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.

There is enough flamboyance in the way Papon delivers the reggae’ish Loving A Dream; and then there is Kalyan Baruah’s superb guitar too. Tapas Roy’s mandolin and Sameer Chiplunkar’s accordion create the old-world charm of Kahin na kahin with Papon breezing through the languorous melody. Saahil is interesting for the wav’y orchestration Papon assembles, particularly ID Rao’s sax, though the tune is generic carnivalesque. Aerii sakhi morae, the album’s best, sees Papon modernizing Amir Khusro’s qawali into a lovely pop-jazz ghazal, with spirited guitar by Manasqam Mahanta. Papon’s second album is a relatively milder effort compared to the superlative debut.

Keywords: Papon, The Story Now

PS: Review of Papon’s debut album, The Story So Far.

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

George Michael was the first international music artist that I consciously followed, idolized and loved. The kind of love that led me to collect every single song of his, including his obscure singles that very few people would have heard.

My cousin sister introduced me to George Michael and I hold her in high esteem for this. She, back then, was a mad fan of George and also imagined (swore!) that one of her school crushes looked like him.

George Michael was first artist of whom I had a poster in my room, during my college-going years. Yes, it was the usual poster that everyone else had too – the one from Faith.

The first cassette I bought with my first salary was Older. I still remember buying 2 cassettes, one for myself and another for my cousin sister, in Chennai, when it was just released, in 1996.

The first website I ever built, in 1998, on Geocities, was a really tacky (in retrospect) fansite for George. It was a clumsy and really stupid looking website that had content copied from a range of other sources and even more tacky GIFs and a couple of George Michael photos. In 1998, given the internet speed in my college computer ‘lab’, it was a massive task and took me about a month or more to build that silly website!

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George was the first artist where I searched long and hard for every one of his songs, including rare and obscure singles that very few people, besides his hardcore fans, would have heard. I still have mp3s of 52 rare singles that I have gathered across the past 2 decades… they are George singing with another artist, or solo on stage.

The first ‘Western’ song that I learnt to sing on my own (inside my head, in the shower) fully was George’s Kissing A Fool (Faith). I did it the old fashioned way – listening to it, and writing down the lyrics alongside because we didn’t have lyrics websites back then.

George and his music was an integral part of my growing up, albeit later, when I was in college. I don’t think that’s ever going to change – that’s a time vault safely stored in my head, till I perhaps grow older and lose my memory.

To me, GM, for the longest time meant George Michael, not Good Morning (one of the effects of working in offices long enough). I actually feel listless today, after hearing the news of his passing away. To feel this listlessness for a person I have never met and only heard is what fandom is made of.

One of my bucket list items was to see/hear George Michael live and I don’t think he was ever planning an India concert at all. Now, that’s definitely not going to happen, so that’s one item from my bucket list scratched out. All I can now do is play his songs more often at home and in my car.

The title song is a pretty neat combination of Rajesh’s old-world charm of a melody and a spiffy new orchestration. Gourov-Roshin’s recreation of Rajesh’s Saara zamaana is surprisingly punchy, with a pulsating new rhythm. But, in Kuch din, Jubin drones on miserably, with music that’s akin to a teen’s first stage performance. Mon amour is a generic Ricky Martin knockoff. The title song’s sad version is… pretty sad, while Julie’s iconic Dil kya kare gets yet another remake (by Gourov-Roshin) that only helps reiterate that the original’s tune was so memorable. Kaabil’s soundtrack starts well, but the kabiliyat ends soon.

Keywords: Kaabil, Rajesh Roshan

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

Mellaga tellarindoi is so typically Mickey! The build-up is lovely, the chorus even more so! Anurag Kulkarni leads the vocals very well. The title song gains tremendously from Chitra and Vijay Yesudas’s singing; the tune is predictably Mickey, but the resonant sound is fantastic. Naalo nenu suffers from its monotonous rhythm though Sameera Bharadwaj’s singing lifts the tune. Nilavade is a wonderful surprise! Roping in veteran S.P.Balasubramanyam seems befitting this pleasant homage to the Raja-sound. Hailo hailessare picks up steam into a spirited festival song, closing the soundtrack on a high. Nothing dramatically new, but very listenable stuff from Mickey.

Keywords: Shatamanam Bhavati, Mickey J Meyer

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

Varlaam varlaam vaa is Vijay’s own Neruppu daa! The swagger is intact, and the lyrics aptly eulogises the star. Nillayo layers the breezy hook onto the very-Santhosh strings, though Vairamuthu’s ‘silicon silayo’ could mean entirely something else. Barring the foot-tapping kuthu in Papa papa, and interestingly bluesy notes in Pattaya kelappu (where Vairamuthu alludes to demonetization!), both songs are pedestrian. The soundtrack’s best, Azhagiya soodana poovey, is not only wonderfully sung by Vijaynarain and Dharshana, but Santhosh adds an unpredictable and cool Jackson’ish retro-pop sound. Santhosh, who balanced his sound with Rajini-needs in Kabali so well, seems unsure in Bairavaa.

