Protos' Musings

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Archive for the ‘music’ Category

Malayalam music reality shows on TV

with 5 comments

You might have read my previous posts about the Malayalam reality show – Idea Star Singer (ISS) on Asianet. However I had missed out following or even being aware of another great reality show on Malayalam TV – Super Star Global (SSG) on Amrita TV.

I was introduced to SSG by Preethi (my wife; thanks, dear!) yesterday when she played the awesome rendition of the great Hindi movie song “Kuhu kuhu” [1957!] by the eventual winner Roopa Revathi on an episode from last year. It just blew me away, and so did her medley, not to mention her other efforts!

I am once again thankful to God for having made me someone who can naturally follow both Tamil and Malayalam, and with training — thanks to Kerala schools where you have to learn three languages and Dakshin Bharath Hindi Prachar Sabha — Hindi as well. Tamil, Malayalam and Hindi industries are lucky to have witnessed some of the highest quality film songs made in the last fifty years in India. I would rate the songs in Tamil and Malayalam of the last 30 years even higher than that of Hindi, thanks to men of such calibre like Ilayaraja, Ravindran, Johnson, Yesudas, SPB, Janaki, Chithra and Rahman.

Then I stumbled upon this wonderful wrap-up of these two reality shows by Balaji Srinivasan in this blog post. Nothing much is left for me to say. I hope you would get to enjoy a few hours of high quality music. A quick and dirty way to listen to Roopa’s songs are by visiting the audio page on her alternate site (strange a person having two sites whose address differ literally by a dot!).

The only problem I have now is to convince Airtel Digital TV to start transmitting Amrita TV. If that happens, it would be great to immerse myself in music between 8 and 10pm whenever time permits.

Oh, yes, thanks to Balaji, got to read this great piece on Roger Federer by the NYT as well. The happiness I derived from music and reading today was moving enough to inspire me to write something on this blog after a few extremely hectic weeks. I do hope I get to experience more such days, thanks to perhaps the most useful invention of the last century — internet. It would be great to hear your comments.

Update: A comprehensive dissection of Roopa’s SSG 2008 performance is available over at Subash’s blog.

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Written by Proto

July 11, 2009 at 02:25 hrs

Idea Star Singer 2008 draws to a close – Vivek the deserving winner

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The Mega Finals of the best music reality show I have seen so far – Idea Star Singer on Asianet 2008 – was held at the Chandrashekaran Nair Stadium yesterday. I thoroughly enjoyed the singing by the six contestants who made it to the finals. I thought, in the end, the two candidates who walked away the awesome winner’s price (for male and female categories) throughly deserved it — Vivek for his brilliance and Sonia for her consistency and awesome rendition of Paadi thodiyiletho (another gem by the late great Raveendran maashu).

I saw someone comparing Vivek with the maestro KJY, after the former sang the latter’s classic song – Harimuraleeravam from Aaram Thampuran, and cribbing that he didn’t sing it as well as KJY [comments section of this youtube page: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_2duvfWk-7A]. I think that is grossly unfair to both of them. One was, and perhaps still is, at the pinnacle of his powers when he sung that and the other is just starting his journey as a singer of repute.

Vivek was my favorite contestant ever since I saw his performance during the audition round (way back in May 2008 :) and I am happy he emerged the deserving winner. My pick of  the best by Vivek would include Parayaan maranna, Kattile paazhmulam, Sumuhoorthamaay, Oru kadalaay and Harimuraleeravam. My appreciation so far (though I haven’t wrote much for a couple of months now thanks to Twitter, but that is another story for another day) of Idea Star Singer here: http://www.google.com/search?q=”idea+star+singer”+Vivek+OR+Vivekanand+site:protoiyer.wordpress.com. The best source to watch all the Idea Star Singer videos would be: http://www.youtube.com/user/amidalastarsinger.

The only thing that struck me as odd was that the price given to the last three contestants was below par compared to what the winners made. Also, I thought Prasobh was better than Rahul.  Looking forward to ISS 2009 that starts in a couple of weeks from now.

