YOU might be a hard core fan of metal, hiphop or alternative music, but how about some lyrics you can relate to, in Tamil, no less? We’ve noticed a growing trend among our rockers, as they employ chaste and colloquial Tamil to create songs that get right to the point.
Blaaze: The king of rap
He exercised his vocal chords in Rajinikanth’s Baba (better known as Baba rap) and became a star.Blaaze, or Lakshmi Narasimha Vijaya Rajagopala Sheshadri, went on to work again with A R Rahman in movies such as Boys, Enakku 20 Unakku 8, New, Aayutha Ezhuthu, Anbe Aaruyire and Hindi films like Saathiya, Yuva, Rang de Basanti and Swades.He has an enviable list of music directors to his credit,like Shankar Ehsaan Loy, Yuvan Shankar Raja and Harris Jayaraj.
‘‘As an Indian growing up outside India, I have always understood the relevance of being connected to my roots.To me, it is not necessarily as literal as rapping or singing in Tamil.It’s more about sharing a culture and verses that have stood the test of time, with a new audience; an audience that thinks and speaks in English,’’ begins Blaaze.Working with AR Rahman and the Thirukurral has helped him achieve this.‘Through musician Paul Jacob, I have lear ned so much about Bharathiyar, and other aspects of folk music, which we have put together in an album.I was fortunate that I was able to express hiphop in English to a Tamil audience through AR Rahman.And now, conveying Tamil to an English audience – it’s a big step forward.It’s not so much about the language as it is about the message!’’ he adds, saying that a blend of Tamil folk music with true hip hop is the future.‘‘You should join Paul and me, featuring the Thappattam (folk dance) with other stars, as we are all set to release our brand new album soon,’’ he concludes.
Paul Jacob: Folk in season
Born into a family of musicians and vocalists, Paul Jacob is one of the few to cut through the clutter of also-rans in the Chennai music scene.This bass guitarist is well known in the world of commercials and also heads a band called Funky Bodhi.Talking about rock, hip-hop and metal Tamil bands, Jacob says, “These genres were born out of protest movements starting out in the 1960s, when the younger generation in Europe and America were protesting against war.The day Tamil bands have something relevant to say, there will be a whole new generation of Tamilians around the world waiting to listen to it,” says the instrumentalist.Tamil, he points out, is a very strong language but is easily adaptable to various genres.It also has a strong rhythmic sensibility.“To me, the language is not as important as the message.I have worked with Telugu, Hindi, Bengali and Bhojpuri besides Tamil and found all of them equally powerful.I work a lot with folk music which brings with it a dialect of its own.Tamil in Madurai, Thanjavur and Thirunelveli have very individual characteristics,” he says.Jacob observes that Tamilian artistes in Malaysia and Sri Lanka are coming up with interesting work.“But I think Tamil bands are far from reviving the language.I think there needs to be a meeting point between folk music, Bakthi music and Rock and Roll, for they share a similar energy.In fact, MS Viswanathan and Illayaraja have given us some great folk rock which works well with the language.Bands could learn from their songs,” he says.Back to classics
Currently putting together a collaboration between rapper Blaaze and folk s i n g e r C h i n n a - ponnu,Jacob talks about a line-up that includes a DJ, a rock band and a small group of folk drummers.The album is scheduled to release later this month.‘‘My most interesting collaborations have been with Susheela Raman and Manickam Yogeswaran from the UK, both of whom work with traditional Tamil lyrics from Thevaram to Thirukkural to Bhakthi,’’ he says.The current project with Blaaze and Chinna Ponnu is also based on poems of Bharathiyaar and Silapadhigaram.‘‘I think a lot more experimentation needs to be done with this amazing body of Tamil literature to make it relevant to the next generation,’’ he shares, adding that one song that defines Chennai is Petta Rap, especially the Saavu Koothu (a funeral dance), which is unique to Chennai.‘‘I think loud rhythmic phrases like Naaka Mooka work as they also have a very attractive phonetic value,’’ he concludes.
Muttu Sandhu:Real life story
Last year, Tamil rock music got a shot in the arm when some college students formed a band and called themselves Muttu Sandhu.The band made its debut at Unwind Centre, Adyar, and featured Sathgurunathan (lead vocal), Arun Prasanna (keyboard), Vinayak Oletti (guitar), Cletus Amalan (bass) and Rahul Sridhar (drums).While the bassist is from Loyola College, the other four are alumni of Padma Seshadri Bala Bhavan, KK Nagar.Sathgurunathan tells us about the lyrics and their connect with the audience.
What you hear
‘‘When the music is set, it is difficult to write the song.So, what I write is what I experience or what I see around me,’’ he begins.Pengal, for instance, is about a man who pours out his emotions after his girl leaves him.‘‘I spoke to people who had experienced a break-up before writing the lyrics.Lines such as .Nee dhaan yen life nu soluva, naa dhaan onoda wife nu soliva, dialoguee vittu vittu thaluva, kadasila aap vechu koluva (meaning, ‘she will say you are her life and that she is your wife, spout dialogues and then dump you’) went down really well with the crowd,’’ recalls Sathgurunathan, adding that the song was a huge hit among the girls in Ethiraj College.‘‘I know we are influenced by the west,’’ he admits, going on to say that even someone who drives around in a BMW and frequents only five star hotels will stop by a roadside biriyani stall.‘So no matter how much we might like the west, at the end of the day, we come back to our Tamil songs,’’ he says.
‘‘I think the audience for rock and hip-hop is increasing.One, movies portray a lot of it.Second, they are curious to know what these genres are like.I had some Panchayat heads coming home for some work and they heard me perform.They wanted to know what kind of music it was and they could connect to the song because it was in Tamil,’’ concludes Sathgurunathan.