I have lived out of India for the past twelve years and my ties to the country can be summarized in four words- family, friends, food and music. A wonderful family back home, some great friends (a few of which are in the US, not far from where I live), love for good Indian food (which gets taken care of by a wonderful cook at home and access to good Indian restaurants in the Bay Area) and finally love for Indian music. The music element is unique and triggers a sense of nostalgia like none other. Every song has a specific memory associated with it. I remember listening to All India Radio at 8 am in the morning with my parents and then Ceylon Radio with my mother. These slots were filled with memorable music composed by M.S.V and Ilayaraja and often times sung by one or more of the following four- SPB, K.J.Yesudas, Chitra and S. Janaki. So when my wife gifted me a third row ticket to a concert that featured two of the four- SPB and Chitra with S.P.Sailaja and S.P.B.Charan, I was thrilled.
Before I delve into the songs sung and all, I wanted to give some shout outs. The auditorium at Chabot College in Hayward, CA had fantastic acoustics. I was in the third row and didn’t find the music too loud or jarring. The sound engineers involved in the show did a great job making sure every sound was heard right. The stage was simple and accesible. The organizers had done a good job keeping things simple. While the event started late, the artists made up by extending the finish time. The audience was extremely receptive to not just the main singers but also an extremely talented group of supporting musicians on stage. SPB’s group had 7 accompanying musicians that accounted for every intrument in Ilayaraja and ARR’s studio. They did a phenomenal job reproducing what was originally recorded with tens of instruments. Rarely if ever have I been so blown away by the accompanying artists. Hats off to them.
The concert began with SPB belting his extremely popular number from Nizhalgal, Madai Thirandhu (who can forget Chandrashekar belting the song in the movie and Ilayaraja humming the “Thana na na na na”). It was followed by Chitra singing her hit piece from Mella Thirandadhu Kadhavu- Kuzhaloodum Kannanukku. Over the next 3 or so hours, the incredibly excited audience was treated to a bevy of hits ranging from Sailaja’s rendition of “Paartha Gnyabagam Illayo” to Charan and his dad delivering a nice duet of “Naan pogiren mele” from Charan produced Naanayam and Charan’s solo rendition of “Kadhal Sadugudu” from Alaipayuthey.. Every song was a standout. Charan was definitely a chip of the old block while Sailaja ably filled in for very many female voices from the actual soundtracks (as well as her own songs). Chitra was brilliant as was SPB. Their voices sound as splendid as they did the first time I heard them. In their rendition of A.R.R’s hit, “Anjali Anjali” from Duet, the artists scaled vocal peaks that completely belied their age.
I walked in expecting and hoping to hear some of my favorite SPB and Chitra pieces. I got some of them and didnt get some others. But as SPB pointed out mid concert, he was specifically trying to give us a flavor of his and the troupe’s work. And rightfully so. Instead of the hugely popular “Agaram Ippo” from the SPB composed Sigaram, we were treated to a less popular but no less great “Idho Idho Yen Pallavi”. I was thrilled when I heard “Yen Jodi” from Vikram and “Manoothu Mandhayile” from Kizhakku Seemayile. And who can ignore “Sundari Kannal” from Dalapathi.
One of Raaja’s most beautiful compositions (and one that deserves its own blog post someday), it was enchantingly delivered by SPB and Sailaja (filling in for S. Janaki). Father son combo also delivered in spades with “Ennama Kannu”- the Sathyaraj-Rajini piece from Mr.Bharath (Malaysia Vasudevan R.I.P). SPB, Chitra and the wonderful orchestra delivered a brilliant “Anjali Anjali” where it was hard to pick the best between Chitra, SPB and the musicians in the orchestra.
The entire concert was peppered with some humorous banter between the artists and SPB regaling the audience with anecdotes and quips to the song requesting folks in the theater. His occasional two line renditions of audience requests was most appreciated. It made the audience feel all the more part of the show. It was only fitting that SPB wrapped the concert with the MSV megahit, “Engeyum Eppodhum” from Ninaithale Inikkum.
“Engeyum Eppodhum Sangeetham Sandhosham” – Music is always on and everywhere as is happiness.
Couldn’t have finished it better. There was music everywhere and it was simply breathtaking.
Entire song list in order (with Youtube links):
Madaithirandhu – Nizhalgal
Kuzhaloodum kannanukku – Mella Thirandadhu Kadhavu
Kalakalamaga – Punnagai Mannan
Kadhal sadugudu – Alaipayudhey
En Jodi manja kuruvi – Vikram
Idho Idho yen pallavi – Sigaram
Kannamoochi – Kandukondain Kandukondain
Ayyayo Nenjam – Aadukalam
Singari Sarakku – Kakki Sattai
Sundari kannal oru – Dalapathi
Partha gnyabagam illayo – Pudhiya Paravai
Adi vanmadhi – Siva
Mounamana neram – Salangai Oli
Kadhal Kadhal ding dong – Panakkaran
Manoothu mandhayile – Kizhakku Seemayile
Ennama kannu – Mr.Bharath
Ooru sanam – Mella Thirandhadhu Kadhavu
Naan pogiren mele – Naanayam
Anjali anjali – Duet
Oh Shanthi – Vaaranam Aayiram
Yamma Yamma kadhal – 7am Arivu
Senorita I love you – Johnny
Malargale malargale – Love Birds
Ragangal padhinaru – Thillu Mullu
Engeyum eppodhum – Ninaithale Inikkum