Thursday, 5 February 2015

ILaiyaraaja- Conventionally Unconventional

Only those who have the patience to do simple things accurately, acquire the skill to do different things correctly''.

When I came across this quote very recently, I started wondering as to how true it is.  As a corollary, I framed this - ‘’What distinguishes an extra ordinary from the ordinary is the ability to not just do different things but also do things differently’’.

So the key words from both the statements are – simple things, accurate, different things, correctly, doing things differently.


1. The basics matter first. The building crumbles if the foundation is shaky..

2. Variety adds beauty to any work.

3. Laying a new path and treading on it with courage of conviction.

See this verse:

அகரமும் ஆகி அதிபனும் ஆகி அதிகமும் ஆகி அகமாகி

அயனென வாகி அரியென வாகி அரனென வாகி அவர் மேலாய்

இகரமும் ஆகி எவைகளும் ஆகி இனிமையும் ஆகி வருவோனே

இருநில மீதில் எளியனும் வாழ எனதுமுன் ஓடி வரவேணும்

மகபதி ஆகி மருவும் வலாரி மகிழ் களி கூரும் வடிவோனே

வனமுறை வேடன் அருளிய பூஜை மகிழ் கதிர்காமம் உடையோனே

செககண சேகு தகுதிமி தோதி திமி என ஆடு மயிலோனே

திருமலிவான பழமுதிர்ச்சோலை மலை மிசை மேவு பெருமாளே.

Being the first letter, Being the leader, Being the greatest,

Being the Creator, Being the Protector, Being the Destroyer, Being someone who is above all,

Being everything, Being the embodiment of sweetness,

Come rushing to me to protect me,

Oh the one whose beauty is admired by Indra

Oh the One who was worshipped by the Hunter at Kadirkaamam

Oh the one whose peacock dances gracefully as per taaLa,

Oh the one who lives on the rich Hillock Pazhamudircholai’.

This is one of the many Thiruppugazhs of AruNagirinatar.

A typical Thiruppugazh has eight lines, has an inherent laya, makes a lot of descriptions, liberally uses Sanskrit words, tells stories and ends with ‘PerumaaLe’.

If having 8 lines, telling stories and making beautiful descriptions were not new in the 16th Century, composing in taaLas which were unheard of, using words from Sanskrit and most importantly addressing Muruga as ‘perumaaLe’ were path breaking.

AruNagirinaatar was adept in music and had a very good understanding of ragas and taaLas. He improvised the TaaLAs, resulting in what is now called as ‘Chanda taaLAs’. It is a well known fact that ‘perumaaL’ refers to Lord VishNu only. However, by addressing Lord Muruga as ‘PerumaaL’, he achieved twin purpose of praising VishNu and also making Muruga as One who is superior - பெரும் ஆள் (‘perum aaL’). At a time when Sanskrit was considered as an anathema in the South, he liberally used these to add beauty to the verses.

The aforementioned verse  starts with the ‘agaram’, goes to ‘igaram’, makes the Divine ‘simple and sweet’ after making it sound complex, concisely and poetically describes the dance of peacock and also tells the story of Brahma, who because of his ego gets cursed by Muruga to be born as a hunterAndhimaan’ and worships Him in Kadirgaamam to attain salvation.

This of course is just a sample of thousands of great verses composed by AruNagirinatar, one who respected tradition at the same time charteringa new path.

The gentleman who has stolen millions of hearts with his thousands of compositions too has a very strong base in classical music. Keeping this as the ‘aadhara’, he used (and continues to use) classical ragas and taaLas, innovated in orchestration, used modern and new instruments along with the traditional instruments, and structured each composition differently.

Today’s song is just another sample/example.

SiRiya PaRavai SiRagai Virikka ThudikkiRadhe’ from ‘Anda Oru Nimidam’(1985) is purely in Charukesi. This is not new as there have been film songs before this in Charukesi. But what are new and different are the way the Pallavi is structured, the way the  three interludes are conceived-with each in one major form of Music, giving us genuine ‘International Music’-, and innovatively using the beats and the percussion.

First, Chatushram( 4 beat-cycle) is broken into 16 maatraas(sub-divisions) as

 ta ki ta/ ta ki  ta/ta ka dhi mi’.

Then, the melodic instruments sound these beats without percussion.

Let us see how.

The exquisite Special Stringed instrument play twice with the charmingly subtle Bass guitar joining in the ‘ta ka dhi mi’ portion. The sublime Guitar joins with very mildly sounding Strings which in fact joins with full force in the next cycle breathing graciousness and charm. The higher-octave Strings then sound one note for the entire cycle after which the profoundly pleasant Brass Flute joins with the keys playing the avarohaNa swaras in the same pattern of the division of 16.

The Pallavi starts with the first line following the same pattern-

Siriya ( ta ki ta) PaRavai (ta ki ta) SiRagai ( ta ki ta) Virikka (ta ki ta) ThudikkiRade(ta ka dhi mi).

Note that there is no percussion until then and that the percussion starts-in the same pattern- from the sangati of ThudikkiRade. Also to be noted is the fact that mainly the mandra stayee swaras(dha. and ni.) are used till ‘Thudi’ and that towards the end in the last line, it goes on the ascending finally touching the upper ‘Sa’.

Divine Lady from Arabia with a beautiful hair. That is how one can call the first interlude. The nipping Arabic instruments smile for one cycle and the percussion takes over playing ‘dhi mi’ thrice and ‘ta- dhi mi’ once with the robust Bass Guitar intervening now and then. Yet another Arabic instrument plays delightfully with two sets of Strings romancing with glee.  Amazed at this spectacle, the Bass Guitar dances and applauds.  With a sense of purpose the two sets of Strings move taking us to an ethereal world.

The first CharaNam has the mandra stayee swaras again but this time in the mid-segment. The lines end like the Pallavi, going on the ascent- pa pa dha ni dha dha ni Sa. The backing of the Strings in the last segment is another beauty.

The Classical Indian Beauty is in full view in the second interlude. Starting with the akaaram of the chorus, Charukesi dances with the luminous Jalatarangam and the elegant VeeNa with the Swara segment showing the many facets and the Flute showing the grace and the grandeur. The Mridangam plays many patterns of Chatushram in a matter of few minutes.

The same Mridangam plays with intensity in the second charaNam-which is different from the first charaNam. All the lines in the first half start with the Panchamam while all the lines in the second half start with the Shadjamam(upper and the aadhara).  For a change (again) the last line is ‘pa dha dha ni dha  ni ni Sa’.

Charukesi wears a white gown and dances like an angel in the third interlude which gives dollops of Western Classical Music with the higher octave Strings and the Saxophone indulging in Call and Response, the Strings moving deftly and the Guitar dazzling with emotional richness.

Embodiment of sweetness..                     

..Traditionally Modern..

..Being Everything.. 

No comments: