A book named "Alaap"

Two weeks back, I was at bangalore for a family function. At my relative's home in bangalore, I saw a book named "Alaap". It was an introduction to indian classical music, and I was immediately hooked on to it. I was so engrossed in it and completed about half of the book in about an hour or so (I have never read novels, FYI). But unfortunately we had to leave so I couldn't complete the book.

It is basically a book for beginners to understand indian classical music. The set also comes with 20 CDs with various samples to refer and to understand. I didn't get to see the CDs but it seems there are lot of hindustani tracks, some carnatic songs and some western classical pieces too. I am not sure where this set is available for sale. I haven't yet checked the stores.

Here is a picture of the book cover on the right.

Inside the book cover, it says:
A creation of Sri Aurobindo Society, Pondichery, Bought to you buy Times Music, Mumbai.
This book forms part of the 'Alaap' set. Not to be sold separately.
There is always lots to learn in music. And the more you learn, the more you can appreciate music.

Kumaran Silks Paadum Office

I blogged about the inter-corporate music competition in September. Our band from AdventNet, participated in the competition and we could only reach the quarter finals. Anyway, this year, Star Vijay covered the event and it will be telecast as "Kumaran Silks Paadum Office" starting this Saturday, Nov 24th. It will be shown on every Saturday, 7-8 pm for the next 10 weeks. It is likely to be repeated on Sunday evening 4:30 pm as per Star Vijay's website. The promos for the show are already on air.

We performed in the Light Music Team category. And one of our colleagues participated in the light music solo category too.

The order of episodes is likely to be:

Episode No.  1 - Light Music - Team (Prelims)
Episode No.  2 - Light Music - Solo (Prelims)
Episode No.  3 - Classical   - Solo (Prelims)
Episode No.  4 - Classical   - Solo (Finals)
Episode No.  5 - Light Music - Solo (Quarter)
Episode No.  6 - Light Music - Team (Quarter)
Episode No.  7 - Light Music - Solo (Semi)
Episode No.  8 - Light Music - Team (Semi)
Episode No.  9 - Light Music - Solo (Finals)
Episode No. 10 - Light Music - Team (Finals)

Episode 1 and Episode 6 is where they are likely to show us. We were the first team to perform in the prelims. Look out for "Sangeetha Megam" from AdventNet. I was one of the keyboard players in our band.

The above picture is me playing the keyboard during the prelims round. Click on it to view the photo in the original size. Photo taken by my friend, Shanmugam.

Ennai Thalaatta Varuvaalo

The song "Ennai Thalaatta Varuvaalo" from "Kadhalukku Mariyadhai" is a very popular song by Ilaiyaraaja. Recently there was a song "Oru porkaalam thodangum" from the film "Kasthurimaan" again by Ilaiyaraaja. I could sense a similarity in the opening lines between the two songs. The tune looks somewhat similar. However the similarity ends after the first 2 lines. So I mixed the 2 songs together. Listen to this below. In the middle, you will notice that both the songs are played simultaneously with one song on the left and the other song on the right.

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Speaking of "Ennai Thalaatta Varuvaalo", the other version of this song from the same film is "Idhu Sangeetha Thirunaalo". Both these songs are set in 4/4 adhi thalam. The song is predominantly in the scale of the keeravani ragam, I believe. Now listen to the prelude of the "Idhu Sangeetha Thirunaalo" song below.

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When I listened to the above prelude, it seemed that the timing was in 3/4, but again it was not matching completely in 3/4. Then I heard a few more times and found that the timing goes as follows:

1 2 3 | 1 2 3 | 1 2 3 | 1 2 3 | 1 2 3 4 ||
1 2 3 | 1 2 3 | 1 2 3 | 1 2 3 | 1 2 3 4 ||

tha ki ta | tha ki ta | tha ki ta | tha ki ta | tha ka thi mi ||
tha ki ta | tha ki ta | tha ki ta | tha ki ta | tha ka thi mi ||

Each cycle comes to a total of 16 counts there by effortlessly maintaining or switching to the 4/4 beat after this initial piece. Again the actual beat is predominantly 1 2 3 | 1 2 3 | 1 2 || which is 8 counts.

