Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Raining Music

I'm not a big fan of the Chennai rains. It is nothing but flooding roads, more humidity, mosquitoes and the thickest of anxiety-attacked traffic. Back in Coimbatore, I can't keep count of the number of days I have reached home drenched. Never have I parked and waited for the rain to subside. I even remember playing cricket in the rains. The waiting habit started only in Chennai. Until today.

Like any other day the sudden outburst of shower ceased in a matter of seconds. As I turned towards the Kathipara flyover near Olympia, I pushed away the droplets off my helmet visor and moved it up letting a gush of rain-cold air gently touch my face. Phenomenal! I looked up at the sky which looked back at me, untouched as a boulder. Like an atheist who prayed once, I wished that it rained.

And, It did. Not just an outburst, not gently, not slowly. It rained like it would never ever rain again. And I was in the middle of Kathipara, nowhere to go, nowhere to hide.

My hands loosened its grip on the accelerator, feet pushed gently at the brakes and as the bike slowed down, my body eased into a relaxed posture. One after the other, vehicles overtook me on both sides, leaving me on my own. I felt like I had all the time in the world, like how I feel when I'm travelling, or when I'm sitting online on a Saturday night - chatting with my favorite people. Either way, the best company I keep is music.

I have heard about how Tansen used to sing the Megh Malhar raagam in Akbar's court, to bring rain showers. Myth or not, belief is that the raagam Amritavarshini also brings down rains, especially, the song Dhyaname Tharume Paer Inbame. In the 21st century, with the Ozone layer hole and all, music and rain still co-exists, only there is a change in the order of occurring as in - it rains and you sing. So, I began to sing. Loudly. One by one, all my favorite rain songs.

I'm listing down five songs below and their specialty.

5) Ennai Konja Vaa Mazhaiyae - By Vidhyasagar (Movie - Aadhi)
Flute, I believe can notate rain (rather nature) best and the highlight of this song is the background flute (the second interlude) accompanied by the fine strokes of tabla and keyboard. I have a ringtone of that bit. The captivating genius is the duet of the base and shrill notes seamlessly following one another. The keyboard backing (and chiming) of the song brings out the feel of rain. A jugalbandhi of folk and classical. Hari's brigaas run a chill up your spine. I wish I get a chance to perform this one, someday.

4) Ghanan Ghanan - By Rahman (Movie - Lagaan)
An invitation to a thunderstorm. Though it ends in a disappointing note (of no rain) in the movie, the song is full of rain. A very emotional depiction of the yearning for a heavy shower, this will stand out in the genius' compositions forever. Excellent backing vocals.

3) Oho Megam Vandhadho - By Ilayaraja (Movie - Mouna Raagam)
When keyboards started replacing the harmonium and many other instruments in the industry, Raja sir came up with some of the best pieces ever composed. As the prelude BG starts, you can just feel droplets of rain falling. P.C. Sreeram's camera has left no magic unveiled in capturing this one. Raining freedom and happiness is written all over the song. Again, the BG flute, blending with keyboard and violin forms the backbone of the orchestration.

2) Chinna Chinna Mazhai Thuligal - By Rahman (Movie - En Swasa Kaatre)
This track is living proof of how much the composer relies on percussion. Try humming the song without the backing orchestration and you'll know how much life of a song is from the BG music. How it clicked to get M.G.Sreekumar to sing this song, I'll never know. The chorus effect on the same voice works the trick like the reverberations of the drops that hits the ground. The following lines from the song convey it all.

Siru poovinile vizhundhal oru thaen thuliyai varuvai,
Siru sippiyile vizhundhal oru muthu-enave mudhirvai,
Payir veriinile vizhundhal navadhaniyamai vilaivaai,
En kanvizhikkul vizhundhadhanal kavidhayaga malarndhai.

(Roughly translated to)
Falling on a flower, you come as a honey drop.
Falling on an oyster shell, you blossom as a pearl.
Falling on crops, you grow as the nine special grains.
Since you fell into my eyes, you were born as a poem.

And the last, but best of all.

