Monday, 28 January 2008

ILaiyaraaja-The Emperor!

Cinema is one of the most exaggerated Art Forms.

My intention is not to open a Pandora’s Box by making a sweeping statement.All said and done, one has to accept the fact that the Dialogues , the Expressions, the Make-Up and most importantly the Contrived Situations cannot be classified as ‘Real’.Even the so called Realistic Films have an undertone of artificiality in them.

In fact, this is what makes Cinema the most popular and effective medium.

One of the most artificial yet wonderful aspect in Cinema is the Music.Though our Life itself is Musical, nobody plays Music when we go through happy or sad phases(of course we do face music but that is different!).

In Cinema, we see and hear Back Ground Music being played in accordance with the situation.

Just imagine Flute and Violins being played when we romance and Shehnai being played when the Boss in the office admonishes us!

I bow to the gentleman who invented this concept of background Music in Cinema. If not for this , we would not have had the opportunity to listen to some Masterpieces.

The BGM(re-recording) took a new shape after the entry of the gentleman from Pannaippuram.

In line with the theme of the movie he would play a Leit- Motif (a short piece of Music played again and again) .

In fact, at times there would be more than one tune depending on the number of major characters.I see this trend being adopted by the new crop of Music Directors too but the major difference between the Master and others is that in the case of the Master, the Theme Music would change colours-either in the tempo or in the use of instruments or both-while in others’ it would sound almost the same in a monotonous way.

One of his Masterpieces is the Music of Unnal Mudiyum Thambi(Rudra Veena –Telugu).

It is a story of a young man who is always at loggerheads with his conservative father-a very famous Musician.The son is also Musical but asked to choose between serving the Society and becoming a Musician , he chooses the former thus earning the wrath of his father.He has an elder brother who speaks only with his Nagaswaram.

The Leit-Motif is the Thyagaraja Kirthana Tulasithala in the Ragam Mayamalawagowla-in which Thyagaraja offers all kinds of Flowers to the Lord as Music.


i.The Musician Father-Bilahari Marthandam Pillai- is introduced with this Kiratanam being rendered by him and the influence he wields in the Society at large is shown in the sequence.

ii.Gemini-Kamal Theme-Father scolds his son.The same tune is played in strings.But we see the brilliance of the composer here.He just changes the swara 'Ga' to make it Raga Ganamurthi- a Vivadhi Raga.All Vivadhi Ragas produce a very strange sound giving an eerie feeling!

iii.Gemini Theme-The same tune in Violins but played in Western Style towards the end.

iv.Gemini Angry-Now we hear the counterpoints and the Violin in the Back Ground sounding off key.

We have seen anger;

We have experienced anger;

But here we hear Anger.

v.Gemini Deserted-His elder son leaves him.Though we hear the voice predominantly, the Back Ground sketches the situation for us.

2.Love Theme-

Not many Films can boast of a Heroine being named after a Raga.In this Film, the name of the Heroine is Lalita and this is enough for the Master to play around with this Raga.

i.Love-Raga Lalita in full flow in Guitar.Listen to the phrase just before the end where a single Note is played with a pause giving an echo effect.

ii.Romancing-Same Lalitha in Guitar but listen to the Bass and the beats..

iii.Lalitha Her Name-The Hero gets to know her real name.The same tune in fast tempo. Happiness, Surprise, Joy …

Same instrument , same notes but how different it sounds.

iv.Kissing Kamal-The Hero’s father abuses the Heroine mentioning her caste.Shock, bewilderment, anger of being told her ‘low-caste’ status-how are these depicted ?

Veena in the Mandara(low) Sthayi is played and once again the Genius does the incredible!He uses the Sitar to play Raga Lalith-a Hindustani raga...

v.Marriage Sacrificed-When the Marriage between Udayamoorthy(Kamal) and Lalita(Sita) is called off, the same Lalita is played in a slow tempo and when the Heroine accepts this in the larger interest of the Society , a short and sweet Mohanam is played.


i.Servant’s Influence-The Hero’s inspiration is a old man and Sudhha Dhanyasi Ragam is the theme for this.A wonderful Flute Piece when the old man talks about his passion (of planting trees).

ii.Enlightment-The same Sudhha Dhanysi in a higher Shruti when the Hero understands and appreciates the Noble Cause.

iii.Servant’s Memory-The same piece in a faster tempo.Sarangi is then played to depict the death of the Old Man.


