Sunday, October 26, 2014

Always ARR

Yesterday (Oct 24th) Rahman performed at Berklee School of Music, Boston, where he was also conferred upon an honorary doctorate. He also conducted a master class at the performance center. I saw this ad back in July and immediately thought that I should be there, but for many reasons I decided against it. I have been to the Jai Ho tour concert at Chennai in 2009, but this would have been an exquisite experience. The sound quality and occasion it would have made it more electrifying.

Last week I drove up to San Franciso with two of my colleagues and the car we had rented happened to house an excellent sound system. We played some of Rahman's classics like Anjalai Anjali, Mettupodu (Duet) and other songs from an SPB-ARR combo playlist on my phone. Suddenly, I remembered about the Berklee concert and amidst all the fun a gush of void filled my heart. I felt really bad about missing the opportunity to see the Mozart of Madras in such live action. When I got home the below promo video was waiting for me on FB. It literally broke my heart.

All these events got me nostalgic and I've been listening to some of his brilliant works from the 90's all week. Those were the days. My family was the main reason I got so hooked to his music. They introduced me to many of his classics like Duet, Minsara Kanavu, Sangamam, Lagaan and Taal. I won't forget the day my cousin played Ghanan Ghanan and Mitwa from Lagaan for me at 11:30 in the night (when we stopped at his place for 10 mins after a day trip to Palakkad). There was a time when Mana Madurai from Minsara Kanavu used to play in a loop in my uncle's car and he used to be so much in awe about those beats. Whenever I listen to Margazhi Thingal from Sangamam I can visualize my cousin Srikanth and my sister Swathi dancing for it in every party we've had since the track came out (including the latest party we had in Nov'13 - they are both married and have a kid each yet they danced as gracefully as ever). I can keep quoting from my big family scrapbook and won't be tired of it. Listening to Rahman is like being with my family.

A few days ago I was driving around El Camino Real with my classmate Kannan, late after dinner just to listen to ARR and he kept on playing wonderful tracks - Kannamoochi (Kandukondain Kandukondain), Pudhu Vellai Mazhai (Roja), Nahin Samne (Taal) and so on. That's when he mentioned, "Man, he has stopped making such music, that's what I told you when we spoke about I". Earlier that evening when we met we started the conversation talking about the tracks of I (which had released couple of days back) and he was disappointed. He wasn't psyched about it on first listening. That has been the story for the past couple of years. I'm not so sure though maybe because I experience the vision bleach equivalent of hearing when I listen to his music. I immediately connect to the sounds that only he is capable of producing.

2014 has been one of the best in a long time now. After so long, there have been back to back releases of albums scored by Rahman. The year started with Highway, an emotional drama and he's been on a long and wide ride since then. After Highway came Kochadaiyaan a period animation drama about a king, then came Lekar Hum Deewana Dil (a crappy romantic movie which I'm not sure why he signed). Kaaviya Thalaivan followed which is again a period film about stage artists from Madurai in the 1920s. Finally came I which supposedly is a romantic thriller and I expect Lingaa (a commercial Rajini film) to release next month as well. Phew! Rahman had this many releases in one year last in 2004. Apart from these, he had two Hollywood releases as well (Million Dollar Arm and Hundred-Foot Journey) and an album called Raunaq. The varied genres, a Shankar movie, period films and a thalaivar movie means he has composed genres ranging across classical songs, fun no brainers like Mawwali Qawaali and Mersalaayitten, an Opera number (Aila Aila) and the list goes on. Extreme stuff.

I would rate Kochadaiyaan and Kaaviya Thalaivan as one of his best albums in recent times. It feels so great to see Rahman back to the basics and in both these albums, he has gone core classical. Idhayam from Kochadaiyaan is my pick of the album and one of his all time best scores - the percussion has been engineered in layers and they tie with each other so beautifully. Medhuvaagathaan is yet another SPB-ARR classic and the mridhangam flows like a pleasant river in that song. The use of KM conservatory choir in the title track Engal Kochadiayaan is awesome - again the classical rendition and the transition between high and flat notes is Rahman's touch. I'm seriously bewildered that the people who made tracks of Sivaji and Endhiran such huge hits didn't find Kochadaiyaan meeting expectations. What did they expect - Kochadaiyaan the king singing Kilimanjaro and Athiradee?

I'm not sure which track to pick from Kaaviya Thalaivan. After a long time, I had an album (even from Rahman's collections) in loop for so many days. Sandikuthirai is a surprise package - so fresh and yet so vintage. The 10 min theater track in Kaaviya Thalaivan titled Alli Arjuna is a collection of 5-6 songs that play out situations from Mahabharatham and the freedom movement, where he takes you back to the age old classical music in Rahman style. Again, the percussion is brilliant for all the tracks. Haricharan and ARR are gradually becoming an epic combo as a close second to SPB and ARR.

It's not just the movies. Raunaq is an album where he composed tunes for six poems written by ex-union minister Kapil Sibal. There was no big hype of hoopla and I'm not sure if many even knew about this quiet album, but what a pleasant experience, especially this one track called Kismat se rendered by Shreya Ghosal - what a master piece.

I just hope 2014 repeats itself every year, but that's the thing about classics - they happen once in a while and that's why they are unique. 

I've traveled with Rahman all along. All my successes, failures, good times, bad times, friendship, heartbreaks, highs, lows, sickness and everyday happenings can be associated with a Rahman number. It'll be ringing in my head no matter what. Be it late night maths practicing during 10th and 12th standard or the all night chats during college, hectic work days/nights in Madurai, Chennai, Shanghai and US, Rahman has kept me company. It's not just the song, it's the memory associated with the song. Always ARR. Forever ARR.

5 Expressions:

Divya Arikere said...

Where is the like button? :)

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Vibushan L Narayan said...

@Chiju, ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ^^^^^.. so oru ponnu maatita, eppo machi kalyanam :P

Chiju said...

Aama da. Veetula sonna odane.

Sathiya Balan M said...

Thank you for post and your blog. My friend showed me your blog and I have been reading it ever since.
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