Friday, January 22, 2010

Djakarta :)

Peaceful. Calm. Almost serene I would say. Wonderful hosts and wonderful food at their home. Mom has been here for 3 days and she has been learning the language with gusto.
Somehow I really wonder if the seats in aircrafts are designed for comfort at all. But then I can be weird. That's not the point anyway. We went to this place called Taman Mini which is Indonesia in miniature. Lovely concept. Reminded me of Dakshinachitra in a few ways because of the way they have replicated the houses that are found all over Indonesia in one place. Took enough and more pictures. And then there was this miniature monkey which rode its own mini scooter, which is what I would like to call that contraption. But it was adorable. The weather here was cloudy when we landed and it has been raining. Then there was the elaneer we had here. Definitely one of the biggest that I have seen and tasted. I also saw this interesting lake where they have recreated the map of Indonesia, its Islands et al. I could not but help compare that with the kind of wealth of resources that we have in India so much can be done but perhaps the bureaucracy just won't allow that. There were groups of dancers that were practicing the traditional dances. Indonesia seems to celebrate the Geetopadesha and the Ramayana quite a lot. A lot more exploring to do but now its time to get to work and decide on the show tomorrow.


How many lines and quotations we have read and heard eventhough some of them are done to death. Smile. It improves your face value. Smile is a curve that sets everything straight. And lines like that. Funny, I only remember the done-to-death ones and not the interesting ones. There are wellness books and make-your-life-better books which would definitely put in a page/chapter that eulogises the Smile. Sitting here at KLIA and generally watching the people that have been walking in and out the past couple of hours, I haven't seen one smile yet. Yeah, well, no one might be in a mood to smile this early in the morning after a flight. At least the one from Chennai to KL neither gives you time enough for a good shut-eye nor is it short enough for you to stay awake and read or do whatever.
Was on my way home yesterday after only a few hundred things that had to be done and completed, to pick up the bags with nerves that were already bunched up. It was getting uncomfortably late. I looked out through the window at the buses. And the people traveling in them. Have several memories of the PTC. And then I saw this couple perhaps in their very late sixties or early seventies. The lady had a scarf around her ears. They had a nice aura to them. Perhaps someone does know when you look at them and the man caught my eye and he seemed to say something to his wife. By the time she turned to look something else had caught my attention. After a while I looked out at the buses again and his time I saw the lady looking at me. Not something I do all the time, but I waved out to them. Just felt like I should. And then they broke into one of the nicest smiles I have seen in a long while. They waved back. And then we went our separate ways.
2008 December. Was just finishing my breakfast show on radio and was getting back home. And I got this call enroute that Sridhar sir had passed on. I couldn't help the tears that flowed. I didn't think about what would someone think if they saw me crying and all that jazz. I noticed in a little while that I was quite a sight. And then there were these two girls on a two-wheeler in front of my vehicle. They waved out, caught my attention and mouthed a "Smile" and gesticulated for good measure.  More than a year later, I still vividly remember them and that signal.
The adults do everything they can to get one smile from babies. They coo, make funny faces, dance, blab... anything. And as we grow up, they are taught to wipe the smile off. So that kids can look "mature" at 6 and 3 quarters. And for several other important reasons like that.
Anyway, there is this lady "rekwethin passenjuhs thu prosceed foh bohdhing" and I better heed her call. Naresh Iyer and I are performing there tomorrow and am quite looking forward to it. Perhaps this will also be a tweeny holiday.
And here I wish for you that you come across smiles that brighten your day and give you memories that are special just as they have for me.
God bless.
P.S.: Read this amazing article in the inflight magazine of MH. And surprisingly it spoke about the happiest countries in the world - namely Bhutan, Denmark, Malawi and a few other places. And they had these wonderfully smiling pictures of children in Malawi. Perhaps it was the theory of attraction at play. On an off note, this issue of the MH magazine is one of the best that I have read.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Want to thank

A few people on the ARRahmanfans group on who have been perhaps way too kind with their words on what they think of me and my singing. I know of one name because Mr Vithur who is also a major fan of Rahman sir forwarded the mail to me - Mr Mundra and the other gentleman seems to have only an alias as I see it.

