeling of being the least important one in the group, they were probably the best set of friends she had. They were at least not as averse to her animal activism ideas as her parents. Of course they joked about it, but their jokes were aimed more at her vehement support for animal welfare than at her career aspirations. So she could withstand it when Dinesh purposely gorged on a chicken leg in front of her or Anisha repeated the tale of how her whole family wheezed continuously for almost a week when a cat had entered her house and refused to leave.

What bothered her most was the doubt that perhaps she were being looked upon as abnormal because of her passion. Or was it some other flaw in her character, she often wondered. Simple incidents like her friends assuming she’d turn up for lunch and forgetting to call her would put her off. And then Shweta arrived in her life. Shweta, the girl every girl would have wanted to be. Topper graduate, great looks, and a vocabulary as diverse as the topics she could talk about. Anything under the sun! The best part was, Shweta was one girl who wouldn’t let all this get into her head. She gelled extremely well with the group. They immediately became friends. On learning that Shweta was an animal lover too, her joy had known no bounds. Now they had two people to make fun of, and perhaps take more seriously too, she had thought.

But the trouble with Shweta was that she gelled too well with the group. So well that when one day Shweta narrated in a serious tone, how she had rushed a bleeding puppy run over by a scooter, to the hospital and got it treated, the entire group listened in stunned silence. She listened in stunned silence too. Except, she was more stunned by the fact that she had had personal incidents like this one quite a few times, and her friends had never reacted thus when she had made an attempt to tell them about it. The topic had always changed, with a “oh we all know you’re sweet” giggle from one of the girls.

Now as Shweta narrated her story, she could almost sense empathy among her friends. What was it that made her friends empathize with Shweta for the same things they joked about with her? It was definitely clear that her friends did not look down upon Shweta because she was an animal activist! Now she was convinced it was some flaw with herself, her own doing that garnered her less attention and respect. An overwhelming sense of incompetence and inferiority rose in her. She controlled her tears, lest her friends think she was moved by Shweta’s story and add fuel to the fire. Was she jealous of Shweta? Perhaps, she thought. Was she too submissive and hence taken for granted? Why was she “not quite in the league” and just an add-on to the group? Questions seemed to spin around her like the birds in those Bugs Bunny cartoons when Bugs hit his head on something. If only she could take all of this as seriously as she took those Loony Tunes cartoons! But had those cartoons not been what had interested her in animals in the first place?

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

An influence too significant not to write about! A birthday post :)

First post of the year.
As I write this post, Pakistan is limping towards a highly improbable defeat. They seem to be snatching it from the jaws of victory! For the love of cricket (read for the hatred of Oz), I really hope they win. Good ol' test cricket is anyday more interesting than slam bangs! Heck it doesn't even seem to register or make me care any less that India lost against SL yesterday.

This post is not about cricket. It's about something else totally.I remember Karthik of itwofs writing a post about a certain Rahman realization point eons ago. I had then wanted to immediately come up with a post of my own explaining this RRP as we'll call it henceforth.

My earliest memories of music come from swinging in the hammock of our triplicane house, listening to Preeti Sagar's rhymes. This was when I was in the UKG. My memory isn't that good, but some thoughts just seem to stick. Another cassette that used to loop was Anjali.

Cut to some three years later, and Delhi had Doordarshan telecasting Superhit Muqabla. I don't quite recollect which one I heard first, Chinna chinna aasai or Dil hai chota sa. There were some other songs that were famous during those days, including Baba Sehgal's Dil Dhadke, Yeh Kali Kali aankhen too roo roo, Jab bhi koi ladki dekhoon mera dil deewana bore ole ole. Tamil songs were hardly heard, since there was no cable in the house, and carnatic music was what was mostly played on the cassette player.

There were a few title ids that I used to love back then in third or fourth standard, including "All the best" sung by Shankar Mahadevan, I would later come to know, the "Chaddi pehen ke phool khila hai" jungle book song, "CIET lekar aaya tarang tarang" and of course, the Spirit of Unity theme, composed by the then Dilip Kumar.