Keywords: Bairavaa, Santhosh Narayanan

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

Haricharan literally powers Lailakame with his vocals. Rahul’s tune is pleasant enough, and predictable enough, hitting the high notes impressively, and it is in Haricharan’s singing that the song gets a real high. Sushin Shyam’s Thambiraan is atmospheric and haunting, with soaring vocals by Vipin Raveendran. Sushin layers it with absolutely spooky piano backdrop. It’s in his other song, Irulu neelum raave that Sushin scores a whopper! The sound is consistently ominous, with a persistent, surreal twang, but the melody is beautifully in place, sung brilliantly by Sachin Balu. Between Sushin and Rahul, they hold Ezra’s short, thematic soundtrack confidently.

Keywords: Ezra, Rahul Raj, Sushin Shyam

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

Sunday December 18, 2016

Hitman – December 17, 2016

Originally published in The Hindu.

Maatrangal ondre thaan – Kootathil Oruthan (Tamil – Nivas K Prasanna)
Given how iconic, familiar and well-known Bobby McFerrin’s 1988 song Don’t Worry, Be Happy (the first a cappella song to reach No.1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart; the song’s title is from a famous quotation by Indian mystic Meher Baba) is, it seems unlikely and pointless that someone would try to use the phrase in another song. But, Nivas tries and does a pretty good job too! He aims for a broadly appealing, calypso’ish sound, and in Kabilan’s sweeping motivational lines and Nivas’s own vocals, the song works effortlessly!

Neethoney dance – Dhruva (Telugu – Hiphop Tamizha)
Thani Oruvan, the Tamil original of the Telugu film Dhruva did not have a song to showcase the dancing skills of the diligent IPS officer Mithran, played by Jayam Ravi. But Andhra Pradesh is a different zone altogether – given Ram Charan’s—playing Dhruva, the IPS officer—dancing prowess (much like his dad), the film includes a song where the IPS officer lets his hair loose in a nightclub. Hiphop Tamizha, the Tamil duo, score a mighty catchy dance track, spiking a conventional Punjabi dance template. The song, and Ram Charan’s dance steps have spawned many videos on YouTube with young boys from Andhra Pradesh trying their hand… nah, their feet, to the song!

Kaadhal pennae – Kadikaara Manithargal (Tamil – Sam C.S.)
Sam C.S. who has been producing consistently good music in films like Mellisai (renamed as Puriyaadha Pudhir and expecting a release date that is also a puriyaadha pudhir) and Kadalai, sees his older material getting released finally in the form of Kadikaara Manithargal. The soundtrack is a washout, but the one song by Karthik and Haritha is delightful and showcases the true potential of the composer. The music is spritely, the singing by Karthik is expectedly fantastic and Sam plays around with the rhythm, alternating between kuthu and something pop’ish.

Hey Who Are You? – Kirik Party (Kannada – Ajaneesh Loknath)
The song ‘Madhyarathrili’ from the 1991 trilingual Shanti Kranti (same title in Telugu and Naattukku Oru Nallavan in Tamil; the song was ‘Chinna kannamma’ in Tamil) is still very popular in Karnataka, despite the film’s box office washout. Now, what if someone clinically dismantled the song and recreated it piece by piece to make it sound subtly different, but still retained the soul of the original? Ajaneesh does precisely that in Hey Who Are You? and does it phenomenally well. This is a beautifully and cleverly done homage to Hamsalekha’s music… or, the kind of music Hamsalekha produced for Ravichandran.

Vaarai – Bogan (Tamil – D.Imman)
Imman and Shreya Ghoshal is a known combo that works wonderfully. Add Shankar Mahadevan to the mix and things get even better! Using a few lines from Manthiri Kumari’s iconic song, Madhan Karky weaves highly sensual lyrics that Imman tunes perfectly in what seems like Dharmavathi raaga. Imman also employs a technique similar to what he recently used in Kannadikkala, from Maaveeran Kittu – to get the singers to recite the lyrics first and then sing it in tune. It continues to sound a great idea!

Friday December 16, 2016

Milliblog Annual Music round-up 2016

The 9th annual, multi-lingual round-up on Milliblog.

