Discernment. Online
Try this new site search
New stuff every 2 days!
News updates News
Reviews of tapes, CDs Reviews
Tributes, profiles Features
1-minute reviews Punch in
Artiste and business classifieds Yellow pages
Expert recommendations Guru's choice
Editor's note and people behind The Music Magazine Editorial
Readers' mail Letters
Back issues Archives
The Music Magazine Home

In Association with Amazon.com

Fly easy, fly cheap!
Need a veena teacher?
Music books?



When a new composer strikes

Is he the next big name after Rahman? Harris Jeyaraj hits the Tamil music scene with an album loaded with expectation

Rs 45

Harris Jeyaraj used to be Rahman's keyboard player, and makes his debut with Minnale, a love triangle starring Madhavan, Abbas and Reema Sen. Gowtham Menon, the director, is also a debutant.

There's much talk about Harris Jeyaraj being the man who just might unseat the monarch of the music market, A R Rahman. Rahman's fans, some of them outraged, are debating whether Harris Jeyaraj is a successor or a mere pretender.

Let's say this first: Harris Jeyaraj follows Rahman's style closely. If you could talk of a Rahman gharana, there's no doubt Jeyaraj belongs there. His orchestral arrangements bring to mind the familiar Rahman style; the texture is identical.

Does that make him a pretender? When Mukesh sang his first song, he imitated the then reigning star, K L Saigal. Many mistake Dil jalta hain for a Saigal number. But Mukesh then went on to create his own style. Imitating a big star may sometimes be the first step in a career, and may be overlooked, but if an artiste makes imitation his style, history is seldom kind a second time.

A report in the Tamil magazine Kumudam takes some swipes at the new composer, calling him a replica of Rahman, and prudishly attacking him for wearing a coat and launching the album at a bar, "where people drink and dance". But the report isn't without its merits: it identifies Harris Jeyaraj's avoidance of "traditional instruments" and concentration on "new sounds". Seenu, the reporter, gives this parting shot: "Having started a new xerox shop competing with A R Rahman, Harris is surely going to take some business away from A R Rahman."

Multiple authorship happens all the time in the media. A newspaper carries the name of just one editor, while it is actually the work of several middle-level and junior editors all the way down the hierarchy. Something similar happens during movie song recordings. When the composers makes the main tune, several others do their parts anonymously. Was Jeyaraj's doing parts of Rahman's songs? In that case you can't accuse him of copying Rahman. Or was he told by the movie's producer and director to compose in Rahman's immensely popular style? Or did he fall back on Rahman's tried and tested idiom because he still has to find his feet? Is he in awe of the box-office wiz?

When you hear the first song on this album, you'll wonder why it sounds so much like Rahman's Mustafa mustafa from Kadal Desam. Azhagiya theeye has the same sort of orchestra arrangement: the same Latin chords, the emphasised bass, and the same chorus and the Anglicised enunciation of the words. Harish Raghavendra and Timmy sing this about the "beautiful flame" (that's what 'azhagiya theeye' means). Vaali sprinkles in a lot of modish English to describe the girl's effect on this pair of youngsters.

The best thing about Vaseegara is the timbre of the lead voice. It's Bombay Jaishri, the classical vocalist, and she handles some very trendy pop inflexions, mixing them with some subtle Indian-style nuances. Her voice plunges sensuously into the lower octave, and reaches up to the higher notes with equally delicate feeling.

The prelude features a flute that plays straight, uncomplicated notes. In fact, Naveen's flute is very prominently used throughout this album. Just loved Thamarai's words, and their feminine imagery that frames the emotions of love.

Also loved the tune. Looks like there's a heart at work on the music. And there's some very attractive syncopation. Certain words like Pinnalerandu seem awkward since they are elongated to make them sit on the beat.

Verenna by Unnikrishnan and Harini is disappointing after Vaseegara. Some odd Karnatak phrase endings from Harini remind you of the same tricks in Rahman's songs like Telephone manipol from Indian.

Venmathi is by Tipu and Roopkumar Rathod, who recently sang on Vaada, an album with music by Ustad Amjad Ali Khan and lyrics by Gulzar. With its deep drum passages and mandolin bits, it sounds colourful, only it reminds you again of Rahman -- possibly Snehitane from Alai Payuthe -- in its orchestral arrangement.

Ore nyapagam is a voice (Devan) on guitar chords and has the effect of a chant. O mama by Shankar Mahadevan, Tipu and Clinton is a self-reflexively derisive song, calling itself a 'therukoothu', a 'western' and a 'thandana' song. The sax comes in briefly like in songs from an early Rahman hit film, Duet.

This number shows flashes of wit in its rhymes: 'Bismillah' goes with 'playfull-a'! It takes a dig at other Rahman songs, especially the Gopala number from Kaadalan. Veerappan and the hostage crisis and Bill Gates show up too!

The Vairamuthu-Rahman break-up was widely discussed in the press. The poet reportedly remarked, at a public ceremony, that Rahman should tone down the background score and highlight the voice portions so that the words in the songs are heard better, and the suggestion prompted Rahman to throw him out of his camp.

The press is now going to town with news that Harris Jeyaraj has fallen out with Rahman. Regardless of their personal equations, the debutant composer will have to think of ways to stop his critics from calling him a 'xerox shop owner' who has set up business in Rahman's neighbourhood!

S Suchitra Lata

Write to the author

Send your review

Post your view instantly on the message board

External link

Visit Minnale hero R Madhavan's home page

send us your comments

Press Ctrl D to bookmark The Music Magazine

Media praise for your favourite e-zine from India:

*For fans of Indian music, there's no better resource on the Web -- CNet
*Well researched -- India Today
*Fantastic site -- Hitbox
*Web's best -- Britannica
*Superb coverage... worth tuning in to -- Rediff
*Classy -- Deccan Herald

News | Reviews | Features | Punch in
Books | Yellow pages | Archives | Guru's choice | Editorial | Home

Copyright and disclaimer 2000-2001, www.themusicmagazine.com