Sunday January 1, 2017

5 one-film (or one-album) wonders I wish would compose again!

Posted by Karthik

Originally published in The Hindu.

Given that this is for the January 1 edition of The Hindu, I wanted to avoid the conventional bit of listing 5 songs (which I intend to start from the January 8th edition), that too from 2016, on the first day of 2017.

So, given my composer-centric writing, I decided to do something a bit broader – I picked 5 one-film/one-album composers (truly pan-Indian, breaking all language barriers, and with fantastic, often unheralded debuts) and wrote about them, in the hope that they get opportunities to compose again.

1. Job Kurian
01cp-hitman1Job made his composing debut in the Malayalam pop album Thaalam (2009), along with Charan Raj and Yakzan Gary Pereira. Charan has since moved on to greater heights in Kannada film music (Godhi Banna Sadharna Mykattu and Pushpaka Vimana in 2016; he roped in Job to sing Komala henne, in the former) and Yakzan roped in Neha S Nair to create wonderful music, as a duo, for films like Iyobinte Pusthakam. Job has just one Malayalam film to his credit, so far – Rasam (2014), but given the consummate ease with which he composes, in songs like Sarasa sarasaro and Maayamo, and the overall Thaalam sound, here’s a composer who deserves a lot better, lot more!

2. Devan Ekambaram
01cp_hitman2They say that most singers could make good composers too. Yes, S.P.Balasubrahmanyam’s composing career was rather limited (including the towering ‘Vannam konda vennilave’ from Sigaram), but Devan did try. His debut—and only soundtrack as composer—Bale Pandiya (2010) was a breezy listen, though the soundtrack went down alongside the film’s poor prospects. The range was very good and ‘Aaraadha kobamillai’ (sung by Raman Mahadevan and Mahalakshmi) was a complete knock-out, almost like a dream combination of 80s Raja backgrounds and a new Vidyasagar tune! The man seems busier—and more interested—in continuing to pursue a singing (playback and stage) career, but his debut is reason enough to expect him to get back to composing.

3. Raman Mahadevan
01cp-hitman3Another singer-turned-one-time-composer. Raman Mahadevan—no blood relation to Shankar Mahadevan whatsoever, though they work very often together!—self-released, with no record label backing, an album called Ramanasia, back in 2007. It was a spirited debut, composed and mostly sung by Raman himself. There were no music videos, no commercial release… nothing. The album itself was sparsely available in very few online-only outfits and in 2007, the online music scene was far more nascent compared to now, 2017. Tu jo ik pal’s pop-dhol sounds, Aasmaan se’s Shankar Ehsaan Loy’ish classical base, Teri talaash and O meri jaan’s Leslie Lewis’ish jazz-rock blend, and Badra’s folk-fusion… this album deserved a respectable release, and Raman deserves a composing career too.

4. Joi Barua
01cp-hitman4Yet another singer-turned-composer. Joi’s most interesting quality is that he, like Raghu Dixit, sings and composes in his mother tongue (Assamese) and makes that music wonderfully accessible to the rest of India – music, truly, has no language! Joi, along with his bandmates—Pawan Rasaily, Abani Tanti, Ibson Lal Baruah and Manas Chowdhary—released the band’s first album, Looking out of the window, in 2011. The album was a stellar showcase of Assamese rock. Joi has an interesting Tamil connection as well – he collaborated with Shruti Haasan for an Assamese-Tamil fusion song, Prithibi Ghure (Tamil lyrics by Kamal Haasan and Assamese lyrics by Ibson Lal Baruah)! Joi did use his album song, Dusoku melute, in the film Margarita With A Straw in 2015, and released a single Rabha (featuring George Brooks on Sax), but he perhaps needs a new album or film to showcase his talent, again!

5. Vijay Prakash
01cp-hitman5Vijay is already a prolific singer and sings in almost every Indian language. His composing debut, Andar Bahar, was a Kannada film and one of those punchy commercial soundtracks that offered a spunky, mod sound to an otherwise conventional Shivrajkumar starrer. Vijay was part of the Ananthaal trio (Clinton Cerejo, Bianca Gomes and Vijay Prakash) that produced an eponymous debut album in 2015. It was a multi-lingual, pan-Indian effort that combined the talents of all 3 members into a fantastic album. Given this backdrop, Vijay sure has his job cut out if at all he decided to pursue composing seriously.



  • ashok

    Raman Mahadevan made a solid album. I specially liked Teri Talash hai’s lush and ethereal rhythmic sound with a tonal resemblance to Bryan Ferry/Roxy Music (listen to the song “A Special Kind of Guy” from the album Avonmore). If you include Pakistani rock bands in the discussion, there are so many bands with stellar albums but unfortunately very sparse output, disbanding after only 1 or 2 albums. Bands like EP, Call, Noorie, Raeth, Ali Azmat (do not care much for his previous band Junoon though). Thankfully Meekal Hassan Band came back last year with a great album Andholan and Noorie with a so so album. In Indian Pop (to use the term loosely), we have Agnee with just 1 album. Silk Route produced 2 great albums before breaking up. Vinapra from Bangalore made highly promising album in 2007 before disappearing. Rabbi Shergill has produced only 3 albums since 2005. It is tough to survive under the shadow of film music industry.

  • Ocuyo

    Sachin Gupta, the guy who did the Atif Aslam-heavy Prince. Its easy to forget, but that guy seemed to be going places. Prince was all the rage and its reasonable to assume that many people were looking forward to his newer projects, and to see if he would need Atif as a crutch. I like to think that his career was too brief to answer that question, but an argument could be made that it wasn’t. He does have at least 10 credits after Prince. Which could make him a “one album wonder” in a more traditional sense where it has nothing to do with not having enough chances, but because he just plain sucks..

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