Been doing this list every year for the past 4-5 years and here comes the list of my favorite songs from the last year. I haven’t listened to all the songs and albums that were released last year, so this list comes from whatever I could listen to.
If I am to pick up the best music album of 2013, it will be “Amen“. Every song from this album is a treat to ears and Prashant Pillai is definitely a music director to watch out for. His music is fresh and captivating. Add to that the lyrics by the legendary Kaavaalam Narayana Panicker which makes “Amen” the album of the year.
Now to the list:
Movie: Annayum Rasoolum
Lyrics: Rafeeq Thiruvallur
Singer(s): Shahbaz Aman
My top favorite song of the year. The highlight of the song is definitely Shahbaz Aman’s voice. There is love, pain and longing in his voice for this song. And it doesn’t have a heavy orchestral background. You will appreciate the song more if you have watched the movie which in itself is a beautiful work.
I like everything about this song except that Lucky Ali was a misfit, not for the voice, but for the language. His diction is the only thing that kills the song because you can’t make out what he is singing except for a few words here and there. But you know it’s Lucky Ali and his voice is a perfect fit for this song. Almost all songs of ‘Amen’ is a favorite to me and this one tops the list.
There isn’t anything fresh about this song. You have heard so many beautiful Malayalam songs in the same lines, the orchestral arrangement reminds you of many songs you’ve heard in the past but still, the singers – especially Madhu Balakrishnan – makes you play this song on loop.
I think probably the mass popularity of the song “Kaatte Kaatte” from his period venture “Celluloid” is what made director Kamal to come up with another song that ‘sounds’ old. However, Vijayalakshmi’s crystal clear rendition and voice with Ouseppachan’s melodic structure make this song beautiful.
Song: Otta Thumpi
Movie: Pullipulikalum Aattinkuttiyum
Lyrics: Vayalar Sharath Chandra Varma
Singer(s): Shankar Mahadevan, K. S. Chitra
This is a typical Vidyasagar but that’s why you like this song.
Song: Laalee Laalee
Music: M. Jayachandran
Lyrics: O. N. V. Kurupp
Singer(s): Mridula Warrier, Sudeep Kumar
A beautiful lullaby, sung so beautifully by Mridula Warrier. Her voice is so fresh, clear and beautiful.
Music: M. Jayachandran
Lyrics: O. N. V. Kurupp
Singer(s): Shreya Ghoshal
This one is sung by Shreya Ghoshal and an absolute favorite.
Way back in 2008, I had posted a song in my old blog. It was a prayer song that I used to sing in my school everyday during the morning assembly. The song is very special to me because it was written and composed by two teachers of my school and I used to sing it with my good friend from the school days. The lyrics and composition of this song is so simple yet beautiful. So whenever someone asked me to sing a prayer song, I would sing this one.
Who would have thought that it would inspire many more people! I came to know from the comments to the blog post that the song was rendered in many Malayali events and appreciated by many people. And just the last week, I got a message from a person saying that her daughter would be singing this song at an inaugural event of a charitable trust which was formed in memory of her nephew. It is amazing how a song transcends the places and appreciated by people. And I wish those teachers knew about it.
They say every good thing must come to an end. So must Blogswara. Yes, we are going to put a full stop to our project after 6 years, 7 albums, 65 songs and a whole new bunch of amazing singers, lyricists, composers, orchestrators and mixing engineers.
Interestingly, we’d never thought past a single music album. Those were the good old days of music blogging and many singers were just beginning to find their listener base online. We thought of bringing all these musicians together under one umbrella and that too, to create a set of original songs and music. Thus was born our first album. And that was four months before Facebook opened up to public.
The journey went on. What we thought would come to an end after the first two albums had kept going on strong and in the meanwhile new platforms were born. A whole new world of social media exposure was waiting for the artists to explore them. Still, we went strong. We produced seven music albums. We inspired people and similar projects/websites. It is truly a moment of pride. But over the years, the momentum was slowing down. There are richer and easily accessible platforms that handle the publishing and sharing aspects easier than ever, like Facebook or YouTube.