Related read: Milliblog’s Three Laws of Music Appreciation Multiverse

An edited version of this list appears in The Hindu, December 25, 2016. That version also includes a pan-Indian 25-song list. The Saavn playlist for that 25 song list (excluding 2 songs that are not available on Saavn – Komala henne, from Godhi Banna Sadharna Mykattu and Pone, from Meeku Meere Maaku Meeme):
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PS: This list is based on soundtracks released between December 15, 2015 and December 15, 2016. This is NOT based on release date of films; this is based on release date of soundtracks. I personally find it insulting to tag the soundtracks as a mere byproduct of a film and wait for the film to release (contingent upon so many extraneous factors, far beyond the soundtrack’s release) to include the music in a list. That’s the reason why, for instance, Justin Prabhakaran’s Oru Naal Koothu is not listed here. It was the 3rd best soundtrack of 2015, as it should be.

—–

Hindi

Hindi film music, beyond the incredibly annoying trend of releasing one single a week (and a single even after the film’s release), was largely in good stead in 2016. This trend reached new heights in 2016. For films like Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (music by Pritam), the record label (Sony) released a song almost every few weeks, making us all (ok, very few – I doubt if anyone really cares) wonder just how many songs are there, in the film. And a song, a very good one, at that—Alizeh—was released after the film’s release. All this makes it difficult for people like me who wait for the film’s soundtrack release to write a review, but I guess other reviewers have reconciled to this staggered release well already. For example, Times of India did a review of a 4-song soundtrack of Ae Dil Hai Mushkil and didn’t bother writing about the remaining songs. Another example – Dangal (again, incredible music by Pritam)! The last song was released on December 14th (this annual round-up considers all soundtracks and singles released on or before December 15th), by which time Livemint had already posted a review of 4 songs, clearly unaware of how many songs are finally in the soundtrack or when they will ever be released!

This trend perhaps appears in other forms of the film industry as well. Short films gathered steam like never before in 2016. In fact, Mirror started reviewing short films regularly. Some of those, like Shirish Kunder’s Kriti and Jyoti Kapur Das’s Chutney (produced by Tisca Chopra) broke the clutter to become very popular. So, I assume the size and duration if reducing – of soundtracks (as singles), films (short films) etc. At some point, I guess we may have a theatrical release of a short film that has 1 song in its soundtrack released as a single and not featured in-film!

As always, there were the usual, much-hyped soundtracks that did well only because of the amount of push – paid, PR, digital marketing etc. – behind them, and then there were the little gems that didn’t have any of those and sounded absolutely delightful. Case in point: Krsna’s Cute Kameena – I don’t even know if the film released at all.

The veteran (age-wise, at least) trio, Shankar Ehsaan Loy proved why they are the most inventive and imaginative and that age is just a number (or, perhaps an advantage given the exposure and experience it brings) with a magnificent score for the box-office bomb Mirzya. They followed it up with a pretty good score for another box-office turkey, Rock On 2. Of Amit Trivedi’s 3 films, he got it wonderfully right in Udta Punjab and Fitoor, though, it was less consistent in Dear Zindagi. The big surprises this year were from Clinton Cerejo and Ram Sampath. TE3N and Raman Raghav 2.0 are top notch scores, with a vibrant new sound. Another surprise was from Salim-Sulaiman – for Prakash Jha’s Jai Gangaajal, the duo produced music that seemed to be going far beyond the brief, with delightful experimentation. Vishal-Shekhar too returned with a vengeance in 2016 – Sultan, Akira, Banjo, and to a lesser extent, Befikre, are proof enough.

Tamil composer Santhosh Narayanan made a brief Hindi appearance with Saala Khadoos and even though the music was hardly noticed, he had added lovely nuances to differentiate the Tamil version from the Hindi one. Some of the catchiest songs in 2016, in my view, included the undeniable earworm, Chull (Kapoor & Sons), Pyar Ki (Housefull 3), Kaala Chashma (Baar Baar Dekho), Baby ko bass pasand hai (Sultan), Udta Punjab’s title song and Mirzya’s Hota hai.

Hindi composer(s) of the year:
Shankar Ehsaan Loy

Top 3 Hindi soundtracks of 2016:

01. Mirzya (Shankar Ehsaan Loy)

02. Udta Punjab (Amit Trivedi)

03. TE3N (Clinton Cerejo)

Top 30 Hindi songs of 2016:
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01. Aave re hitchki – Mirzya (Shankar Ehsaan Loy)
02. Chull – Kapoor & Sons (Amaal Mallik, Badshah)
03. Ud-daa Punjab – Udta Punjab (Amit Trivedi)
04. Rootha – TE3N (Clinton Cerejo)
05. Hone de batiyaan – Fitoor (Amit Trivedi)*
06. Behooda – Raman Raghav 2.0 (Ram Sampath)
07. Saala khadoos – Saala Khadoos (Santhosh Narayanan)
08. Title song – Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (Pritam)
09. Gilehriyaan – Dangal (Pritam)
10. Ji huzoori – Ki & Ka (Mithoon)

