In the Madras Music and Dance Season in Dec 2007, there was a symposium on a very interesting and intriguing topic-‘Sensuality in Dance and Music’. One of the persons ( a senior dancer!) who gave the introduction on the first day went to the extent of defining sensuality with the help of a Dictionary and said the word would also mean ‘debauchery’.
Thankfully, T M Krishna, the young and energetic musician known for his forthright views and comments said the word could be interpreted in so many ways. 'Sensuality' according to him is something that gives him immense pleasure.
Carnatic Music does give him great pleasure.
He went on to play the recordings of stalwarts like Madurai Mani Iyer, GNB, Semmangudi and said these voices are sensual according to him though some ‘purists’ may not agree.
The problem is such topics remain as taboos and even making a mention is considered to be sacrilegious.
Of course there is a thin line dividing between ‘sensuality’ and ‘vulgarity’. In the case of some artistes this line gets blurred and one feels the vulgarity -or even the term defined so well by that dancer who gave the introductory speech- when they perform.
It is the way the artiste expresses the art form.
The fact of the matter is almost all the Varnams, Padams, Javalis in Bharathanatyam are erotic but it is used as a vehicle to get close to the almighty and attain divinity.
We have this in Bhakthi Literature as well. Naalaayira Divya Prabandham, Geeta Govindam are some examples.
Therefore there is nothing wrong if we say classical music is sensuous (provided of course that we fully understand the meaning and say this!).
ILaiyaraaja’s music appeals to our senses and touches the soul. It is Sensual and Divine!
By using very different ragas, he has given new meanings and new dimensions.
One such Raga is Vakulabharanam.
Vakulabharanam is a very interesting Raga.It is the 14th Melakartha and is very close to Mayamalawagowla and Todi.
The variant of ‘ni’ is different in Mayamalawagowla and that of ‘ga’ is different in Todi.
But this is only on paper.
Vakulabharanam has a unique flavour that is unmatched. In fact it would surprise many if I say that this Raga has lot of Arabic flavour.
Yes, this Raga is sensuous in deed.
Raja brought out this flavour wonderfully in ‘Kinnaththil Then Vadiththu..’(ILamai Oonjalaadugirathu).
But what is more amazing is the way he used this Raga in a philosophical song, ‘Aaarum Athu Aaazhamillai’(Muthal Vasantham) bringing out the somber mood of this Raga.
That is why he is called Raga Devan!
Let us see the structure of the Ragam:
Sa ri1 ga3 ma1 pa dha1 ni2 Sa/Sa ni2 dha1 pa ma1 ga3 ri1 sa.
It is ‘Eee Daha’ from the Kannada film 'Shikari'.
The song opens with Janaki singing a brief subtle aalap mellifluously and the Raga unfolds in absolute astuteness. The strings then play with dash and spirit.
The Pallavi exudes the characteristic charm of the Raga with a built- in interplay of laya.
The first interlude gives the energetic sound patterns imbued with an intensity that makes us dance. The riveting and reposeful chorus is soporific. Suddenly the trumpets leap out at us with vibrancy.
Mark of a Genius!
The Charanam has intricately braided passages as the voice glissades.The Bass Guitar swirls ,twirls and prances.
The second interlude sparkles with the myriad facets of the Raga.The Guitar gives the variegated patterns.
It glides sinuously ..
It whirs past us..
It is plangent ..
It is meditative ..
We see the Musical Intelligence, Integrity and Intent.
It is a state of enlightened mystification.
இசையென்னும் கிண்ணத்தில் இனிமையென்னும் தேனை அள்ளித்தருபவர் அல்லவா அவர்?
Does he not give us cups of honey in the form of Music?