Music can change anything and everything.

The son and the father have an argument(as usual) and when the situation gets out of control, the elder son takes his Nagaswaram and plays aalapanai in Karaharapriya.He is now joined by the Musician father...The Hero follows suit...

Credit to the great Yesudoss who sings as both Father and the Son modulating his voice.

Credit to the Director for the sequence.

Credit to the Emperor of Music for composing such a sweet Karaharapriya to calm things down.

Yes..Music is the Greatest Healer !

5.Kamal Leaves Home-When the Hero decides to leave the house, he requests his brother to play a piece for him.Sahana is a Raga that kindles our deepest emotions.It is a Rakthi Raga.

When this is played in the Nagaswaram, it is not just the Hero, his Sister-In –Law and the brother who are with moist eyes.

6.Fight Sequences- What we generally see and hear in a fight sequence is a group of Violins, Drums, Trumpets etc.,Here is the case of pure Carnatic Laya being used in Fights!

i.Nasser-Kamal Fight Sequence-The Konakkol-Rhythmic Patterns uttered orally- is heard with Jathis ‘Gum Gum Tha’ and the Mridangam joins.

ii.Climax Fight 1 and 2- Tani Avardhanam or the Ensemble of Percussion instruments is an important part of a Carnatic Concert.Here we hear the ensemble of Mridangam,Dolak with Nagaswaram in the back ground.

Innovation with Aesthetic sense!Well.. Don’t we know the other name of this is Illaiyaraaja?

7.Grand Reception- Hero is being honoured by none other than the Prime Minister.The Brother plays the Nagaswaram.Illayaraja-the great- sets this in Bilhari Ragam-a Ragam the Hero’s Father is supposedly an expert –to show that son has won the challenge.

Ungallal Thaan Mudiyum Anna!

Saturday, 26 January 2008

ILaiyaraaja-Composer par excellence!

After 5 posts in this Blog,the time has come for me to say why I love ILaiyaraaja and why I consider him as a genius par excellence.

1.KNOWLEDGE:His knowledge of music is amazing.He is adept in Carnatic, Hindustani, Western classical and folk music.Not many people can match his repertoire.

2.USE OF KNOWLEDGE/APPLICATION:People may have knowledge but what matters is how it is applied and put to proper use.Raaja blends Indian and Western music with consummate ease to make listening a pleasure.People without any basic knowledge on music enjoy his music as much as Pandits and Connoisseurs.

3.ORCHESTRATION:He writes all the notes himself and decides on the instruments to be used.And what a revolution he created in his orchestration.His usage of each and every instrument is amazing.

He has used traditional instruments like Flute, Violin, Veena,Shehnai,Sitar,Sarod, Santoor, Guitar, Piano etc., and many unconventional instruments the names of which are very difficult to list out because of my limited knowledge.

A little known fact is that he was the first one to use technology and computers in Indian Film Music.He is also the first one and as far as I know the only one to use different BGM bits in between the stanzas-called as interludes for a song with three or more stanzas(and the opening BGM called as prelude)

4.BGM (or Re-Recording as it is called in Tamizh cinema parlance):One of the reasons for the grand success of earlier Bharathiraja 's/Mahendran's (many more directors)movies was his background score.He created a new dimension to background scores in Indian Films.

He sets different Theme Music-Leit Motifs- for important characters in the film and this will be played whenever the character/s appear/s on the screen.

Though there are lot of movies,one recalls the score for the movie Sindhu Bhairavi which touched all dimensions of the Ragam Sindhu Bhairavi itself.

5.DISCIPLINE:His music and orchestration are so disciplined that it is the reflection of the man himself.He is the owner of whatever is written/played/rendered.

6.CLASSICAL MUSIC:His usage of carnatic and Hindusthani ragas deserves a special mention.Though one can talk about rare ragas like VarNaroopiNi,Sallapam, Mallika Vasantam(this list is rather long) where he stands apart is in his usage of Melakartha ragas.

I do not want to get too technical but the fact is that he has used 34 out of 72 Melakarthas-a feat not attained by any film music composer.The ragas include Kanakangi,Mayamalavagowla, NataBhairavi, Keeravani, Chalanattai, Pavani,Chitrambari,Rasikapriya etc.,

Even carnatic musicians sing some of these ragas very rarely.

One also recalls the violin concert in Raja Paarvai where the Raga Pantuvarali starts in carnatic style, changes to Hindusthani, Western classical, Jazz,Rock and finally Pop without any deviation from the essence(of the raga).

7.APPRECIATION :His music has been appreciated widely by senior carnatic vidwans like Semmangudi, Maharajapuram, Balamuralikrishna(again the list is endless),one of the legends of Hindi cinema music Naushad(who said that Raja has achieved 100 times what we all have achieved), Hindustani musicians like Chaurasia, Ajay Chakraborthy.His Western music has also been widely appreciated by musicians in the West.

Some may say that he has only won 3 National Awards and has not even been conferred with any of the Padma titles.What matters more is the appreciation by learned musicians who know a lot about music and who also know and mean what they say.
Raja started his career at a time when there was only one FM channel,one TV Channel and one Vividh Bharathi.Still his songs became a rage right from the moment he entered.

Finally, let me reiterate that geniuses are born once in a while and it is for the people to realise how great the person is.

All music directors have talent and have come up with sheer hardwork and dedication.

But our Raaja is a class apart!

Friday, 25 January 2008

ILaiyaraaja-The Eclectic Musician!

Saint Thyagaraja was a very interesting personality.

It is of course a known fact that he was a Musician par excellence. His mastery over Telugu and his ability to compose with consummate ease is very well established. He was also one of the greatest Bhaktas(Devotee) of all times.

But there are certain qualities which make him and his compositions unique .

One is his ubiquitous reference to Music in his Krithis proving how steeped he was in the Ocean of Music.

The other is his Probing Questions.

In an endeavour to make himself and his mind pure, he constantly questioned himself, and his mind .He did not just stop there...

He also raised a lot of meaningful questions to the Lord himself.

He asks, ‘Dwaithamu Sukhama Adhwaithamu Sukhama?Chitanyama vinu Sarvasaakshi Vistharamukhanu Telupumu Natho..’

‘Which one gives happiness-Dualism or Anti Dualism? Will you Please Tell Me-Oh!The Omnipotent..?’

In another Krithi , he asks ‘I am like a Woman tormented by seperation . When will you come and save me Oh , Rama..’

‘Chera Ravathemira?’

In yet another Krithi he says ‘In the Garland made of gems called as Ragas, Rama shines’

‘Raga Rathnamalikache Ranjillunada’.

All the above mentioned Krithis are set in that beautiful Raga called Reethigowlai.

In Carnatic Music, we have Heavy Ragas called ‘Gana Ragas', Popular Ragas called ‘Janaranjaka Ragas’ and Ragas full of Mellowness called ‘Rakthi Ragas’.

Rakthi Ragas pierce our hearts and kindle the hidden (deepest) emotions.Sahana, Reethigowlai, Ananda Bhairavi are some of the examples of Rakthi Ragas.

I shall now try and explain how the Maestro has used the Beautiful Raga to bring out the Rakthi Bhava.

Like Thyagaraja, ILaiyaraaja is also one of the greatest musicians of all times.His ability to compose in a jiffy is a well known fact and is like the Holy Grail.

What sets him apart is his ability to question and his propensity to experiment.He has been the purveyor of rare ragas and has redefined the idioms of Film Music.

The zeitgeist of Film World-Tamizh Films in particular-in the late ‘70s was one of appreciating Light Music with the Melody element though there was a smattering of songs based on Classical Music.It needed a lot of guts on the part of this Rustic from Pannaipuram to compose a song in a pure and a slightly difficult Carnatic Raga.

Though he had used the Raga Kaapi wonderfully in ‘Sugamo Ayiram’(Thunai Iruppall Meenakshi), it was his use of Reethigowlai in ‘Chinna Kannan Azhaikkiran’ which made the so called ‘Arbiters’of Carnatic Music look up.This composition got buried somewhere deep down in their subconscious mind.

The composition starts with the effervescent Flute playing ‘Ni Ni Sa Ni Sa Ga Ri Sa’and Reethigowlai comes dancing towards us.The Santoor then plays repetitive Swaras embellishing the already beautiful Raga.

When the Mellifluous voice of BalamuraliKrishna sings ‘Chinna Kannan Azhaikkiran’, it looks as if the Lord Krishna himself is inviting us to play with him.