11. Tere bin – Wazir (Shantanu Moitra)
12. Shehar mehboob hai ji – Cute Kameena (Krsna)
13. Keh bhi de – Traffic (Mithoon)
14. Pyar ki – Housefull 3 (Toshi and Sharib Sabri)
15. Khair mangda – A Flying Jatt (Sachin-Jigar)
16. Hota hai – Mirzya (Shankar Ehsaan Loy)
17. Taareefon se – Dear Zindagi (Amit Trivedi)
18. Ishqe di lat – Junooniyat (Ankit Tiwari)
19. Besabriyaan – M.S.Dhoni – The Untold Story (Amaal Mallik)
20. Udan choo – Banjo (Vishal-Shekhar)

21. Dheere dheere – Jai Gangaajal (Salim-Sulaiman)
22. Kaala chashma – Baar Baar Dekho (Prem Hardeep/Badshah)
23. Doli re doli – Mirzya (Shankar Ehsaan Loy)
24. Lamhon ke rasgulle – Kahaani 2 (Clinton Cerejo)
25. Title song – Dangal (Pritam)
26. Rehnuma – Rocky Handsome (Inder Bawra and Sunny Bawra)
27. Udja re – Rock On 2 (Shankar Ehsaan Loy)
28. Purza – Akira (Vishal-Shekhar)
29. Baby ko bass pasand hai – Sultan (Vishal-Shekhar)
30. Nashe si chadh gayi – Befikre (Vishal-Shekhar)

*Not available on Saavn playlist.

—–

Tamil

2016 was Santhosh Narayanan’s year. The man, who had one middling 36 Vayadhinile in 2015, ruled the roost all through 2016, including an Ilayaraja-style achievement of having 2 films for Diwali – Kodi and Kaashmora! He also had Rajinikant’s Kabali, itself a huge milestone for a fairly new composer who made his debut in 2012. Santhosh has indeed come a long way.

But the album of the year easily belongs to Santhosh’s contemporary and friend, Sean Roldan. He had a tepid 2015, with just one soundtrack (144), but he made his sole soundtrack of 2016 count big time – Joker. It’s amazing that director Raju Murugan opted for Sean Roldan in Joker, despite superlative music by Santhosh Narayanan in his last film, Cuckoo. Given the consistently good music across both films, it may be safe to assume that the director has a good ear for music. The other young composer, Anirudh, who produced a knockout Naanum Rowdy Dhaan in 2015, followed it up with wonderfully enjoyable scores in Remo and Rum.

Rahman had a great year, with 24 and Achcham Yenbadhu Madamaiyada that finally released this year. Both had music that was thoroughly enjoyable and extended the veteran (now, veteran) composer’s standing, particularly the latter.

Ghibran was muted largely, barring the highly interesting Chennai 2 Singapore, while the year’s most prolific, D.Imman, made good with a few songs in many soundtracks! As for debuts, Airtel Super Singer’s Ajesh made a brilliant composing debut in Paambhu Sattai, while Darbuka Siva made a great debut in Kidari, only to falter in his second soundtrack, Balle Vellaya Theva. Joshua Sridhar took time off his Kannada sojourn and returned confidently with Parandhu Sella Vaa (better than last year’s 54321). Vishal Chandrashekhar was, interestingly, trying his luck in Tamil and Telugu – in Tamil, his Jil Jung Juk was a delightfully inventive score, even as he produced a pretty decent soundtrack for the Telugu film Krishnagadi Veera Prema Gaadha.

Nivas K Prasanna followed up his superb debut last year with 2 great scores (Zero and Kootathil Oruthan), though in Sethupathy, his music came a cropper. Others like Leon James and Gopi Sundar had a decent enough run. Composer K had a middling run (films like Aandavan Kattalai and Ammani) though a couple of songs in those albums stood out pretty easily. He does have a big Hindi film in the pipeline – Karan Johar produced Ghazi! Hiphop Tamizha (beyond making their Telugu debut) and Harris Jayaraj continued to produce music within their narrowly defined templates. Ditto with Yuvan Shankar Raja and GV Prakash Kumar – quite a few projects but nothing standing out enough to highlight specifically.

