Monday, 27 February 2012

ILaiyaraaja-The Wizard!

Is wizardry an art or science? Is it natural or acquired? Do some people have some special magical powers?

Such questions are better left to psychologists to answer..

What a common man like me can do is to just sit back and appreciate the beauty in the works of the wizards.

Read this:

nachcharavu kachchenava caichchumathi
yuchchiyinmi laichchorukaiyaan
meychchira manaichchulaki nichchamidu
pichchaiyamar pichchanidamaam
machchamatha nachchimatha machchiRumi
yaichcheythava vachchavirathak
kochchaimura vachcharpaNi yachchurarka
nachchimidai kochchainagare.



நச்சரவு கச்செனவ சைச்சுமதி
யுச்சியின்மி லைச்சொருகையான்
மெய்ச்சிர மனைச்சுலகி னிச்சமிடு
பிச்சையமர் பிச்சனிடமாம்
மச்சமத நச்சிமத மச்சிறுமி
யைச்செய்தவ வச்சவிரதக்
கொச்சைமுர வச்சர்பணி யச்சுரர்க
ணச்சிமிடை கொச்சைநகரே.

Does it make any sense?

Now read this:

நச்சரவு கச்சென அசைச்சு மதி
உச்சியின் மிலைச்சு ஒருகையான்
மெய்ச்சிரம் அனைச்சு உலகின் நிச்சமிடு
பிச்சையமர் பிச்சனிடமாம்
மச்ச மத நச்சி மதமச்சிறுமி
யைச் செய்த அவச் சவிரதக்
கொச்சை முரவு அச்சர் பணியச் சுரர்கள்
நச்சி மிடை கொச்சை நகரே

This surely would have made at least some sense to people who follow Tamizh because the words/phrases in the original verse have now been split.

Here is the meaning of the poem:

‘With the venomous snake on the waist, the moon on the head, a skull on the hand, He goes around the world seeking alms. He is thronged by his devotees at ‘Thirokkochchaivam’, His abode where he was worshiped by a saint to get rid of the stench of his sins’.

Don’t you agree that the first one sounds musical Irrespective of whether you follow Tamizh or not?

This was composed by one of the greatest Tamizh poets, Thirugnanasambandar. ‘Thirokkochchaivam’ is the original mane of Sirgazhi-where he was born.

Why did he have to write a poem like this? He could have as well composed it splitting the words.

A logical question!

But is there not something called ‘hidden beauty’? If everything in this world were to follow the only logic we know, wouldn’t things be too monotonous?

The beauty of a poem lies not just in the words.

Recently, I heard a Tamizh scholar say that poetry is nothing but ‘empowering words’. And in this poem, we see how the empowered words show us the hidden music in poetry.

ILaiyaraaja’s music is poetic.This is a fact we all know.
It is also a fact that he has used very classical ragas in totally different situations making us discover the hidden colours and shades of the ragas.

What we are going to see today is an example of this.

‘Saaveri’-whose structure is sa ri1 ma1 pa dha1 Sa/Sa ni3 dha1 pa ma1 ga3 ri1 sa- is a beautiful classical raga which is unique because of the way it is sung. Though it is derived from the 15th melakarta Mayamalavagowla, it has a special character of its own. The ‘ri’ and the ‘ma’ sound somewhat different in this raga.

But ILaiyaraaja simplified this raga and used it in a romantic duet..

One had to split the swaras to decipher the raga, unravel the mystery and discover the hidden beauty.

The composition is ‘Chamakku Chamakku Chaam’ from the Telugu film ‘Kondaveeti Donga’.

It starts with the chatushram beats( ta ka dhi mi-1 2 3 4) played by the ‘claps’ and the drums.

The pattern is ‘- - dhi –‘ ‘- - dhi –‘ with the claps sound in the 3rd beat in the first part and the drums in the 3rd beat in the second part.

The vocals start now but instead of the humming we hear the Chatushram pattern sung by SPB albeit in a different way-‘chi chiku’ for ‘Taka dhimi’.

The saxophone plays with a haunting charm and is delightfully joined by the bass guitar which plays the chatushram beats. The synthesiser nonchalantly plays the notes of the first few phrases of the Pallavi.

The lucid Pallavi glistens with the shades of the raga with the bass guitar jumping with zeal.The last line is lilting even as it touches the upper octave.

The supple voice of Chitra complements the sonorous SPB.

The first interlude is full of vibrant phrases. The colourful responses of the violins to the questions posed by the synthesized instruments spread joy and cheer. The flute gives the silky touches while the bass guitar dazzles.

The CharaNam has four sections..

The first section has rolling phrases with an attaché of sangatis.

The second section is delicate while the third one is dexterous going up in the octave.

The last section that has the janta swaras(notes in pairs) gives a mystic image.

The pause between the last line and the Pallavi-with a small phrase sandwiched between the two-is poetic artistry.

The second interlude has ship shape moves. The bass guitar jumps and dances with the ebullient synthesizer and the guitar with phaser. It is a razzmatazz of sorts.The well aligned violins shows the tonal subtleties.

Sheer wizardry!

Naagaswaramulaa laagindaiah..


6 comments:

Suresh S said...

Aah. This has been a long time favorite and a beloved song for lot of Telugu folks. What a lovely swinging rhythm the song has and what a melody along with the rhythm. Superb.

Raj said...

Yes Suresh!

One of my all time favourites.Great bass lines-composed by the Emperor of Bass!

இசைஞானி பக்தன் said...

Haa.. hearing this for the first time..! A typical ‘Isaignani’ 80s number..! Haunting..! For a personal like me.. I can’t even imagine that such a song would be finely woven in a Carnatic Saaveri..! Thanks to your Note and thanks to the ‘Carnatic Raga’ Android Application in my mobile… I listen to the swaras a few times (though could not fully understand the usage of it in a particular song) and then listen to the song. It is even more pleasant to listen after reading a Note like this. And I know you enjoy writing these Notes as much as we all enjoy reading them. Keep writing ..! :-)

Raj said...

Thanks Alexander :).

Aakarsh said...

Ilaiyaraaja's genius spreads before us right from the point where saxophone takes off in the prelude. That saxophone piece itself sounds so grand and stylish! When i upgraded my mobile phone to mp3 tones, i cut this saxophone piece and used it as ring tone. I still have that :-)

This song is another classic example where raaja walked on that fine line between mass and class! It has the thump and the swing, which lured the masses while it had excellent raaga exposition, which lured the classes. And the adornments like the amazing bass-guitar usage and interesting interludes impressed the fusion music lovers. There with a 3 pronged approach, he won the entire audience, in my opinion :-)

And as you rightly pointed out, the last phrase of charanam, with a gap, is masterstroke.

Chiranjeevi was recently asked who his favourite composer was. He said "you bring on any name, i will always say Ilaiyaraaja" :-)

Raj said...

Very well articulated..
Thanks for the comments Kamal!