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Tuesday, May 10, 2005

[Song Watch] Sangamam

Sangamam by Raghuman, Vindhiya - Suresh Krishna.

A musical, clean, family movie (can't call it entertainer ;)). This movie had elaborate PR sessions conducted by Pyramid Natarajan and i think the music deserved such PR. Apparently, the sales of the album provided enough funds for the producer to complete his next movie 'Rhythm' by the same music director.

Lets get to business.....

Margazhi Thingal - S.Janaki, Unni Krishnan

The songs opens with a recitation of 'Margazhi Thingal' from Thiruppavai. This does it for the song. ARR wins over the listeners already. knowingly or unknowingly - you would already be swaying to the lilting Sindhu Bhairavi ragam.

Janaki starts of the song with Naveen (who else ?) on the flute. Simply intoxicating stuff. A brief mridhangam & Ghatam intro sets the context of the song (it is supposed to a dance number). Is the mridhangam synth ? A million dollar question. But i have *never* heard the mridhangam & ghatam produce musical notes to an extent such as this.

What is with ARR, Sindhu Bhairavi and Violins ?. Listen to any of the songs by ARR in sindhu bhairavi. His violin orchestra is out and what a terrific job they do !. All the violinists much just be salivating at the prospect of ARR unleashing a Sindhu Bhairavi. You can see the violins joining in before the pallavi ends. Can it get any better ?

The interlude is perfectly suited for a dance segment - with mridhangam & ghatam stealing the show...too lovely. Any one learning sindhu bhairavi, the essence of the ragam is captured amazingly in 5 seconds between 3.08-3.13.

The 1st stanza is cute and sorry to sound repetitive, but you can hear how delectable the rhythm at iruvarum oru murai.... That section is one notable deviation from Sindhu Bhairavi notes, and have seen many composers use that arrangement in Sindhu Bhairavi as well as in Keeravani. (As always, any suggestion as to that pattern/enlightenment welcome :-) ).

second interlude, and its Naveen's turn to charm us in the background of jathi's with his flawless rendition of Sind...

Unni starts the second stanza. Unfortunately, with such high expectations set so far, this stanza fades in comparison to the rest of the song. Unni handles himself well.

As is ARR's style, the song finishes of with Janaki's alaap.

This is ARR's tribute to Sindhu Bhairavi and i can think of the only other song that comes parallel to it is (Mile Sur Mera from the older 'DD' days. You can keep introducing umpteen subtle variations into Mile Sur... and would be beautiful)

Rating 5 out of 5 (Could have been 5.2 but for the second stanza)

Sowkiyama - Nithyashree (please find the lyrics at the end of the review)

A perfect opening on Maand greets you with a nice symphony of Veena, Dhavil & Mridhangam. The swarams by the chorus 'Sa Ga Ri Sa ni Ri Sa ni dha ni' set the tone for the song to come.

Nithyashree follows with the Pallavi. The notes (what instrument is that ? synth veena gamakam ? ) at 0.58 & 1.12 accentuate Maand in the pallavi, which immediately sets in the 'Ghanjira'. Pallavi, unlike the traditional cine industry songs, but more like ARR's style, explores a full 2 minute stretch which is quite beautifully done.

Kadri Gopalnath joins in to dish us out a perfect feast in Maand. After Duet, this has been Kadri's next collaboration with ARR, obviously to a very limited scope than in Duet. His Sax takes you on a soulful ride into the interlude with his inimitable sprightly style.

The 1st stanza continues as expected until you reach 'kOdi kaiyyil enai koLLai iDu, kOdi kaiyyil enai aLLi eDu' which is lovely twist to the tune that brings in ARR's preferred Maand phrase 'anbu nathane aNindha modhiram'. You can sharpen your ears and listen to 'suTTu vizhi kanDale' line from 'Thillana' (Muthu). There are probably couple of other places that he used this phrase with such melody. (Ofcourse, it is not copying). One more point to note here is the lyrics by Vairamuthu. If you just look at the extent of poetic exaggeration, you would realise
'anbu nathane aNindha modhiram vaLayalagave thurumbena iLaithaen
andha modhiram oDDiyaNamai Aagum munname Anbe azhaithaen'

I have been thinking so much (lost my weight)) about you that my wrist can now wear my ring
Let me express my love, before my waist slims even more, that it will fit my ring

Chords have been consistenly used in the song, to set the mood and convey the emotion and they do a wonderful job in anupallavi. Kadri finishes off the song with a very standard movement on Maand.

