One in an Indian

Recently I wrote a tribute to S.Janaki and her rebuttal of Padma Bhushan. The article can be read here.

I also recorded this Piano cover for her.

I wanted to highlight a very unique arrangement in this song which I didn't bring up in the Solvanam article for the fear of digression. Its about arranging a major chord where the melody is actually the 7th note. Therefore the effect it creates is neither the prominence of the root nor the smudged M7th feel. Example: in Pallavi, during the bar of "Kaadhal Sonnan", the melody is A, while the chord is Bb. You feel this pattern all over the interludes and Charanam. (Or for that matter you can extrapolate this concept and make the melody 9th note while playing the plain minor chord in the accompaniment. etc.,)

Its an inexplicable uniqueness because the herd mentality is to set the chord corresponding to the simultaneous note on melody.

What is amazing to note is that, melody of first two lines are exactly the same...!
i.e., The line of "Kannan vandhu Paaduginraan Kaalam ellaam" and the line of "Kannil enna kobam endraan Kaadhal Sonnan" share exactly the same melody. But it creates the effect as if the second line has a different melody, somewhat a descending version to the first one. This is due to the chords arranged here. The regular chromatic descent on the first line which is rather common and the unusual landing of 5th note accompanied by the 6th Major chord on the second line which I am highlighting here. You may have come across one of these illusion images where a same circle appear to be going both clockwise and anti clockwise at the same time or a stationary dot appear to be moving etc., . This is the aural version of the same !

Come to think of it, this is a regulation minor song. It has the same set of resources for a composer from a tonality perspective as that of a "Chura liya" or a "Didi tera devar deewana" or a "Tujhe dekha to yeh jaana sanam". But its factors like such arrangements among many, which takes any shred of familiarity away and is responsible for making it sound different.

Another very common mistake people do while playing this song (including cover version of this song by some popular figures in the youtube that I have seen) is to play the Chord of A major where Asus4th should be used. Because equating the Dominant 5th note with the corresponding major (i.e., A major with a root of D) is what 99 out of 100 would do. It is part of the minor scale progression as you have known in the other songs I mentioned above. But using the 5th major is a sacrilege in this song. (A minor, yes. But the A Major, baa ! The moment you use it, that sounds like yet another minor song, and the reason why it has been meticulously avoided.. )

This is why Raaja is where he is for me and why I regard any film numbers in India since the 70s as mind numb-ers (based on my limited listening repertoire). They have been neither rich on account of purity in melody which the pre 70-ers can rightfully claim, Nor in arrangement which has assumed a new meaning in the software based music composing scene.

It would appear, what is taught in one of these workshops of "how to arrange a song" is offered for free if you can listen and understand Raaja. But the fact is, it doesn't matter. Because, even if you are academically aware of this as a "technique" now and try to adopt it in your own song, it would sound out of place !! Because when applied consciously it just doesn't right. To get that sound, that effect, you should be able to do that subconsciously !

And God bestows that gift on only a one in a million or should I say one in an Indian...

With Love