Written by Proto

April 27, 2009 at 00:00 hrs

Posted in music, Random Ramblings

Raveendran Maashu – a redux

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Looks like this is the redux season on my blog. As I wrote twice almost three years back, no music director has managed to strike a chord with me as much as the late legend Raveendran Maashu (Maashu, for the uninitiated, is Malayalam for Sir). When I was at Sydney, with no access to any Malayalam channels, I used to listen to a couple of CDs from my Malayalam songs collection from the 80s through 00s, and most of the songs I took with me were the ones from the stupendously successful and enormously talented Raveendran – Yesudas team. I am thankful I took them with me, though I didn’t take even a single movie or any other songs collection. I was happy listening to those songs almost daily!

Today I was watching Vivekanand’s latest performance in the Idea Star Singer competition – the “otta kambi naadam” song from the movie Thenum Vayambum (1981), originally sung by the incomparable Yesudas [go listen to it even if you don’t understand Malalyalam or music :)], a song so beautiful that it made Sharreth, one of my other favorite music directors, who is a judge in the show, remark “it should have been ‘oru laksham kambi naadam’..that is how majestically Yesudas has rendered this song.”. For the uninitiated, the opening three words of the original song lyric means “the sound of a solitary string [of a music instrument]” and Sharreth said “it should have been ‘the sound of a million strings’..that is how well Yesudas has rendered this song”.

Though Vivekanand had a bad day today, I still believe he is (going to be) the Star Singer 2008. Just listen to these four great songs from the previous rounds, and I hope you too would agree that this is one enormously talented lad. At least Ramesh had to change his opinion after allowing himself to be swept away by the beauty of Vivek’s rendition of the song “oru kadalaay”. I think he did a slightly better job than the original, thanks to his rich voice. Here is the playlist with his entire performance so far, and I find myself playing songs from this list, at least once a week, for a few weeks now. You too might find it a nice way to spend an hour or so :).

As I was listening to Sharreth’s comments, I thought I will search for some more info about Raveendran maashu. It was then that I stumbled across this Wikipedia entry on Raveendran maashu and this blog from Nikhil Venugopal, who seems to know music and loves music far better/more than me, where he has three great posts on (including an interview with) Raveendran maashu. The only drawback (a drawback if you can’t read Malayalam) is that it is in Malayalam, though the first post about Raveendran is in English.

I am not well versed in Carnatic music (I don’t know the raagas in spite of learning Carnatic for two or three years in my childhood days, though I think I can discern great music from merely good or average music from downright bad music or noise), I found the posts both interesting and nostalgic.

It took me back to my childhood days when I used to tune into the cinema songs hour(s) in Vividh Bharathi and All India Radio (Trivandrum station), perhaps just like so many other people in my native (and perhaps around India) at that time — mid and late 80s and early 90s. Television was just making an appearance and even if it had, it was certainly not 24*7 and there was just one channel – Doordarshan (Indian National Channel run by the Government). So the radio was a far more important and influential medium than it is today.

Anyway, I hope you like Nikhil’s posts. I really don’t know why we don’t have a 5 CD or 10 CD pack of his songs yet (or is it already out in Kerala already?). He deserves a HMV-SaReGaMa Legends collection or something equivalent.

Finally, to really understand who or what Sharreth is and why I like him, listen to these three samples, and yes, all are his own compositions. If you are going to listen to just one of them, let it be this duet with Unnikrishnan. Here is the search list of songs available in You Tube sung by Sharreth if you want to listen to more.

Oh, yes, lest I forget, Raveendran maashu had this to say about Sharreth in 1994:

Q: Does any of the new generation music directors give you hope?

A [Raveendran Maashu]: Sharreth. There is music in his songs. He understands music. We should encourage and congratulate him.

I hope Sharreth would give us scores (or hundreds) of beautiful songs in the future. Malayalam music industry hasn’t been too supportive of Sharreth in the past, and I hope that would change for the better. May Kerala not join the rest of the country in giving the cold shoulder to shudha-sangeetham (pure music) in mainstream cinema music. I hope Kerala continues to encourage more and more youngsters to learn the basics of music before dreaming big and high.

I have my hopes set high after listening to this today – the Classical music round from last year’s Idea Star Singer, sung by Thushar. I don’t think any of the reality music shows in either Tamil or Hindi has anything like this (perhaps I am wrong here, but I wouldn’t mind knowing about another show that is in the same class) or where the contestants are of this class or this versatile. Don’t forget to listen to the judge’s comments too. Kerala is blessed to have given birth to so many world class talented souls — Yesudas, Raveendran, Chithra, Sujatha, Unnikrishnan, Johnson, Ousepachan and Sharreth to name just a few (and not including any of the music directors from the previous generation).