Fast forward to sixth standard… I was in Salem, and this one day, dad brought home two cassettes. One was Colonial Cousins, and the other, Dil ki Baat, a ghazal album by Hariharan. Dad told me he was a famous ghazal singer he had heard about, but hadn't heard. I took an instant liking to the new sound Colonial Cousins offered, and Dil ki Baat took some time to warm up to. A year later, dad would buy a cassette that was by then the most talked about album of the nation. I still remember mom asking dad why he spent on this "album" (back then in our house, if a cassette was bought it was either Kadri Gopalnath or Maharajapuram Santhanam) without knowing how it would sound. Vande Mataram had arrived, and the name A.R.Rahman made its way into my head, in full consciousness.

Dad was posted then to a rural branch, a place called Vaikuntam on the Salem-Erode highway. It was little more than a village, and our flat was on the first floor of the bank. Not too many friends to play with and a school that was twelve kilometers away, entertainment presented itself in the form of occasional cricket, travel to salem and music on the "deck" as it was called then. Vande Mataram grew on me then. Only you was my most favourite song. I didn't know back then, it was a kickass bass groove that gave the song it's charmth, but I used to hum that bassline and just love it when Rahman sir went Oooo.

One year in Vaikuntam had me travelling quite a lot in "private travels” buses to Salem, Erode etc and familiarized me with quite a few Tamil film songs including Indian and Ratchagan (without knowing they were by Rahman), Naerukku Naer, Rosa Poo Chinna Rosa Poo, Oru pattampoochi nenjukkulle, Jalakku Jalakku Jariga Selai, Machan Un machiniya paathiya... I remember loving engengey from Naerukku Naer (without knowing of course that Charukesi is one raaga that can't sound bad even if Himesh sang it).

"Ganpati Bappa Moriya"! Ganpati time in Bombay and our housing society used to have weeklong celebrations. Songs on loudspeakers were an integral part. Taal and Dil se had released and I remember everyone raving about Dil Se while I still had no clue whatsoever. And then I heard Jiya Jale on one of those Ganpati fest days. A.R.Rahman had arrived in my life big time… went to Rhythm House in VT, bought this Signature ARR collection cassette by T-Series. I must say that though this particular compilation didn't feature some of his best songs, I loved it!

Eleventh standard. Lonely days. Parents in Bombay, staying in aunt's house in Chennai, and a school (yeah not college) where all people seemed to care about was studies and marks. Cutthroat competition they used to say and I always used to keep my neck low, scoring below average and sparing them the chance to cut my throat since I never really was competition. One train journey from Bombay to Chennai had me looping DCH and Lagaan, a CD I proudly owned thanks to a friend who by then owned a CD writer!
Pakistan has just lost another wicket. :-@

Lagaan was my RRP! I realized this was the guy that would lead me to musical salvation. This was the guy I would focus my goals on, to progress in music. And this was the guy I would listen to, even if he recorded a sneeze and released it as an album!

Years later, Ooh la la la happened and fulfilled my dreams of meeting the man himself. Having him call out my band's name on video while announcing the winning bands, was a moment not too insignificant to write about several times in life, whenever I do decide to write.

Another wicket down. 43 needed with 2 wickets in hand and more than a day's play left. Screw you Oz!

Last year Super Singer happened, and I made it a point to sing as many Rahman songs on the show as possible, and it reaped rich rewards. I made it to the semi finals and the songs that got me out of it, I can proudly claim, were NOT Rahman sir's songs!

This post is perhaps one of my longest, but it is most heartfelt too. I started it with the intention of writing beautiful words about Rahman sir and seem to have ended up writing about scattered instances of his music playing its part in my life so far. People say his music grows on us. His music has always been packed with so many details and intricacies and aesthetic elements, that it is US who grow with his music and realize at a certain point that there is some inexplicable magic woven into a fabric of melody and rhythm that is beyond just technicality and sound. Perhaps divine intervention some might say.

In conclusion, Happy Birthday A.R.Rahman sir! I would be ever grateful to you, for bringing good music into my life, being the major motivating factor behind any of my musical aspirations, and stimulating the listener in me! May you keep the awesome run going and continue to give us what you've always been giving: Great music irrespective of genre, language or country!
Ella Pugazhum Oruvanukke!!
Jai Ho!