Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Songs #412 & 413 - It's TWOsday!

Song #412 of 9999                                   Song #413 of 9999

Title: Bird Flu                                            Title: Thiruvizhannu Vantha
Artist: M.I.A.                                              Artist: R.P. Patnaik (composer)
Year: 2007                                                Year: 2003
Album: Kala                                              Album: 
Jayam - Original Soundtrack


I'm pretty fascinated with the music of M.I.A. In an earlier post, I compared her beats to those produced by Public Enemy's Bomb Squad in terms of their complexity and dissonance. I also misidentified the sampled chants of children as being "African," a mistake I wish to set straight in tonight's post! (I am a stupid American—anything that's rhythmic and not South American is "African.")

"Bird Flu" is the song I referred to in that erroneous post and the children are actually from the Tamil Nadu region in southern India. The prominent drums are called urumee and the native music is known as gaana. Okay, now that I have all my facts straight (I think!), let's talk about this song. The meter is duple compound—two beats per measure, each divided into three equal parts—presented at a tempo which gives the song an unusually long stride. M.I.A. delivers her half of the call-and-response with a rhythm that hits hard on the downbeat while the children's chants emphasize the upbeats. An examination of the words themselves will disappoint you so I'll leave them to your imagination. Like Public Enemy, M.I.A. too is a militant and she's got the music to engage but lyrics that don't quite measure up.

So you've heard of Bollywood, right? If not, it's the informal name for Indian film industry, which has gained global popularity over the past 15 years or so. Well, it turns out "Bollywood" really refers to films specifically made in the Mumbai area and, in fact, there are smaller cinema centers all over the country. One such place is "Kollywood," named for the Kodambakkam region in Tamil Nadu, where Tamil cinema is produced. As with most popular Bollywood films, music and dance play a major role in these productions and the Tamil music is on prominent display in the 2003 film Jayam. Take a listen to the song "Thiruvizhannu Vantha" and what do you discover? Enough similarity to earn composer R.P. Patnaik a writer's credit for "Bird Flu"! Of course, the music takes on a completely different tone in this context and I love the dichotomy.

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