Sep 26, 2007

Tempe - at minus 20 degrees

No.... I am not talking about a temperature of -20 deg F or 20 deg C. Compared to the usual 105-110 deg F, Tempe's been having unusually low temperatures at this time of the year. It wasn't so last year or the year before that. I haven't seen the day temperature go past 90 deg F which is surprising from the fact that not so long ago were the temperatures touching 115 F. Is the summer over or is some more sunshine in store for us, before the freezing winter?

Alas,(why alas?) the Winter has crept in! Will my joy be shortlived (as usual)?

Sep 24, 2007

Karthik - a phenomenon

Although the concert yesterday was a group concert with 4 singers famous in their own right, there was one person who single handedly made the show a romping success, and a fun-filled one.

It was Karthik - the voice behind many a song in Tamil, Telugu, and Hindi. His "Chori Pe Chori" in Saathiya caught the attention of the Hindi speaking crowd, but he's been pretty popular in Tamil singing one hit after another. right from his first song in Star - Nendhikitten to this first few noticed songs in Baba - Shakthi Kodu and Maya Maya to Uyire En Uyire, Anaarkali, Ale Ale, Oru Maalai and Kan Pesum Vaarthaigal, he's had a good collection of songs.

A young guy, who was purusing Chartered Accountancy before getting into film playback singing, has been in a lot of songs on my playlist. But his performance at Naach - 2007 in Phoenix on Sept 22nd was the one that caught my attention totally. He was too good with his songs and at the same time entertaining.

Usually music concerts turn out to be, singers singing one song after another and get away. But this was not the case, He interacted with the audience pretty well and knew the audience pulse. This was his great success/achievement which most singers don't get.

Here is the list of songs sung by Karthik in the concert. More details in the blog titled "Mahima Naach 2007" right below this blog.

Shakthi Kodu - Baba
Theradi Veethiyil - Run
Akale - Akale(Malayalam)
Maro Maro - Boys(Telugu)
karu Karu - Pachaikili Muthucharam
Boom Boom - Boys
Oru Maalai - Ghajini
Snehidhane/Chupke Se - Alaipayuthey/Saathiya
Ale Ale - Boys(Telugu)
Mithwa - Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna - Amazing one!
Nila Kaagirathu - Indira
Girl Friend - Boys
Kajre Re - Bunty Aur Bubly
Mustafa Mustafa - Kadhal Desam

The other singers were Sadhana Sargam, Unnikrishnan, and Ganga.

Mahima Naach 2007

With two of my favorite singers coming to perform in AZ, it was another concert that I would crave to attend. Plus an added bouns was that one of my friends Shilpa Sangam was performing a couple of dances for the songs. I just expected it to be an ordinary fare with few people turning up and the concert not being too entertaining, since the singers were either fairly new or not too popular to gather a big enough crowd like how Hariharan’s or SPB’s concerts do. But I was mistaken. The crowd was definitely less compared to the other concerts that I have been to. But, I would say it was a 4-hour stint that I would love to experience again and again. The entire atmosphere was filled with claps and whistles, and never have I seen it in close quarters like this for a music concert. Plus the dances were all very well choreographed and pretty lively. It never got repetitive. If at all there was monotony, I would say it was the number of Tamil songs that were sung. Agreed it was a predominantly Tamil crowd, but there were others too, and there should have been emphasis on other language songs too. However, I cannot complain, since I knew almost all songs and I was happy that I saw my favorite singers singing them, just for me! :)

It began with a medley (recorded) from Dhoom II and Jhoom Barabar Jhoom to introduce the Naach dance troupe.

Ganga started off with “Yeh Mera Dil” from the movie Don(new one). She was pretty good in this one and sounded fresh.

Unnikrishnan sang his popular “Roja Roja” from Kadhalar Dhinam, which had inputs from Ganga too.

My favorite Sadhana Sargam sang her ever-refreshing “Pehla Nasha” in the same spirits as sung 15 years ago. Unni Krishnan accompanied her on this one. It was a great duet. Sadhana made a mention that it was the first time she was pairing with Unni for a concert and a song. Sadhna Sargam then sung her popular track “Saath Samunder” from Vishwathma – a foot-tapping number. She ended the song with “Le Gayee” from Dil to Pagal Hai.

This was followed by a dance for Dola re Dola re from Devdas. This was played from a CD probably. My friend danced for this one.

Another of my favorites Karthik, (the man behind “Ale Ale” and “Maya Maya”) came to the stage. He mentioned it was his first tour to the US and he was getting nervous and would sing one song and then begin talking. The song he sung was apt for him, “Shakthi Kodu” from Baba, and it gave him enough Shakthi to engage us till the very end of the concert. He then sung his song form Run – “Theradi Veethiyil”. He made it pretty interactive with the inputs from the crowd itself. He sings ‘Theradi Veethiyil Devathai Vandhaal’ and the crowd would complete the line. This went on and we all thoroughly enjoyed it.

