Unnale Thaan - My Retro Song

We recently released one of my recent compositions. It is a simple attempt of a retro song titled Unnale Thaan, which is a throwback to the 1960's.

I had wanted to compose an old style song, something like 'Kannale Pesi Pesi Kollathe', 'Paattu Paadava', etc. I had composed the pallavi alone about 4 years back. Then last year, I got a chance to get the lyrics written for this song. My colleague, Chandru wrote the lyrics and then we recorded the song. Vocalists Srivatsan and Aishwarya have rendered this song beautifully. Another colleague, Edwin, has played the accordion for this song. Karthikeyan has done a great job editing this video shot by him, Srinivasan and Chandru.

Listen to the video playlist embedded below which starts with the song, followed by an interview of the team and then some behind-the-scene clips.

Original Song + Interview + Behind-the-scenes:


Music: Sripathy Ramesh
Lyrics: Chandrasekar Gobal
Vocals: Srivatsan Gopaladesikan, Aishwarya Venkatesan
Accordion: Edwin Gnansigamony

Cinematography: Karthi Muralidharan, Bharath Srinivasan, Chandrasekar Gobal
Editing: Karthi Muralidharan
Direction: Karthi Muralidharan, Sripathy Ramesh

All the people involved above are my colleagues.

Contrapuntal Female Lines:

I received an interesting comment on the youtube page from a musician who plays flute, recorder, etc. He commented:
"Stumbled upon this video accidentally. Very nicely done. Kudos to the musicians. The use of a real accordion was the cherry on the cake.  Also hats off to the composer for the contrapuntal entry of the female voice. Thanks for sharing this."
Nice to receive such comments from another musician. And I am glad that the contrapuntal entry of female voice was noticed. 

The song was initially conceptualized as a male solo. Adding the female vocals at the end was an afterthought. And when I added that, I wanted to add it as an overlap between the lines. Instead of following the same tune as the male lead, I changed the tune slightly while still trying to retain harmony between the male and female lines. The male lead tune (swaram) for the lines Munnale Nadaikkiren goes like:

,,R g,m P,d P,, |

And the female starts in the 2nd half of the above line. The tune of female lead goes like:

--- --- g,m P,d | M,P --- 

As you can see from the notes above, the P,dP and g,mP will be in harmony. Similarly for the next lines: d,nd and m,Pd.

Since the female line joins only mid way through the bar, singing the same lyrics will make the listener difficult to comprehend the lyrics. So I changed the order of the lyrics. The male singer sings Munnale Nadaikkiren and the female singer sings Nadaikkiren Munnale and the Nadaikkiren in both voices appear at the same time, but the notes are different. This is some thing different that I tried in this song.

Do listen to the song embedded above and share your feedback with us.

Bonus Tracks - Scratch Tune and Variations of Humming:

And as a bonus, here is the scratch tune of the pallavi (composed around 4-5 years back) and the scratch tune of charanam (composed last year). After the scratch tune, you can listen to 2 different arrangements of the opening humming.

Song Stats (as on July 12th 2014 ; 44 days since launch):

The original video has reached around 725 views on youtube so far. I had originally shared this video on my facebook wall and it was received exceptionally well with around 250 likes, 100 comments and 16 shares. I got 20 new subscribers to my youtube account once I started with the promos of this song. I also posted this song on soundcloud (also embedded below). I didn't promote/share the soundcloud link outside. But interestingly, it is steadily receiving plays on a daily basis and crossed 1000 plays today (with 23 likes and 10 reposts).

What are your views on this song? Let me know in the comments.

Kandathum Pennai - Making of the 2 versions of my song

In this blog post, I am going to describe how I went about making 2 versions of my song, Kandathum Pennai, which were composed by me and written by my colleague, Kannan.

Original Version:
Here is the original version of Kandathum Pennai, which I had already shared 3 months before on this blog. I had always wanted to compose a very simple, straightforward, accessible tune and I came up with this. I also wanted this song to be somewhat like a Yuvan song and that is how I composed the melody.

