Elay by Staccato – Music Review (Carnatic/Folk Fusion Album)

Songs and musician credits at the end.

The title track of the album is a pepped up version of an ode to the farmers that the band debuted on Mirchi Unplugged four Pongals ago in 2016. Staying true to the band’s “contemporary classic” tagline, the song sees a deft packaging of a folk ditty within a pop-based arrangement. One of the highlights of the arrangement is Manoj Kumar’s (who is also the song’s lyricist) violin. In fact, the extensive use of violins is one of my favourite things about the album itself, appearing in all but one song. Continuing on the folk fusion route is the lovely Thuru Thuru that kicks off with a seemingly Celtic-inspired violin-led (Sayee Rakshith this time – man also produces a fab solo in the interlude) prelude. While a large part of the song features heavy percussion, the melody is quite mellow and, aided by that seven beat rhythm and the inherent tenderness in Gowtham Bharadwaj’s delivery, almost takes on a lullaby-ish feel on occasion. Five of Elay’s seven songs are Bharadwaj’s solo acts, one of which is the album’s third folk track – a chirpy Telugu piece titled Tholakari. While the album clearly draws various influences even in its original songs, it is in this song that the influence feels more specific, the chorus bit in particular reminds me of some old folk song, but that is not to take away from the quality of the piece itself. Top notch delivery yet again, and some fab touches in the arrangement – the guitar usage (Abhinandan R, Shallu Varun) and that naadhaswaram cameo (Bala) in particular. The Hindi track Saawan is the album’s relatively filmi sounding piece (it is perhaps the percussion usage that gives me that feel). Keeping with the rain theme in the lyrics, the melody carries shades of miyan ki malhar raga, and even the backdrop appears to feature the rainstick. The violin (Raghavasimhan Sa here) is spectacular yet again, especially in the interlude, and accentuating the soulfulness is Manoj Kumar’s viola.

Rest of the album is where the band eschews original compositions for some good old Carnatic fusion. There is a distinct switch in tone around this part of the album, towards a more immersive sound. First of the three, and my favourite, is Pattaabhiraamayya’s poorvikalyani raga based Nee Maatale. While Gowtham Bhardwaj’s rendition stays entirely faithful to the Carnatic composition, all around him is a hypnotic mix of electronic and rock elements. The occasional use of tabla in an electronic mix took my mind back to the likes of Talvin Singh and Karsh Kale. Gowtham Bharadwaj hands the baton over to another competent singer, Niranjana Ramanan, for the final two songs. Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavathar’s kamas raga based Maathey Malayadhwaja (some of you might remember an adaptation of this piece from the opening sequence of Morning Raga) gets breezy electronic transformation at the hands of the band. Well, at least the first half of it does (special mention to Bhavani Prasad’s veena in that segment). As the final verse kicks in, the song makes a delightful switch to an upbeat setting that keeps transforming even within that segment, shadowing Ramanan as she skips between words and notes with practised ease. As uplifting an album as Elay is, it ironically ends on a rather sombre note with the band’s take on Thyagaraja’s vasanthabhairavi raga-based Nee Daya Radha. Sombre, but no less effective than the rest of the album. The composition’s haunting melody, in combination the searing electric guitars, violin solos (Raghavasimhan once again in fine form), cello (V R Sekar) etc and of course Niranjana Ramanan’s delivery, make for quite a potent mix!

Staccato is one of the many promising bands I discovered on Kappa TV’s incredibly underrated show Music Mojo – in fact, a cover song from their 2013 set on the show had even made it to one of our “Best of Music Mojo” playlists created for our eighth anniversary. While the band seems to have undergone a lot of changes since then, it is quite heartening to see another band from the show deliver big on the promise they showed. Elay is a wonderfully realised folk/classical fusion album – a great debut for the band.

Top Recos: All the songs – but start with Nee Maatale!

Musician Credits

Song 1 : Thuru Thuru
Music : Staccato
Singer : Gowtham Bharadwaj
Lyricist : Viji Viswanathan

Song 2 : Saawan
Music : Staccato
Singer : Gowtham Bharadwaj
Lyricist : Rajagopalan Ganesan

Song 3 : Elay
Music : Staccato
Singer : Gowtham Bharadwaj
Lyricist : Manoj Kumar

Song 4 : Nee Maatale
Music : Staccato
Singer : Gowtham Bharadwaj
Lyricist : Pattaabhiraamayya

Song 5 : Tholakari
Music : Staccato
Singer : Gowtham Bharadwaj
Lyricist : Hari Prasad D

Song 6 : Maathey (Live Version)
Music : Staccato
Singer : Niranjana Ramanan
Lyricist : Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavatar

Song 7 : Nee Daya Radha (Live Version)
Music : Staccato
Singer : Niranjana Ramanan
Lyricist : Thyagaraja


A Staccato Production
Music Produced and Arranged by – RH Vikram
Vocals- Gowtham Bharadwaj V
Bonus Tracks Vocals- Niranjana Ramanan

Thuru Thuru , Tholakari , Maathey & Nee Daya – Sayee Rakshith
Elay – Manoj Kumar
Saawan & Nee Daya -Raghavasimhan Sa
Saawan – Manoj Kumar

Acoustic & Electric Guitars- Abinandan R
Bass- Shallu Varun
Tabla and Indian Percussion – Saurabh Joshi
Latin & Ethnic Percussions – Bala PD
Drums- Sandip Ramanan

Vocal Conductors – Niranjana Ramanan , Sayee Rakshit , B Prasanna
Score Engineer – Aswin George

Mix and Mastering
Elay, Saawan , Maathey, Nee Daya, – Hafeez
Thuru Thuru, Nee Maatale & Tholakari – Navneeth Balachanderan

Recording Engineers
Drums & Percussions Recorded by Navneeth Balachanderan at Corner House studio & Krimson Avenue Studios
Lawrence Vishnu , Iniyan – BLD Studios
Aswin Geroge – Mount Atlas Studio
Vishnu , Adithya – Krimson Avenue Studios

Thuru Thuru – Viji Anoop
Saawan – Rajagopalan Ganesan
Elay – Manoj Kumar
Tholakari – Hari Prasad D

Nadaswaram- Bala (Tholakari , Maathey )
Shenai- Omkar Dhumal( Saawan)
Mridangam – Praveen Sparash (Nee Daya)
Cello – Sekar ( Nee Daya )
Veena- Bhavani Prasad (Maathey)

Additional Music Production :
Prashanth Techno – Thuru Thuru
Rohit Abraham – Nee Daya Radha

Additional Programming – Thejas Mohan ( Tholakari , Thuru Thuru )
Ashok S ( Maathey )

Vocal Production
B Prasanna (Nee Maatale)
Iviz John ( Elay, Saawan and Tholakari )
Saurabh Joshi ( Thuru Thuru, Maathey and Nee Daya)
Special Thanks to MT Aditya

Album Art – Avanti Natarajan
Graphics – Dinesh

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