The 16 beat count above is also used in the song "Siriya paravai siragai virithu" from the film "Antha Oru Nimidam" however in a much faster tempo. You will notice that the tune also fits into this timing. This is however used only for the 1st 2 lines.

Speaking of the Siriya paravai song, refer this article to know how IR has used Shruthibedam in this song, where he changes to Charukesi in the 2nd interlude and the following stanza.

Some of my earlier posts on Shruthibedam in film songs - Kavithai Kelungal and Raa Raa.

Blog on Background Scores by Suresh

Suresh Kumar has created a new blog dedicated to background scores in movies. He posts an audio of a BGM in his blog and asks readers to guess the movie. If you are interested in background scores or re-recording, then you would be definitely interested in his blog. Over a period of time, this will also become a repository of good background scores. Here is the URL of his blog.


Indian Keyboards

More than a month back, I had been to Sapthaswara Musicals in Mylapore to get some voice mics to aid in our practice sessions for the Inter Corporate Music Competition. I saw the demo of a new Yamaha Keyboard there. The model number is PSR I425. This contained certain indian instrument tones in addition to western instruments. The indian instruments included 2 types of sitar (very good), harmonium (single reed, double reed and triple reed - very good), sarod (not impressive), bansuri (OK), Tanpura (good) and indian percussions like tabla, dhol, mridangam, etc (very good). More information is available at psri425.com.

There were also some indian style accompaniments like bollywood mix, bhangra, Qawwali, Bhajan, indian pop and even a tamil folk beat (which was basically a 6/8 beat which lacked punch). There are around 12 such styles. The accompaniments were not impressive.

The western instrument tones such as the piano was not that good. However I did not check the other instruments. The brochure says amazingly realistic sounds. So may be you should check yourselves if you are looking to buy one. It had a pitch bend, which was absolutely necessary to serve the indian classical market. You can plugin your USB drive too to store or transfer songs or recordings.

This Yamaha keyboard was priced at around Rs. 19,000/-. That was quite expensive I felt. The salesman told that this was made exclusively for india and hence it won't be available in other places like Singapore. One had to buy in India only.

There is a new model from Casio too serving the indian market. The model is CTK-810IN. I did not check it out, but I was told that the Yamaha model was better than Casio. In addition to western tones and accompaniments, it has around 15 indian tones and 7 indian rhythm accompaniments. The Casio costs around Rs. 12,000/-. It can store songs and information in an SD card in addition to the USB port available. Technical specifications at: http://www.rajmusicals.com/product_info.php?products_id=1424

I always thought why they couldn't reproduce an indian classical instrument on the keyboard. Even drum pads have such tones in them for long. This is a welcome move and I hope it gets better and more affordable. Ofcourse it can't come close to a live instrument, but something is better than nothing.

Check out the brochures of these 2 models:

Casio Model
Front page: http://viewer.zoho.com/docs/ewdEW
Back page: http://viewer.zoho.com/docs/oxcnbd

Yamaha Model
Front page: http://viewer.zoho.com/docs/myid4
Back page: http://viewer.zoho.com/docs/ryPdF

I basically have a very modest Yamaha PSR 350 at home. It is more than sufficient for self learning or practicing at home. But for stage performances, it is not a good choice.

UPDATE (Feb 7, 2010): Here is a nice comparison between Yamaha PSR i425 and Casio CTK 5000 (another indian focused model) - http://www.rajib.com/2009/09/27/comparison-between-yamaha-psr-i425-and-casio-ctk-5000/

UPDATE (Dec 18 2011): I noticed an advertisement on The Hindu (dated Dec 17 2011) regarding a new model of Casio with Indian Instruments. The models are as below:

CTK 4200 - Rs. 10,000
CTK 3200 - Rs. 8,500
CTK 2200 - Rs. 6,400

And here is the advertisement: