Sunday February 5, 2017

Hitman – February 5, 2017

Originally published in The Hindu.

Idho thaanaagave – Adhe Kangal (Tamil – Ghibran)
Take Jeff Beck. Yeah, the guitarist from Bon Jovi. Take his guitar away from him and give him a sitar. Yes, a sitar. Now, ask him to play snatches from Bon Jovi’s song ‘Blaze of Glory’. Ghibran pulls off something akin to the result of that bizarre experiment in ‘Idho Thaanaagave’ and it works wonderfully. The bigger surprise from Ghibran is how he recreates the same tune in English too, as ‘I Have Nothing’, with a fantastic, incredibly catchy R&B package and stellar vocals by Addie Nicole. They don’t sound similar on a casual listen, but listen carefully, it’s the same.

Arere yekkade – Nenu Local (Telugu – Devi Sr Prasad)
Despite being offered prime projects like Khaidi No.150 , Devi Sri Prasad has, lately, been in a rut. His music has become repetitive and derivative, and his stock of hooks and instrumental regurgitations have reached a peak. Given this background, it is pleasantly surprising to find a song like ‘Arere Yekkada’. The melody, most possibly set to Abheri raaga, is highly engaging. Devi adds a neat rhythm with beautiful snatches of violin and flute—that are accentuated in the interludes—sung fabulously by Naresh Iyer andManisha Eerabathini.

Thili prema – Urvi (Kannada – Manoj George)
The Kannada film music scene is going through a long overdue transformation of sorts. Ajaneesh Loknath, Raghu Dixit, Judah Sandhy, Charan Raj, Vasuki Vaibhav, Dheerendra Doss… the list of promising new composers goes on. Violinist Manoj George made his film debut back in 2008, with Athmiya… and the time is right for him to make a comeback. Urvi’ s breeziest and most melodious is ‘Thili Prema’, set to what sounds like raaga Kalyani. It’s a wonderfully warm melody, beautifully sung by composer Charan Raj and Madhushree. Manoj offers another, guitar-based version of the song that sees Madhushree going even more evocative with the tune.

Udi udi jaye – Raees (Hindi – Ram Sampath)
Back in 2013, Ram produced an excellent set for Coke Studio India (MTV, Season 3, Episode 2). The mix of folk musical idioms fused with a decidedly more modern sound was particularly alluring in that set. Ram produces something similar in ‘Udi Udi Jaye’, with a lively, lilting folkish rhythm (Nitish Ranadive’s live percussions) as the base. Tapas Roy’s mandolin and charango make their presence felt too, while Sukhwinder Singh and Bhoomi Trivedi are at their usual, ebullient best.

Penne penne – Basheerinte Premalekhanam (Malayalam – Vishnu Mohan Sithara)
Well-known Malayalam composer Mohan Sithara’s son, Vishnu, has had a tentative start with composing in Malayalam. His last was Kumbasaram , back in 2015. The young composer seems to be getting his mojo back, with Basheerinte Premalekhanam . He sings ‘Penne Penne’ himself very confidently, and does even better with the gorgeous quasi-sufi tune and the ghatam-guitar mix. The orchestration is rich and evocative, while the high-pitched ‘Kanne’ hook is addictive.

Single Saavn playlist for 44 of the songs below (except the 2 Indipop songs that aren’t available on Saavn):
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Mannerless Majnu, Kuch to hai and Main faraar sa – Running Shaadi.Com (Abhishek-Akshay, Anupam Roy, Anjana Ankur Singh and Sandeep Madhavan)
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Laila, Enu naam che Raees, Udi udi jaye, Ghammar and Zaalima – Raees (Ram Sampath and JAM8)

Bloody hell, Mere miyan gaye England, Tippa and Yeh ishq hai – Rangoon (Vishal Bhardwaj)

Saajan aayo re and Sunn bhavara – OK Jaanu (A R Rahman)


Idho thaanaagave, I Have Nothing, Ponapokkil and Thandiraa – Adhe Kangal (Ghibran)

Engeyo pogum and Kanna katti – Kaalakoothu (Justin Prabhakaran)

