Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Japanese connection

Here's a non-Carnatic song from me after a while!

Ajay Chandran
passed on this absolutely beautiful Japanese song from Final Fantasy to me quite a while back, and told me he was writing alternate lyrics for it which he wanted me to sing. The idea really excited me- for one, the song was so beautiful and two, by past experience, working on Ajay's lyrics was always a pleasure... Like with many other projects in the past this too got stalled and stalled... but finally here it is!

Many many thanks to Meera who mixed this for us in no time and making me sound better than I actually do perhaps :P

Here's the original song:

It might be interesting for you to note that Ajay has tried to make many of the Hindi words rhyme or sound similar in some way, to the original Japanese lyrics! Great job Ajay, to come up with something completely on your own and make it fit in so beautifully with an existing tune, that too with some resemblance to the original words which were in a totally unrelated language! Enjoyed doing this :)

Here are Ajay's lyrics:


udti pirun main to aasmaan mein yoon
main chanchal, hawaa ki tarah
gum hai kahaan
teri aashiqui mein
kaash ye dil ko..hosh aaye

sajna main yoon
teri raah khadi
dekh zara..
kabhi to yahaan
hosh nahin.. mujhe.. tu jo mila..
tuu hi magar ye jaane naa..

dil kii aahen....kahe maahi thaamo baahen
aaa yoon, jiya na jalaaa
yahaan jaltii hoon
kahaan jaane aankhen teri
aise to.. naa jaa...

so jaaoon mai
kho jaaoon aaj mein
aaun phir aankhon mein
banke aansoon

kahin se sada
teri dil ne suni
aankh khuli.. kuch bhi nahiin
haqeekat kya.. jaane kyaa sapnaa
kaun se sach ko maanu mai

kehna kabhi
hoon mai kaun teri
khel nahiin ..
pyaar mera
umeed to hai.. jaane.. kyon dil mein..
laut ke tum phir aaoge..

dil kii aahen....kahe maahi thaamo baahen
aaa yoon, jiya na jalaaa
yahaan jaltii hoon
kahaan jaane aankhen teri
aise to.. naa jaa...

so jaaoon main
kho jaaoon aaj main
aaun phir aankhon mein
banke aansoo


So here it is, for you to appraise!

Song: udti phirun
Music: Masashi Hamauzu and Junya Nakano (for the original "Suteki da ne" in Final Fantasy X)
Lyrics: Ajay Chandran
Singer (lead and harmonies): Self
Mixing: Meera Manohar

Download here.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Thillana - Raagam Bindumalini

[UPDATE as of August 2018: Click here for a spunky recreation of this piece with an amazing team for IndianRaga.]

Here's a new composition from mom and me- a thillana in Bindumalini. Thillanas have always attracted me and needless to say, Lalgudi thillanas have been some of the most inspiring ones, as I'm sure any Lalgudi rasika would agree. I feel blessed and fortunate to have learned some of his pieces from his own sister.

I was under the impression that there was no thillana in Bindumalini- it was only after I finished this piece that I got to know (thanks to Jayanthi akka) that there were at least three more, one of them by the maestro Lalgudi himself! Still haven't had a chance to listen to any of them though, and I hope to do so sometime soon. (Links/ references in this regard most welcome!)

This piece was done a couple of months ago and I wasn't planning on blogging this anytime now, but the abundant, incessant rains in San Diego now prompted me to :) The lyrics by my mom are about rain- a tribute to the Rain God, if you will. As always, loved collaborating with amma :) This is my first attempt at composing a thillana - feedback with pointers/ critiques most welcome. Please do let us know your thoughts!

Special thanks to my Guru and Jayanthi akka for their constant encouragement for my compositions!

And rain on, San Diego!

Ragam: Bindumalini
Thalam: Adi
Tune (Jathis, swarms): Self
Lyrics: Vijayalakshmi Bhakthavatsalam

Charanam verse (with some edits over many iterations):

mAriyE nee vAri vazhangum vaLLal anRO un
aruL inRi ivvulagil uyirgaL uyvathuNDO
vAzha ulaginil peythiDAi kOdhai solpaDi
aLavAi pozhinthiDuvAi vaLamAi vAzhavaippAi
pORRi unai pADiDuvOm poitthiDAmal parinthu varuvAi

gumugumu venRu vAnam kumurudhe taDa taDa venRu mAri varugudhe
manamum thuLLudhE mazgizhchikkoLLudhE vaazhi

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Carnatic on Keyboard

Happy New Year people!

Its been a while since I updated this space with any music. Hopefully, I'll do so soon.
Couple of weeks ago when I was on vacation, I passed on a youtube link to Sathya's rendition of Kaapi on keyboard to my dad, in response to which he told me of T.M.Krishna's article in The Hindu against the use of keyboard and certain other instruments in Carnatic music. Thanks to a friend, I got the link to the article on The Hindu's website. Here it is:

Quite an interesting perspective sparking off a debate for this season, I thought.