That was obvious and inevitable, by the way. You don’t have to get stuck in time with a project that was a need of the hour when there was none but to continue to do it when there are better platforms does not make sense. Now if there is an amateur singer who wants to make his voice heard in the public can create a network through social media and make himself heard. We realize that and it is one reason that we are leaving for good.
We are proud to see that some of the artists whom we had introduced through Blogswara have made it big in the mainstream. Divya S Menon has made her mark with the song “Anuraagam” in the Malayalam movie “Thattathin Marayatthu”. Shyam, Praveen and Prasanna of TSJ Studio have made their debut in the Tamil film music industry with the album “Kamban Kazhagam”. Praveen Lakkaraju, Sreenivas Josyula and Sindhuja Bhaktavatsalam made their entry into Telugu music industry with the movie album “Hormones”. Sunny Sanour made his entry as a music director to Telugu music industry with the songs in the Telugu film “Swamy Ra Ra”. We are so happy and proud of these wonderful musicians.
Blogswara is a project that is so close to my heart. The project had taught me that regardless of many differences – regional, linguistic, caste, creed, religious, political etc – people can come together to create something that will make everyone rejoice in music. Most of us have still not seen each other or spoken to each other, yet we have built a relationship strongly rooted in music that continues to the date. It is music that binds us all, which is why I chose the tagline “United in Music” for Blogswara.
Personally too, Blogswara has helped me learn many things. The early lessons of leadership and organization, the pains and pleasure of it, came through Blogswara. I can proudly say that I have never succumbed to the pressures that would compromise the very founding principles of Blogswara. There were times when the pressure was mounted up on me to bring in the commercial aspect to Blogswara, or to bring in the religious fervor to it through the songs but I have resisted all that. I would rather see Blogswara vanish to thin air than deviating from it’s founding principles. Of the free/open music culture with CC licensing and the secular nature of the project. Of bringing in people of diverse cultures and languages in an effort to appreciate music. I can proudly say that I have been successful in that.
Another moment of pride was when Jessica Keyes, a student of Department of Music in University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada chose music blogging with a primary focus on BlogSwara for her academic defense. Her paper titled “Blogging Music: Indian Musicians and Online Musical Spaces” presented an ethnography of the Indian music blogging community and a critical analysis of the historical and technological foundation for music blogging.
There are so many people to thank. Narayanan Venkitu and Ajith Gopalakrishnan to start with. Senthil (Sen) for the spark of Blogswara. Ganesh D for the name Blogswara. Abdul Shafeeq for the initial art work and CD covers. Gopal M S for the name ‘Trunk Call’. Murali Krishnan of Connexions, Chennai for the initial support. Jyothis E for the continued support with web space through many albums. Nandu Mahadevan for bringing in a process in place. Roshan Ravi for the cover art of Blogswara’s album ‘Trunk Call’. Legendary Tamil writer Sujatha for his piece in Vikatan, Karthika Thampan of Manorama News, Asha Anilkumar of Indian Express, Shilpa Nair Anand of The Hindu, K Santhosh of The Hindu, Anita Iyer and Aparna Joshi of Sound Box Magazine, Sankar Radhakrishnan of Business Line, B S Biminith of Mathrubhumi, Deccan Radio, Poornima for Radio Mirchi Chennai coverage and bloggers like Amit Verma, Kiruba and Neha Vishwanathan of Global Voice Online etc. And many thanks to all Blogswara participants and member without whom this project would never have happened.
And thanks to you, our listeners, who have encouraged us and helped us grow. We will still be online if you wanted to hear our songs again. It has been a great ride and it couldn’t have gotten better. Peace and music to all!
Rang De Basanti was a hit musical in India and the songs from the album were massively popular. Among the songs was one soulful melodious song called “Lukka Chuppi“, sung by A R Rahman and the legendary Lata Mangeshkar. Google the song name and you get two YouTube video results at the top. The first one is posted by the film production company UTV Motion Pictures and the second by the user “pradipsoman”. Checkout the stats of this second song and it’s almost half the hits that the official video has got – 493,710 viewers.
