Rajan Somasundaram, akaComposer Rajan (Wiki), is a composer, drummer, violinist and music producer based in Raleigh, North Carolina. In his latest music project, Rajan has revived ancient Tamil poetry written about 2000 years ago into a music album titled “Sandham – Symphony Meets Classical Tamil”, featuring leading singers and musicians from India and the USA.
Academy nominated singer Bombay Jayashri (Life of Pi) and prominent singers from India, Karthik and Saindhavi among others have given their voices to the poems, while Durham Symphony from NC led by Maestro William Henry Curry has provided orchestration for most of the songs. While the lead melody is South Indian Classical music, the orchestration is contemporary and western, resulting in a delightful concoction of music, not to mention the rich, layered poetry and amazing vocals by the talented artists make the whole album an absolute masterpiece.
For this album, Rajan has picked 6 outstanding Sangam era poems and gave it a contemporary classical outlook. One of the poems, ‘Yathum oore’ is one of the earliest poetry ever written that talks about equality and unity. To convey that message of unity, Rajan has tried to fuse 14 different genres/ styles of music, collaborating with musicians of different genres and countries.
Born in Thiruvarur, India, Rajan was enrolled in music, at the age of 8. Although a small town, Thiruvarur is considered a mecca for classical music and is the birthplace of many prominent composers including all three Carnatic music trinities. In his later years, Rajan traveled to different countries getting a chance to observe a lot of similarities and differences in music, and rhythms of different cultures.
Talking about his unique style of music, Rajan says, “I observed that the melodic scales in Indian classical music are very well developed (called as Ragas). But the orchestration, writing notes and getting a big orchestra to play something in quick time is well developed in the western classical system. On the other hand, I think the rhythm patterns are so diverse and well developed in the folk and tribal music, be it south Indian folk or African or middle eastern. I’m trying to bring in the best of all these three worlds together.”
When he came across ancient Tamil poetry, he was surprised how well developed and rich it was. These poems are so advanced in content and form, not just for their period but even for the current times. So Rajan decided to make an international album on ancient Tamil for a wider audience worldwide. It is a truly unique concept, done for the very first time to give a musical form to the outstanding Tamil literature.