Waltzing Away

Continuing a bit on my previous post..

All of Raaja's evergreen and ever greatest hits have one thing in common. i.e., besides their mass appeal they are worth in gold from the eyes of an instrumentalist. The singers, as blessed souls as always, invariably take away the lion's share of a song's success. For instance a "Ilaiyanila Pozhigiradhu" or a "Mandram vantha Thendralukku" are "SPB hits" first of all. "Mohan hits" perhaps takes away the second best honor. But they never will be classified under: "Chandrasekhar hits" (the lead guitarist of Ilaiyanila) or "Frank Dubier Hits" - the Trumpeter of Mandram Vandha.. (for that matter we don't even know for a fact who played the trumpet in this song. Frank is an educated guess at best. Speaks for the level of appreciation we tend to show on the people behind the scenes.)

Usually the instrument tracks behind such songs are so challenging, that it takes some effort to play them. Take "Poove Sempoove" for example. For the abilities of Padma shri & Padma Bhushan KJ Y, this song is a piece of cake. But look at the instrument tracks in the song. Be it the Gowrimanohari dished out in Hindustani arrangement in the first interlude or the most unorthodox jugalbandhi of Tabla Vs Drums in the second BGM, the instrumentalists need to be on high alert here. One count that you miss and the whole BGM is gone.. !

Speaking further of the second interlude, If an orchestra is playing it live on stage, you can judge their quality just by this interlude. Its the toughest test for a team not on the scale of individual brilliance of artists, but how well they fare collectively. The constant tracks formed by the bass and hi-hat are quite convoluted in itself. Ironically that's the only reprieve which the keyboardists and the percussionists can latch on to and find out when to start and when to finish their bit. And speed of this interlude is an element to factor in as well. Ask the strings ensemble towards the end and they will vouch for that certainly. Its like a tight rope walk on top of a moat with hungry crocodiles waiting to gobble you if you fall.. But still, the appreciation at our level stops with "some serious sounding" music that matched the visual tension and turmoil the Hero is going through on screen.

Take the innocuous sounding guitar during the prelude for instance. It demonstrates nothing but Raaja's ingenious creativity. D6th Added 9th followed by G6th followed by E minor 7th. Killer arpeggios which is actually a melodic track in itself as opposed to a straight forward side track that such strumming usually is.. The way how the distinct variation from D to G to E comes out despite G6th and Em7th being exactly the same set of notes underlines what improvisation is (i.e., the base arpeggio and the chord transition are perhaps decided upfront and how these two should compliment each other w.r.t right inversions etc., are chosen on the fly based on the most efficient finger traversal). Sada sir who played these arpeggios effortlessly has certainly done a noteworthy job here, but the question is have we noted it before ..? :-)

(Headphones recommended for the below video)

The problem with these musical phrases are that, half of the time they are so nuanced and its unfair to expect a listener to appreciate this. But even those who can, usually does not look beyond how it 'sounds'. The fact though remains that, its indeed a big deal to record such songs of rich content as a team in a live environment. Even if one musician fails, the whole recording has to be repeated. (Remember SPB's famous trivia that it took them 16 takes to record Ilaiyanila due to the guitarist and the results are here to be seen today 25 years since). I was told that the unbelievably orchestrated song of "Idhu oru Nila kaalam" was completed on the first take. And this may not have been the only such wonder.. So next time when you listen to a "nice sounding" instrumental bit from a "popular song", I hope you will try to visualize what it takes to record such complex musical collaborations and give these unsung heroes their credit..

With Love

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