Written by Proto

January 11, 2009 at 01:08 hrs

The Idea Star Singer on Asianet

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I generally avoid most of the over hyped stuff except the iPhone (of course, I don’t own one, but anyone can drool over it, right?) and the Die Manschaft (German Football Team). With that mindset, I gave the major chunk of Idea Star Singer 2007 (ISS07) the miss, along with Super Star 2007, Big Star 2007, Small Star 2007 and anything else in between.

However, as I had heard a bit about the singing prowess of Najim Arshad — the eventual winner of ISS07 — from those who religiously followed the event, and saw countless ads in Asianet about the live telecast of the grand finale that was being held at Chandrasekaran Nair stadium in the heart of my home town, Trivandrum on Sunday, 19 April 2008, I decided to check it out.

It was a decently organised event (great by Kerala-standards, perhaps), and the competition itself was sublime, except for the average male singer who finished rather expectedly at the bottom of the heap in the finals. I was listening to “Parayaan maranna” — rendered so wonderfully by Thushar — for the first time, and was spellbound by the magic of the song. Ramesh later told me that he had tried to make me listen to this song when I visited him a few months back, but somehow I was not in a mood to listen then. But I am glad that I waited till I heard Thushar sing it.

That day I decided to follow ISS08 with a bit more fervour and interest. I would say that I am not disappointed with what they have dished out so far. As expected, the initial rounds were dotted with a few good performances here and there, but now that it has reached the second round (or whatever round), there are fewer contestants and hence consistently greater quality. Another huge factor that is making ISS08 far better than how it started out, is the return of two pillars of ISS07 — the great great music director Sharath (remember the gems from Kshanakathu or Pavithram, anyone?), and the former Miss Kerala turned anchor Ranjini Haridas. That has injected the much required life into the program (in the moments when the singers are not actually singing).

The contestant who has impressed me the most has been the versatile Vivekanand (I would be surprised if he doesn’t end up as the eventual winner). Of course there are a few others, but he seems to be a couple of notches above the rest of the fold. I can vividly recollect how well he managed “Parayaan maranna” (yes, the same song!) in his audition round, and later how well he rendered “Nirangale..paadu..” (an awesome composition of late Ravindran maash, sung ever so beautifully by the one and only Yesudas, from the Mohanlal starrer, Aham), and to top it all, how easily he managed “Subha muhurthamaayi..swasthi” (the same three culprits, but the movie is “Kamaladalam”). In fact, I had never given the latter song the respect or the place it deserves in the pantheon of great songs, probably because I was too young when that movie came out to really appreciate the nuances of this great song, but Vivekanand made me realize what a gem of a song it really is! His latest has been the duet round performance in which he sang “Ponnil kulichu ninnu”. He really is a prodigious talent, and I hope he go on to realize his potential and dreams.

The others who have left a lasting impression on me include Somadas (who rendered a few songs in a way only top notch singers could), Prashobh, Abilash (he is probably an average singer, but I like him for his humbleness and the ease of rendering), and Manikanta Das (he sang “Thanner thotti thedi vandha” from Sindhu Bhairavi really well, and recently sang “Pramada Vanam” in a way decent way). I don’t have any favorites among the ladies (I personally feel the laides’ talent pool is not as good as the men’s this time around).

Malgudi Subha (of “Chaiya Chaiya” fame) nailed it when she said on the show, appearing as a celebrity guest, “Kerala is the only state where you can dish out melodies consistenly and people actually lap it up”. That insight, to me, is what differentiates this program from the numerous other stupid programmes that appear in Tamil or Hindi. Some of them are good, but you won’t be treated to songs of the highest calibre, so consistently.

If you are like me, and are not able to follow the event on TV on a daily basis, there is hope. There are a few good samaritans out there, who upload the videos to YouTube, allowing us to dig in and watch the performances again. It looks like one of them has decided not to upload anymore since Asianet is going to upload the videos themselves on their site. Here is the link to the two best sites covering ISS08 out there:

Amidala’s Youtube page (audition round coverage)
Idea Star Singer 2008 unofficial homepage (audition and initial stages of second round)
Devi Souparnika’s DailyMotion page (I couldn’t find the latest episodes in Youtube)

Thanks for reading thus far and I hope you too enjoy what promises to be a sumptuous and musical ISS08.

