Wednesday, 1 October 2008

ILaiyaraaja-The Brilliant Classical Musician!

Ancient Literature has dealt with various aspects and dimensions of Life.The beauty of Literature lies not just in the Subjects/Topics but in the way these have been presented aesthetically.

The Sangam Literature in Tamizh has poems of Love and War –the former called as ‘Agam’ and the latter ‘Puram’.

The Sweep , the immediacy and minute observation of Human Behaviour make these poems one of the finest ever.


Kurunthogai , which is part of the Tamizh Sangam Literature describes in detail about Love.

Reminiscing about the time spent with his lover and unable to bear the pangs of separation a man says,

‘As a little white snake with lovely stripes on its young body
Troubles the jungle elephant
This slip of a girl
Her teeth like sprouts of new rice
Her wrists stacked with bangles troubles me.’

சிறு வெள்ளரவின் அவ்வரிக் குருளை
கான யானை அணங்கி யா அங்கு
இளையள் முளைவாள் எயிற்றள்
வளையுடைக் கையள் எம் அணங்கியோளே.

Such a beautiful expression reminds me of ILaiyaraja’s Music.

With his Razor Sharp Brain , and profound knowledge, he has given and has been giving us compositions that are not just melodious but also very poetic.

His search for excellence and his never ending thirst for innovation are something Extraordinary.

His Music is a Gift to all genuine Music Lovers of the past and present and the future Generations.

What sets him apart from others is his ability to bring out the essence and beauty of each Raga.

He is the only Film Music Composer to have used many Melakartha Ragas –Vivadi Ragas in particular.

All Vivadhi Ragas are unwieldy and even some of the Carnatic Musicians stay away from these Ragas.

ILaiyaraja who is a Master Musician has used Vivadhi Ragas time and again to suit the mood of the sequence in Films.

The Film Sindhu Bhairavi-being the story of a Classical Musician- is replete with Classical Music.There is a situation in the movie where the Hero is obsessed by the thoughts of the ‘other woman’.

Unable to bear the torments, he does the only thing he knows- which is singing!

This is where the Composer’s brilliance and thoughtfulness come into play.

ILaiyaraaja uses Kanakangi, the first Melakartha Raga in which all the Swaras are too close to each other giving an eerie feeling.

Only Geniuses-who are born in this world once in a while- can come up with such ideas and execute them to perfection.

The Raga typifies the mental state of the Hero.He wants to be very close with the woman but at the same time he knows it is immoral!

Again….it is not just the Raga that makes the difference..the structure, the Tala and above all the use of Taanam-which is an integral part of Carnatic Music-all these prove yet again as to why Raja is a boon to the Music World.

In major Carnatic Music Concerts, Ragam-Taanam-Pallavi-is a section where a Raga is taken for exposition and is delineated by the Musician.A typical RTP takes at least 45 minutes.

ILaiyaraaja has touched all the dimensions of Kanakangi in less than two and half minutes.He is like the legendary Tamizh Poet Thiruvalluvar who was able to give the essence of a topic in less than two lines.

The Composition starts with ‘Thom Thom Thom Tha Nam Tha Thom Thom Thom Tha Nam Tha Nam Thom’-a total of 24 Aksharaas.

In Carnatic Music and for that matter in Film Music, the 8 beat cycle called as Adi Tala is the most popular one and the Rhythmic patterns revolve around the multiples of 8 in this Tala.

He prepares us for a feast by opening with 24 Aksharaas.

This is followed by a silent phase- depicting the mood of the character- and one entire cycle of Adi Tala is quiet .The only sound we hear is the drone of the Tanpura.

We now feel the melting of the Hero’s Heart in the Fire that is Lust.Only three Swaras-sa, ri and ni- are used.

The Musician Hero sees the woman as a Strobe light and he wants to kill the illusion that is Lust.

As he throbs, the Mridangam makes an appearance stealthily, first producing the sound of a slap(on his face!) as the word ‘Mogam’(meaning lust) is sung and then reverberates when he sings ‘Kondru Poda Vendum’(I must Kill).

His angst now becomes increasingly intolerable as he says ‘My entire body is filled with lust. Please pour water to douse this fire.’ The Swara Structure is brilliant –it is ga ga ga followed by ri ri ri and sa just to show his isolation.

Now the Hero reveals how dominant the thoughts of the Lady are as he sings ‘Manathil Unathu Aathikkam..’.

The Mridangam is strident now and the interval between each Mridangam beats is reduced.The Swaras which were isolated join as they take the ascent- sariga , rigama, gamapa.

He continues to reveal that the Storm of Lust is about to uproot him and he pleads to save him.

Raja the Master uses only the lower octave Swaras until now.As the plea to save the Hero from Lust is made, it jumps to the upper Sa and Ri…

Now comes the Taanam and the vignettes of Kanakangi are in view as the Swaras conflagrate.

The brilliance of Raja comes into fore again as the phrases ‘Thaa Nam Tha Thana Tham Tham Tham become ‘Aanandam’-meaning happiness.Just to show that the Viraha or the pangs of separation is enjoyable though it is negative!

Then there is a free wheeling sanchara with a 50 Akshara.

Now it is a Rollicking experience as the Thom becomes Dhom-to indicate the intensity.

The Graphic Phrasings continue in the higher octave Swaras.

The climax is reached as Dhom Dhom Dhom Dhom Dhom Dhom Dhom Thana is rendered very forcefully and vehemently.

The progression from one Sthayi to another is amazing. The first Dhom… is rendered with the higher Ga Ma , the second one with the higher Sa Ri while the last one with the lower ga ma.

The composition is amazing because of the cohesive design capturing the special fragrance of Kanakangi-a Vivadhi Raga.

The Composition is wonderful because of the Felicitous Voice of Yesudass.

The Composition is beautiful because of the Taanam augmented by suitable Swaras .

The Composition is Brilliant because of the Tala pattern.

An uncanny experience!!

It is Tha Nam Tha Tha Na Tham Tham Tham
Tha Nam Tha Tha Na Tham Tham Tham

Aa……Nan……….Dham!

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3 comments:

V. Swaminathan said...

Sir, great understanding of music, film making and of course Ilayaraja sir. This combination when written in words are such a pleasure to think and understand what all you have understood about this song.

I have started reading this blog from today and hope to complete it soon and keep waiting for new posts.

Long Live The God of Music.

V.Swaminathan

V. Swaminathan said...

It's a real honour to read and understand what all you have researched with respect to the song under consideration, it's visual treatment, mood of the characters, lyrics, musical greatness and of course owing all the total credit to the ONE MAN who is not a MAN but a GOD for millions including me.

V.Swaminathan

Raj said...

Thanks a lot Swaminathan!

Please go through all the posts and give me your feedback.

Raj