Enga Pona Raasa vs Vinnai Thandi Varuvaaya

A R Rahman, Shakthisree Gopalan & Keba Jeramiah
jam together before recording ‘Enga Pona Raasa’.
This post is a comparison of sorts between Enga Pona Raasa from Maryan and Vinnai Thandi Varuvaaya from the movie Vinnai Thandi Varuvaaya. It compares these two songs and brings out the similarties of some of the technicalities used by A R Rahman in these songs.

Enga Pona Raasa is a nice song from Maryan. It is not the pick of the album, but it was interesting to me while looking at the technical details. Lets dive into the comparison.

Both the songs are solo songs and have the acoustic guitar (more than 1 acoustic guitar) as the main accompaniment. Vinnai Thandi Varuvaaya has additional backing vocals during the stanza portions. The guitar accompaniment is the first similarity you might notice between these two songs.

Time Signature Changes
Yenga Pona Raasa is interesting. At first listen to some, it might sound as 3/4. Actually it is in 7/8 with the guitar arpeggio pattern as 123 123 1 | 123 123 1 ||. It can also be construed as 123 1234 | 123 1234 ||. Listen to the song from 0:22 to 1:22 to understand the pattern. From the interlude at 1:42, it adds an additional count to the bar and switches to 4/4 with the pattern as 123 123 12 | 123 123 12 || and continues the same in the Saranam. During the last 2 lines of the saranam at 2:26, the melody switches to 7/8 while the guitar rhythm continues in 4/4. And then it is back to pallavi in 7/8.

A similar time signature change can be noted in Vinnai Thandi Varuvaaya as well. This song is set in 4/4 with the pattern as 123 123 12 | 123 123 12 ||. However mid-way at 1:58, the song shifts to 3/4 by removing the last two counts. So the pattern becomes 123 | 123 ||. Then again at 2:35 it changes back to 4/4 during the pallavi.

Start of melody with respect to the taal cycle
In a composition, a melody can start at any count in the taal cycle (bar). It can start exactly at the first count of the beat or somewhere before or after the first count. Read about Graha Niyama here. This is not a big deal as such. But the striking similarity in both these songs is that the melody starts at a particular count of the taal cycle in the first pallavi, but at a different count of the taal cycle in the ending pallavi.

If you take Enga Pona Raasa first pallavi at 0:33, you will notice that the song starts at the 4th count of the 7-beat tala cycle. Example:

    2    3    |    1    2    3    4    ||
                    enga pona raa  saa

But the same lines during the ending pallavi at 2:37, it starts at the first count of the tala cycle as follows. And this fits the tune with the tala cycle better.

1    2    3    |    1    2    3    4    ||
enga pona raa       saa

Now lets look at the other song Vinnai Thaandi Varuvaaya from 0:22.The taal cycle starts at 0:22 and during the 8th count of the cycle, the line 'Vinnai Thaandi' starts.

1 2 3  1 2 3  1 2      | 1     2 3  1 2 3  1 2 ||
                vinnai | thaan di

If you compare that to the ending pallavi at 2:34, you will notice that the 'Vinnai Thaandi' starts at the 7th count instead of the 8th count used earlier. And this fits the tune with the tala cycle better. It goes like the following.

1 2 3  1 2 3  1      2     | 1     2 3  1 2 3  1 2 ||
              vinnai thaan | di

As you can see above, there are a lot of similarities in the techniques used in these 2 songs. I am glad to see Rahman experimenting with different talas and I am glad with the increasing usage of acoustic guitar in his recent songs as well.

UPDATE (July 14, 2013):
It looks like the song started as a 4/4 song and then later morphed into a 7/8 song. Don't miss the making video of this song: