Changing to the tune of time, in rhythm

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Posted: 16 years ago


Changing to the tune of time, in rhythm

so complete is the dominance of rhythm over melody in today's filmi music that even the slowest of numbers are laced with percussion sounds. L SUBRAMANI tracks the changing trends in music.

In the last five decades, Indian film music has passed through several stages of its evolution. Its metamorphosis is marked by changes in style and the technology used in the process of making. Even in its early days, when talking films were making their mark, audiences flocked to the talkies to catch up with the latest tunes that were popular around the city.

Like any other popular art, music mirrors the lifestyle and attitude of a generation. The slow, melodic Hindi numbers of the 60s' reveal the attitude of an age that was simple and much restrained in its expressions. Sounds of the 70s' though were boisterous, giving way to the Westernized tunes of the 80s' and 90s'.As music changes with time; we come across composers who epitomized the spirit of the era. The industry needed the likes of R D Burman and Lakshmikant Pyarelal to redefine popular music in the 1970s and 1980s. Illayaraja brought a breath of fresh air to South Indian music, introducing new sounds and ways of blending different genres.

Until recently, the industry was swayed by the sounds of one man. His tunes transcended linguistic barriers that usually restricted the influence of musicians. At a young age, A R Rahman became a phenomenon in popular music.

Thanks to his influence, film music today attracts young and energetic composers, who have the skill and confidence to succeed. Their arrival is marked by a wide variety of styles that whet the appetite for 'catchy rhythms'.

"The change was very much on the cards for a long time," says Vidyasagar, who has been composing for the last 15 years in Tamil, Telugu, and Malayalam and has many memorable songs to his credit. "Certainly, music has benefited by new production equipment and modern delivery systems like the Internet, but it also seems to have bartered its soul to commercial interests," reflects Vidyasagar.
He says proliferation of technology has eroded the sense of exclusivity that music enjoyed in the past, resulting in its decadence. "In the last decade or so, the role of music has changed. It is seen increasingly as a tool for entertainment, rather than an art form," he notes.

Composer and playback singer Srinivas, has worked closely with A R Rahman in many films. Songs recorded with his mellifluous voice in movies like Minsarakkanavu, Uyire and Rojakkotam still lingers in the minds of the audiences. He points out that music, today, is driven by technology, catering only to dance floors. "Film music today is denied of the variety it once had. Popularity of rhythm-based numbers prompts present day composers to juggle with a few instantly recognizable tunes," he laments.

"There's too much of rhythm-based sound these days," admits V Manohar, a lyricist and composer of Kannada music, whose tunes in movies like Tarle Nanmaga (1992), Janumada Jodi (1996) and Suryavamsha (1998) still remain fresh in the minds of the audience. "Songs are increasingly composed with the so-called catchy phrases. As a result, melody, which was prevalent in the music of the past, has taken a backseat."

Music industry in each state has its own representative, the artist who gives the flavour of the trend and style. Search for such an artist in Kannada would invariably lead us to Hamsaleka. He believes popular numbers of today are played to dance sequences in movies, giving rise to percussion-based compositions. "The pressure is simply too much. But I guess, audiences have their own preferences," he says.

A newcomer to the field, Millend Dharmasen makes no secret of his melodic leanings. He became popular in Kannada films with the hit movie Bissi Bissi, starring Ramesh Aravind. He says audience still prefers good melodies for dandy numbers and composers should give it to them regularly: Kannada listeners always loved melodies by giants like Vijayabhaskar, G K Venkatesh, and T G Lingappa etc. Success of my melodic songs in Bissi Bissi proves the point."

Gurukiran is a young and upcoming music director, whose tunes in films like A, Upendra, Kushi and Kariya became an instant hit with the audiences. He says the biggest challenge is to overcome influences of popular composers like A R Rahman, and try to evolve their own style.

Individuality lost?

"It's quite difficult to grow out of the influence, particularly if you get to like it," mentions Millend. "But movie-makers of today want music that sounds like Rahman's, and are not interested to hear original tunes. It might work commercially, but it would destroy creativity in the long run."

Ever since his sensational debut in Minnale, Harris Jayaraj has dominated the music scene in South India, with his music in films like 12B, Khakha Khakha and Sami. Few would doubt his ability to cast a spell on the listener.

Fresh tunes, unconventional methods of using instruments and blending rhythms with melodies are highlights of Harris' compositions. He says composers of today have many things to consider: "We should know, if the film is targeted at A, B, or C class audiences, and compose music to suit their tastes. If you care about your style, you should be selective about the movies you do."

Though most musicians today want to use new voices, they are divided on the issue of using singers from the north. Harris Jayaraj has no problems with them. He says anyone with a reasonably good diction can sing in South Indian languages. "Instead of going for a famous singer, composers should choose the singer who understands the nuances of South Indian languages. I'm absolutely comfortable with singers like Hariharan and Shankar Mahadevan."

Hamsaleka seems to agree with Harris. According to him, singers like P B Srinivas, P Susila, S P Balasubramaniam and Gantasala have always crossed the language barrier and the present generation must follow in their footsteps.

Gurukiran reveals that choosing a voice depends totally on the song. He feels the voice should reflect the mood and style of the song. "That aside, making someone sing is a thrilling experience. The singers we choose sometimes don't have a clue of the song, but we have to teach them to get it right. That's where we succeed as composers," he says.

Musicians like Millend feel that singers like Udit Narayan and Sonu Nigam are brand names composers can barely afford to miss. "We can use them for a couple of songs. If you have their names, it could sell your CDs. We shouldn't forget such CDs also contain voices of other local singers, who will also be listened to and appreciated," he says.

Vidyasagar would like to see standards being followed in choosing voices. He says, like professionals in the other fields, musicians should also have proper credentials: "I give opportunities to those with a musical background, as working with amateurs would take us nowhere."

However, Hamsaleka feels cinema industry has benefited more from creativity, rather than credentials. "Is there an institution or college that certifies cine musicians?" he asks. "In this industry, we look for the impact that our product would make, and not perfection and aesthetics."

Across the board, musicians agree that the present trend of using artificial sounds is a passing phase. However, many say they are under compulsion from the producers to use sounds of samplers for live instruments as a cost-cutting measure. V Manohar believes that live instruments are irreplaceable in the long run. He says, "I'm not against techno sounds, but it can't have the same impact as live instruments. Even A R Rahman, a proponent of techno sounds, recorded live instruments for good effect."

Harris Jayaraj is confident that live instruments can be captivating if used in an unconventional way. He believes composers can be at their creative best, if they learn to explore each instrument. "We have a very limited list of instruments, within which a composer, almost always, has to base his compositions on. He can make them sound interesting if he experiments with sounds," he asserts.

South Indian film music is currently at the crossroads if mushrooming of new musicians is anything to go by. No one is sure how long it would take for one composer to emerge as a representative of the new era. Intense competition coupled with changing taste prompts us to think whether it would happen at all. The chances are that listeners would feel bombarded by too much music from too many or he might wait with eagerness for the best song, if not for the best composer.

By:Deccan Herald

YALGAAR HO!!!!!!  Love ARR

Edited by Qwest - 16 years ago

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