Ragas in Rahman's Music.

Hi guys,

I’m on a personal quest to gather ragas for Rahman’s film music… unfortunately I am not so well versed in identifying Ragas. I have been collecting popular ragas in their carnatic versions…. but I would like to get film song examples for all these ragas to help the new generation enjoy and understand the beauty of ragas by being able to relate to them.

So what better way than to show a carnatic piece, then A.R.Rahman’s film songs that happen to be based on the same raga? That will be very educational and inspiring for people I think… especially now that Rahman has attracted quite a bit of interest from the west, and they will be keen to find out more about him, I would like to make information about ragas available to the west….

This way, the west will also have a better understanding of the musical history that has given birth to a soul such as Rahman.

I found this website that gave a small sample of ragas that corresponded to different songs Rahman has done:

However, I am hoping someone (or several people), would help me create an extensive list of raga identification for Rahman’s music. I plan to make a very educational website using this research. Hope to chat to you soon.


I recently got a reply to my question from an email I sent out to a carnatic music enthusiast:

“Unlike older Tamil songs and those of Illaiyaraja, most of Rahman’s songs are not clearly based on a raga but are mix of several ragams and then blend into another form like rap.”

Yes this is true quite often, but I am finding that surprisingly so more songs than I expected of Rahman’s music is set to a Ragam. In actual fact, my intention is not to focus on his music alone, but on fusion/film music in general of contemporary standards (from within the last 10 years), which have begun to reverberate with a base that is appreciated by the west… and yet the music directors continue to make songs devoted to carnatic ragas (or at least pay tribute) – even that very tribute can be very helpful in pointing people towards carnatic raga and kindling interest.

For instance, as I recently discovered, Rahman’s “Telephone Mani Pol – film: Indian” is in Anandha Bhairavi, “Theendai – film: En Swasa Katre” is in Sri Ragam, “Idhu Sugam – film: Vandicholai Chinarasu” is in Dharmavati, and “Uyire Uyire – film: Bombay” is Hari Kambhoji… and I was surprised to note that that is actually just a drop of how many songs he has done where it at least awakens the listener to an intrinsic ragam – which is the first step in music appreciation… and delving completely into carnatic classical would be a deeper step. Not only that, but several music directors of current repute, despite the urge for modernism, are still exploring ragas.

To relate, when I first began to suspect that some of the songs from film music that I loved most dearly definetely seemed to have ragas to them, or at least strongly scented in a raga… I contacted an aunt of my fiance who was extremely well versed in carnatic music and in identifying ragas. I put together a list of around 50 film songs that I desperately wanted to know the ragas for…

Strange thing happened… because I had put together songs in order of how they sounded to me… (not so much a similarity in melody, but rather a deep familiarity between themselves in terms of MOOD, essence, taste…) and emailed her the list of songs with a table so she could write the names of the ragas. What surprised even me is that unknownst to myself (except perhaps subconsciously), I had grouped the ragas together. The first 5 songs on the list that she heard were all Shuddha Dhanyasi. The next 4 were all Hindolam. The proceeding 6 were Arabhi. The following 3 were Mohanam…

In this way I had the delightful introduction to actual names of the Ragas that I loved! Next I went and procured as many of the carnatic renditions of these ragas…. and I loved them even more so… because I recognised the HEART of the mood, the fluctuation of sound… I sat mesmerised when I heard “Narayana Ninna” from Shuddha Dhanyasi Raga… I had goosebumps when I heard a violin rendition of “Sami Ninne” from Shree Ragam… and “Nagumo” from Abheri Ragam sounded like elixir to me…

Infact, what I experienced more than anything else was the phenomenon of “recognition”. This, more than anything, inspired me to want to set up a website where I actually have visual/audio samples for the new generation to be able to have the same wonderful experience that I did in being able to recognise the heart of that which they already love.

I have created a blog listing 108 songs to start with for which I humbly request everyone’s assistance and collaboration in identifying their ragas. Please stop by – at the very least I feel you may enjoy the selection:



~ by revolutionwithin on March 27, 2009.

6 Responses to “Ragas in Rahman's Music.”

  1. this is an awesome initiative. I am not a scholar in raagas.. Just preparing to be a beginner. But I think I can do something interesting in this area.

  2. Wonderful! Well, its ok even if you’re not a scholar… my intention from the beginning was to create a list and get it verified as many times as possible anyway…

    Am glad you are on the same wavelength… would you like to put together list? I’ll also put together a list of songs I want to know the ragas for and email it to you…

    Same goes for anyone else who wants to help. 🙂 The more people involved, the more authentic this whole advent.

  3. Rahman is a blend. We can start with Rahman but I think we need ti pull some Ilayaraja’s music too in order to get the sync. Its not a comparison between who is the best music director and none of us r genius enuff to decide that, But I feel it would provide some kind of relationship and broaden our thinking.

    My unknown list goes like:

    Nam Nadai kondu(Shakthi kodu-Movie: BABA)- Been an inspiration song.. I am unable to take a relevant tune..

    Oru Daivam Thantha poove(Kannathil muttamittal)- Some blend of Kaatre en vasa in rhythm (Darbari kaanda) but I guess there are more tunes blended into it.. Rahman is genius- Hats off.. !

  4. Without a doubt, the intention was never to focus purely on Rahman… Vidyasagar (for example) has also brought to life some immortal scores… “Malare Mounama”, “Anandham Anandham”, “Kana Kandenadi”… not to mention the inforgettables of Illaiyaraja. I am more interested in showcasing the music – even from a one hit wonder… here is an example of how I’d want to explore the ragas (with collaboration, of course):

    By the way, Karthik, did you get my email?

    I am the first to agree with you on the fact of not comparing geniuses… I wrote on it after reading so much hate-filled-debate, in the hope of pointing out something very obvious:

  5. […] Exploring and Identifying Ragas – A Collaborative Project Posted in Uncategorized by vajrakrishna on April 22, 2009 Hold on… because this is going to be an extensive/intensive list… by the end (or middle) of which I hope we can create a Wikipedia listing for not only ragas in Rahman’s music, but also a broad range of raga identification for contemporary tamil (and hindi, even telugu) music that uses the palatable sounds that hold universal appeal. I’m going to begin with songs that have truly rattled/inspired me at some point or another, and build from there. Most of these tracks have very little in the sense of the carnatic classical touch, but an enormous scope of indian romanticism. Despite the strong western sounds of certain songs, I still feel distinguishing the raga would be valuable. I discussed my motivations for this venture in detail here. […]

  6. Hello,

    As a starting point, I have put the first 108 that came to mind on a blog, (along with the audio of the song), for experts to take a listen and identify their ragas. Using this information, I would then set up a website where people from any country can come and become introduced to Indian film music, ragas – and finally to the carnatic renditions of the ragas themselves. I humbly request your assistance.

    The webblog where I have posted 108 songs with audio is:

    I would be happy to share the 500 songs to which I have already collected raga names with you. Besides, I would very much appreciate your confirmation if my information is correct.

    With best regards,
    Vajra Krishna.

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