Renuka Arun’s new single is a blend of powerful lyrics and visuals set to Carnatic music and a symphonic orchestra
In a rare coming together of poetry, Carnatic music and a symphonic orchestra, musician Renuka Arun’s single Maruthai pays tribute to women and children who have been subjected to abuse.
As Carnatic music is not often performed with a symphonic orchestra, Renuka wanted to push her boundaries. When she composed the song about two years ago with the theme in mind, in collaboration with Spanish musician Pablo Borghi who arranged it, she was delighted at how the two diverse genres of music came together. “I had always had this dream, to have an orchestra playing for Carnatic music. I was apprehensive at first, but the result was beautiful. The song has an orchestra with 40 musicians from The Macedonian Symphonic Orchestra playing,” says Renuka, who has sung the song.
Set in a complex rhythm, the song is intense and fast-paced, which mellows towards the end. Keeping in mind the complicated structure, Renuka approached poet-lyricist, percussionist and rhythm expert Manoj Kuroor, who penned the lines. His lyrics are based on the mythological character Marutha. “Though portrayed as an evil spirit in mythology, Marutha can be interpreted as “maru thai” meaning another mother,” says Manoj. “In the context of this video, another dimension of motherhood is representative of the angst of the women who have had to undergo abuse. It is their collective voice,” he adds.
The video represents powerful, yet wronged women characters from folklore — from Neeli to Muchilottu Bhagavathy to Kannaki, all played by artist Mitra Visvesh. The video is directed and edited by Shebin Sebastian and the director of photography is Nikhil S Praveen. “We didn’t want to give a narrative structure. We conceived it as an abstract depiction of these characters, their subtle transitions portrayed in a change of colours of the outfits,” says Renuka, who also features in the video. “This video was my natural response towards how women have to deal with injustices even today,” she adds.
While the first part of the song speaks of vengeance, the second portion represents anger mingled with grief. The song, however, ends on a hopeful note.
An award-winning playback singer, Renuka has to her credit over 700 Carnatic music concerts. She does fusion concerts as well. Renuka, however, is making her own space as an independent musician. An IT professional based in Kochi, Renuka believes independent musicians still don’t get enough platforms to showcase their talent. She launched her Golden Lyre Music Foundation with the aim of encouraging independent musicians and promoting music education.
Renuka’s earlier video Maaravairi, which was released in 2019, celebrated queer pride and was received with much critical acclaim. “The idea of marrying Carnatic music with progressive rock may not be new, but it underlines the idea that re-imagining Carnatic music in different settings does not dilute its authenticity or beauty,” she says.
Her next work would be based on mythological character Madhavi from the ancient Tamil text Silappathikaram.
Maruthai can be viewed on YouTube.