This review is of an album that released a couple of months back. The reason I write this review despite the above fact is that I don’t want any music follower to have missed out this album. I have not been a big fan of Sivamani’s previous album with James Asher, Drums on Fire, mainly because it was a predominantly percussion-oriented album with pretty much nothing else. Although it excellently showcased Sivamani’s mastery over the field, I found it lacking in diversity. However Mahaleela has completely floored me, as it has a lot more elements than just percussion. The list of people who have teamed up with Sivamani for this album, which includes almost all of his fusion buddies from India and some from outside, is itself more than enough to give the listener a pretty good idea of what to expect. Enough intro I suppose. Here goes the review.
Dancing on the Moon
The track starts off with a rendition of Sarva Mangala Mangalye by the Bosnian singer Alma Ferovic. Alma Ferovic is a singer/lyricist who has been closely associated with A R Rahman, singing his theme for the Chennai-based NGO Banyan and working with him on his LoTR soundtrack. You might want to visit her myspace page and I assure guys that you won’t be disappointed! Alma has got excellent looks to match her singing skills!Along with Alma this song sees Tanvi with supporting vocals, A Premkumar doing the rhythm programming and of course Sivamani on the percussions.
This song has Louiz Banks on the keys supported by Steven(I wonder if this is the keyboard prodigy from Kerala, Stephen Devassy), Sitar by Niladri Kumar and Naveen on flute. The Sitar is evidently an electric one and could easily pass off for an electric guitar in many places. A lounge/spiritual song a la Prem Joshua, this song is a good choice if you are looking for a meditative sort of ambience.
Dedicated to all the masters of percussion, this song has Zakir Hussain and Sivamani engaging in a bout of Konnakol. The start of the track I believe is a pre-recorded Konnakol session by the late Tabla maestro Ustad Allah Rakha, as he is also seen in the credits list. The song sees Naveen at his best on the flute, excellently complementing the vocals. Krishna Chetan on the keyboard. The raga I believe is Abheri or Shuddha Dhanyasi, though I could be wrong.
This lullaby starts with a discourse by Osho. The Tamil folk rendition by Pandaram Selvam has been brilliant, and the blending of the Sarangi by Liyakath Ali Khan in to this South Indian-ish song has been simply superb! Wonder why the regular Sarangi maestro, Ustad Sultan Khan was not chosen for this one, but that by no means takes any credit off Liyakath Ali Khan who has been astounding in the song. The backing vocals by Subhangi Bose and Kavitha and Group also deserve a mention at this point.
This is the only pure-percussion track in the entire album and I must say Sivamani makes the most of the opportunity, bringing in an entire array of percussion instruments into play starting from drumming on water to Chendamelam from Kerala to Japanese taiko drums. The taiko drum section in the end however resembles the taiko drum sequence in Dacoit Duel by A R Rahman in the Mandarin movie Warriors of Heaven and Earth.
To hear Mandolin Srinivas in action is always a very pleasant experience and it is no difference in this song either. Add to that some splendid percussion and this song becomes a mesmerizing experience. The Kuthu style Tamil folk beats are something Sivamani invariably includes in all of his performances, and in this album he chooses to put them at the end of this song. The English vocals by Sonia however could have been done without.
Naveen in action yet again, this time alongside the next two veterans, R Parthasarathy on Veena and Vikku Vinayakram on Ghatam. The flute bit could be in raga Kanada or Darbari Kanada. The folksy rendition by Rangbir has a thottam song feel to it. On the whole the song could easily pass of for a Tamil or a Malayalam movie song!
Shankar Mahadevan joins the party with this song, and what a song indeed! Shankar eases through the high notes with his characteristic improvisations, accompanied by Nomojin. One can hear percussion resembling kitchen utensils in between. The incorporation of a bagpipe-like sound sequence in between has been beautiful.
S M Anandan
A tribute to Sivamani’s father, this song is a bit complex and with dark overtones. The song starts with song aggressive Kanjira by Selvaganesh Vinayakram, and then goes through a rollercoaster ride of a lot of other percussion instruments. Although Janette Harris is credited to the usage of saxophone in this song, I couldn’t recognize a sax sound anywhere. Wonder if the kombu sound or shell sound heard in between is a prepared usage of the sax.
Niladri Kumar returns to deliver a classical piece on the Sitar, and proves again why he is one of the most respected sitarists in India today. The raga seems to be Hamsaanandi.
This song sees a duel of sorts between Hariharan, who starts with a ghazal, and Raja and Tala on the sax. The song is the best song in the pack from the fusion point of view, touching on Hindustani, Carnatic and Jazz. Zakir Hussain is on tabla and Harmith on the keyboard, apart from Sivamani as usual on drums and percussion.
Sivamani chooses to thank all the people who made a difference to his life and those who worked on this album, through a song, thus making up the 12th track of the album. This one has Sivamani going through his vote-of-thanks while Blaaze raps on in the background. Towards the end of the song there is also some good Carnatic sax by Janardhanan.
What a way to come out with a debut solo album. Listening to this album, one wonders what Sivamani the composer was doing all this while! If you are a world/fusion music follower, then this soundtrack ought to be lying in your CD rack.