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It's raining on the Taj Mahal

That's what the title song says. Not to worry. Bharati Raja's son, Manoj, makes a sunny musical debut in this love story

Taj Mahal
TV Audio
Rs 48

Taj Mahal, as you will guess from the title, is a love story. It introduces two new faces, Bharati Raja's son Manoj, and Riya Sen. Manoj not only plays the hero but also sings, and his voice is an exciting discovery.

If you expect techno-oriented music, there is very little in Taj Mahal. Which is another way of saying that Rahman's tunes pay greater attention to the human voice. The one thing you will notice rightaway is that he uses raw voices to great effect.

Eechi elumicchi is a warm number of this sort, and so is Senkaathe. The robust power of Krishnaraj and Manoj in Eechi elumicchi, and the soaring tones of T R Kala in Senkaathe (built on raga Ahir Bhairav) transform them into the equivalent of soul in the Tamil film idiom.

Eechi elumicchi takes off on an African-style chant and introduces south Indian veena phrases in one of its interludes. The two versions by Krishnaraj and Manoj show that voices other than the usual playback ones are capable of good expression. Rahman has been taking timbre into account, and that explains his successful experiments with voices like these. He challenges the "playing safe" idea that the same two or three playback singers should lend their voices to everyone, irrespective of whether their timbre suits the actors or not.

Karishil tarishil has a feel of Western classical in the interludes, whereas the main melody is deeply rooted in Tamil folk.

The harmony group comprising Febi, Feju, Ganga and Kanchana which have worked wonders in the sidelines so far, takes centre stage in Adi manja kizhangu and Kizhakke nandavanam. Kizhakke nandavanam has an interesting beat supported by guitar plucking. Old women's voices add to the uncanny atmosphere of the song. The voices harmonise too well to be folksy though.

Rahman's music is aptly bare for the village setting; it has energy and is warmly stylised by an orchestra of the cello, violins and drums.

Taj Mahal is an album I recommend.

S Suchitra Lata

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