With all my heart, thank you for your kindness. I shall strive to live up to the compliments.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Rehearsals and etcetera (With additions)

More often than not, the rehearsals are the most fun. When we are all a little more chilled out and the heat starts getting to us only as it nears the time of the actual event on stage, but until then its all fun and laughter. At other concerts that I have been part of, the standard quip would be to say that the final rehearsal will be the concert itself. Also, some onstage mess ups, that perhaps only those that the artiste knows, mostly the musicians and co-artistes would also know and rarely the audience knows.
The rehearsals for Vinnai Thaandi Varuvaaya's audio launch had us all spend considerable time, jamming,  working out how we could perform the songs - especially since it would be the first time people would listen to it, there was some pressure there with a lot of joking and good humour thrown in. Gautham sir would be present for every rehearsal session. Early. He already knew all the lyrics, everyone's portions, entries, who would sing where, by heart and sang along with gusto.  I was suggesting he should sing sometime, though he already has in Vaaranam Ayiram, when the title cards play. He sounds good I think. Also, once we had set the order for all the songs and we would repeat it for the 2nd and 3rd times for reinforcement, Gautham sir gave the cues on who should sing when and where right after the first time. For me, it was something I had never seen a Director do. He gave his inputs on how the unplugged versions would be presented even as we put it together under Srinivas sir's guidance. Blaaze anna came up with this rap portion in Omana Penne that you won't find in the album. On Day 1 of the rehearsals, Omana Penne was the first thing that was set. While Srini sir and Benny were discussing how to come in to the song and while it was being put together, Blaaze Anna came up with this "million in one" lines and I was grinning like a Cheshire cat. Every other song fell in place too. There was this one session where Rahman sir had heard the entire unplugged version in London, for which I was not present as I was traveling from Kuwait to London. So there was no opportunity for me to meet him until we got on stage that evening at BAFTA. That was unsettling as well for me because his input before the show is the most valuable one. And I had no way of getting it. And his being there in the first row and watching us was a very jittery feeling for me. I think it was the first time that I was performing with Rahman sir in the audience. The second time, also, with the audio launch in Chennai.
I remember before all of us got on stage we were a bundle of nerves. And the guys kept saying it feels so different because the air is so formal. All this suit and tie and coat... they kept saying.  And they said it was because of that attire they felt nervous. Before we got on stage we formed a circle, held hands and Alphonse sir said this most beautiful prayer. I was so touched. It was one of the most sincere prayers I had ever heard or seen in a while. It did make a difference to how we felt. But I didn't loosen up until Hosanna was over. I joked with Srini sir later, that at every such momentous occasion, he is the opener. Even at the November Fest concert last year, when the curtains went up, he said that this is one of the times when the artiste is in awe of the audience and it does not help to be the first person to sing. Because that's when the entire sound systems and everything will be adjusted or readjusted. No matter how many sounds checks, Murphy's law is always at play. For that matter the audio engineers at London were downright brilliant. They set up the systems in about an hour. And yes Srinivas sir opened with Hosanna. And of course Srini sir opened with Hosanna.
I am trying to figure out, why it takes a while for me to find my bearing on stage especially with how I hear my voice. It takes at least a while to settle down and also because for the kind of songs that I have sung, the throw changes. Like for example between a Mayya Mayya, or a Miss you Da or a Sahana, singing them back to back in a show seems to be the engineer's nightmare. Whispery to husky to downright throwing my voice the way it can be heard to the last row without a mic is not something that a guy would like I guess. I might have to get this sorted too.
I realized that I had met Simon Webbe (of the Blue boy band), who had been kind enough to walk up to me and say that I have an awesome voice and said something like, "I didn't even know those notes existed.. you are an amazing singer". I figured he was a musician but I didn't recognize him but the next day, Ravi of the VTV team asked me whether I had met Mr Webbe. And I asked Who? And Ravi said "he wanted to meet you." Then I came back home, all the way back to Chennai that is,  googled and was like ack!! Yes I was polite and all, but it would have been nice if I had known his work and who he was. Ah well.  Until we were called on stage we were peeping through the door to see what was happening and apparently the audience was loving what Gautham sir was saying. We heard a lot of laughter. And then we were called on stage one by one. Srini sir had said that singers should be invited to audio launches as a norm but this has become an exception. And perhaps because Gautham sir is into music he treated us all so well. And made us feel special. Rahman sir made a rare display of his sense of humour on stage after everyone had expressed their thanks, Rahman sir said "I want to thank my wife. I wanted to wear this tie but this (collar) was too tight, And she helped stitch this button here which made it possible to wear the tie. So I want to thank my wife". Some smart alec later called out to her "Great job with the button".
This performance onwards I was making an effort to smile while singing. I had heard so many people tell me to do that, including my mother. Of course even I don't have the wisdom to take it the first time when mom tells me. And now people ask me if I was smiling throughout the show because I forgot the lyrics. Hehe.. Nice. But should be sticking to this and making a few more changes on my performance side as well.
I remember Devan remarking, perhaps during the rehearsal in Chennai before everyone took off to London, that more than the show, the rehearsals is what we would all remember the most. Devan is perhaps the funniest guy I have ever met. Tremendous sense of humour, great timing and the anecdotes he had to share had all of us in splits. I remember this time, when I had just met Devan and Harish Raghavendra and during the time that we were killing before we had to go on stage, both of them  were unstoppable and mom and I were a complete gone case with all the laughing. My voice took quite a while to recover. Just in case you don't know, laughing does no good to the singing voice. Its one of the worst things to do before singing. Which is why Srini sir also told them not to put Devan on the same flight as him and the others. Because we knew we would all have laughed so much that we would have no voice left. And sometimes he made these funny faces while playing the guitar, that we had to physically turn away and look somewhere else while he played his bit. And also, the majority there would speak Malayalam, i.e. Benny, Stephen, Srinivas sir, Alphonse sir, Alaap who joined us for the performance at Chennai and they would ramble off and Devan would say "Cut the Asianet".  The quietest person is Blaaze Anna. Doesn't speak much at all. But when he gets up and raps.. oh wow. But perhaps I have learnt more Malayalam than ever thanks to all the time we spent at the rehearsals.
But yes, all rehearsal sessions are not happy pappy as this one or as positive. Some are truly painful, emotionally that is or just uneventful.
Again, I hope to work with Stephen and Devan too sometime, if they have the time/inclination. Let's see. I really want to start working on my own albums but the way things are and with the downloads, even if someone is kind enough to invest in an album, how does the ROI happen. Or does it anyway? Hopefully we will figure this out...
The rehearsals and the performance for this launch was musically gratifying, a thought that all of us shared. And yes, life does show some spring colours.
As for today, though it was Pongal, I didn't like it one bit. The day wore high heels, dug them deep in clayey soil and dragged.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Latest Release in Uthara Swayamvaram for M Jayachandran