Tamil composer of the year:
Santhosh Narayanan

Top 3 Tamil soundtracks of 2016:

01. Joker (Sean Roldan)

02. Achcham Yenbadhu Madamaiyada (A R Rahman)

03. Kabali (Santhosh Narayanan)

Top 30 Tamil songs of 2016:
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01. Chellamma – Joker (Sean Roldan)
02. Kadavule vidai – Rum (Anirudh)
03. Neruppu da – Kabali (Santhosh Narayanan)
04. Rasaali – Achcham Yenbadhu Madamaiyada (A R Rahman)
05. Aval – Manithan (Santhosh Narayanan)
06. Sirikkadhey – Remo (Anirudh)
07. Poda poda – Irudhi Sutru (Santhosh Narayanan)
08. Nee uravaaga – Paambhu Sattai (Ajesh)
09. Red road-u – Jil Jung Juk (Vishal Chandrasekhar)
10. Man meedhu – Parandhu Sella Vaa (Joshua Sridhar)

11. Andha pulla manasa – Adhagappattathu Magajanangalay (D.Imman)
12. Kannamma – Rekka (D.Imman)
13. Veredhuvum nijame illai – Zero (Nivas K Prasanna)
14. Kaalam un kaadhali – 24 (A R Rahman)
15. Ola ola kudisayila – Joker (Sean Roldan)
16. Kannadikkala – Maaveran Kittu (D.Imman)
17. Kadhal kolluthadi – Ennul Aayiram (Gopi Sundar)
18. Ro ro roshni – Chennai 2 Singapore (Ghibran)
19. Thalakaalu puriyalayae – Kidari (Darbuka Siva)
20. Kaantha – Uriyadi (Masala Coffee)

21. Snegidhiyae – Raja Mandhiri (Justin Prabharakan)
22. Maya nadhi – Kabali (Santhosh Narayanan)
23. Avalum naanum – Achcham Yenbadhu Madamaiyada (A R Rahman)
24. Maatrangal ondre thaan – Kootathil Oruthan (Nivas K Prasanna)
25. Kadhal kappal – Iraivi (Santhosh Narayanan)
26. Halena – Iru Mugan (Harris Jayaraj)
27. Aayava kanom – Kadalai (Sam C.S.)
28. Imsai raani – Aandavan Kattalai (K)
29. Ei suzhali – Kodi (Santhosh Narayanan)
30. Pothi vacha – Kodai Mazhai (Sambasivam)

—–

Telugu

I’m completely aware of the fact that a tiny segment of people Andhra Pradesh would have heard the music of Gopi Sundar’s Seethamma Andalu Ramayya Sitralu. A slightly larger segment would have heard the songs of Majnu (given the hero, Nani’s status in the filmdom) and an even bigger set would have heard the songs from Oopiri, an obviously bigger budget film given the producers and starring Nagarjuna (besides Karthi). The same thing happened in 2015 too – Gopi Sundar as the composer of the year, with 2 of his soundtracks in the top 3 soundtracks!

I do occasionally track the top 10/20 countdowns from Andhra Pradesh so I know how odd this may seem to people there who may be used to seeing and hearing Devi Sri Prasad and Thaman songs on top. Or, maybe things are changing… I do not know. All I know is that, to my ears, these 2 soundtracks sound fantastic! Gopi has done rather limited work in Malayalam this year (and even less in Tamil). The really big film in Telugu still eludes him (starring Allu Arjun, Ram Charan etc.), but Oopiri is a good start (though musically average) given it featured Nagarjuna. But then, Ram Charan’s Dhruva had music by a debutant-duo, in Telugu (Hiphop Tamizha), so I believe things are changing and that the old guards are crumbling. It happened to Manisharma too, and he did make an impressive comeback this year with Gentleman. So…

Besides Gopi, Telugu filmdom is intriguingly littered with so many interesting composers. Sunny M.R for instance, but he was missing in 2016. But there are others like J.B and Shravan. Achu and Kalyan Koduri. Vivek Sagar and Navneeth Sundar. I have no specific idea how a Right Right’s music or a Meeku Meere Maaku Meeme’s music ‘performed’ in the state, but these are good soundtracks worth a listen.

Overall, I felt that the Telugu film music in 2016 was fairly limited in scope and ambition.

Telugu composer of the year:
Gopi Sundar

Top 3 Telugu soundtracks of the year:

01. Seethamma Andalu Ramayya Sitralu (Gopi Sundar)

02. Majnu (Gopi Sundar)

03. Brahmotsavam (Mickey J Meyer)

Top 30 Telugu songs of 2016:
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01. Okko nakshatram – Seethamma Andalu Ramayya Sitralu (Gopi Sundar)
02. Kallumoosi – Majnu (Gopi Sundar)
03. Alli billi – Right Right (J.B)
04. Pone – Meeku Meere Maaku Meeme (Shravan)*
05. Madhuram madhuram – Brahmotsavam (Mickey J Meyer)
06. Chali gaali – Gentleman (Mani Sharma)
07. Yegirenay – Okka Ammayi Thappa (Mickey J Meyer)
08. Rang de – A Aa (Mickey J Meyer)
09. Chudara – Raja Cheyyi Vesthe (Sai Kartheek)
10. Rayya rayya – Bhadram Be Careful Brotheru (J.B)

