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Archive for the ‘CD reviews – Indian devotional’ Category

CD review/ Swappnam – Music by Ilaiyaraaja


Swappnam – Dance, Theatre, Dreams

Music: Ilaiyaraaja

Genre: Classical dance music/ Carnatic/ devotional

Label: Purple note

Price: Rs 150

Rating: *****

ONE of India’s greatest composers ever, Ilaiyaraaja has recently been in the news for providing the music for the Amitabh Bachchan-Dhanush Hindi film ‘Shamitabh’. On a more traditional note, he has also composed ‘Swappnam’, a dance ballet based on a performance by Bharatnatyam exponent Krithika Subrahmanian.

With a heavy Carnatic and devotional base dedicated to Lord Shiva, the 10 tracks take you through various emotions and situations like dreams of the young, adoration, romance, recognition, awakening, realisation, reverence, wisdom, dreams of the old and truth. The presence of talented vocalists like Poornima Satish, Sudha Raghunathan, Abishek Raghuram, Vasudha Ravi, Rajashree Pathak and Bharath Sunder lends variety.

The six-minute-plus ‘Dreams of the Young’ or ‘Aezhisayaai’ is a perfect opener. It begins with an orchestral portion played with a western classical feel and yet including Carnatic overtones, followed by Abhishek Raghuram’s vocal, set to a flute, veena, violin, mridangam and ghatam backdrop. ‘Adoration’, or ‘Kaadhaar Kuzhaiyaada’ is rendered with melodic brilliance in raag Jog by Poornima Satish and Vasudha Ravi. An extract of Adishankara’s Ardhanareeswara Ashtaka, ‘Romance’ or ‘Pradeepta Rathnojwala’ sung by popular Malayalam composer Shareth, Arunmozhi (who is actually Ilaiyaraaja’s flautist who otherwise goes by the name Napoleon) and group has excellent display of percussion.

One of the highlights is the sargam-driven voice symphony ‘Recognition’ or ‘Koovina Poonguyil’, sung by Poornima Satish and group, and beginning with the heavenly sound of birds humming. Sudha Raghunathan, Vasudha Ravi and Sreenivas team up on ‘Realisation’ or ‘Ammaye Appa’, whereas Rajashree Pathak makes apt use of raag Puriya Dhanashri on ‘Reverence’ or ‘Bhajeham’, which has the theme line ‘Bhajeham bhajeham shivoham shivoham’.

Bharath Sunder’s ‘Wisdom’ or ‘Aye Metha Kadinam’, composed by Gopalakrishna Bharathi, makes exquisite use of the veena. Swati Tirunal’s ‘Dreams of the Old’ or ‘Visweswara Darshan’, sung by Rajashree Pathak, Abishek Raghuram, is a melodic anthem rendered with a Hindustani feel in raag Sindhu Bhairavi with the lines ‘Visweswara darshan kar chalo man tum Kashi’.

The album concludes with a 30-second spoken stretch by Ilaiyaraaja on ‘Truth’ or ‘Anbum Shivamum’. It’s an apt ending to one of the best creations by the master-composer.

RATING SCALE: * Poor; ** Average; *** Good; **** Excellent; ***** Simply outstanding


CD review/ Krisnaruupa — Various artistes


Krisnaruupa/ Various artistes

Composer: Ruupa Raaman

Genre: Devotional

Iktara Musique/ Rs 199 for CD, available digitally on OK Listen for Rs 150

Rating: ****

IT’S extremely rare to hear a ragamala in a contemporary album, but in ‘Krisnaruupa’, composer Ruupa Raaman attempts that with great poise. In the song ‘Shreenaathji Darshan’, an ode to the famous Shreenaathji in Nathdwara, Rajasthan, she describes his eight daily darshans through a 19-minute piece that uses ragas Lalit, Komal Rishabh Asavari, Maand, Brindavani Sarang, Bhimpalasi, Hameer, Nand and Jaijaiwanti rather charmingly.