Do listen to the embedded audio below and share your comments.
CREDITS (all are my colleagues)
Music: Sripathy Ramesh
Lyrics: Kannan Sampath
Lead Vocals: Mohammed Raafi
Backing Vocals: Vidya Kanickairaj, Jenzo Thomas
Lead Guitar: Jenzo Thomas

The lead guitar solo at the end of the charanam was actually not originally planned. I had given the backing track alone (minus the lead vocals) to Jenzo for reference. He didn't realize that I had removed the lead vocals and thought that it was empty in the charanam and played the lead guitar himself to the chord progression towards the end of the charanam. That was a nice guitar piece and yet I couldn't have it behind the lead vocals without distracting the listener. So I repeated the same set of chords after the charanam and included this lead guitar piece there and then I moved on to the pallavi. This suited the song very well and it took it to a new level. Thank you Jenzo! We had apprehensions that the electric guitar was coming all of a sudden towards the end without making any appearance till then, but still we went ahead with that.

Glad to see this song crossing 2000 plays in the course of 3 months since release. It is steadily getting around 100 plays per week, without any constant promotion.

And I was also humbled by some nice messages on this song that I received from people whom I personally do not know:
"The Bass for kandathum pennai is Simply Awesome :) Seriously its kind of too intricate and I have fallen in love with the bass of that song..Its not too tough but at same time gives pleasure for people who are trying to play it :) Way to go :)"
"beautiful composition quite a catchy tune & rendition. makes me harmonize along the chorus everytime i listen, kudos to you & the team!"
Thanks a lot for your support!

Reprise Version:
At some point of time, when I was working on the above song, I wanted to try altering the tune slightly and create a different version using the same lyrics just as an experiment.  The tune and interlude will resemble the original, but still will be different.

Listen to (and watch) the reprise version embedded below and continue reading.

Music and Direction: Sripathy Ramesh
Lyrics and Monologues: Kannan Sampath
Vocals and Acting: Srivatsan Gopaladesikan
Guitar: Sriram Eswaran

Thanks to Anbu Chezhian for his creative inputs.

Similarities between the two versions:
Both the versions are very much similar in the structure and the song's melody. The notes may be different, but the similarities cannot be ignored.

First lets look at the differences:
  • The original is in a minor scale (Cm). While the reprise is in a major scale (A), mostly in the scale of Hamsadhwani raga. 
  • The original has a faster tempo and is more western in its arrangement and harmonies, while the reprise is a slower version with a very simple arrangement of guitar backing.
  • Original was sung by Raafi while Srivatsan has sung the reprise version.
  • The original version has a lead guitar solo at the end of the charanam, while the reprise version doesn't have any. 

Now that the differences have been outlined, lets look at the similarities and how it was born.

I first got the idea of this version from the interlude of the original version. The interlude in strings goes like | ---- gPng R,g, RgRn | with Eb as the backing chord. Now Eb major could be looked as a relative major to the C minor scale. When looked at it as belonging to the Eb major scale, I could see Hamsadhwani in it. | ---- gPng R,g, RgRn | in the scale of C minor becomes | ---- SGPS N,S, NSNP | in Eb Major. Considering the vocal range of the singer, I had set the reprise version in A Major instead of Eb Major.

And further, the pallavi just uses the notes S R g P n S of natabhairavi / minor scale. It starts on the gandharam of the upper octave:
| -ggR R,R, | ,SSR n,P, | (2)
| -nnS S,,n | SnSR S,P, | (2) 

Co-incidentally Hamsadhwani also has just 5 notes: S R G P N S. So the above pallavi got translated directly to:
| -GGR R,R, | ,SSR N,P, | (2)
| -NNS S,,N | SNSR S,P, | (2)

Now I knew we were getting somewhere with this alteration. Interestingly, the harmony parts in the pallavi of the original version will sound similar to the pallavi of the reprise version because the note intervals are similar. The harmony parts (seconds) in the original version is as follows:
| -PPm m,m, | ,ggm R,n, | (2)
| -RRg g,,R | gRgm g,g, | (2) 
And the above notes when seen from the perspective of the relative major scale, will yield the notes of the reprise version.

Towards the end of the pallavi in the reprise version, I added some 'oh oh kanden' hummings which felt very natural to me and then I took on to the interlude from there. This 'oh oh oh oh' (G,mG R,,,) is the place we deviated slightly from Hamsadhwani and used the madhyamam of Shankarabharanam. Though Hamsadhwani is placed as a janya of Shankarabharanam, it is said that it is best perceived as a janya of Kalyani, if one observes the nuances of the raga carefully. I also noticed that the melody of Aval Appadi Ondrum Azhagillai song by Vijay Antony is predominantly in Hamsadhwani, while the music arrangement is in Kalyani. I too used both Hamsadhwani and Kalyani (though in a lighter fashion) in my first song.

