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NEETI SARKAR
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JJUST- UNARVUGAL

AGI Music Pvt Ltd, Audio CD Rs. 99

Tamil music has witnessed a Renaissance in recent times, and no, this statement has nothing to do with the ubiquitous ‘Why this Kolaveri Di?’. Collectively and as individuals, the Tamil music industry has seen the revival of classical music as well as the evolution of newer genres and styles of performance. JJUST comprising Jawahar Raj, Judah Sandhy, Sai Prakash and Tony Thomas is one such example.

The band came out with their album Unarvugual a few months ago and has found quite a fan following already. This is a concept album and according to the band, it “is an unsaid story of a Scorpion and a Capricorn, how they fall in love, what happens next, the reason for their breakup and finally how the whole story ends.” In a nutshell, it is a romantic musical novel.

The record starts off with ‘Kadhal Malar’, the opening lines of which captivate the listener as Tony croons: ‘Sivappuh roja mallarum neram yen manadhil’ where the protagonist is referring to his newfound love as a flower in full bloom. It’s got a mesmerising piano opening and through the song, the reverberation and chime effect add to its sheen. Into the third minute, the song picks up momentum with a melodic bridge, the instrumental part of which has been well orchestrated. The singer’s vocals sparkle on this one.

Having figured he’s in love, the next part of this concept album is ‘Kadhal Dhaagam’ which is about wooing his lady love. The acoustic guitaring gives it a rock feel and the tempo slowly picks up. The best part about this track is the harmony. There’s been a good balance of Indian and Western instruments, making this a fusion offering to some extent. Tony pulls this off again rather well especially when he sings with feeling: ‘Oru vaarthai ondre podhum yen dhaagam theera oru nimidham’.

The album reaches its peak musically and lyrically with ‘Kadhal Yudhum’ performed by the uber-talented Bangalore boy Judah Sandhy. At the very outset as the guitars soar and the English lines kick in with Judah singing: ‘She set my heart on fire/Her love is my only desire/My thoughts go higher and higher/ higher and higher/ My heart’s on fire’, listeners are in for a sonic treat. The distortion makes this track heavy and the keyboards and the fine drumming complement it almost perfectly. And in a matter of three odd minutes, the vocalist, with his excellent range manages to have you hooked to his voice, as you crave for more.

‘Kadhal Kulapum’ comes next. It’s fast but not as heavy, fairly enjoyable, but with the flurry of sounds and the employment of synthesisers, its infectiousness gets lost towards the end. Perhaps the band planned for the lyrics to be the highlight as the song is about the confusion that develops in the mind of the man as war has begun and he is losing his lover.

Then comes ‘Kadhal Yedhuri’ through which the protagonist is trying to see the bigger picture. The song is about how it is only love that can win the enemy — “jaadhi” (caste) and “madham” (religion) — over. The song ends with a plea to people to give a thought to what has been articulated. Despite the musical fortitude dwindling, Judah must be applauded for holding the song together.

‘Kadhal Tholvi’ is a culmination of the love story which has to do with being defeated in love. Rather poetic, the last two lines read ‘Kalarraigalum kanneer vidigudhe yen kadhal kadhai kaetu/ kannmaniye unakku indha kavithai kaetekalaiya’ which is his plea to his lost love to listen to his heart’s poetry and understand his unfathomable love for her. As expected, this is a slow song.

The album ends with the unplugged version of ‘Kadhal Kulapum’ by Sai Prakash, which is a decent ending.

Overall, Unarvugal makes for a meaningful listen, especially for its concept, lyrics, arrangement and experimentation. What is disappointing is that while the first half keeps the listeners rapt, the second half fails to do so. Nonetheless, this is a good effort by JJUST. Here’s hoping to see more magic on their next!

NEETI SARKAR

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