1) Indian Rain - By Colonial Cousins
With their first contemporary album, they announced themselves very loudly, yet in a soothing manner. The low volume but effective droplet effect along with the chimes makes this one special. The 'Dheem tha dhirana' and the chitta swaram rendering by Hari is the touch. Swaying elegance between the blues and classical genre is one of its kind and depicts the amount of passion that has driven the composer duo. Man! Was I lucky to see them perform this one live last year! Love for this tracks is never ending.

Want to share your rain favorites too? I'd love to make a compilation of it all. Language, Genre, Composer bar - drop your picks in the comments section. Thanks.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

A hurl into the past

As he rode his cycle out of the gates, he pulled himself up and gave a thrust at the pedal, pushing the cycle forward and gaining momentum. The December evening breeze caressed his face. After locking himself up in the house for five days, it felt good to be out. He slowed down as he approached the first X junction between Bharathi Park 7th cross road. He sent cautious glances on both sides. Coast clear. Another thrust and he was off.

He felt a chill run up his spine as he turned into the deserted 5th cross. He halted for a moment to decide if he wanted to go through with this. The easiest option was to turn back and flee. But, that he had come so far made him set course towards his school, without ceasing to wonder why his Hindi teacher would be there at this time. The creeps of riding down through a deserted lane had gotten to him, especially during dark times as these.

Without any attempt to hide his fear, he reached the school. The gates were shut and locked. The watchmen Rangasamy anna and Balu anna weren't anywhere around. Through the steel rods of the locked up gates, he glinted at the gents staff room and no sign of activity there. Both doors closed. He rode to the primary school gate and no trace of people there either. Disappointed, he came back to the first gate. He parked the cycle and stood there thinking. As it sunk upon him, his heart beats increased rapidly.

It was a con!

Fifteen minutes earlier...

It was five days since his school had shut down because of curfew that broke out in Coimbatore on the fifth anniversary of the controversial monument tear down. The usual 11-year old's fear about the images of people killing one another (thanks to Mani Ratnam's classy portrayal in Bombay) gave him sleepless nights and in turn for the family. But, their support was not well appreciated by him during the day, not with all his patience draining pranks.

Three days into the one week shut down, he had enacted a perfect "full-portion" coverage of the upcoming half-yearly exams syllabus. The Hindi composition note he had submitted for evaluation came to his rescue as the only true element of a perfect act. Not that his mom bought his "finished studying" story, he was anyways let free. It was still evening and bright. There were hours before he had to worry about the curfew-special nightmares.

All was well and fun that evening, until the phone rang. He picked up the call and was surprised to hear his Hindi teacher on the line. He passed on the phone to his mom as directed and went off to catch the close of the evening's episode of Centurions. In a matter of seconds, his mom hung up. He shot her a glance as to the purpose of the call and from the look of her face knew that he'd regret it. So much for the act of "If only I had the composition note, I'd have studied the Hindi essays as well", his Hindi teacher and the note were waiting for him at school.

He couldn't say which was pumping faster, his legs or heart. It was the typical flee. With no time to think about why or who or what, he sped back, past the deserted streets. To him, it was just the danger. Whether home lay a few yards or few miles away did not matter. But, somewhere down his weak and fearful heart lay a fighter. A fighter that came up to his rescue mostly when he had lied to someone's face and was taking his last shot before almost getting caught. He kept wiping the sweat off his face, prayed intensely, thanked God as every occasional passer-by didn't turn out to be a killer or mobster. He just kept going until he banged open the gates of his home with his cycle.

He parked his cycle and ran, kicking out his slippers and straight into the house. "Maaaaaaa", he shouted as he ran through the hall and turned into the kitchen. She was standing right in front of the gas stove, making coffee. He was panting so badly that he unusually seemed completely out of words. She turned towards him and handed him his evening coffee. He looked up at her.

There was that smile. The smile, fourteen years later, he still gives to anyone who fell for a prank he pulled off.

Can't believe that it has been this long already.
Nine years and counting.
July 2nd 2011