Unni Krishnan and Ganga sung the classic “Narumughaiye” from Iruvar. Ganga couldn’t match upto Bombay Jayshree’s rendition though. There was a Bharathnatyam dance with this song.

A person by name Prabhu, commonly called Bay Area SPB sang the Telugu version of “Vaaji Vaaji Sivaji” from Sivaji. Ganga accompanied him on this one. What Karthik calls his “fluke” Malayalam song is “Akale” from the movie by the same name and he sung this next.

My favorite song “Konjum Mainakale” from Kandukonden Kandukonden was rendered next by Sadhana Sargam pretty well and as I mentioned in one of my earlier posts, she has improved a lot in her Tamil rendition. She flawed though, in singing – En Peyarai Solliye Kuyilgal Koovattum as En Peyarai Solliye Paruvam Marattum, which still made sense, I guess.

Ganga sang the song “Barso Re” from Guru, and my friend danced for this one too.

This was followed by “Maro Maro” from Boys(Telugu), sung by Unnikrishnan, Ganga and Karthik, who said he had to be pardoned if he introduced his own lyrics to his Telugu rendition. The dance for this one deserves a special mention since the dancers had a chair on which they stood and danced at times.

Karthik then sung the current favorite “Karu Karu Vizhigalal” from Pachaikili Muthucharam. This had a good dance too.

Ganga then sang “Maargazhi Thingal” from Sangamam and Unnikrrishnan later joined in for this song. The song ended with a long “alaap” by Unnikrishnan which was really good.

Bay area SPB and Ganga sang Sivaji title song “Ballelakka”, next followed by an excellent rendition of “Banno Rani” from 1947:Earth by Sadhana Sargam. The sole Kannada song in the concert was by Bay area SPB and was Thai Thai Bangari a song of Dr. Rajkumar.

“Boom Boom”, a peppy number from Boys was brought alive by Karthik and Sadhana Sargam. Karthik did a good job with this one, and for once I got the right pronunciation of the lyrics of this song, otherwise butchered by Adnan Sami(I don’t blame him either). This had an interesting dance too.

Being a die-hard fan of the Hariharan-Sadhana pair, I felt pretty happy to listen to the rendition of “Chanda Re” from Sapnay, (aka Vennilave in Minsara Kanavu), by Unni Krishnan and Sadhana Sargam. It is one of Sadhana’s best songs and will remain to be.

The first song, a national-award winning one, something that brought him to film playback singing – “Ennavale” from Kadhalan was Unnikrishnan’s next.

Karthik then acknowledged Harris Jayaraj that he gave him some of his best songs and sang “Oru Maalai Ila Veyil Neram” from Ghajini.

Unnikrishnan and Ganga sang a song from the Tamil movie Dhil – “Un Samayal Araiyil” which apparently got him and Sujatha the best playback singers award from the Tamilnadu government.

Next was the one I was waiting for. Seven years ago, I first ever heard it with the Bru ads on the television. Also, the crowd cheered “Snehidhane” and Sadhana Sargam said ‘Woh hi aa raha hain’. Karthik began with the ‘Netru Munniravil Unnil’ and I felt simply out of the world. Sadhana Sargam began with “Chupke Se”, which disappointed me, since I wanted to listen to the Tamil song. But she didn’t completely disappoint me either. She did have bits of the Tamil song in between. The dance for this was very well choreographed too.

The song with the time-freeze technology in its video, “Ale Ale” from Boys was the next one sung by Karthik and Ganga. Karthik as usual was at his best. He said this song was to be recorded on a day when he had to leave to Singapore with his flight at 1 or 3 am. Apparently the song was not ready even at 7 pm and the recording began at 10 pm. And the lyricist Kapilan and director Shankar wrote bits and pieces of the song and Karthik and ARR would record it in gaps. Finally when he heard the end-product he was pretty happy. This is one of the beautiful songs visually too with the time-freeze technology(frst seen in Matrix).

“Mithwa” from Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna was the next one by Karthik and he said he simply loved this song and this was his first attempt at it. It was a reallt soothing number.

The next song was “Haira Haira Hai Rabba” from Jeans. Unnikrishnan and Karthik came to the audience to see which side of the audience was louder, which was a nice interactive thing. The song was a Telugu/Tamil mix.

Then was a short Medley with “alaaps” by Sadhana Sargam, Unnikrishnan and Karthik followed by a few numbers, Karthik was on the piano initially. Sadhana Sargam sang ‘Udhaya Udhaya Ularalile’ from Udhaya. Unni Krishnan – Katre En Vaasal from Rhythm, Ganga – Malargale from Love Birds, Karthik – Nila Kaagirathu from Indira. Then all of them sung the Kal Ho Na Ho title track, which wasn’t that pleasant to listen with Unni’s classical mix in it.

We thought this was the end of the concert, but it was not.

Next was Karthik’s number ‘Girl Friend’ from Boys. I have never liked this song(atleast in 2003), but after listening to it this time by Karthik himself, I figured out, it is indeed a fun song.
All the four of them then sung the famous ‘Kajra Re’ from Bunty Aur Babli. IT was a fun number, but there was no dance for this one…. wait…. the crowd had already begun to dance to the tune.

