Tamil film poster
Tonight’s feature is Carnatic music with a difference. Actually it is only Carnatic in that it comes from South India. In actuality it is pop music.
Long before A.R. Rahman was known to Western audiences and many years before the current craze for Bollywood funk/pop/jazz filled the blogosphere, soundtracks and record racks David Byrne, chief Talking Head, introduced the music of Jude Mathew to American ears.
Jude Mathew, aka Vijaya Anand, is an early pioneering musical director of Tamil films who ground together instruments, beats, rhythms and styles as if he were a musical chef concocting an outrageously spicy curry. Born into a family of serious, practicing Catholics in Madras (Chennai) in 1952, Jude was bewitched by music from a very young age.
It is much easier to stumble upon movies in the process of being made in India than in other countries and near Jude’s house was a place where a movie orchestra rehearsed. The youngster visited regularly and tried to get his parents to agree to buying him an instrument. They refused. ‘Education is the future,’ they told him. ‘Forget this movie nonsense.’ But they ultimately did crack a bit and bought him a set of bongos to stop his pestering.
|A rare photo of Mr Anand|
He practiced his bongos and played them for the conductor the orchestra who was immediately impressed. Little Jude was invited to join the group. He was 8 years old! His mother blanched and tried her best to discourage what appeared to be the beginning of the slippery road to hell. But his dad was converted and agreed to let him continue to hang out with the orchestra.
A mother’s intuition is usually right. And so it was in this case. Jude announced he preferred music to education at the end of high school and formed a group he called the Melody Cans who performed the music of Tamil movies widely across Madras. You start off smoking soft drugs and soon you’re addicted to the hard stuff. And so our hero soon got bored with playing other people’s music and turned his restless spirit to composing his own music.
Breaking into the conservative Madrasi film studio world was hard. The films he worked on were flops or never made to the cinemas. Producers ran out of money. Actors died. Jude quit music and took up a job as machinist. The long commute to work and horrible hours and working conditions nearly sucked his creativity dry. He took up a diploma course in Western Classical Music conducted at the Trinity College of Music, London. The classes were held in a musical instruments shop called Musi Musicals in the heart of Madras. Here, Vijaya learned theory, piano and classical guitar. He also took classes in South Indian Carnatic music from Mr. Jalatharangam Radhakrishnan, a noted master.
But somehow when he had the energy he did his music and found some work composing music for Tamil stage plays. This led eventually back to the film studios in the mid 1980s. With the support of a prominent local actor, he changed his name to Vijaya Anand. Perhaps that did it. But however it happened he was suddenly scoring all sorts of south Indian films. Though a native Tamilian, he wrote songs for Telegu and especially Kannada films, a language he didn’t speak!
To say Anand’s music is electric is to but scratch the surface of his style. Here you will hear, xylophones, sax played like a shenai, inerludes of Hawaiian guitar, jazz trumpets, synths, wild screaming guitars and something that sounds like door bells. The songs are fast and melodic. If listening to them is so much fun imagine what composing them must have been like. A bit of this, some of that and lots of the other. More more more!!!!
Here are the roots of A.R. Rahman. The music is bombastic, ambitious, orchestral-disco and grasping for greatness which it usually achieves.
Vijaya Anand’s opinion about his own music is very candid. “I am just a music lover. We so-called ‘masters’ like Beethoven, Bach and Thiagaraja Swamy (a South Indian classical music composer from the 18th century) draw from these rich sounds and blend them together to suit the taste of our audience.” For Vijaya Anand, creating an exciting blend of music is a cinch.
01 (The Light of Life) Dancing Is Beautiful
02 (The Emperor and the Prince) I Am the Emperor
03 (The Ramayana of Today) Desire Soars Up High
04 (God Incarnated) Loving Hearts
05 (Dance Raja Dance) Only You Were Mine
06 (I'm Not That Kind of Guy) Love Is Everywhere
07 (Inspector Vikram) When I Say Come
08 (The Emperor and the Prince) I Said I Love You
09 (Krishna, When You Danced) Dheem Thana Thana Nana
10 (The Ramayana of Today) Lover You Speak Beautiful Words
11 (King of Kings) The Drink That Has Gone Up