Altogether, this song once again has been devoted to the ragam Maand in exploring its beauty. Once again ARR ambles home easily.

Rating 5 out of 5

Alala Kanda - MSV & Hariharan

MSV starts off this song and you are immediately reminded of 'ThAi nilam thandha varam thAvaram' from DD days by MSV :-), more out of his voice than anything else. But for the odd harmonium, the song is bereft of any musical instrument (ofcourse, rhythm pattern) and still with the deft use of kaapi'ish notes ARR manages to bring a subtle melodious touch to the song. Only ARR.

Rating 4.4 out of 5

Varaga Nadhi - Shankar Mahadevan

This song announced the big time arrival of Shankar Mahadevan to music industry down south. Even though he had been regular in ARR's musical journey, this was his first solo with the maestro.

As is ARR's wont, the song starts off with alaap by Shankar with shades of Yaman Kalyani. Tabla sets quite a fast paced rhythm for the song with harmonium backing the voice. (seemed to follow the style of late Nusrat....). Shankar carries with him this modern bhAgavathar style of singing, nice and fresh nonetheless that immediately caught your attention. kannil varum... brings oozes Yaman Kalyani....

Interlude.... a typical ARR piece, very nice chorus and chords - once again it teases you to join the tune, only to evade you like the river babbling all over the rocks in its bed, with unexpected turns. Simply Wonderful !

the first stanza is nicely done and once again, ARR teases you only to keep you wanting more. Listen to 'parandhu vandhu.....virundhu kudu' at the end of this line, there is a chorus hum, which when extended to a note lower can then be used to finish off the previous lines 'nee enna.....nizhala pidichikitten' -almost evoking a 'vasaanthi' feeling Listen to 4.25-4.28 that is the closest to what am explaining('Kurukku' from Mudhalvan). (i.e., sing nizhala pidichikittaen with the hum going lower by couple of notes from the virindhu kudu line)

Second interlude, ARR is back to his flute ways - does'nt look like Naveen is on there...but it is excellent with a melancholic touch, the same feeling evoked by the hum (as said above).

Second stanza is very similar to the first one, with minor differences of chorus and the song finishes off on a bit more sombre note than it promised with its opening. Once again, a expectation that can only be set by ARR.

Rating 4.6 out of 5

Mazhai ThuLi - MSV, Hariharan

The song opens to what is called 'thArai thappaTTai' rhythm base and Hariharan alaap'ing :) The pallavi is very normal with the twist to Kaapi'ish notes occasionally bringing in the softness to the song.

Interlude. A brief string piece, quite nice adorns the interlude. 'thaNiyile meen azhudha' has lotsa power chords backed into it and is quite wonderful one must say. The lyrics is well done and just before the anupallavi starts, ARR tries to bring one more violin/chord arrangement (This man never ceases to experiment !). Second interlude is once again brief and MSV steps in with superb ease and changes the tone of the song to a more mellow one. The line 'kalaikoru tholvi kidayathu' is the story of the movie in one line ;p

Rating 4 out of 5

Mudhal Murai - Srini, Sujatha

Sujatha's magical voice opens the song with the air howling. Once again mridhangam/ghaTam form the rhythm pattern.

The pallavi is so simple, cute and oozes melody. I don't know why, but it is all so simple and i don't feel like detailing the pallavi ! Interlude has lovely synth flute arrangement, only to be interrupted by ARR with his customary alaap (remember Roja? who can not ?) and a lilting bells/flute arrangement.

Sujatha is simply adorable when she goes 'kAlgilal kidandha salangayai thiruDi'...catch the rhythm pattern there, it appears only once but IMHO it is so wonderful. Srini comes in with melodious voice and the song wanders into the world of melody, cutsy sankarabharanam notes. (Which, IMHO, is one ragam that has never brought the melody via carnatic song, film music seems to bring such melody from Sank...)

The second interlude is a thaniAvardhanam by Ghanjira/claps and then synth flute - ARR is at his best when he does these kinda arrangements. Second interlude is once again excellently done, but Sujatha hijacks all the honours. Their combo (not duet, but solo) has produced one more melody that i enjoy... 'Nee Enge' from Taj Mahal.

Vairamuthu won National award for the this song

Rating 4.8 out of 5.

There had been rumours that ARR himself constructed the theme of the movie,the songs and then sold his idea. Not sure how far it is true...but songs are wonderful and soulful melodies-did not get their deserved place in the history of melodies due to the pathetic movie.

