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Meeting with ‘Laya Nadha Vithagar Shri Thumba Sekar’

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Joined: 16 Nov 2008
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Location: CHENNAI

PostPosted: Tue Mar 10, 2009 5:33 pm    Post subject: Meeting with ‘Laya Nadha Vithagar Shri Thumba Sekar’ Reply with quote

Dear Friends,

For the benefit of the members who could not participate in this meeting I shall try to provide the gist of information Shri Sekar shared with us regarding his experiences with our beloved MM.

Introduction of Thumba:

Thumba is a percussion instrument which originated from Africa. In Africa they used the buffalo skin. In India this was introduced by the great R D Burman in the Hindi movies but using the camel skin. Mr. Sekar once happened to visit Mumbai and saw for the first time this instrument being used. He wanted to introduce this instrument in our TFM. He said he ordered the instrument for a sum of Rs. 5500/ in the year 1963. Since Mr. Sekar was a believer in astrology he ordered the color of the instrument to be painted with red and yellow as his astrological chart was having the influence of the planets Jupiter and Mars (the color for Jupiter is yellow and for Mars is red). His sister who was residing in Mumbai that time took the delivery of the instrument and brought it to Chennai.

Mr. Sekar being very devoted to MM wanted that it had to be introduced first time in his composition. So he called up MM and told about this. The next day it was used for a rerecording. So our MM is given the credit for using this instrument. But it so happened that Mr.Ganesh was the first person who played the instrument. But since Mr. Sekar introduced this instrument in south he is called as ‘Thumba Sekar’.

Songs played by Mr. Sekar:

He said after the introduction of this instrument MM was using it regularly. The notable song in which Mr. Sekar played was the song ‘Maan Kanda Sorgangal’ in ’47 naatkal’. He told during that song recording he had tough time with MM who said he was unfit for the rhythm and was sent out of the recording theatre. Others like SPB who was the singer for that song had to interfere in support of Mr. Sekar. Later he said he managed to play well and was appreciated by MM. In fact I could notice from his emotive expression about this incident that he was proud to have a beating from MM. ‘kuttu pattalum modhira kaiyale kuttu pada vendum’.

There is another notable song mentioned by him in which he played Thumba. That is ‘malare kurinchi malare’. We can identify the Thumba sound especially when the line comes ‘thalaivan sooda’ then the Thumba starts.

MM uniqueness:

Members asked about the difference between MM and other MDs. He said other MDs would give the notes first and ask the players to play accordingly. MM would ask the players to play the melody or rhythm by telling verbally or with his harmonium. The players will have to play as per his wish. Then once it is his in line with his expectation they have write the notes for themselves.
(This is my personal opinion: I remember 25 years back when people use to compare MM with the other MDs they used to highlight this (that is the preparing complete notes for the recording) as some thing very special qualification. But later I realized that this aspect was the main reason for the other MDs to have become mechanical in their creativity.

Specialty in the rhythm section:

Members wanted him to highlight the importance given by MM for the rhythm section. Mr. Sekar mentioned about the song ‘velli kinnamthan’ (uyarndha manidhan)

He said that this song in which the drums which plays the rhythm ‘Jazz Waltz’ (3/4) would be accompanied by Bongos which plays the chadusram (4/4). He says till date all the light music parties and others are not playing it correctly.

There is another song which he mentioned was ‘minminiyai kanmaniyaai’ (kannan en kadhalan). He said it is very difficult to play the rhythm and sing the song. In these songs he has mixed the rhythm ¾ with 4/4 and he demonstrated by playing on a table. He also said that this has never been done by any MD in India.

(This is my opinion: I remember an article written by Mr. Shaji about MM. I am reproducing the same in his own words.)

விஸ்வனாதனை மேதை என்று ஒரு புகழ் மொழியாகச் சொல்லவில்லை. ஒரு மேதை தன் சூழலின் இயல்பான தொடர்ச்சியாக இருப்பதில்லை. தனக்கு தன் பிறப்பும் சூழலும் அளித்த எல்லா கட்டுப்பாடுகளையும் சாதாரணமாக மீறுகிறான். எங்கிருந்து வந்தது எப்படி உருவாயிறறு என்ற திகைப்பை அவன் உருவாக்கி அளித்துவிடுகிறான். தான் வாழும் காலகட்டம் முற்றிலும் மறைந்த பின்னரும் தன் கலை படைப்புகள் மூலம் அழியாமல் இருந்து கொண்டிருக்கிறான். விஸ்வனாதன் அத்தகையவர்.

Now recall my earlier personal opinion about writing the notes and rhythm in advance which could become mechanical. But with his style of playing and testing before writing the notes then you could explore new horizon in music).

