Tamil Features

World Music Day: The Tamil Edition

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Music is an intrinsic part of our lives. It drives off the Monday blues, rocks us to sleep on insomnia-filled nights, and makes the most special moments in life that much sweeter. On June 21, International World Music Day, artists across the world play all day, and take back the streets. First celebrated in France in 1982, the festival of music is now celebrated in over 700 cities from 120 countries. Free concerts are organised, and both amateur and professionals perform on the streets.

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On this day of music, we take a look at Tamil movie songs that best represent the genres they were inspired from:

AFRICAN

‘Tholin Mele’ from Ninaivellam Nithya

Composer: Ilaiyaraaja

Singer: SP Balasubrahmanyam

A Sridhar musical, Ninaivellam Nithya marked the debut of Gemini Ganesan’s daughter Jayashree Shridhar, opposite then-heartthrob Karthik Muthuraman. With Vairamuthu’s lyrics and its African slant, the song is an unabashed celebration of youth and young love. Ilaiyaraaja once said, “I do not do any fusion work. I see my music in your music.” And that’s true for Tholin Mele and several others, Ilaiyaraaja uses African rhythms rather superbly, and eventually makes it his own.

With SPB at his unrestrained best, and Karthik doing a Jim Morrison turn, ‘Tholin Mele’ quickly became an anthem for the youth.

Honorable Mention:

Aattama Therottama from Captain Prabhakaran

WESTERN CLASSICAL
‘Edho Mogam’ from Kozhi Koovudhu
Composer: Ilayaraja
Actors: Suresh and Viji
Singers: S. Janaki and Krishnachandar

‘Etho Mogam, Etho Dagam’ is a melodious tale of young love and passion, featuring Suji in all her youthful glory. S Janaki shoulders the song for the most part infusing the lyrics with the kind of urgency that the song’s theme of unabandoned passion demands. The track begins with a dreamy prelude – with the flute, guitar and violin blending together to create the sounds of springtime – a perfect time for budding romance. Incidentally, Ilaiyaraaja played the prelude of this song for Paul Mauriat, the French Classical Music composer when he travelled to Europe.

Honorable mentions:
Putham Pudhu Bhoomi  from Thiruda Thiruda
Enge Nimmathi from Pudhiya Paravai
Chandirarum Suriyarum from Avatharam
R&B:
‘Hey Hey Enna Aachu Unakku’ from Kadhal Virus
Composer: AR Rahman
Singer: Vasundhara Das

A sneak peek into the lives of cool girls and guys circa 2002, the song reflects the sensibilities of ‘modern girls’ as understood by lyricist Pa Vijay. Through the song, Vijay attempts to chronicle the qualities of the perfect man. A sample:

Naan solvadhai seibavan vendaam
Sollaadhadhai seibavan vendaam

Lyrics aside, the song itself is catchy, in keeping with the Destiny’s Child vibe of the noughties.

Honorable mentions:

Vaa Vaa Pakkam Vaa from Thanga Magan

Shakalaka Baby from Mudhalvan

DISCO
‘Ilamai Idho Idho’ from Sakalakala Vallavan
Composer: Ilaiyaraaja
Singer: SP Balasubrahmanyam

An iconic entrance. Those shimmery onesies. And rollerskating, of all things. This was disco at its zenith – a drummer on a Whiplash routine, SPB at his swag best, and Ilaiyaraaja letting his inner beast out on a rampage. Vaali writes a fun song about Kamal’s famous films, and his prowess at all things. Despite this, the song is religiously played at midnight on New Year parties across the state.

Honorable mention:

Prabalamaagave from Enakkul Oruvan

ROCK:

‘Megam Kottattum’ from Enakkul Oruvan

Composer: Ilaiyaraaja

Singer: SP Balasubramanyam

Kamal Haasan dons rock star clothes yet again. Rain interrupts one of his concerts and in true star spirit, he soldiers on. Guitar riffs, swimsuits, and umbrellas abound as SPB rocks the music. With truly imaginative use of acoustic drums, this song is very indicative of the way Ilaiyaraaja broke through many stereotypes when it came to composing music for films.

Honorable mentions:

Vaanam Keezhe Vandhaal Enna from Thoongathe Thambi Thoongathe
Kannum Kannum Kollai Adithaal from Thiruda Thiruda
Enna Vegam from Kuzhandhaiyum Deivamum

LATIN

‘Sundari’ from Kannathil Muthamittal

Composer: AR Rahman

Singers: Hariharan, Tippu, Sujatha, Karthik, & Madhumitha

Playing on the theme of a spirited child and her adventures, this song is spot on. Executed with true Latin flourish, it has vocals from Hariharan, Sujatha, and Tipu. The track brings alive Amutha’s never-say-never spirit.

ARABIC

‘Maula Wa Sallim’ from OK Kanmani

Composer: AR Rahman

Singer: AR Ameen

Some soulful singing (albeit autotuned) by AR Ameen, and a little orchestration make this Ok Kanmani song a treat to listen to. It was an ode to Allah and sung in Arabic, and yet it didn’t deter ARR fans from listening to it a million times.

Honorable mention:

Arabu Naade from Thottal Poo Malarum

JAZZ

‘Vennila Vennila’ from Iruvar

Composer: AR Rahman

Singer: Asha Bhosle

Lyricist: Vairamuthu

Asha Bhonsle’s seductive vocals makes this jazz song about ‘Mudhal Kaathal’ all the more bewitching.

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As Aishwarya Rai slinks across the screen, we are introduced to Mohanlal, dapper in a vest and aviators. The dreamy sax brings to mind images of the flapper era – full of speakeasy’s and smoky interiors, even as the Taj Mahal acts as a silent witness to the romance unfolding before it. Instead of looking to the filmy jazz numbers of the sixties’ for inspiration, AR Rahman looked to true blue world jazz and the results are all the more incredible for it.

Honorable mention:

Vaanila from Kadhal Virus

REGGAE

‘Mustafa Mustafa’ from Kadhal Desam

Composer & Singer: AR Rahman

Lyrics: Vairamuthu

The ultimate friendship anthem, this song redefined what it meant to be bros in the nineties. A staple at cultural functions even today, the song never fails to raise emotions between best friends. With it’s reggae rhythm and Vairamuthu’s fresh lyrics, the song remains etched in the minds of college best friends who once pledged eternal devotion to each other.

Honorable Mention:

Chinna Chinna Aasai from Roja

 *****
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