Now we have the pallavi and interlude ready. Only the Charanam is remaining. The charanam of the original starts as follows:
| -ggR R,RS | RSR - - - |

Instead of starting the charanam of the reprise also on the gandharam (the way I did for pallavi), I decided to start it on the shadjamam (like the relative major scale concept used for the interlude). At the same time I also decided to make subtle changes such that it sticks to the scale of Hamsadhwani. So the charanam in the reprise version became:
| -SSN N,NP | NPN - - - |

The next 3 lines are mostly identical with subtle variations.

During the lines 'nadaipathai edhilum' of the charanam, the notes in the original version goes like:
| --PP P,g, | g,,, g,,, |
| --P, P,R, | R,,, R,,, |
| --PP P,S, | S,,, S,,, |
| --nn R,R, | R,,, ,,,, |

I translated the same to the notes of Hamsadhwani by changing ga to Ga and ni to Ni:
| --PP P,G, | G,,, G,,, |
| --P, P,R, | R,,, R,,, |
| --PP P,S, | S,,, S,,, |
| --NN R,R, | R,,, ,,,, |

These 4 lines ar repeated once again. At the end, these lines sounded very plain in the reprise version. It sounded monotonous and was obvious that it lacked imagination. The original version had some nice harmonies backing these lines and 4 different chords were used, 1 for each line. In the reprise version, I didn't have any harmonies originally. And I had used only 2 chords - the tonic and the dominant - to stick to the scale of Hamsadhwani. All these added up to these lines being boring. So I added an overlapping vocals at the end of each line that goes as follows. Note that the 4 lines mentioned above are repeated once again, so for the second time, the overlapping notes were changed slightly. Here are the notes of the overlapping vocals which are in harmony with the melody and the chords (alternating chords of tonic and dominant triads).
| ---- ---- | ---- G,S, |
| R,,, ---- | ---- R,N, |
| S,,, ---- | ---- S,P, |
| N,,, ---- | ---- GRSN |
P,,, ,,,, | ---- S,G, |
| R,,, ---- | ---- N,R, |
| S,,, ---- | ---- P,S, |
| N,,, 
---- | ---- SNSR | G

Towards the end of the charanam, the original version goes like:
| --g- g,R, | --g- g,R, |
| --g- g,R, | g,R, g,,, |
| --g- g,R, | --g- g,R, |
| --g- g,R, | g,R, g,R, |
| m,,, ,,,, | ,,,, ,,P, | 
| m,,, ,,,, | ,,,, ,,,, |

For the reprise version, I changed that to the following keeping in mind the scale of Hamsadhwani. The ending of the charanam was changed slightly.
| --G- G,R, | --S- S,N, |
| --G- G,R, | G,R, G,P, |
| --G- G,R, | --S- S,N, |
| --G- G,R, | G,R, G,R, |
| P,,, ,,,, | ,,,, RGRS | 
| N,,, ,,,, | ,,,, ,,,, |

And then we are back to the pallavi again.

On the video:
We also recorded a video to go along with the reprise version. Since this version was very slow, we thought having the full video in slow motion will be a good idea. If you noticed in the video embedded above, once the song starts, the visuals is fully in slow motion and Srivatsan will be lip syncing the song in slow motion as well. This has been done by other people many times before, but still it was a first for us. What we did was to double the speed of the song and Srivatsan practiced singing it in that speed. We then recorded the video in 60 fps with Srivatsan singing it at double speed along with the track. Later during editing, the video was slowed down to half and we used the song in its original tempo. That is how we were able to have the video in slow motion, yet get the lip syncing right. Here is raw footage from the location for you to get an idea of how we recorded it.

Kamal Hassan went many steps further and did a slow motion song in reverse for the song Neela Vaanam from the movie Manmadhan Anbu. The visuals are in reverse and in slow motion, but still he lip syncs to the song. Watch Kamal explain how he did that here.

We hope you liked both the versions of these songs. Feel free to comment on this song. Share with us your honest comments on what you like and what can be improved.

