‘Moran Amekh’: Christian meditation songs in Sanskrit
Franco Simon, the young singer from Kerala might have been typecast into a singer of fast, peppy numbers but underneath this funky veneer is a trained, creative musician; one with an urge to craft something that very few may have attempted before.
The singer, whose songs in the recent Malayalam films Double Barrel and Jamna Pyari have wowed listeners, has composed ‘Moran Amekh’, an album of Christian meditation songs in Sanskrit. ‘Moran Amekh’, in Aramaic means ‘The Lord Be With You.’
“This is a Christian meditation album in Sanskrit. The lyrics or slokas are set in different meters and we have used the chanting style with a male and female chorus. I have attempted to fuse the popular Gregorian chant, church music sung in free rhythm and a restricted scale in a style developed for the Medieval Latin liturgy, the strength of which is its Western harmony and Indian ragas,” says Franco.
The album was released on 10.08.2016 and has five tracks
2) Yesusuprabhatham – Dawn Chorus of Jesus
3) Yesubalashtakam – Infant Jesus Octave
4) Giriprabhashanam – Sermon on the Mount
5) Rakshakashtakam – Savior Octave
The singer’s inspiration for such an album came when he went to a Coimbatore hospital for a couple of medical tests. “I entered the hospital with unfounded fear but for the next few hours, till I left the hospital, I really don’t know what happened. I was mesmerised by the soothing, meditative music that flowed from the music system. I decided that I would do something similar. I also realised that we did not have Christian meditation music.”
It’s not the first time that Franco has ventured into meditation music. In the beginning of his career he was part of a band Seven, that included Stephen Devassy and Sangeeth. They did a very successful Hindi pop album ‘Yeh Zindagani’. “That was the time when we did around eight meditation albums for Cosmic Music. They did well too.” For nearly 13 years he assisted his uncle and noted music director Ousephachan.
Backed by all this Franco began his hunt for original Sanskrit lyrics. “It took me nearly four years to find K. U. Chacko, a Sanskrit scholar and former professor in Sanskrit, Nirmala College, Muvattupuzha. He agreed to write ‘Jesu Suprabhatham’ and I also took an earlier work he had written, ‘Jesu Sahasranama’ for my album.”
The orchestration and harmonising has been done by piano artiste, William Francis. “I have been fortunate to have had some wonderful musicians and technicians on board. My uncle has played four violin solos of 15 minute duration. Sandeep (acoustic and electric guitar), Bhavyalakshmi (Carnatic violin), Rajesh (flute and other wind instruments), Paulson (sitar), and Mithun (vocal alaaps) have enriched the album. Award-winning sound engineer Saji R. Nair has used some innovative methods in recording, mastering and mixing sounds.”
To capture the reverb (vocal effect produced by natural reflection of sound) Saji and a group of technicians used the Basilica of Our Lady of Dolours, Thrissur, Kerala. “We could have created this audio ambience through software inside the studio but we wanted to have something authentic. We wanted it to sound like the chorus from within a church. For this we recorded 40 voice tracks without orchestra from the studio and played it at the Basilica. Using special focal (high fidelity) speakers the reverb was recorded. The voice and the reverb were then attached to the vocal tracks.”
“We have used only acoustic or natural music instruments such as the flute, violin and trumpet. The rhythmic tempo matches that of a healthy person’s pulse rate. I’m very sure the music will soothe you,” says Franco.