Overall Rating 4.7 out of 5

Lyrics with Translation for the Song Sowkiyama
soukiyama kanne soukiyama...
How are you doing my dear (3)

thanadom theem
(all dance sounds)

ena vizhigalil nandamittai
(you danced in my eyes)

pinbu idyathil irangi vittai
(then, you got into my heart)

mella mella enuirai parithu kondai
(ever so slowly, you robbed my life)

manadai thazhuvum oru ambanai
(you became an arrow that hugs the heart)

paruvam kothi vitta paravai aanai
(you pecked at my youth, and flew away)

(dance sounds)
salangayum engudhe adhkidakattum nee
(it yearns, but it can wait, are you ok my dear)

sooriyan vandhu va enum bodhu
(when the sun comes out asking)
ena seyyum pani thuli
(what can the dew drop do, but agree)

kodi kayil ennai alli edu
(grab me by crore hands)

anbu nadhane anindha modhiram valayalagave thurumbena ilaithen
(my dear, my ring has become like a bangle, i've slimmed so much
thinking about u)

andha modhiram oddiyanamai agum munname anbe azhaithen
(before that bangle becomes big enough to become the hip-ring (an
ornament) - i'm calling out for u)

en katril swasam illai
crudely put - my air has no breath (whatever it means) :)

adhu kidakattum vidu unakkenna achu
(forget that, how are you my dear...)


DeaK.In.FroSt said...

Wow! that was indeed an intricate review based on ragas, awesome!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks to your review, Sangamam quickly moved into my current favourite set. :)

I have to disagree, though, with your opinion on melody in Sankarabharanam classical pieces -- of course, it depends on your definition of melody, and whether you were putting a universal quantifier or a probabilistic one around your opinion. :) Still, while I can only remember a handful of pieces right now, I have always thought that Mahalakshmi jaganmatha is one of most melodious songs I've heard...


Arvind said...


Welcome anytime. Glad that my review could endear few songs :-)


"whether you were putting a universal quantifier or a probabilistic" - without making the listening experience a scientific one ;), when one listens to a carnatic piece & a work based out of it, there is a comparison that happens, inevitably so. That, that comparison is, but apples to oranges, is given.

However, when that comparison happens, what one tries do is to try and assimilate the time-sequenced-swaras (which is crude definition of a line of song, which can then be melodious or otherwise ;p ) in either compositions.

During such comparisons, i have not found the 'strong' connection between the filmi compositions and sankarabharanam, as opposed to other ragas.

I think, my statement was too generic, considering the fact that, i had not introduced any relativity i.e. (Which, IMHO, is one ragam that has never brought the melody via carnatic song, film music seems to bring such melody from Sank... as compared to other ragams)

Thanks ! - for the interesting discussions :-)

Zeppelin said...

hey dude,

finally read this......! i know you are not a big fan of Unni, but me thinks, the second stanza is one of the high points in the song... the way unni has handled is marvelous... and to an amateur singer like me, a sweet challenge... :)


Arvind said...

Thanks Arun !

Anonymous said...

without making the listening experience a scientific one ;)

Uh, sorry, I was just having an issue parsing; I just didn't know if you meant 'all songs', or 'most songs' in Sankarabharam are 'not melodic' :) It's also a ragam that I've almost always taken a little time to start liking (_every_ time I listen to it -- an exception is the Mahalakshmi song I mentioned earlier), and I thought perhaps that's what you were referring to, and wondered if there was some note/scale-based reason for it (none of which I wrote here, of course :) But yes, I can entirely agree on Sankarabharam sounding quite different -- I might be remembering the wrong thing, but I don't think I necessarily see how it is Sankarabharam.

But anyway, now that you explain your technique of translating time-sequenced swaras into the nearest approximation of a ragam, that also falls into place :), as an instance of the phenomenon where I can't necessarily identify/see the ragam, even after you say what it is. Of course, there's also the tiny little factor of my current (read: multiple years, sigh) lack of practice and/or listening.

Apologies for the essay comments -- I'm not usually this verbose -- at least on other people's blogs :)

- Shobha

Arvind said...

