‘The smoke from sugar cane bagasse goes up with fragrance and surround the place like dark clouds making the peacocks dance. Like a Sapphire on a Blue Mountain, You were reclining on the serpent on the great Ocean called ‘ThiruppaRkadal’ once upon a time. Now, you are inside my heart, Oh, the Lord of ‘Thiruvaali’!’
நீலத் தடவரை மாமணி நிகழக் கிடந்ததுபோல், அரவு அணை
வேலைத் தலைக்கிடந்தாய் அடியேன் மனத்திருந்தாய்,
சோலைத் தலைக் கண மாமயில் நடமாட மழைமுகில் போன்று எழுந்து, எங்கும்ஆலைப் புகைகமழும் அணி ஆலி அம்மானே.
Thirumangai Aazhwar-about whom I had written in my post titled ‘ILaiyaraaja’s Music is Eternal’ while describing the song ‘Oru kaNam’- was a genius par excellence. He composed more than of 1200 paasurams out of the 4000 paasurams composed by the 12 Aazhwars. His works are considered to be the 6 angaas of the 4 vedas(note that Nammazhwaar’s works Thiruviruththam, Thiruvaasiriyam, Periya Thiruvantaadi and Thiruvaaymozhi, are considered to be the essence of the 4 vedas.
This gentleman was born as ‘Kaliyan’ in a tribal family in a small village called ‘Thirukkuraiyalur’ but went on to become one of the most learned during his period(8th Century). He is also called as ‘Parakkalan’ (one who is beyond time) and ‘NaRkavi’ (a great poet). His verses sound simple but are very deep and enjoyable.
The verse quoted in the beginning stands testimony to his genius. The concept of Maaya is explained in just one line by saying that the peacocks dance assuming the ‘fragrant smoke’ to be the real clouds. The rebel that he is, he also takes liberty with the Lord saying ‘Once you were in the PaaRkadal’, but now You are in my heart’. Very deep meanings and open to interpretations.
If one ignores the spiritual angle, the poem still sounds great what with the description of the dance of the peacocks, the fragrant smoke from sugar canes and the Blue gem on the Blue mountain.
Of course, this is just a small drop from the Ocean called as ‘Thirumangai aazhwar’.
As you all know ILaiyaraaja’s music too is like an Ocean. The more one immerses into it, the more gems one discovers. Most importantly, one discovers new dimensions and gets new meanings from the gems already seen (heard)..
‘Saagara Sangamame’ from ‘Seethakoka Chiluka’ (1981) is one such gem .On this very special day, I am proud to present this beautiful gem of his. Based on Hindolam, the composition looks and sounds like a grand sea. The first interlude melts my heart while the second interlude where the raga undergoes a change by replacing one variant of a swara with another and where the instruments move with short pauses gives me goose bumps.
Hindolam- a janya of Nata Bhairavi and which has the swaras sa ga2 ma1 dha1 ni2- by nature is very romantic and as already mentioned in my post on ‘Sridevi en vaazhvil’, the pictorial representation of Maalkauns-as it is called in the Hindustani system- is Lord Krishna playing with the gopikas. But to bring the essence of this raga in film music without in anyway compromising on the classism or the melody calls for ingenuity and the Maestro comes up trumps as always.
The composition has a unique start.
The percussion sounds’ ta – dhi –‘. It is followed by ta ka dhi mi.It is then ‘ta ka - mi‘ twice and finally ‘ta ka dhi mi’ fully twice.
It follows the Chatushra eka taLam, which is a 4-beat cycle. The first cycle goes as 1 2 3 4 but only the first and the third syllable are played. In the one following this, all the 4 are played. How do we have two 1 2 3 4s in the next two cycles? It is because it is played in the ‘mel kaalam’(faster beats-double the speed of the two previous beats). Here too, in the first instance, the third beat is left as a gap.
Four variations in a matter of seconds!
The first line of the Pallavi now flows freely like a river ready to merge with the sea. The zestful strings move like the small waves even as the dazzling single violin and the cuckoo-like flute jump like big waves. The strings raise again followed by the dexterous veena. With the ‘ma ga sa’ and ‘dha ma’, we see waves of music. Or is it musical waves?
The Pallavi is in the anaagata eduppu starting after ½ beat. In the mesmerising voice of SPB, the entire Pallavi, that starts with the first 3 swaras of the aarohaNam(sa ga ma) has a succulent charm. In fact, the pause after the prelude and the ones after the poetic phrases-‘kalalo’,’ ilalo’- have an exhilarating impact. These and the ‘ga ma dha ni Sa’ of veena in just a matter of 1 and ½ beats and the subtle variations of Chatushram in the percussion give a moving projection of the musical value of the composition.
The caressing flute backed by the subtle guitar smiles in Hindolam in the beginning of the first interlude. A ‘Tarang’ of sorts ensues with the Tabla Tarang asking questions and the Jalatarangam replying with ‘ma dha ni’ and ‘ma ga sa’. The musical dialogue continues with strings that join with palpable fervor and the flute. The latter charts a graceful course of Hindolam smoothly and melodically with the veena nodding its head in appreciation and with pinpoint precision. It is now the turn of the Veena to ask questions to the Tabla tarang and the Jalatarangam which jointly answer with great flourish and élan. The tonally pleasing strings take us to the first CharaNam.
The first CharaNam is marked by exquisite expressions with the soothing akaaram with a matrix of dynamic sanchaaraas that last or 5 taLa cycles. The line that follows this touches the higher octave and is joined by the sweet voice of Suseela. The romantic musical meeting is complete now.
Or is it?
We get the answer in the second interlude. ‘How can it be complete without me’, it seems to say.
Starting with the aesthetic flourishes of the veena and the guitar, it is a journey into the realms of emotions. The coming together of Jalatarangam, ankle bells, veena and the guitar is scintillatingly brilliant. With fascinating fecundity, the strings replace the ‘ni2’ with ‘ni3’ and it is Chandrakauns now. SPB follows the strings and it elevates the ambience to stratospheric levels.
The strings get back to Hindolam.It is all sparkle and dazzle with the strings and veena caressing us and taking us on a fleeting melodic trip which is interspersed with musical ‘slaps’.
The pause at the end says it all..
Waves of emotions give way to stillness..to tranquility..