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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Sharath - The Musical Enigma - Part 2

Idol 7 - Sharath - The Musical Enigma - Part 2

Impressions of an Amateur Musician
- Murali Venkatraman (

3. Chaithra GeethangaL

As if Sharath was not happy with the gargantuan effort and complexity that he subjected Unnikrishnan and listeners to in Sudha mantram, he went on to record some more similar difficult songs for an album called Chaithra GeethangaL. This time he chose to discard tongue twisting swara phrases and chose to have all the songs aalaap and sahityam based. (Readers please be advised that I have no information as to whether he did Sudha Mantram first and Chaithra GeethangaL next. I just happened to hear them in that order.)

The entire album was rich in melody and Sharath had chosen to tell people that he can create songs that people could understand. The best song of the album, as agreed by my friend Raja Govindarajan (Kansas Raja or rajaG), is "Madhuram gayathi mama hrudhayam" by Chitra. This song starts off in the scale of hindholam and deftly uses the root-note shift concept to have a few phrases in mohanam in charanam. The most baffling link (or its lack of) between the charanam and pallavi is the aalaap which winds down in mohanam but the pallavi starts in hindholam as its ShruthibhEdam. This once gain shows the complexity of thought but does not compromise on the melody due primarily to the beautiful voice of Chitra who goes on a roller coaster ride of swarasthanams and still extracts the nectar of melody.

Listen to Madhuram Gayathi

Although Madhuram is a beautiful song, I got really tired with the synthetic trumpet or saxophone prelude which has a long winding aalaap. In fact, one starts to wonder if it was really necessary in the first place. After getting to know from Bhavadharini– a professional singer who works with Sharath occasionally – that he pretty much sequences everything in the Keyboard itself and lets other instrumentalists arrive and practice their portions based on the sequenced song later, I hypothesize that the complex and seemingly unfocused aalap in the beginning of the song, has been played by none other than Sharath himself. May be I will confirm this with him someday if I get to meet him. But that prelude is a serious deterrent in an otherwise awesome composition.

Chaithra geethangaL featured both Srinivas and Chitra and Srinivas in his silky voice renders some tough songs. For the sheer melody - bandhura vasandhya sandhye - takes the cake. Milder form of raga hamasadhwani is beautifully captured in this song with a bit of Vatapi Ganapathim poking its nose in the interludes. Of course, the charanams have the characteristic detours to other ragas.

Listen to Bandhura vasandhya sandhye :

Another beautiful song is gopike nin maaRil aarO chaarthi chandanangaL. A very nice melody however, sprinkled with interludes that lack any definite structure. I see influences of reethi gowLai in the composition. I don’t know how many of us know that Sharath is a walking encyclopaedia of Ilaiyaraja’s (IR) songs (Check this discussion which talks about Sharath’s comments on IR ). I have heard about this from two independent sources : rajaG and Murali Ramanathan. (Murali happened to be a contestant in Idea Star Singer and had the good opportunity to interact with Sharath.) Well, IR never let his interludes go unregistered in mind. For example, when somebody thinks of nilaave vaa, he also remembers along with it, the first flute interlude and the second violin interlude. He or she may not know the beautiful layers that IR overlays, but they certainly remember the lead melody of the interlude in a monophonic fashion. And even when IR employs a root-note shift in a song, it is always a smooth sailing in the interludes where the listener hardly recognizes the transition. An excellent example is Poonkaatrile from paattu paadava in which the charanam and pallavi are in different scales. Certainly Sharath has not done it successfully in this album.

Listen to this Gopike nin maaRil

However, the song that really leaves the listener befuddled is "niLaiyude maaril". The chord progression and the beginning of the song are absolutely disjointed ( not saying inharmonious) and borrowing rajaG’s words:

"If anybody is to attempt this song live, oru note thappinaalum govindha dhaan from the beginning"

karaNam thappinaal maraNam - this is the what any singer would describe this song as. Sindhuja rightly wondered "Srinivas idhai eppadi paadinaar ?!!!". Well given the recording facilities these days, it is relatively easy to record such complex scale-shifting songs in multiple takes, although conceiving them can be a real gargantuan effort and needs mammoth talent. However, in my opinion, even the most difficult concepts conceived by the author must be explained in as simple terms as possible. Or else, the genius will get buried and may have to wait till somebody, familiar with employing simpler verbatim, digs the work up from the grave of the genius à la Galois. ( is certainly one such digger )

Listen to NiLaiyude maaril

Although, Sharath has openly claimed IR is his favourite music director, in my assessment his style borders on Hrudayanath Mangeshkar’s who is probably the senior most in the band of tough composers. More about him in a later article.

Part 1 :
Part 2 :
Part 3 :
Part 4 :