11. Blockbuster – Sarrainodu (SS Thaman)
12. Seethamalakshmi – Seethamma Andalu Ramayya Sitralu (Gopi Sundar)
13. Ela ela ela – ISM (Anup Rubens)
14. Ninney – Nandini Nursing Home (Achu Rajamani)
15. Aakupachhani chandamaamalaa – Jyo Achyutananda (Sri Kalyanaramana)
16. Mallela vaanela – Baabu Bangaram (Ghibran)
17. Egire oohalake – Rojulu Marayi (J.B)
18. Ko ko kodi – Eedo Rakam Aado Rakam (Sai Karthik)*
19. Pillo o pillo – Savitri (Shravan)
20. Manasantha meghamai – Kalyana Vaibhogame (Kalyan Koduri)

21. Oorikey ala – Majnu (Gopi Sundar)
22. Evare – Premam (Rajesh Murugesan)
23. Chamma chakka – Mama Manchu Alludu Kanchu (Achu)
24. Aalochinchaku – Chinni Chinni Asalu Nalo Regene (Rap Rock Shakeel)
25. Pareshanura – Dhruva (Hiphop Tamizha)
26. Rabba rabba – Chuttalabbayi (SS Thaman)
27. Raalu raaga poolamala – Pelli Choopulu (Vivek Sagar)
28. Sakhiya – Guppedantha Prema (Navneeth Sundar)
29. Masti masti – Nenu Sailaja (Devi Sri Prasad)
30. Nee chepakallu – Sardaar Gabbar Singh (Devi Sri Prasad)

*Not available on Saavn playlist.

—–

Malayalam

A debutant composer (Sooraj S. Kurup) and a now-veteran (Shaan Rahman) ruled Malayalam film music in my view. Sooraj’s lone soundtrack (ignoring his single added in Kochavva Paulo Ayyappa Coelho here) for Valleem Thetti Pulleem Thetti is an inspired, spirited debut, full of exciting music! His Pularkaalam Pole, to me, is this year’s equivalent of last year’s No.1 song, Vasanthamallike (Chandrettan Evideya, Prashant Pillai) – using a similar, carnatic music coated melody with brilliant orchestration to boot, this time going with Karaharapriya raaga. The 3 composer soundtrack for Kismath was a great mix, while singer Sachin Warrier produced a great new, fresh sound in his composing debut for Aanandam.

On Shaan Rahman – he seemed to be pulling a Bijibal in 2016 (who was oddly muted, unlike his 2015 super prolific self!), with many soundtracks and easily standout songs in all of them. Rahul Raj was a close second in the prolific-department in 2016 – I really liked his range, from a Mudhugav to an IDI! Gopi seemed a lot more busier in Telugu, so had limited, but interesting music in few films in Malayalam. Veterans Jerry Amaldev and Vidyasagar just made their presence felt.

I did wonder why there’s not a single song from what is supposedly the biggest hit in Malayalam this year, Pulimurugan. Gopi Sundar’s music, a really short soundtrack and nothing that really stood out for me worth even reviewing. Ditto for the other Mohanlal starrer, Priyadarshan’s Oppam – the music was by 4 Musics and less said about the music the better. And as for Poomaram, I believe there are 2 more songs yet to release, but it seems only fair to consider the already-released Njanum in the 2016 list.

Composer(s) of the year:
Sooraj S. Kurup and Shaan Rahman

Top 3 Malayalam soundtracks of the year:

01. Valleem Thetti Pulleem Thetti – Sooraj S. Kurup

02. Kismath – Sumesh Parameswar, Sushin Shyam, Shamej Sreedhar

03. Aanandam – Sachin Warrier

Top 30 Malayalam songs of 2016:
screen-shot-2016-12-16-at-9-44-47-pm

01. Pularkaalam pole – Valleem Thetti Pulleem Thetti (Sooraj S.Kurup)
02. Manogatham bhavaan – Anuraga Karikkin Vellam (Prashant Pillai)
03. Kisapaathiyil – Kismath (Sushin Shyam)
04. Neelakkannulla maane – Kochavva Paulo Ayyappa Coelho (Shaan Rahman)
05. Ee khalbitha – IDI (Rahul Raj)
06. Thennal nilavinte – Oru Muthassi Gadha (Shaan Rahman)
07. Ee shishirakaalam – Jacobinte Swargarajyam (Shaan Rahman)
08. Payye veesum – Aanandam (Sachin Warrier)*
09. Raavumaayave – Vettah (Shaan Rahman)
10. Njanum – Poomaram (Faisal Razi)

11. Idukki – Maheshinte Prathikaaram (Bijibal)
12. Medapoompattum chutti – Karinkunnam 6s (Rahul Raj)
13. Vaathe poothe – Valleem Thetti Pulleem Thetti (Sooraj S.Kurup)
14. Neela shankhu pushpame – Team 5 (Gopi Sundar)
15. Seythaante – IDI (Rahul Raj)
16. Neeyen sayahna swapnathil – Ma Chu Ka (Gopi Sundar)
17. Virinja poonkurunne – Guppy (Vishnu Vijay)*
18. Rambo – Mudhugauv (Rahul Raj)
19. Thiruvaavaniraavu – Jacobinte Swargarajyam (Shaan Rahman)
20. Chil chinchilamai – Thoppil Joppan (Vidyasagar)*

21. Oonjalilaadi vanna – Action Hero Biju (Jerry Amaldev)*
22. Rosie – Monsoon Mangoes (Jakes Bejoy)
23. Chillu ranthal – Kali (Gopi Sundar)*
24. Para para – Kammatipaadam (John P.Varkey)
25. Khule raston pe – Aanandam (Sachin Warrier)*
26. Ta ta ta tang – Darvinte Parinamam (Sankar Sharma)*
27. Halli sreehalli – Mudhugauv (Rahul Raj)
28. Poyi maranjo – Anuraga Karikkin Vellam (Prashant Pillai)
29. Megha pakshi – Team 5 (Gopi Sundar)
30. Ennodu – Dum (Jassie Gift)

*Not available on Saavn playlist.

—–

Kannada

Amongst all the film industries in 2016 that I track, Kannada produced the most exciting music (I know I did say that Malayalam does that, in my interview with Prashant Pillai – that’s an overall recent trend; in 2016 specifically, I’d hand over that honor to Kannada). Charan Raj and Ajaneesh Loknath were in stupendous form in 2016, producing wonderfully inventive and highly enjoyable music. Ajaneesh can easily take on the mainstream mantle from Arjun Janya now, much like how Arjun himself picked it up from Harikrishna and Gurukiran a few years ago (though Harikrishna is definitely still in the reckoning!).

Other notable debuts include Niladri Kumar, Dheerendra Doss, Judah Sandhy and Vasuki Vaibhav. Good music all through!

Composer(s) of the year:
Charan Raj and Ajaneesh Loknath

Top 3 Kannada soundtracks of 2016:

01. Godhi Banna Sadharna Mykattu – Charan Raj

02. Sundaranga Jaana – Ajaneesh Loknath

03. Pushpaka Vimana – Charan Raj

Top 10 Kannada songs of 2016:
screen-shot-2016-12-16-at-9-46-19-pm

01. Komala henne – Godhi Banna Sadharna Mykattu (Charan Raj)*
02. Kalkond bitte – Sundaranga Jaana (Ajaneesh Loknath)
03. Belageddu – Kirik Party (Ajaneesh Loknath)
04. Nee nanagoskara – Ishtakamya (Ajaneesh Loknath)
05. Hudugaru yella – Akira (Ajaneesh Loknath)
06. Mugilu belmugilu – Pushpaka Vimana (Charan Raj)
07. Gamanisu – Mungaru Male 2 (Arjun Janya)
08. Aaha identha – Niruttara (Niladri Kumar)
09. Muddu pori – Sipaayi (Ajaneesh Loknath)*
10. Sogasu sogasu – Game (Ilayaraja)

11. Malgudiya ooralli – Jessie (Anoop Seelin)
12. Naa e sanjege – Godhi Banna Sadharna Mykattu (Charan Raj)*
13. Naa gudsi – Jigarthanda (Arjun Janya)
14. Jhanak jhanak – Run Antony (Manikanth Kadri)
15. Saaluthillave – Kottigobba-2 (D.Imman)
16. Prathi mounavu – Happy Birthday (V.Harikrishna)*
17. Hey Who Are You? – Kirik Party (Ajaneesh Loknath)
18. Raja di raja – Zoom (SS Thaman)
19. Mugilu matte matte – Puta Tirugisi Nodi (Dheerendra Doss)
20. Hogi baa belake – Neerdose (Anoop Seelin)

21. Kannalle kuntebille – Tyson (Ravi Basrur)*
22. Aley moodathe – Godhi Banna Sadharna Mykattu (Charan Raj)*
23. Ninthalli nillalaare – Chakravyuha (Thaman S)
24. Nee nadhiyaagi – Sipaayi (Ajaneesh Loknath)*
25. Maayavi kanase – Badmaash (Judah Sandhy)
26. Neenu irade – Mungaru Male 2 (Arjun Janya)
27. News nodi – Rama Rama Re (Vasuki Vaibhav)
28. Nandana – Sundaranga Jaana (Ajaneesh Loknath)
29. Jilka jilka – Pushpaka Vimana (Charan Raj)
30. Thangaali – Santhu Straight Forward (V.Harikrishna)

*Not available on Saavn playlist.