‘Shreenaathji Darshan’ is one of the many highlights of ‘Krisnaruupa’, a six-track album dedicated to Lord Krishna. Considering that this is Ruupa’s first record as a composer, this is a truly commendable job, as the sound is rooted in classical melodies and Atul Raninga’s smooth arrangements. While five songs are written by Aajay K Chauhan, the choice of four singers — Sraboni Chaudhuri, Sanchita Bhattacharya, Aishwarya Majmudar and Anweshaa — lends variety, as each of them has a different texture and style.

The tunes are the kind that grow on you. ‘Nandlala’, sung by Aishwarya Majmudar, is a sprightly tune which begins, “Bhola sa, bada pyaara sa, Natkhat sa, Dulaara sa, Thumak thumak chalta hai girta sambhalta hai, Dekho to zara kaisi ye leela… Kaun hai ye, Nandlala natkhat Nandlala, Nandlala ho Nandlala.” Revolving on the life of the young Krishna, it sets the perfect pace for the album.

Singer Sanchita Bhattacharya is in good form on ‘Krishnaa Krishnaa’, which is sung from the point of a devotee who pleads with Krishna to save today’s mankind, in the lines, “Aaj ka maanas bada vikal hai, Ghut-ti hai saansein jeena vihal hai, Tujh bin na ho paye Gopala , Tu hi sabka ek kinara.” Themewise, it is reminiscent of ‘Krishna Nee Begane Baaro’.

‘Shyaam Ke Sang’, also by Aishwarya Majmudar, is on the Krishna-Radha romance, as Chauhan writes, “Shyaam ke sang vichrai Radha, Shyaam ke rang rang gayi Radha.”

The extremely talented Sraboni Chaudhuri appears on ‘Aaj Prabhu Mohey’, which is about a devotee wanting a glimpse of Lord Krishna. The lines “Meera nahin main, Sita nahin main, Radha nahin main dwaapar ki, Yug yug se hoon pyaasi Prabhuji, Lipti hoon charnon se Prabhuji, Bairi jag hai, Paar lagaa do” are crisp and effective.

The album concludes with ‘Jai Jai Krishna’, which comes after ‘Shreenaathji Darshan’. A 10-minute piece sung by Sanchita Bhattacharya, it talks of 108 names of Lord Krishna according to Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. A wonderful finale!

Being a Krishna album, it’s natural that the bansuri plays a major role, and flautist Ashwin Srinivasan does a wonderful job. Sunil Das’s sitar has also been used very effectively, and there are charming appearances by Dhruba Ghosh on sarangi, Narayan Mani on Saraswati veena, Atul Raninga on pianica and Manas Kumar on violin. The rhythm section consists of Ashish Jha on tabla, Shreedhara Chari on dholak and pakhawaj, and Rohit Prasad on mridangam.

Throughout, the album flows smoothly, and keeps you riveted through its sheer melody. Clearly, it’s one of the best devotional albums to come out in recent times, and is a must for devotees of Lord Krishna.

RATING SCALE: * Poor; ** Average; *** Good; **** Excellent; ***** Simply outstanding

CD review/ Vayuputras ― Various artistes


Vayuputras/ Various artistes

Genre: Devotional/ fusion

Times Music/ Rs 295

Rating: ****

AMONG the contemporary Indian writers, Amish Tripathi has proved to be hugely popular with his Shiva trilogy. The first two books ‘The Immortals of Meluha’ and ‘The Secret of the Nagas’ were really well-written, and commercially successful too.

The author has just come out with the concluding part ‘The Oath of The Vayuputras’, and on the eve of its release, he launched an 11-track CD called ‘Vayuputras’. Produced by seasoned music industry professional Raajeev Sharma, the album features a host of artistes, including classical duo Pandits Rajan and Sajan Mishra, singers Sonu Nigam and Euphoria’s Palash Sen, percussionist Taufiq Qureshi, tabla exponent Bickram Ghosh and multi-instrumentalist Raghav Sachar, besides some lesser-known but really talented names.