Unnikrishnan then rendered Uyirin Uyire from Khakha Khakha. He was out of sync initially and didn’t do a good job with the song.

Finally all the four of them sung – Mustafa Mustafa from Kadhal Desam. Karthik was really good on this one.

It was a refreshing concert for me, and most of the number were the ones on my playlist and it was different to listen to it real-time with the singers singing it. However, I would have preferred more songs form Sadhana Sargam and Karthik duo – they do have ‘Manja Kattu Maina’ and ‘Kadhal Vettukili’(not so popular). Karthik and Sadhana could have sung ‘Aao Naa’ and ‘Azhage Sugama’ pretty effectively too. However I cannot complain since it was indeed a lot of songs in the concert.

I would have loved to meet them backstage and speak to Karthik and Sadhana Sargam. However that didn’t happen. But, there is surely a next time. If Karthik is going to be in the US next for a concert, I would definitely be there. Same with my trip to India, I would want to attend one of his concerts for sure.

These concerts are full of excitement, enthusiasm, good crowd spirit and good entertainment value. I missed the ARR concerts this time, but that will never happen the next time ARR is in the US.

Sep 20, 2007

Coffee - and its rejuvenating Aroma!!!

Coffee - something that you'll find in any restaurant in any part of the world. Various flavors to it and thus called by various names including mocha, latte, cappuchino etc. Not getting into those details, this is about the simple coffee made in every possible Indian household - Filter coffee and Instant coffee.

The name that comes to anyone's mind while talking about instant coffee in India is Bru or Nescafe Sunrise. The chicory in these makes it apart from anything that is available in the US, apart from it's finely powdered form. I've been lucky to find Bru in almost every Indian store around that too for a very reasonable price.

My day begins with a cup of coffee, usually Bru. (I usually don't have the time to have a filter coffee, though I would love to, since I need to leave home by 8 am). The coffee aroma itself is sufficient to wake me up, and keep me awake for the entire day. Also on days that I have filter coffee, the Coffee Day Ultra Rich coffee's aroma is simply out of the world, fill my kitchen with nostalgia. I simply love it. Cothas coffee/Narasu's coffee give pretty good aroma too.

The coffee in Karnataka(a state in India) is a served in very small cups/tumbler(lota), and I know of people that have 6-8 such cups of coffee a day. However, the cup is always half full, or the usual "by 2" seen in Bangalore restaurants. A "by 2" means split one cup of coffee into 2 cups, so that two people can have it. However, it is seen that both cups are almost 3/4th's full(though with lather). Thus, a benefit to the buyer/s.

These days I figured out, a coffee right after lunch is quite helpful in staying awake, thus surviving the doze cause heavy food intake, which specially occurs when I have a class right after lunch. My department used to have the coffee room open till the end of summer and it indeed was helpful in keeping us awake at all times. A slight hint of drowsy feeling, would lead me to the coffee room, and there I get rejuvenated. Sad that it is no longer open to us. However, that didn't stop us from getting our own stuff to do coffee. But the experiment became a disaster, when the coffee maker didn't function. Waiting to get a new coffee maker this weekend.
One can argue about the effects of coffee, but the majority of people (that drink coffee) still continue to do so. Coffee continues to have a strong presence felt. However. a limited consumption is always good. Anything in excess is bad. 'Alavukku Minjinaal Amirthamum Visham', translates 'If not taken in right quantities, amrutha(heavenly nectar, known to give immortality) also is poison'.

Time for another cup of coffee.....

Sep 6, 2007

My new music system

I had been wanting to get a real big music system for a while. A primitive music lover like me has quite a few of his music on cassettes(not that I don't have their MP3 versions), I somehow love cassettes. The old system I had was given to me by Ram, and I had it for a good two years, though CDs stopped playing on that one.

My specifications for the system were called as outdated by a few people. I wanted something that could play Mp3 CDs, audio CDs, and cassettes and not cost more than a couple of hundreds of dollars, yet have a good sound output. I found that CD players or boombox were not good keywords to search them on the web. A visit to a friend's house proved to be fruitful, when I figured out that these were called 'shelf systems'. (Have they never called things right in the US?)

A couple of searches showed me good ones for less than 200 bucks. I had decided on getting one, but decided to hold on to it for a while, and get it after clearing a few uncertainities.

However, I told Supprey I was planning on getting it sometime. And thought will buy it over the Labor day weekend and forgot about it.

The next day I go their house, and I see this one and they say it's my b'day gift. I was speechless and still am. One of the really nice gifts ever! Now, I no longer listen to songs on my Dell speakers when I am home. It is on the big Philips FWM575 360 Watts MP3/WMA Mini Shelf System. It plays Mp3 cds, CD's and cassettes in addition to Mp3 files on a USB drive :)

Thanks, Supprey, Dilip, Harish and Prathap for this one!