—–

Marathi

I haven’t listened to enough Marathi music in 2016, unlike last year where I had listened enough to make a top 10 list. Suffice to say, Sairat and Jaundya Na Balasaheb topped the year for me in Marathi, both by Ajay-Atul.

Sairat (Ajay-Atul)

Jaundya Na Balasaheb (Ajay-Atul)

—–

Indipop

From the limited Indipop music I tracked and listened to in 2016, I’d easily pick my 300 worder Sanjay Divecha and Secret as the best Indipop album of the year. Antarman and Shilpa Rao’s pop debut albums follows closely. Unlike earlier years, have listed the 10 single pop songs in the order of my preference. Thankfully, the list is multilingual.

Top 3 Indipop albums of 2016:

01. Sanjay Divecha and Secret – Sanjay Divecha
screen-shot-2016-12-16-at-6-22-02-pm

02. Antarman – Antarman
screen-shot-2016-12-16-at-6-23-54-pm

03. Suno – Shilpa Rao
screen-shot-2016-12-16-at-6-25-04-pm

Top 10 Indipop songs of 2016:
screen-shot-2016-12-16-at-9-47-26-pm

01. Ota – Sanjay Divecha and Secret (Sanjay Divecha)
02. Hobena – Antarman (Antarman)
03. Challa – Suno (Shilpa Rao)
04. Paayal – Maati Baani, featuring Shankar Tucker and Ankita Joshi*

05. Aalayal thara venam – Masala Coffee (Malayalam)*

06. Neeye – Phani Kalyan (Singers, in Tamil: Yazin Nizar and Sharanya Srinivas)
07. Dibbaradindi – Singer: Shachina Heggar. (Music: Judah Sandhy)
08. Visweswara – Santhosh Chandran Indo Flamenco*

09. 3 Peg – Chandan Shetty
10. The Storm – Donn Bhatt (Album: Connected)

—–

Others/International/Uncategorized

A few uncategorized pieces of music that I found interesting and highly listenable in 2016, in no particular order.

Ababeel – Muhammad: The Messenger of God (OST – A R Rahman)

Drive – Yanni (Album: Sensuous Chill)

Is She With You? – OST, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (Hans Zimmer & Junkie XL)

Satrangi – Wrong Side Raju (Sachin-Jigar)

Ghawrbaari – Zulfiqar (Anupam Roy)

Rainbows in the Sky – Sheesh Mahal (Vivek Sagar)

Inshallah – Sting (Album: 57th & 9th)
screen-shot-2016-12-16-at-9-26-00-pm

24k magic – Bruno Mars (Album: 24k Magic)

Coke Studio Pakistan 2016 – Top 10 songs
cs2016

Wednesday December 14, 2016

Dangal (Music review), Hindi – Pritam

Haanikarak bapu is Sarwar Khan and Sartaj Khan Barna’s—the Manganiyar singers who happen to be young kids—triumph. The kids bring a fabulously playful tone to the already ebullient tune. But lyricist Amitabh Bhattacharya’s whimsical lines (“Sote jagte chhoot rahi hai, Aansu ki pichkari, Phir bhi khushna hua Mogambo, Hum tere balihari!) and Pritam’s energetic rock coating to the very-Rajasthani folk sound make the song even better. The Nooran Sisters rock Idiot Banna with their hyper-enthusiastic vocals, though the tune is standard-issue celebration material. Dhaakad is macho Haryanvi hiphop! Raftaar’s version is clean-cut and on expected lines, while Aamir Khan’s other version has the X factor, with Aamir play-acting an extra cool drawl in his rendition. Naina‘s pathos is perfectly serviceable, but it induces ennui only because of the singer—Arijit Singh. The soundtrack’s delightful best are the title song and Gilehriyaan. The title song is a booming, anthemic number that gains enormously from Daler Mehndi’s powerful vocals. Jonita Gandhi is at her ethereal best in Gilehriyaan that could have easily fit inside Amit Trivedi’s Lootera soundtrack! The song has an easy, lilting sound that is hard not to fall for. Dangal’s soundtrack, with its vibrant sound, is Pritam’s best this year!

Keywords: Pritam, Dangal, 200, #200

Listen to the songs on Saavn:
screen-shot-2016-12-14-at-5-04-22-pm

Listen to the songs on YouTube:

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