Yaaro ucchikilai meley – Taramani (Yuvan Shankar Raja)

Kannadi poovukku – Enakku Vaaitha Adimaigal (Santhosh Dayanidhi)


Padhe Padhe and Netthimedha Pettukunta – Gunturodu (DJ Vasanth)
DJ Vasanth made some interesting music in last year’s Speedunnodu. For another ‘odu—Gunturodu—he follows up with equally listenable music. The picks of the album are courtesy Yazin Nizar – Padhe padhe is a breezy number that sounds like hundreds of other Telugu songs, but still has that X factor. Vasanth adds more personality in Netthimedha Pettukunta, with a punchy hook.

What da F and Ravera – Luckunnodu (Praveen Lakkaraju and Achu Rajamani)
Adnan Sami rocks What da F ra! The tune is regular Telugu masala, but Adnan’s twang makes all the difference. Achu owns the other song, Ravera, along with Lipsika’s vocals. The groovy song sees Achu layer it with a dash of Indian percussion in what it otherwise desi-fied EDM.

Disturb chestha ninnu and Arere yekkade – Nenu Local (Devi Sri Prasad)

Ekimeeda – Gautamiputra Satakarni (Chirantan Bhatt)


Penne penne – Basheerinte Premalekhanam (Vishnu Mohan Sithara)


Muddu hudugi and Baa neene nodu – Naanu Nammudgi Kharchgond Mafia (Vikram Varman)
Muddu hudugi can easily be mistaken as a Harris Jayaraj song… in a good way, that is! Composer Vikram Varman pulled off something very similar sounding in his Tamil debut Ariyaan, back in 2009, though his next, in 2014 (Manam Konda Kaadhal) was a non-starter. Looks like he’s back, but in Kannada. In Baa neene nodu, Vikram Varman is even more impressive – he concocts a wonderfully interesting rock melody, punctuated with splendid strings for the interlude. The song’s highlight is, of course, Ananya Bhat’s singing!

Jigidante jeeva – Naane Next CM (Arjun Janya)
This is Arjun channeling his inner Mani Sharma! So very Telugu and very listenable too!

Ondu malebillu and Matthe maleyagide – Chakravarthy (Arjun Janya)

Devare and Yennenu soda – Hebbuli (Arjun Janya)

Thaliru thoranadi – Lee (Anand Rajavikraman)

Saddillade – Kaal Kg Preethi (Chetan Sosca)

Adhara madhura, Thili prema and Kanna hani – Urvi (Manoj George)

Ondondsari and Kannane kannane – Srikanta (Ajaneesh Loknath)


Panchiyaa – Dewarists Season 5 (Amit Trivedi & V Selvaganesh)

Mhaari Re Mangetar – Maati Baani Ft. Alaa Wardi

Sooda oru sooriyan has a heady percussion to go for it and the hook is catchy too, but it doesn’t press further. Paarai mele is that kind of song which deserved a better singer, one who can differentiate between ‘l’ and ‘L’ in Tamil, and can sing in tune, unlike Yuvan. His tune is fantastic, however, with phenomenal strings usage and a dash of his earlier obsession – Celtic sounds. Maina rendu‘s charukesi raaga ambition keeps it engaging beyond the background’ish feel, while the Theme is a fantastic, grand listen. Yuvan’s obsession with bad singing is reaching Himesh Reshammiya’ish proportions.

Keywords: Sathriyan, Yuvan Shankar Raja

Listen to the songs on Saavn:
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Listen to the songs on YouTube:

Mahi is unlike what one expects from a remix-master like Neeraj Shridhar (of Bombay Vikings fame)! Neeraj hands Harshdeep Kaur a captivating melody with a strong Rajasthani folk whiff, while retaining an engaging background rhythm. For the title song, while Nikhil Uzgare sings the guitar-laden rock melody mighty well, the overall package is rather generic. Mitran de is high on energy, but is passable Punjabi pop. Neeraj reserves the soundtrack’s best for Papon! Chaand rajai odhe is a soulful lullaby that gets accentuated several notches thanks to Papon’s fantastic singing! Irada is an unusual, but welcome return of Neeraj Shridhar!

Keywords: Irada, Neeraj Shridhar

Listen to the songs on Saavn:
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Chinna Kabali is standard-issue Thaman kuthu, espousing Raghava Lawrence’s superstar ambitions in an instantly foot-tapping package. Sirikka vechu‘s lilting and simple melody is endearing, though it seems like a new-age Deva song. Rangu rakkara is the perfect cocktail of 3 things – wonderfully absurd thara-local lyrics, Anirudh’s manic singing and Thaman’s undeniably catchy sound aimed at Lawrence’s feet. The title song‘s tune is tolerable but Thaman does particularly well in the backgrounds, while Saarah saarah is way too Thaman’ish and boraah boraah. Nothing seems to have changed in Thaman-land as he finds himself in a rut like Devi Sri Prasad.

Keywords: Sivalinga, S.S.Thaman

Listen to the songs on Saavn:
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Listen to the songs on YouTube:

Sunday January 29, 2017

Hitman – January 29, 2017

Originally published in The Hindu.

Tippa – Rangoon (Hindi – Vishal Bhardwaj)
Back in the 90s, Doordarshan aired an NFDC-dubbed version of Alice In Wonderland’s Japanese anime version (originally called ‘Fushigi no Kuni no Alice’). That series has a popular title song, ‘Tap tap topi topi’, composed by Vishal and written by Gulzar. In Tippa, Vishal and Gulzar recreate that song set to the sound of trains and rain, and convert it into an almost-conversational song! Sunidhi Chauhan leads the vocals giving it the emotional high, with fantastic support from Rekha Bhardwaj, Sukhwinder Singh and the out-of-the-blue OS Arun!

Yaaro ucchikilai meley – Taramani (Tamil – Yuvan Shankar Raja)
Yaaro ucchikilai meley is vintage Yuvan Shankar Raja! The rhythm is lilting and simple, much like the composer’s earlier form. The melody is easy-on-the-ears, sing-along’ish. He layers it with those catchy ‘thare nanne nanne’ hooks. Yuvan, knowing his limitations as a singer, cleverly processes his voice to smoothen the rough edges and manages to sound pretty good. It’s only those corny chipmunks-style intrusion that mars an otherwise foot-tapping song.

Devare – Hebbuli (Kannada – Arjun Janya)
Arjun has an impressive track record with Sudeep films, having worked on his earlier films like Kempe Gowda, Vardhanayaka and Maanikya. Hebbuli is a good mix too – very commercial and listenable. The pick of the soundtrack is the gentle and melodious Devare. The melody is highly tuneful and Arjun smartly keeps the backgrounds in check to let the tune surface. The highlight is, of course, Armaan Mallik’s vocals; after Mungaru Male 2, Arjun offers a great song to Armaan.
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Ekimeeda – Gautamiputra Satakarni (Telugu – Chirantan Bhatt)
Director Krish opted for Bollywood composer Chirantan Bhatt for his last project too – the World War 2 film, Kanche. Having worked with composers like M.M.Keeravani and Mani Sharma, it was surprising he was depending on a Bollywood composer for a historical film like Gautamiputra Satakarni. Understandably, Chirantan’s music is generic, without setting any period-based context. Still, an earthy song like Ekimeeda is a great listen. There’s a generous dollop of Rahman’s style, and singers like Udit Narayan and Shreya Ghoshal lift the song significantly.

Kannadi poovukku – Enakku Vaaitha Adimaigal (Tamil – Santhosh Dayanidhi)
The other Santhosh of Tamil film music, Santhosh Dayanidhi, erstwhile Rahman assistant is surely onto something. There is a quite confidence in his music that comes out particularly in the gorgeous Kannadi poovukku! Haricharan and Jonita Gandhi are in splendid form, as always, while Santhosh’s tune moves beautifully from the opening melody to the persistent instrumental hook, only to have a chorus on those lines towards the end of the anupallavi – excellent strings in the background all along!

Manoj Yadav’s yin-yang verses and the Bappi-Kalpana Patowary combo lift Pyaar ka test beyond its generic’ness. The charming Mannerless Majnu‘s—Shruti singing about Bitto!—highlight is Sukanya Purkayastha’s delightful rendition. Abhishek-Akshay’s last, the heady, Punjabi Dimpi de naal is (late) Labh Janjua’s lively show. Keegan Pinto’s Pakistani-pop’ish Bhaag milky and the Indi-rock’ish Faraar are competent. Anjana Ankur Singh and Sandeep Madhavan’s Kuch to hai is almost a Lucky Ali song, with Jubin Nautiyal’s engaging vocals and a lovely sax-led ending! The soundtrack’s best is Anupam Roy’s Main faraar sa, a gently lilting melody that brings back Hamsika Iyer. Breezy multi-composer mix, this.

Keywords: Running Shaadi.Com, Abhishek-Akshay, Keegan Pinto, Anupam Roy, Anjana Ankur Singh and Sandeep Madhavan

Listen to the songs on Saavn:
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The title song panders to hero-worship, but it actually does it in style! Vyasraj handles the vocals brilliantly, particularly the title hook (a chorus) and the ‘Bhuvana gagana’ phrase! Arjun layers in the horns perfectly to amp up the suave tune. After Hebbuli’s Devare, Armaan Mallik delivers another knock-out for Arjun in Ondu malebillu, a wonderfully lilting, retro tune that Arjun owns with the accordion-led sound. Sonu and Shreya are excellent in Matthe maleyagide, an immersive melody punctuated by pulsating guitar. Naughty Girl, with Arjun picking Devi Sri Prasad’s Hindi-retro sound, is terrible. Decent enough commercial stuff from Arjun Janya.

Keywords: Chakravarthy, Arjun Janya

Listen to the songs on Saavn:
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Listen to the songs on YouTube:

Penne penne has a nice enough tune, but it’s Vishnu’s spartan orchestration that really engages. The guitar+ghatam mix is particularly alluring, as is the high-pitched outtakes and the mid-way tune shift. The composer sings Sumbharani too confidently, aided by a funky piano-led sound and a likeable jazzy edge to the tune. Pranayamanithu‘s sweeping Kerala-Muslim sound is broadly interesting, and Vishnu’s electric guitar additions too work well in context. Anwar Sadath’s raucous rendition of TV is aptly kuthu-fied but nothing more, while Salih Haneef almost cries his way in the otherwise tuneful Laila. From 2015’s Kumbasaram, Vishnu’s music has improved oh-so-mildly.

Keywords: Basheerinte Premalekhanam, Vishnu Mohan Sithara

Listen to the songs on Saavn:
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Listen to the songs on YouTube:

This is both disappointing and depressing.

Listen to:
‘Kaagadada Doniyalli’ from Kirik Party (music: Ajaneesh Loknath)


The River, by The Bombay Royale

Now, it is easy to jump to the conclusion that the Kannada song is ‘copied’, but there’s more to the thought than what hits the ear (meets the eye doesn’t seem appropriate). The core tune is different, but the sequence of instruments used is identical. What they play differs, almost as if there was a clinical attempt at deconstructing the sequence of instruments and giving them different notes to play. It is difficult to call this plagiarism in the conventional sense given the fact that the melody is fundamentally different.

Ajaneesh did exactly this in the same film’s ‘Hey Who Are You?’ too, where he and the makers openly called it out as a homage to Hamsalekha’s Shanti Kranti number, Madhya Raathrili. Kaagadada Doniyalli, in a similar vein, is a homage to the number by The Bombay Royale.

Listen to:
Hey Who Are You? (Kirik Party)

Madhya Raathrili (Shanti Kranti, Hamsalekha)

To a lesser extent, Ajaneesh did this in Sundaranga Jaana’s Fly Fly Fly too, but in that case, the similarity was a LOT more pronounced.

Listen to:
Fly fly fly (Sundaranga Jaana, Kannada)

Meghan Trainor’s Dear Future Husband

For an upcoming and very promising composer like Ajaneesh, these instances of plagiarism (at least the ones that are uncredited) are a serious blot.

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February 2017
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