‘ Who is that great soul, who with well set and tuned mridangam, who with words as pure as the Upanishads and the Vedas, who with pure Swaras sings and enthrals you Oh Rama!’
Sogasuga mridanga taaLamu jata korchi ninnu sokka jeyu dheerudevvaro,
Nigama sirorthamu kalgina nija vakkulato Swara suddhamuto…
Thus sang the incomparable and inimitable Tyagaraja. Despite its richness, English language cannot convey the emotions carried by some (at times many) of the words of our Indian languages. Take the word ‘sogasuga’. What is this ‘sogasu’?
Comfort? Ease? Luxury?
Isn’t it much more than all these?
Let us forget the language aspect and focus on the musicality and what Tyagaraja has conveyed.
Whenever I listen to these lines, I feel divine and serene. I visualise Tyagaraja himself playing the mridangam and singing with his pure words and music. What attracts me the most in this kriti is the first line. Without any doubt Tyagaraja considers the TaaLa as the most important aspect in music. Otherwise, would he not have started the kriti with ‘Swara Sudhdham to’. Of course, this is not to say that swara sudhdham is not important, but the fact is that it is the Laya that stands out first in the Saint’s mind. And not without any reason.
The basic structure of a poem or a song is determined by the rhythm first. One can have a song without any melody or a raga. But is it possible to have a song without the ‘sandham’? Yes, we have the viruththams but even these follow a particular pattern and that pattern is governed by TaaLa only.
In my previous two posts, I wrote about the syllables and their different patterns.
‘ta ka’ ‘ta ki ta’ ‘ta ka dhi mi’ are the commonly used syllables.
I had also said that a song follows a particular taLa cycle –which could be 8 beats, 7 beats,6 beats, 5 beats etc.,
We saw that a song can also have two different patterns parallely( Aagaya veNNilaave) or can have alternating patterns( Vanakkuyile).
The syllables form the backbone of any song. So, though a song maybe composed following a particular taaLa, the syllables are split say as 2,4,2 or 2,4 or 5,3….and in multiples of these numbers. Say a song is set in the 4-beat Chatushra ekam. Then the sub-divisions(called as ‘Maatras’) must be in multiples of 4 like 8,16,20,24…….Same is the case with all taaLas.
One sees the splitting of syllables in different groups mainly during the swara singing segment in a classical concert. But it follows the same TaLa cycle as the song.
One of the compositions of the Maestro demonstrates this aspect- of splitting though following the same taaLa- wonderfully.
Maanjolai kiLi dhaano from Kizhakke Pogum Rail (1978) follows the Chatushra eka taaLam throughout but the Chatushram patterns are split brilliantly. As far as I know, this composition is unique in the history of Indian Film Music.
The prelude is a precursor to the magic in store for us.
The ankle bell dances and the Tabla starts. After 2 aavartanams, the pakhawaj joins and it is a kind of ‘sawal jawaab’ between the two. After 4 aavartanams, the patterns-of course in chatushram change- and exactly after 5 aavartanams, the Tabla sounds typical Kathak syllables(ta tai tai ta) that lasts for 2 aavartanams. Finally, we have two aavartanams in Tabla and Dolak followed by the subtle bells again for two aavartanams.
If one wants to study Chatushram patterns, he/she can as well listen to this prelude and write a thesis.
The Pallavi starts like a viruththam first.
The Pallavi with the percussion follows in Chatushra ekam. There are totally 8 aavartanams-a count of 32. This 32 is subdivided into 64 maatras and this is how it is split:
3 / 3 / 3 /
veppam/ thoppokuyilum / neethaano /
2 / 5 / 6
2 / 3 / 3 / 2 / 8 /
4 / 2 / 2 / 8 / 8 /
As I said, I cannot think of any Pallavi as complex as this in Film music!
He plays with the percussion instrument(s) in the interlude. The mridangam sounds ’ta’ for every 3 beats.
In the first aavartanam, the ‘ta’ is sounded in samam; it is in the third beat then;in the second beat of the second aavartanam; first beat in the third aavartanam. It sounds in all the beats now. After 2 aavartanams, the same pattern is repeated.
This is surely an apt exercise for people who want to practise keeping taaLam. Keep counting 4 and put the TaaLam. It will be a learning-cum-enchanting experience.
The first CharaNam goes in plain chatushram until the 10th aavartanam.Idaiyil puraLum sadaiyil mayakkum malarkodi goes like:
Idaiyil / puraLum / sadaiyil /mayakkum /
3 / 3 / 3 / 3 /
Two aavartanams-8 beats divided into 16 and follows the above pattern.
The second interlude now goes in the ‘mael kaalam’(faster speed) and goes in group of 4.
Just towards the end-in the violins/flute piece-, Laya Raaja divides it again as 3,3,3,3,2,2,2,2,4- a total of 24.
The second charaNam continues in the maelkaalam and it is the 4,4 pattern till ‘azhago devathaiyo’.
The following lines are divided into 128 maatras thus:
Angam oru /thanga kudam/azhaginil/mangai oru/
6 / 6 / 4 / 6 /
gangai nadhi /ulaginil/
6 / 4 /
thuLLum idhazh thaenthan/
aLLum karam naanthaan /
aLLum karam naanthaan /
manjam adhil/ Vanjikodi/
6 / 6 /
varuvaaL/sukhame /6 / 6 /
varuvaaL /sukhame /tharuvaaL/
4 / 4 / 4 /
4 / 6 /
pan paadidum/ peNNoviyam/
6 / 6 /
6 / 8 /
It goes back to the ‘keezh kaalam’ from melaadi maangani.
At the end, ‘ILamai enum thanimai neruppai aNaikkum paruva mazhai mugil’ goes as 3,3,3,3,4 (16 maatras) like the end in the first charaNam.
Let us now look at the melody part.
The Pallavi, first interlude, first charaNam and the second part of the second charaNam(from melaadi maangani) are based on Suddha Dhanyasi, the pentatonic raga which has sa ga2 ma1 pa ni2 Sa.
The second interlude and the first part of the second charaNam are based on Kharaharapriya.
In the beginning, we hear the call of the bird before veppamthoppu kuyilum.
The supple Veena smiles even as the mridangam(remember the ‘ta’ every third beat) jumps aesthetically. In between we see the flute, violins and jalatharangam sing with verve and vigour. This continues until the solo flute plays with a stylized elegance.The Veena joins and hands the melody over to the violins-flute-jalatharangam group which in turn leads us to the first charaNam.
We see the pleasant Kharaharapriya in the second interlude. The soft Veena and the colourful violins-flute-jalatharangam play with exactitude exploring the avenues of beauty.
TaaLam with ‘sogasu’,
Words and Music as pure as our scriptures.
Aren’t these enough to enthrall us?