‘The cuckoos get married. The peacocks dance. The bees sing a beautiful tune to wake up the royal swan which is sleeping on a bed of flowers.’
குயிலினம் வதுவை செய்யக் கொம்பிடைக் குனிக்கும் மஞ்சை,
அயில்விழி மகளிர் ஆடும் அரங்கினுக்கு அழகு செய்யப்
பயில்சிறை அரச அன்னம் பன்மலர்ப் பள்ளி நின்றும்
துயில் எழத் தும்பி காலைச் செவ்வழி முரல்வ சோலை.
This is the description of a forest in the Kosala Kingdom by Kamban. Kamban was a Master of descriptions and we have seen some very beautiful and interesting verses of ‘Kavi Chakravarti in this blog.
Look at the aforementioned verse.
How many can even imagine cuckoos getting married and peacocks dancing to celebrate the occasion? Or the bees singing a Sevvazhi paN( raga) to wake up the swan?(‘sevvazhi paN is the equivalent of the Yadukulakambodhi ragam)?
Most importantly, the verse conveys the harmony between the living creatures in the Kingdom of Kosalam.
The ability to interweave some beautiful stories in each of the verses, the choice of meaningful shimmering words, creative imagination, making the readers literally visualise the scene-these are some of the things that set Kamban apart.
That is why, his poems smile with effulgence even centuries after these have been composed.
If Kamban was an Emperor of Poetry, ILaiyaraaja is the Emperor of Film music.The works of both these geniuses shine like the effulgent sun.
What makes his compositions great is not just the choice of ragas but also the way he has handled these.
As we have been seeing in this blog, he has used very popular ragas, not so popular ragas, and relatively unknown ragas. Some of these ragas had hardly been used in film music while some had not been used even in classical music.
The song of the day falls under the former category.
The name of the raga is ‘Deva Manohari’ and the song is ‘Suga raagame’ from the film ‘Kanni Rasi’(1985).
The structure of Devamanohari is very interesting:
sa ri2 ma1 pa dha2 ni2 Sa/Sa ni2 dha2 ni2 pa ma1 ri2 sa.
If one looks at the scale, it is nothing but Madhyamavati plus ‘dha’.
However, the raga sounds different from Madhyamavati because of the way it is sung.
In fact, that is he basic difference between a scale and a raga. While the plain notes combine to give a scale, the notes are full of life in a raga.Moreover, some notes acquire special status in some ragas making the respective ragas unique.
For example, in Madhymavati, the swaras ‘ri and ‘ni’ are very special and are called as the ‘jiva swaras’. In Devamanohari, these swaras are not that special.
Devamanohari’s structure is also very similar to Narayani-the only difference being the absence of ‘ni’ in the arohaNam of the latter.
The other raga close to this is ‘MaNirangu’ whose structure is ‘sa ri ma pa ni Sa/Sa ni pa ma ga ri sa.
I have come across some sites that classify ‘Suga ragame’ under MaNirangu but I differ from this view because the ‘dha’-which is totally absent in MaNirangu- is somewhat prominent in the composition and ‘ga’ which is present in MaNirangu is not found except of course once towards the end of the pallavi.But since this appears as an accidental note and never occurs again, the composition is based on Devamanohari only and not in MaNirangu.
There are many compositions in Devamanohari in Classical music.
Some of these are- ‘Evarikai avataaram’, ‘Kanna tandri naapai’-both of Saint Tyagaraja and ‘Yaarukkuthaan theriyum’ of Gopalakrishna Bharati.
‘Sugaraagame..’ starts with the mirudangam sounding ‘ta ka dhi mi’ twice completing 8 beats. This sharp and sustained percussion sets the tone for the marvel that is to follow.The Veena plays with comely grace and it is joined by the enlivening flute after exactly 8 beats. They coalesce to present a dexterous delineation of the raga.
There is a pause for 4 beats and the Pallavi starts in a very different voice of Malaysia Vasudevan-who mimics the voice of yester-year singer and legend Chidambaram Jayaraman.
The Pallavi is lucid and is rendered with zeal by Vasudevan and VaNi Jayaram. The Veena piece that appears between the lines gives a touch of serenity.
In the first interlude, the Veena gives a brief spell of shiny phrases in the beginning.The Jalatarangam and the Tabla play with each other with glee first in different variations of 4 beats producing some colourful patterns. The flute combines with a bass instrument showing the beauteous facets of the raga. The Jalatarangam and Tabla join again continuing the colourful sequence.
The CharaNam is peppered with lovely phrases.
The first part gives succinct expressions while the second part is steeped in classical canons. The last part is scintillatingly brilliant.
The second interlude shows the nuances of the raga beautifully.
The sympathetic/resonance strings nod their heads and the flute sparkles. The chorus sings the syllables with the Tabla moving with the micro count of 6-ta ka dhi mi ta ka. This tuneful rhythmic pattern that creates kinetic images lasts for 4 cycles.The flute takes over with an aesthetic flourish.
The second charaNam sees the original voice of Malaysia Vasudevan and a variation of the Chatusram pattern.
Suga raagams always emanate from Isai Raaja’s veena..