I have sung for M Jayachandran sir after quite a while and like every song that I have recorded for him, this one is also very special. This is a duet with Vijay Yesudas, perhaps the next release after our duet in Pokkisham. Jayachandran sir is a strict task master and he gave me my break in Malayalam with the song in the album Swandham. Except for Thilakam, every song I have sung in Malayalam movies is for him. He is soft spoken, supra patient with teaching me  the song and Malayalam and has told me several times that I am like his little sister. And I have loved his music and his style.
The last few times I sang for M Jayachandran sir, there was this interesting guy called Sainoj, a very good singer who proclaimed that he would be my Malayalam Guru, who would also guide me on the singing and pronunciation. We met and spoke mostly during recordings, during the lunch breaks if and when they happened around the time of the sessions. Occasionally he used to drop a line on Orkut. I am given to understand that he has a couple of tremendous hits to his name recently and was touted to be one of the fastest rising singers there. But then God did have different plans and one day a few weeks ago he collapsed, slipped into a coma and eventually slipped away. This I came to know several days after he passed on, at a time when I had gone to record a song at the studio where we worked together. I have remembered mom saying that that some people do not have permission to leave this world. I don't think Sainoj had anyone's permission either. He was fun, cracking jokes and every recording session used to be what good memories are made of. Thinking of him will always bring a smile to my face which he constantly used to ask me to do. Smile that is.
I am admiring Vijay Yesudas's singing in this song. Have a listen and let me know what you think. And I hope Sainoj is listening somewhere and smiling in his own special way and I remember a very distant "Aniyathi.... smile cheyyu!!"