I read it and my immediate reaction was complete disagreement. I started thinking about what it means to preserve a tradition, what purpose do labels serve (could Carnatic keyboardists for instance just get off the hook by saying "If your problem is that the keyboard cannot handle Carnatic, then just take it that what I play is not labeled "Carnatic"- its some new genre"??), what defines a tradition and so on. Soon enough, found Anil Srinivasan's reponse to TMK reflecting a lot of my views:

And then came TMK's rejoinder (this was getting more and more interesting!) :

The rejoinder made me revise some of my earlier thoughts. I found it to make a lot of sense. It seemed to me that TMK's main point was that the keyboard is not suited to handle *certain ragas* satisfactorily and NOT that it cannot play *any* raga satisfactorily:

"Let me give you an example. Let's say that certain ragas are not played in an instrument because the instrument cannot accommodate them. What do we then do? Just ignore them and let them become irrelevant over a period of time? This way we only narrow down the mural of Carnatic music. Carnatic music is not only about scales like Gamanashrama and Dharmavathi, it's also about Dhanyasi, Sahana, Ahiri, Anandabharavi, Devagandhari, Manji, Varali, Nayaki, Narayanagoula, Surutti and these are only samples. There are so many more ragas like these that every instrument should be able to express represent." - Words of TMK taken from The Hindu dated Dec 26 '09.

What was the difference between the former and latter sets of ragas? I think it is that the latter set of ragas are all gamakam-intensive, relying little on the arohanam avarohanam. That is, characteristic phrases involving certain very specific gamakams speak more for the raga than the arohanam avarohanam. Where as for the former, the arohanam avarohanam can bring out the essense of the raga reasonably well- and it is always easier to play the former on an instrument such as a keyboard since they are not gamakam-intensive and can be played reasonably well with just the use of phrases from the arohanam-avarohanam.

Since his references seemed indirect, I had to infer that he meant the keyboard/ saxophone cannot handle these ragas the way they should be. I may be wrong- I'm not sure if he exactly has keyboard in mind when he talks about these ragas. I then did a youtube search for Sahana by Sathya and sure enough, found one :) And to my ears, it sounded quite pleasant (may be not as good as some of his other renditions though, but I don't think that's because of the inability of the instrument- I see lot of potential for a better rendition). I'm yet to look for Carnatic keyboard renditions of the other ragas that TMK has mentioned, although I have heard (IMO) very good keyboard renditions of ragas like Bhairavi (Viriboni) and Nattakurunji (Chalamela) which are out and out gamakam based.

Throughout, I was left with this one nagging question: Why is TMK not talking about the modern keyboard with the pitch bender??? Like a friend said, "the idea that the keyboard is not suited to Carnatic is as old as the mountains"- for the simple reason that it can only produce straight notes and not gamakams. This having been the case for so many years, in my opinion the introduction of the pitch bender in the keyboard was a great revolution- one could now produce gamakams on the keyboard! And I imagine this to be the kind of keyboard that serious performing Carnatic keyboard artistes would use. If there are some who don't use a keyboard with a pitch bender and if TMK's arguments are only directed at them, then I have absolutely no problem with his views. And, if on the other hand there are some who do use a keyboard with a bender but don't use the bender well enough, then the issue is just about talent and not about an inherent shortcoming of the instrument (since to me, Sathya's instrument and playing are testimony to the possibility of superlative rendering of Carnatic music on keyboard). I'm pretty sure though, that the disagreement (between my and TMK's views) lies in the effectiveness of even the best pitch bender used by the best Carnatic keyboardist. I think TMK wants to say that even the best pitch bender cannot render the gamakas intrinsic to certain ragas. Then the issue really comes down to ignorance on my side with respect to authenticity and sufficiency of gamaka rendition.... All that said, I'm nevertheless curious about why TMK did not talk about the bender at all.

I don't mean to contest a stalwart such as TMK's views (I don't think I have the credentials to do that) and my sample space of Carnatic keyboard renditions is probably too small. I need to listen to more. So as always, comments, insights most, most welcome!

Anyway, lets just enjoy some music for now :) I find this kid Sathya- all of fourteen years- highly talented!!

Here's the Sahana I was talking about:

And here's a malika of five "SGMDNS" ragams- a duet with his uncle Embar Kannan:

This kid is amazing.

Oh, what a coincidence- today happens to be the birthday of one of the most brilliant composers we have today- who started off as an ace keyboardist! (not Carnatic, though :) ) Here's to all fellow Rahman fans: HAPPY RAHMAN'S BIRTHDAY!!


Last Edit: 01/22/2012