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A Page from Mejo’s Musical Notebook

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Recently on my trip to Kerala, I found that TV channels were toxically loaded with film songs. It shouldn’t have surprised me, as many web sites have written about this phenomenon. Having heard Notebook’s (Roshan Andrews movie) songs and carelessly dismissed them, I was surprised by the way a couple of them climbed into my psyche. The weird thing is, I don’t know why I started liking them. Below are some thoughts on Mejo Joseph’s composing debut.

There are songs like Penne en penne (Udayananu Tharam), and then there are songs like Devasangeetham. These two songs occupy two ends of the orchestral spectrum. Mejo Joseph seems to be leaning more towards the minimalist style. Songs have a crispness and simplicity almost reminding us of Deepak Dev’s style.

I used the word “almost” in a positive way. Mejo seems to be having a richer orchestral knack. He uses strings and electronic sounds very strategically, and carefully suppresses them when vocals are present. Like most youngsters, he also seems to have a penchant for Guitars and synths. He does try to mimic A R Rahman’s style, like Deepak (and like several other composers). There are signs of musical talent, but at the same time, there are signs of “impatience”. I will describe these when I review the songs.

My favorite song of this album, is Iniyum Mounamo?. The song is orchestrated very delicately, with the precision of a micro-surgeon. For any movie-composer, the first and the most critical question, in my view, is “What’s the situation that I should portray with my music?”. The ambience in Notebook is intensely romantic. There is the misty look of a hill station, with breathtaking scenery around.

What is the best instrument a composer can use to portray that ambience?; Cello. Now, listen to the song: Iniyum Mounamo. You can see how he creates an ambience of rain and calm, by using very low energy vocals. Sudeep shines through with his controlled, mature singing. The arrangement consists of Guitar. Tabla is provided intermittently with light electronic drums. It is refreshing to hear.

The best part is the first musical interlude. One of the best I have heard in recent times! Again, it is that quiet, calm, and romantic ambience it creates. The aural bliss of a solo violin’s sound!!!! The first charanam starts with Poyoraa naalukal…. Listen to a very interesting mix of guitar strumming and tabla used alternatively. This creates a lot of space for the vocals to dominate and strike deep into the listener’s mind. Strings come in strategically.

The second interlude also consists of a short string-ostinato (if I could call it that) with flute. Manjari sings with her usual expressiveness, adding a little manodharmam when singing …….aa santhosha~~ngalella~a~m. However, this song does drag a bit, because of the repeated use of some of the notes (e.g. hear pallavi- parayo~o~, charanam-ka-a-lam. This song is a feather in the cap for a debutant composer.

Because I heard these songs on the internet, I somehow skipped the version sung by Dr. KJY. Hence, I failed to mention it in the original version of the review (Thanks Tony for pointing it out). Now that I heard it, I honestly think that I like Sudeep’s version is more refreshing, but of course no one can emulate the expressions of Dr. KJY’s voice. Both versions are good, in their own

Hrudayavum, Hrudayavum is another romantic, but fast-paced song. The use of chorus confirms my feeling that Mejo is a big fan of ARR. Jyotsna has sung the song well, considering its unique requirements. The English lyrics in the beginning are ok. Nothing against Vineeth Sreeni, I would have liked to hear the song in the voice of Karthik. I think this is a song perfect for his voice.

The chorus sundarante… is over-used a bit. Otherwise, charanam is well composed. There is a nice mixture of Guitar and strings in this song also. Vineeth strains a bit as he tries to keep his true voice during the crescendo.

As we all know is track with devotional/spiritual undertones. Again Cello appears in the middle of the song. There is not much to write about this one. A typical prayer-like song.

Mazhayude is fast paced and trendy. I guess, it is the “explosive” track of the album. Both the interludes and the charanam slows down and even takes on a folk flavor. It did a get a bit confusing, when traveling between genres. This is where Mejo could improve in the future. Exercising more patience in switching genres or changing the “feel” of the song might go a long way. Easy to say from the comfort of a chair & a computer!

Overall, I feel that Mejo has shown flashes of talent. He has composed two songs very intricately. I can see how much effort he has put into designing each of the arrangements. A good example is the perfectly co-ordinated “dance” between synths, flute, swaras and the rhythmic techno sounds in the first interlude of Hrudayavum. I applaud his efforts, but at the same time note here that his songs are in no way “classics”. They are fresh, novel (in some ways) and will grow on you. For me, at least two of them did!
Happy listening!

10 Comments

  1. Nice review.. except one thing.. i think Sudeep did a fantasic job on the song..but i think he is STRONGLY trying to emulate Big KJY? I think the strength and the pure effortless tone of Yesudas’ singing is awesome. It some of the best I’ve heard in a while from KJ.
    The main line of the song sound pretty close between KJ and Sudeep but when the stanza’s hit and the high notes, its evident who has control over the voice.

    Of course this is just my opinion, and the only reason it bugged me because i was suprised not even one line was mentioned of the version with KJY 🙁

  2. Hi Tony:
    You are right. Since I have only heard the song from the internet, I did not know that there is a version sung by KJY. I will try to correct it.
    Thank you for pointing it out,
    KK

  3. KK – There are couple of English songs also in the movie – even though they are melodious – have an uncanny resemblance to Aqua/Vengaboys

  4. Considering his age (I think he is only 20-22 something), he has done a very good job and am sure he will grow up. I loved 2-3 songs from the movie and I’m waiting to hear more from this young and fresh talent.

    I also think Karthik’s voice would fit the song “Hridayavum” much better than Vineeth’s.

  5. Pingback: varnachitram » Blog Archive » Review: Notebook

  6. heyaa
    well i think this movie was not that bad and it really shows a education side to teenagers espically people from kerala. i love two songs from this movies and others are just okay. looking forward to more movies from campus with a happy ending :):)

  7. I Loved the music.It was fantabulous.I never could’nt believe such a young composer composed all the songs and the orchestration was superb.Count me in as Mejo’s fan

  8. Anybody know in which year Mejo did his enjineering

  9. I love all the songs Mejo did in Notebook

  10. Hey guys,
    nice to see a very minimalistic review on mejo’s composition. incase you guys are not aware, there is another album which was released before any of the movies. Check it out… i could remember only one song from it now, have got an audio cassette back at my home i guess – ‘thattum muttum’.
    And Jo he is not 20-22, 🙂 though he looks quite young, he is 28.
    Athira – He didn’t do engineering, he did UG in Commerce at Christ College 1999-2002 batch and then he did MBA at Pollachi. Until then his dad was reluctant to let his son take a total plunge into the world of Music, not because they dint have faith in his talent, but because it is such a cut throat industry.
    Mejo has music inside him, which i have realized after knowing his so well and i have come across very few people who has such innate talent. Maybe i consider him above others because i had been there to see his hardwork and dedication and yes it had not been an easy ride for him either, ppl who have predicted that he won’t make it out are boundless. some of whom are still a subject of private jokes between us.
    I wont go all the way to praise him all the way to the outer space, but yes its just that he might have to widen his vision beyond the horizons of the so called malayalam film music, cos talents like him would shine in the arena of World music. The reason why i say this is because i have seen (&heard) the way music works in him and i feel that its quite a shame to try to put boundaries around it and cater to a very small and regional audience. Rather i would wish him to keep experimenting with his music and find a niche for himself rather than crawling into the already created music niches in malayalam.
    Wishing Mejo all the very best in the future and my prayers will be always with you my friend.. after all thats what made you reach so far… 🙂

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