The music is primarily devotional in nature, filled with shlokas and chants of ‘Har Har Mahadev’, but with a contemporary feel and fusion flavour. Despite a considerable amount of programming, the songs use a lot of traditional instruments, including the bansuri, sitar, sarod, ektara, tabla and even the characteristic mridangam on a composition depicting the dance of the Nataraj. However, one wishes the rudra veena, said to be the instrument dear to Lord Shiva, was used somewhere.

Many people would be familiar with the song ‘Jo Vayuputra Ho’, composed by Taufiq Qureshi with vocals by Sonu Nigam, as it features in the promotions. The 10th song on the album, it has modern orchestrations including electric guitars and keyboards, and uses the lines: “Shapath se na apath ho woh jo Vayuputra ho.”

However, before that comes on, there’s plenty of melody magic. The opening number, ‘The Shiva Trilogy Theme: Neelkanth’, has been composed by Taufiq, who also plays percussion. A highlight is the wonderful flute-playing of Varad Kathapurkar. With its ambient mood and catchy arrangements, it sets the perfect tone.

The next four songs are inspired by situations taking place in the ‘Meluha’ book. ‘She Enters His Life’, which talks of Sati entering the life of Shiva, has been composed by Aditya Jain and Durgesh Khot. It begins with the shlokaBrahmanandamparama sukhadam kevalam jnanamurtim”, and is followed by melodic taraana-styled vocals by Saurabh Shetye and Supriya Ramalingam.

‘Nataraj: The Lord of Dance’ has been composed by Bickram Ghosh, and boasts of vibrant shloka chants and classical vocal elements, and energetic instrumental rendition, with sarod, sitar, tabla and mridangam. Taufiq’s ‘Har Har Mahadev’ is a speech before a war, with Amish himself reciting the English words. ‘Bhadra Bam Bole’, composed by Arijit Datta and featuring robust vocals by Prasant A Samadhar, is based on many incidents in which Shiva smokes the chillum.

‘Jawab Do Prabhu’, performed by the group Aghor along with vocalist Jataveda Banerjee, represents the ‘Nagas’ book. Orchestrated with a bhajan feel and charming flute passages, it evokes a sense of sadness and emotion with lines like: “Tum the meri duniya, mere ishwar, mere vidhaata, phir bhi tum mujhe chhod gaye, yaad kiya,maine yaad kiya” and “Hey Prabhu, kaise paaoon tohra pyaar, jawaab do, jawaab do, Ishwar mere, jawaab do.” Super number this.

The next piece ‘Kashi to Panchvati’ is composed and performed by Sunny Thadani and Charan Singh Pathania, with vocals by Saurabh Shetye. A Yanniesque new age-meets-electronica feel, sweeping orchestrations and powerful drums make this an absolute winner, and the ‘Satyam Sundaram’ recitations at the end leave you with a high.

Two tracks are inspired by the concluding ‘Vayuputras’ book. Raghav Sachar’s ‘Shiva Sanware’ has a Rahman-like flavour, pleasant arrangements, lyrics by Rohit Sharma and sweet-sounding vocals by Paroma Dasgupta. ‘Badri Re, Prabhu Ram’, composed by Tatva Kundalini, features Palash Sen of the band Euphoria. With its balance of Hindi and English lyrics and even its compositional style, it is reminiscent of the Colonial Cousins sound.

The album concludes with ‘Om Namah Shivay’, which contains recitation of chants by Pandits Rajan and Sajan Mishra. With its shankh opening, strong tanpuras and bansuri interludes, the piece induces a feeling of peace and calmness.

Though the CD has essentially been released to market the Shiva trilogy, it stands out on its own, with some fantastic compositions, and ability to relate to the themes used in the books. While we strongly recommend you read the books too, the CD is a must for music buffs whether they have a habit of reading or not.

RATING SCALE: * Poor; ** Average; *** Good; **** Excellent; ***** Simply outstanding

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