'Apologies for the essay comments'

Please use up as much space and as many comments you feel like :-)

'wondered if there was some note/scale-based reason for it'

mmm.....i have always observed-but don't have a thesis yet on that, but sure do have a hypothesis-yes :-)

most of the melody evoking patterns in sbrm (abbr. for Sankarabharanam) ragam seems to be of vakram by nature i.e. not necessarily by the progression of arohanam or avarohanam. For example, these sbrm notes

p m r s,
n S n d p,
r g m r s,
g r n d p s,
r g m d n d n d p

just to state a few pattern that produces immense melodic sounds and most of them are vakra swaras to sbrm by nature.

And when observed carefully, these notes have been repeatedly harnested by Music Dir's to the fullest melodic squeeze.

May be that answers the point as to why seemingly inherently it appears hard to squeeze melody out of sbrm


Anonymous said...

Thanks! :) Now I'll be tempted to go pull out the varnam and see it for myself :)


Arvind said...

Any web addressable pointers to the varnam would also be appreciated ;)

Anonymous said...

Oh, it's just the standard Sankarabharanam varnam they teach you early on. There's a link here (Sami Ninne), but perhaps it's not precisely the same as the one in my (extremely standard English notation) varnam book... it should be more-or-less equivalent, but no guarantees :)


Aishwarya said...

sankarAbharaNam, being a major ragam, definitely holds a share in its evoking ornamented melodies, both in film songs (which i have now started to analyze) and in classical (carnatic) music, which i am a little more familiar with.

digressing for a moment, notwithstanding the fact that i am a titanic fan of Sudha Ragunathan, the Thyagaraja composition, swara rAga sudhA has mesmerized listeners across to the extent of it being labeled as swara rAga "Sudha".

some important melody-tingling phrases in the pallavi of the song

s r G g..G r g m g M...

m P (d) p M G...

are absolutely awestriking!

verdict: sbrm definitely has been harnessed to its brim in film songs, but my stance of it oozing with melody in the carnatic stage is firm.

Arvind said...


Oh, it's just the standard Sankarabharanam varnam they teach you early on

Well, me not formally trained in anything related to music. Ellam oru enthu dhaan, hence i would know only songs that are very popular for a person like me :-) (i.e. non-carnatic-trained)


I guess the disclaimer to Shobha can be reused here. Me no expert in carnatic music.

Yet again, your point only serves to highlight the argument that, the ratio of melodious-filmi-songs to carnatic-song-of-same-raga in sbrm is relatively lesser than compared to other ragas.

Once again, this may be because of the voluminous songs based on sbrm


I think i said, vakram swarams of sbrm 'scale' bring more melody and hence sbrm ragam can't bring more melody, but then it'd mean sbrm without vakram swarams i.e. the real sbrm can't mean more melody in filmi music either ;)

so partly roll-back my arguments :-D

Good, keep the discussion going :-)

P.S : Visu would be proud in reading this statement of mine LOL

Anonymous said...

Had been searching for the translation of the Tamil lyrics of Sangamam songs since the first time I heard and bought the album(its been over 7 years now), instead came across your awesome blog.

Inspite of not knowing the language, Sangamam's music is an instant catch.


Arvind said...

Thanks Sarvesh for your kind comment !

It definitely is one of the evergreen classics that ARR has pulled from his hat !

Adi said...

Thank you for sharing.
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Anonymous said...

Hi Arvind,

Nice review. I was floored by the songs you've put up on the right. Amazed to read that you've not been trained!! GREAT going :) DO sing more and put them up :)

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Anonymous said...

Hi. Your review was nice, and I agreed with everything except your review of Mazhai Thuli.

To me, it has always been one of the greatest songs ARR has given to us! It is so packed with emotion and music all around and gives me goosebumps all over. The use of Nadhaswaram and the folk rhythms in just the right way so as to pump out the beat and still not lose out on the sentimental aspect of it is amazing. The lyrics (which are just brilliant) add to the already God-level ranking that I give it. He has made us dance to a song and still cry for it. It is fantastic.

I don't know why you gave it the lowest score out of all the songs :/ was a little saddened to see my favourite one easily disposed like that. Well opinions differ I guess :) anyway just my thoughts.

"Thanniyila Meen azhudhaa, karaikkoru thagavalum varuvadhilla.." ahhh. Eargasm :')

Unknown said...

As I don't know Tamil, your post was a very fulfilling revelation. I loved most of the songs from sangamam. I wanted to learn the meaning since I first listened 15 years ago. I stumbled upon your website as I kept looking for translation, once in a while.
It was extra nice to read about the ragaas in addition.
Thanks for your work.

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