Free online music courses from Coursera

I have been taking a free online course from Coursera on the basics of Music Production. This has been really helpful and informative to me. I hope you will find it helpful too especially if you are a beginner to music / music production.

If you want to learn about the fundamentals of Music like notes, scales, chords, etc, then the following courses could be useful:
For composing and songwriting:
For music production (recording and mixing):
And there are various other courses too like History of Rock, Introduction to Guitar, Jazz Improvisation, Music of Beatles, Exploring Beethoven's Piano Sonatas, etc.

The last course above (Music Production) is the one I am currently pursuing. The course is very neatly laid out and presented. The classes go on for about 6 weeks - a lesson a week. A lesson consists of a series of videos explaining and demonstrating the concepts. There would be quizzes for each lesson which tests your understanding. And after each lesson, you would be given an assignment (you could choose from a selection of topics) which you have to submit either in the form of a PDF (text + images) or a video (screencast / motion video) etc. Your assignment submission will be reviewed by your peers and they will grade you. Similarly you will also review the assignments of other students. All these help you understand the subject better. In this Music Production lesson you will have to spend about 6-8 hours per week and it goes on for 6 weeks. 

Each course has a specific duration, a start date and the approx. number of hours you need to put in for each week. All these information is available on the individual course pages. Depending on the course start date, you can plan and join the course or you can choose to add future sessions to your watch list in order to get notified later.

If you are a beginner, I would recommend a basic starter course as follows depending on the timelines:
  1. Developing Your Musicianship - April 1st (6 weeks duration)
  2. Introduction to Music Production - July 14th (6 weeks duration)
    Fundamentals of Music Theory - July (5 weeks duration)
  3. Songwriting - Oct 13th (6 weeks duration)

Here is the COMPLETE LIST of the various free music courses offered by Coursera:

Note: Apart from music, there are hundreds of courses across a variety of topics. You could find some of those useful as well.

Kandathum Pennai - My new composition

Here is a new song composed by me. I always wanted to compose a very simple, straightforward, accessible tune and I came up with this. I also wanted this song to be somewhat like a Yuvan song and that is how I composed the melody. Do listen to it below and share your comments.

CREDITS (all are my colleagues)
Music: Sripathy Ramesh
Lyrics: Kannan Sampath
Lead Vocals: Mohammed Raafi
Backing Vocals: Vidya Kanickairaj, Jenzo Thomas
Lead Guitar: Jenzo Thomas (Jenzo's own lead based on the chord progression)

All Rights Reserved

Maalai Pozhudhil Oru - Our version of a Bharathiar song

Presenting to you, a Bharathiar song set to tune and sung by my colleague, Sai Sundhar. He had tuned it wonderfully in Raag Bageshri and Raag Abheri. Bageshri in itself evokes a sense of yearning / a separation / waiting for reunion. I think this is exactly what this song is about and hence the choice of the raga seems to be apt.

Music was arranged by me (Sripathy Ramesh). I wanted to give emphasis to the melody and the lyrics and so I kept the arrangement/orchestration very simple and subtle. I felt I could have done a better job to keep it more interesting. Anyway, listen to it and share your feedback in the comments.

Maalai Pozhuthil Oru

Lyrics: Subramania Bharatiyar
Tuned & Sung by: Sai Sundhar Padmanabhan
Arrangement: Sripathy Ramesh
Tabla and Tanpura: RiyazStudio

மாலைப் பொழுதிலொரு மேடை மிசையே
வானையும் கடலையும் நோக்கி யிருந்தேன்;
மூலைக் கடலினையவ் வான வளையம்
முத்தமிட் டேதழுவி முகிழ்த்தல் கண்டேன்;
நீல நெருக்கிடையில் நெஞ்சு செலுத்தி,
நேரங் கழிவ திலும் நினைப்பின்றியே
சாலப் பலபல நற் பகற்கனவில்
தன்னை மறந்தலயந் தன்னில் இருந்தேன்

Music in bird calls

I came across this interesting article on 'The Hindu' regarding music in bird calls. It talks about how one can interpret different classical ragas and talas in birdcalls. It also talks about how birdsongs have inspired western classical music composers as well. Here is the link to the article - Avian Super Singers.

Raag Hamsadhwani/Hansdhwani and Raag Hamsanadham literally mean "Sound of Swan"

Was flute the earliest developed musical instrument (melodic)? If so, was it inspired from bird calls?
The film 'Ullasam' shows Vikram's character being inspired from a bird song and then uses the same melody for the "Veesum Kaatrukku" song. View that scene here (starts at 11:55): www.youtube.com/watch?v=-hzH_E-u8Ls#t=705

Representing the sound of a bird on a musical instrument in film songs:
There are numerous songs in films that use certain instruments in a certain way to depict a bird sound. Most of them invariably use the flute to depict the bird call. Here are some such songs:
  • Idhu Oru Pon Maalai - Nizhalgal - Ilaiyaraaja
    I am not even talking about the opening bird chirp sounds. I am talking about the flute sounds and keyboard sounds in the preludes, interludes and charanams. Listen to the whole song once by clicking on the link above and appreciate the usage of various instruments to depict birds on the evening sky. This song is based on Kedaram ragam which is a janya of Shankarabharanam. Typically the sounds of bird calls belong to the scale of Shankarabharanam and its janya and hence it is so apt here.
  • Kuyil Paatu - En Raasavin Mansile - Ilaiyaraaja
    'Kuyil Paatu' translates to 'Cuckoo Song'. Again, the flute is used as a symbolic representation of a bird call (specifically cuckoo). And the raga used here is Shivaranjani, which is quite atypical for a bird sound, but it really fits well. Though this raga is used for pathos situation, I also heard that this raga is also suitable for situations where one is expecting or longing for someone. Considering that, the situation of this 'Kuyil Paatu' song as well as 'Kaathirundhu Kaathirundhu Kaalangal Pogudhadi' seems to suit well and both are based on Raag Shivaranjani.
  • Thirakkadha Kaattukulle - En Swasa Kaatre - A R Rahman
    This song is set in the midst of nature. Interestingly, there is no flute sound in this song. The bird sounds are brought out in the form of synths sounds in the opening and as staccato notes on the guitar (charanam). And incidentally, most of the charanam is in Raag Hamsadhwani (sound of swan).
  • Ila Nenje Vaa - Vanna Vanna Pookkal - Ilaiyaraaja
    This is another song that celebrates nature. Again we can see the use of flute sounds depicting bird calls. One interesting thing is that there is a flute response to each line of the vocals. I think this song is based on Sudhadhanyasi ragam.
  • Oh Butterfly - Meera - Ilaiyaraaja
    This song is about a butterfly (ok, it is an insect, not bird). Look at how the singing and arrangements are very soft and delicate, similar to how you would want to touch and handle a butterfly. Specifically listen to the 2nd interlude - the harpsichord runs, the staccato notes on the flute all symbolize numerous butterflies flying around, exactly the way the picturization was done.
And there could be numerous other songs similar to the ones mentioned above. Maalayil Yaaro could be one such song. 

And here are some songs from independent albums that represent insects:
  • Poo Eru Konum - Thiruvasakam - Ilaiyaraaja
    This one is related to an honey bee. Observe how the music accurately brings out the representation of a bee flapping its wings and flying between flowers. It uses tremolo, pizzicato, fast phrases and trills in the Strings section and the Flute - all to bring out the effect of a bee flying. This song is predominantly based on Raag Sudhadhanyasi and some parts in Raag Madhukauns.
  • Mosquito - Connections - A R Rahman
    This track from Connections uses the Saarangi instrument effectively to create the effect of a mosquito buzzing around your head (listen on headphones). Of course there are some sound effects (like resonance?) added to the instrument to effectively bring out the effect.

Speaking of birds, flutes and hamsadhwani, here is one of my compositions which is set predominantly in Hamsadhwani raga. I have used the flute instrument in this song. I didn't intend to represent a bird call, but may be because of the raga and how it has been played (by Dilip), I now hear a bird call, especially during the opening of the song.
Mudhan Mudhalai - Sripathy Ramesh

Another related blog post on bird song with respect to Western Classical Music: 

My Social Profiles

Here are my various social profiles where I post my musical works. Feel free to follow / like them if you are interested in staying in touch via those platforms.

Facebook Page:

Google+ Page:

YouTube Profile:

SoundCloud Profile:

ReverbNation Profile:

Twitter Stream on Filmi Ragas:

Most of these profiles are available on the right hand side of my blog as well.

Thank you!