This is a cover version of the song sung by playback singer Pradip Somasundaran and Kuhoo Gupta. Go through the comments section of the video and you get to see people commenting that the ‘cover’ version has outdone the original. But despite being hugely popular, the singers Pradip and Kuhoo cannot earn a dime off their half a million strong viewership because they do not hold the ‘worldwide distribution rights to everything in the video’. Go further and search for the user George Kuruvilla in YouTube. George has at least two YouTube videos which have crossed the 200,000 mark. Yet, George too cannot make a penny because of the same YouTube rules.
World over people like Pradip and George produce music videos with so much effort. Some of them, like Justin Bieber, do get lucky but luck that is. They spend money on studio-quality microphones, recording software and other gear, they record themselves and do many takes and retakes to put it to perfection and they also do the job of mixing and mastering the track. These professional and not-any-less-than-a-professional musicians deserve to earn for all their hard work, yet YouTube and the music industry turn their back on them when it comes to internet revenue sharing based on AdSense.
Why talk about revenue sharing, the industry does not let you post your cover versions even without any commercial interest. Several tracks of the users in the websites like 4shared and Soundcloud are being moved offline or blocked by citing the lack of copyright ownership or the copyright claim by some label/agency. This is when the cover artists have given the original credits where it is due. What is next? You can’t even hum a favorite song of yours without prior approval from music labels?
So, the cover artists also need to be paid for their work. Perhaps YouTube and the music industry should come in terms where a percentage of the AdSense income from these music videos would go to the original copyright owner/music label and a percentage that originally would have gone to the original singers, recordists and mixing engineers would go to the cover artist and his/her team. That is not asking for too much, that is just asking for their fair share, for all the work that goes into a home-recording song production.
Ever since the first single of A R Rahman’s latest offering “Kadal” was out through MTV Unplugged, the expectation on the album was so high and Rahman kept on to the fan frenzy. And as the popular saying goes, Rahman seems to do his best when he work with ace director Mani Ratnam. “Kadal” is a fantastic mix of a variety of music genres and some top-notch singers. The album has seven tracks.
If “Aaromale” was the surprise element of “Vinnai thaandi varuvaaya”, then the song “Adiye” is the gem of this album. Sid Sriram’s powerful vocals would take you deep into the song instantly. Though set on the Blues sound, you can also hear some folkish elements clearly in it.
“Chithirai Nilaa” starts off with a new born’s voice effects which would take you back to some of the old works of A R Rahman, particularly one of the songs in “Bombay”. The song is a soft, soothing number registered safely with the vocals of Vijay Yesudas.
A R Rahman has sung “Elay Keechan” which has a country flavor to the song. The foot-thumping orchestration and vocal harmony in the background coupled with Rahman’s voice makes the song an instant favorite. Perfect fit for a happy ride outside.
Abhay Jodhpurkar and Harini have sung “Moongil Thottam” which is yet another pleasing, soothing track in the album. The guitars, strings and the beautiful voices of the singers would make you sway your heads to the tune.
“Anbin Vaasale” is a power-packed performance of singer Haricharan and the Chennai Chorale. The sounds of church bells tolling makes this a perfect devotional song set in the Gospel music feel.
“Magudi Magudi” is a racy track, set in the lines of a club song. There is nothing much about this track except that it sets a party mood perhaps was meant to enhance the visuals which we would know only when we watch the movie.
The icing of the cake is certainly “Nenjukkulle” sung by Shakthisree Gopalan. The song feels just like a cool breeze on a bright Sunday morning. The strings, percussion coupled with the beautiful vocals of Shakthisree makes the song certainly the best of the album.
To sum it up, “Kadal” proves Rahman’s ability to take any genre and easily fuse it with language that he deals with (last time we saw it when he did “Aaromale”).
Remember the A R Rahman song “Irumbile oru idhaiyam” from the Rajnikanth movie “Robot”? What if someone told you that the lyrics of that song was actually ‘generated’ by a software? Can’t happen, right? But you’ve got to believe. The lyricist Madhan Karky uses a software to key in a tune and the software returns fresh and suitable words that would fit the given music pattern, mood of the song and the song situation. The software was developed by Madhan himself, who is an assistant professor of Computer Science in Anna University. This young man is also the son of Tamil lyricist Vairamuthu, and has no qualms in admitting that he is not a poet and you need not be a poet to write lyrics.
Watch this video where Madhan explains the process of ‘Lyric Engineering’ at TedxYouth Chennai and get amazed. And then go listen to the song he has penned (or rather generated :)) for Mani Rathnam – A R Rahman team’s latest offering “Kadal”. A truly mind-blowing innovation.
My story on contemporary Malayalam film music scene written for the December issue of Sound Box magazine. Here is an unedited version. You can read the e-magazine from here (go to page # 36 to read).
Ask any Malayalee what genre of music he or she likes and the instant reply you would get is melody. Even though the word ‘melody’ has somewhat different meaning in music, the average Malayalee uses it to refer to the soft and soothing music. Malayalam film music has played a big role in developing this ‘taste of melody’ among the Malayali audience. Like many other film music industries in India, Malayalam also did not have much exposure to the various genres of music outside the Indian classical music system. As a result, it contained itself to be a simplified version of Karnatik and Hindustani music systems for the past several decades. The equations however are changing and fast.
The old school
The lighter version of the various Indian classical music schools went very well with the audience too, thanks to the lyricists like Vayalar Ramavarma and P Bhaskaran who used simple words to convey the ideas through songs. Their words and the lighter forms of classical music stayed with the audience. Composers like G Devarajan and M S Baburaj were a supreme influence of this era. Singer K J Yesudas was another big factor and his voice had set a benchmark to the singing aspirants of Malayali society. But there was little life for popular music outside the film music scene that got stuck to the style of Karnatik music. Then came music composer M G Radhakrishnan who popularized a music genre called “Light Music” in Kerala. Radhakrishnan who was working with All India Radio before he entered the film music had helped this genre to become mainstream. Parallely, Yesudas had also begun releasing light music albums under his own recording label Tharangini. Be it in popular music (that consisted of light music) or film music, Yesudas found a massive fan following.
“In an industry where a lot of music has become formulaic, often bcos the producer tells the music producer exactly which hit song to copy ;), I think filmmakers who are experimental enough to approach indie artists are looking for something different and thats what they are getting. I’m sure the audience can make out the difference and appreciate it. – Suraj Mani, singer and ex-vocalist of Motherjane
Late 80s and early 90s saw the Malayalam film music going back to it’s classical roots with much vigor that was not seen even in the early days. Thanks to a new trend in film music called ‘semi-classical’ which was made popular by music director Raveendran. The trio of composer Raveendran, singer Yesudas and actor Mohan Lal made these films and genre extremely popular. This has in a way helped bridge the gap between the general public and Karnatik music but it did not change much for the Malayalam film music.
The pace hots up
Meanwhile, a younger generation of Malayalees was growing up, listening to the fast paced Hindi and Tamil film music. The ‘dappankuth’ genre of fast paced Tamil numbers had taken over the Malayali youngsters so much so that every orchestra or every single Malayali musical programmes had to have a few Tamil numbers to mark a grand closure of the show. TV channels were flocking with requests from Malayali youngsters to play fast-paced Tamil songs. Indi-pop singers like Daler Mehndi also had a huge fan following here in his heydays.
But the clutches of classical music stayed on in Malayalam film music and not many tried to break the barrier (agreed that there were one-off attempts at western music by music composers like Devarajan) until a new music director came into the scene. Jassie Gift became a household name among Malayalees with a single song called “Lajjavathiye”. The song was a massive hit not only in Kerala but in other south Indian states like Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, and heavily contributed to the success of the movie that featured the song (which was then remade into other south Indian languages). The song with it’s Rap intro, heavy beats and a different style of singing by Jassie himself had drawn much criticism from the purists of music but nevertheless enjoyed a huge success. Alternatively, another music director, Alphons, was also experimenting with different genres of music. One of his compositions in Malayalam film “Manju poloru penkutti” had an English number that featured one of the best voices in the contemporary Malayalam film music industry, Sayanora.
But still, a bigger change of genre was just waiting to happen. Musicians like Jassie or Alphons had to work with an older generation of movie makers, a fact which might have drawn limits to their experiments in music. This applies to almost all new entrants in the Malayalam film music industry. But a new era of young and vibrant film makers in the industry has dared to take the film music score to a new level of experiments. Parallely, the Malayali music bands like Avial and Motherjane were making waves across the country and abroad.
Leading the change
Director Aashiq Abu was probably the first among these new age movie directors to introduce the Malayali rock band Avial in his popular film ‘Salt N Pepper’. The song was used for the movie’s online promotions, but Aashiq Abu could not feature it full length in the film or let the band compose the score of the film. So while the movie and songs were scored by another young music director Bijibal, the Avial song was played at the end of the movie. Sameer Thahir, another young movie director, went a step further and roped in Avial’s lead guitarist Rex Vijayan to set score for his debut venture “Chappa Kurishu”. The change was clearly audible in the music of the movie. Rex’s second film music project was for Aashiq Abu’s third flick “22 Female Kottayam” and this also has made a mark in the industry. He has also composed for the film “Second Show” with his band Avial. It would be interesting to note that Rex Vijayan had said in an interview that he has no idea of raagas. This is in a music industry that has it’s roots gone deep in the classical music system and it clearly shows the sign of a transition phase.
As a band, Avial was already a popular up north , not so much so down here. But, with ‘aanakallan’ (the song from the movie ‘Salt N Pepper’) they became household names in Kerala and that year we did a lot of shows in Kerala for colleges and Govt. sponsored shows and corporate events. – Neha S Nair, playback singer and vocalist of Avial
The raaga to rock journey in the Malayalam film music industry couldn’t get more visible than the entry of internationally acclaimed rock band of Malayali origin, Motherjane. Motherjane sang the English theme song “Jehad” for director Amal Neerad’s “Anwar”. But it’s not just the local musicians alone. The X-Factor fame Piyush Kapur has sung an end title song in English for the movie “Asuravithu”, which is in a pure metal flavor.
This could well be the beginning of a new era of diverse experiments in Malayalam film music. With a new set of film makers, music composers and a changing audience, the scene is definitely bringing up multiple genres together in Malayalm film music. There couldn’t be a better time and audience for such a change in the indie-music scene nationally and Kerala also seems to be marching in that direction.
It is that time of the year again, to rewind and count the best songs that I have heard this year in Malayalam movies. If 2011 was the year of singer Shreya Ghoshal, 2012 is the year of lyricist Rafeeq Ahamed. Most of my favorites from this year were written by him.
A new generation of music directors and singers continue to rule the scene and top the charts, though the veterans still contribute to the hits. More actors have taken up singing in the movies this year – like Biju Menon, Lal, Remya Nambeeshan and Mamta Mohandas – and among them Remya and Mamta have proved themselves to be good singers. Actor Mohan Lal too had a popular hit with the song “aattu maNal paayayil” on which he collaborated with music director Retheesh Vega. Indie musician/music blogger Harish Sivaramakrishnan has made his entry into Malayalam film music with the song “maRayumO” from the movie ‘Jawan of Vellimala’. Though different genres have been tried and tested, ‘melody’ remains as the popular genre in Malayalam film music.
So here goes my list of favorites from 2012. You would note that this is in no particular order.
I don’t think there has been better lyrics written for any other Malayalam movie in this year than the movie ‘Spirit’ written by Rafeeq Ahamed. Each and every song in this movie is sheer poetry written without verbal/grammatical jugglery. Kudos to music director Shahbaz Aman who has composed aptly supportive music score without killing the soul of the lyrics. Also checkout the other songs in this movie such as “maraNametthunna nEratthu” or “EE chillayil ninnu”.
This song became an instant favorite when I heard it for the first time. The music, vocals and visuals are all beautiful in this song. The kids who acted in the video were also sweet. I thought it was Shankar Mahadevan when I heard the first verse but later realized that it was Najeem Arshad’s voice. Don’t know if that sounding-like-Shankar part was intentional or not.
This year, music director Deepak Dev has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. He has been accused of stealing Canadian musician Loreena McKennitt’s music and using it in his movie album “Urumi”. Loreena had filed a case against Deepak which I think is still on-going. However, this particular song is one of the best songs of the year. Deepak couldn’t have got a better team than Haricharan on vocals, Embar Kannan on violin and Sanjeev Thomas on guitars for this song.
Song: Vaathilil Aa Vaathilil
Movie: Ustad Hotel
Music: Gopi Sunder
Lyrics: Rafeeq Ahamed
It is singer Haricharan again who has teamed up with music director Gopi Sunder this time. Gopi is known to have made peppy songs with heavy use of guitars, electronic keys and stuff but this song is like a cool breeze floating in the air with a soft aroma of Haricharan’s vocals that makes you close your eyes, inhale deeply and enjoy the bliss. Okay, I understand that I’ve gone overboard but you know what I meant when you hear this song 🙂 (the video below has dialogues from the movie that might be a distraction to enjoy the song). The movie is also a good watch, by the way.
Jassie Gift is most remembered for his hit song ‘Lajjavathiye’ but the man has composed many beautiful melodies right from the beginning of his career. You would remember his song “thooveLLa thoovum ushassin” from the movie ‘Saphalam’. This song from the debut directorial venture of Siddharth Bharathan is also a beautiful melody, sung by Shreya Ghoshal. Check it out.
Song: Muthuchippi Poloru
Movie: Thattathin Marayathu
Music: Shaan Rahman
Lyrics: Anu Elizabeth Jose
Singers: Sachin Warrier, Remya Nambeeshan
This whole album is so far the best work of music director Shaan Rahman. This song particularly lingers in my mind with beautiful visuals and Sachin Warrier’s beautiful vocals. I don’t like Remya Nambeeshan’s vocals in this one though. The songs in the album are written by a 21 year old techie and it is her first work in the movie industry.
This folk-ish song has marked actress Remya Nambeeshan’s debut as a playback singer and it became immensely popular. Remya’s voice and treatment gave this song the right feel. With the veteran lyricist Kaavaalam’s lyrics and Sharreth’s music, the song is an absolute delight to listen to.
Another top composition by national award winner Ouseppachan.
Apart from the above mentioned Malayalam songs, there are a few other language songs which were playing in the loop in my playlist. The following songs were played perhaps more times than any of the songs listed above.
Song: Shedding Skin
Album: Coke Studio @ MTV Season 2
Composer: Karsh Kale
Singers: Karsh Kale, Shruti Pathak, Shilpa Rao, Apeksha Dandekar and Monali Thakur
M-Pod, the Malayalam podcast was temporarily down due to our old audio file host shutting down the service. It was a great experience with Podbazaar, our old host, and it is sad to see them go. As we move on our mp3 files have been now moved to Internet Archive. So the website has been updated with the new audio files. Do check out the podcast.
Audio India was initiated to keep a record of music bloggers from India as well as a blog that keeps track of new posts from the music blogging community. The idea behind this blog was a suggestion from a friend who asked if a blog aggregator like Desi Pundit was possible to keep track of the music blogging scene in India. I started keeping a record of music bloggers I knew and the list did grow. So I first launched a blog, hosted in Blogger, titled ‘Audio India‘. The need for additional features made me think about a standalone website for this directory sort of a blog. So a new domain and space were purchased and a wordpress based website came to life. The new website has a rating system that the site visitors can use to rate the renditions, discussion forums, a song request feature where the users can request a music blogger to sing a song of their choice plus tips & tutorials on recording. The new site also has the ability for music bloggers to publish to this community blog by themselves. The idea was to help the community drive itself without my manual intervention.
Off late, the interest in music blogging seems to have come down with the advantage of Facebook, and wide spread online music communities like Sound Cloud. The number of music posts have reduced and the site has been inactive for a long period of time. In this situation, it doesn’t seem justifiable to invest in a website that is not being used (just to add that the site was never commercial and there was not even AdSense advts). So I have moved some of the relevant content from Audio India to my blog, which you can access from the top link bar. The link ‘ Audio India’ at the top right of this page would take you to a list of music bloggers that I have been updating from the early years. Just to tell the world that we once had this many music bloggers. 🙂 The other link is ‘Recording Tips’ which would direct you to a page that has three tutorials – written by myself, Murali Venkatraman and George Kuruvilla – that give some tips on home recording and karaoke track recording. When the domain/hosting renewal period comes, the website would be gone.