Different trends in MM’s composition:

When members asked about the change of trend in MM’s composition style especially during 1960’s compared 1950s he mentioned that this is because of the change of subjects. The subjects that were produced during 1960s involved with more of social subject, family stories etc. Moreover the dialogues in the movie during 1960s were more colloquial compared to 1950s which were more traditional. The new directors who emerge at different periods set the trend and the music had to represent that trend.

This is true especially in the 1980s when Mr. Bharathi Raja came, the movies started revolving around village, out door shooting etc which also brought the trend in the music.

About other’s contribution to new ideas in composition:

Members raised this subject about his acceptance for new ideas suggested by the orchestra especially in the western style songs. Mr. Sekar said every thing he stressed the word every thing in his songs have come from his heart. The orchestra will have to simply play what comes out from his heart be it any style of composition. He also said be it anybody in his orchestra they have so much respect for him they simply obeyed whatever that flowed from his heart.

He also said that if any new ideas given by the singers he accepts that if he is satisfied with that. But he is the ultimate deciding authority.

When members asked about how he could bring out different kinds of style like ‘Ulagam Sutrum Vaaliban’ in which he was able to bring out various south East Asian style like Japanese. Thailand styles he credited this facet to his creative ability which comes from his involvement with that subject.

Members mentioned that MM could hear many new style of music and could have got inspiration from that. For that he replied that though a person could enhance his music knowledge be hearing many varieties how could he begin when a director explains a situation and wanted a composition suiting to that situation. He further said that most of the MD’s would struggle to begin a composition of a song when the situation is given to them. But for MM this is a cake walk.

Other small bits of information:

MM is also the first in South India to have brought the ‘Triple Congo’ a percussion instrument during the year 1969.

Director K S Gopalakrishnan calls MM as ‘Singam’ (Lion) only. He said KSG would challenge others to compose like MM.

The bongos for the song ‘Paavai Paavai dhan Aasai Aasai dhan’ was played by
Mr. Gopalakrishnan. The skin of the instrument got torn off during the recording and it was heavily raining that day. Mr. Gopala Krishnan never informed about this to MM fearing he could get upset. They some how managed to tape that torn portion of the bongos and some how managed to finish the recording. Mr. Sekar then went in the night to ‘Musie Musicals’ to get that bongos repaired for the next day recording.

The different south East Asian instrument used in the song ‘Thottal Poo Malarum’ is ‘Kanoo’ a Thailand instrument. As usual MM is the first and the last person to have used this.

As per Mr. Sekar, MM never looked at the watch. There were occasions when they have worked almost 18 hours a day.

This may not be an exaggerated statement. I happened to see PS interview to a TV channel yesterday. In that she said that sometimes it happened to them that they were forced to conduct the recording in the mid night and finish the same in the morning.

She especially mentioned about the church choir. She said the church choir was not in the TFM industry and sing the chorus in the church. They participate in the songs of MM which requires their service. Since most of them were working people the recording had to be kept in the night. They would attend their office in the day time, go home finish their dinner and come to the recording around 10 pm when the recording starts and get completed in the morning. That is how the song ‘Mannavane Azhalaama’ was recorded PS said.

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 10, 2009 6:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear Murali

Really a great effort to come up with a write up like this for the benefit of people who could'nt make it. I truly appreciate this. Enjoyed reading!
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 11, 2009 9:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

What was most astonishing for everyone was Thumba Sekar's revelation that MSV has used chanda(i) played by Chanda Narayanan, in the background as a very fine thythm in an imperceptibly low tone in the song 'Minminiyai' from Kannan En Kadalan. Fortunately, Mr. Murali had the DVD and it was played. Till that time, none of us (at least those who were present in the venue) had observed this background rhythm. That too, it was played in a diffferent thaalaa. Mr. Sekar demonstrated the rhythm by playing it on the TV stand with his palms. That MM has taken so much efforts to create a subtle effect which would not even be perceived by most of the listeners goes to show the extreme commitment of MM to creativity and innovation, even without bothering whether his feat would be recognized or not! Hats off to MSV, yet another time!

Those who had missed this experience during the interaction with Thumba Sekar may observe this, when they hear the song the next time. It looks as if still a lot of MSV's musical treasure is waiting to be discovered.
P Rengaswami (9381409380)
MSV, Un isai kettaal puvi asainthaadum, idhu iraivan arul aagum.
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 16, 2009 9:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear Murali,
Thanks for the frequent write ups. This one is also very good.
Mixing 3/4 and 6/8 or 4/4 is one of the styles of MSV which I used to admire. Sorry I could not answer your call properly as the reception was poor. Yes in western music especially in jazz it is done. But music meant for dancing do not contain this combination,probably as it may interfere with the feel. Anyway I will go into this later and give you a complete reply.There are many songs of MSV in this style and I need to categorize them and give few examples other wise this space would not be enough. Thanks for opening up this thread. Chakravarthy
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