Written by Proto

July 6, 2008 at 19:04 hrs

Posted in music, Random Ramblings

Top 10 Ravindran songs

with 10 comments

Just continuing from where I left off, here is compilation of “Top Ten” Ravindran songs:

  1. Harimuraleeravam [Aaram Thampuran 1997]
  2. Pramada Vanam [His Highness Abdullah 1990]
  3. Ramakatha Ganalayam [Bharatham 1991]
  4. Ezhu Swarangalum [Chiriyo Chiri 1982]
  5. Nirangale Paadoo [Aham 1991]
  6. Azhake Nin mizhineer maniye [Amaram 1991]
  7. Innumente Kannu Neeril [Yuvajanothsavam 1986]
  8. Thenum Vayambum [Thenum Vayambum 1981]
  9. Mana Thaaril Engum [Kaliyil Alpam Kaaryam 1984]
  10. Etho Nidrathan [Ayal Katha Ezhuthukayaanu 1998]
  11. Vaarmukile Vaanil nee [Mazha 2000] — bonus song# 1 ;)
  12. Gopike Hrudayam oru [Nandanam 2002] — bonus song# 2 ;)

In the above list, the song “Gopike” is unique since it is set based on the Raaga Hindola(m). From what I recollect Raveendran say in an interview “Hindolam** is traditionally considered a raagam in which film music cannot be set. I wanted to challenge that notion”. It is a beautiful high pitched song — like many others in that list above — sung by KJ Yesudas.

So, what is your “Top Ten” Ravindran songs list?

And oh yes, if you want to listen to any of these songs, just visit Raveendran’s page at Raaga.com.

** Update on 12-Sep-2011: As pointed out by Sankara Narayanan (thanks!) in the comment thread, the raaga(m) about which Raveendran mashu was talking about was Hamsadhwani and not Hindolam. Regret the error. However, kindly note that “Gopike” is a song set in Hindolam and not Hamsadhwani.

Written by Proto

April 24, 2006 at 01:36 hrs

Ravindran maash – one year after

with 5 comments

I have been spending a lot of time over the last three days listening to some of the best Malayalam songs from my boyhood days — compositions of the incomparable Ravindran maash. The beauty of his compositions cannot be quite captured in words.

It was with a shock a year ago today I received the news of his death (yes, I got to know about 2 weeks after his sad demise; but then at that point of time, I was shuttling between Bangalore and Chennai on a regular basis that left me with no time whatsoever to catch up with the news). Since then, every time I listen to his composition, the sense of the loss deepens. No music director has managed to move me the way Ravindran managed time and again with his soulful compositions, and I am sure there are countless others who would be sharing this feeling.

On Saturday last, while I was doing some shopping at Spencer's with Subru, I ventured into the Music World and was looking around for the Legends pack on Ravindran. I am not sure whether it has been released yet, but I am sure that I won't mind buying it when it comes out. Instead I had to satisfy myself with Part II of Ravindra Sangeetham. Part I, as my luck would have it, was not available then.

After listening to scorchers like "Samaya Radhangalil njangal", "Mana thaaril engum", "Thenum Vayambum", "Sobhanam Mohanam Karalil amrudham choriyum gaanam", "Sa sa ri ri ga ga chodiyil unarum" and "Chiriyil njan kettu nin geetham sangeetham", I thought it was time someone rekindled his memories, whose first death anniversary passed by without any fanfare (AFAIK).

Let me conclude by pointing you out to a couple of fantastic tributes (posted more than an year ago) to the great maestro. First, a very very moving tribute by Dhool available here, and next, another gem posted here by Only Punjab.

I am yet to listen to the songs from Vadakkumnathan or the song "aalila thaaliyumaay" referred to in those tributes, but knowing Ravindran, I know what to expect when people say that they are great Ravindran songs. Here is praying that his soul may rest in peace, and wishing that I would end up having a good Ravindran collection at home.

Have a great week ahead and thanks for reading thus far.

Written by Proto

April 18, 2006 at 00:28 hrs