The Sa Ga Ri Ga Ma Ni Ni Sa and Ga Ma Pa Ma Ga Ri Sa usage delineate the beauty that is called as ReethiGowlai.

The interludes have Flutes playing counterpoints and the Santoor giving a charming smile .

The highlight of the composition is the brevity in Orchestration.Not many instruments have been used but still it sounds Great.

Contrast this with the Pathos version of the same song.

The song starts with the Divine Nagaswaram and as Janaki sings the first line, the Violin Orchestra takes over in Western Classical style.The short pause after this is the stamp of the Master!

The interludes have the Violin Orchestra in Western Style followed by the Flute in Carnatic Style which sings with Meloncholy this time-though the notes are the same as that of the Happy Version-and the Santoor.

The second interlude deserves a special mention here.The Orchestra takes us to the Western Classical mode initially playing Reethigowlai, and later on deviating in pure Western Stlye finally catching up with the Raga towards the end.

In the last Charanam, as Janaki’s Voice reaches a Crescendo, the Violins play the Postlude .

ILaiyaraaja –the Eclectic Musician!

Rama weds Sita .This is a known story.But what happens when the Swayamavara and the Wedding take place in Reethigowlai?

Reethigowlai reaches new heights in ‘Raman Kathai Kelungall’from ‘Sippikkul Muthu’(Swathi Muthyam-Telugu).

Though the song has other Ragas as well, Reethigowlai sounds very sweet.

The beautiful Sita is decorated in Reethigowlai .The Veena plays as Rama walks into the gathering full of Great Warriors, Kings and Learned Men.

When each warrior fails in his attempt to lift the Bow and finally when Rama succeeds in lifting the Bow,one gets a wonderful taste of Andhra Folk -albeit not in Reethigowlai.

Reethigowlai joins us again towards the end after a brief Madhyamavathi.

The most riveting Reethigowlai in Film Music is ‘Thalayai Kuniyum Thamaraiye’ from ‘Oru Odai Nadhiyagirathu’.The composition is woven with a clear and concise understanding of the Dos and Don’ts of this Raga.

It starts with the Divine Nagaswaram again.The Electronic Synthesiser follows the String.

Ni Sa Ni Dha Pa Ma Ga Ri Sa and Sa Ga Ri Ga Ma Ni Dha Ma-sketch Reethigowlai before we bat our eyelids.

The 4/8 Chatusram beats are wonderfully split to sound as 1 123.

The Flute followed by Strings and the Violins playing in Harmony in the first interlude give us a sense of mirth.

But the best piece of Reethigowlai is heard in the second interlude when there is an undulating Wave-Pattern with the sound of the Ankle Bell in the background.
Even people who do not know to dance move their feet involuntarily mesmerized by this piece!

The structure of the second Charanam is another beauty.The eleven lines move so effortlessly that one is left wondering as to how such a Rakthi Raga is handled in a Filmy duet without in anyway losing its Charm or Grandeur.

The same Reethigowlai flourishes with flamboyance in ‘Meethatha Oru Veenai’from ‘Poonthottam’.The mellowness of the Raga is felt in the modern instruments as well.

The composition is set to the 5 beat Kanda Chapu Talam-Thaka Thakita -but the Mridangam makes its appearance only in the second interlude along with the Veena.

Until then we hear Western Instruments.

The Violins also alternate between High and Low Pitch.
The entire song gives us a feeling of seeing a Snow Capped Mountain surrounded by a thousand Flowers.

‘Aayiram Malaragall Malarum Allava Avarathu Isai Kettu’?

His Music makes Thousands of Flowers Bloom…...

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Thursday, 24 January 2008

ILaiyaraaja-The Genius!

The great Tamizh poet Thiruvalluvar said

‘People who have studied and discovered different facets of Nature, enlighten fresh truths and codes not known so far’

கற்றீண்டு மெய்ப்பொருள் கண்டார் தலைப்படுவர்
மற்றீண்டு வாரா நெறி.

It is not just enough to acquire and gain knowledge. What matters is how one applies it.

Illaiyaraaja has studied Music in depth. So have many other composers. But what distinguishes Raja from others is his inclination to experiment and his ability to innovate.

‘Graha Bedam’ as a theoretical concept is known to anybody who learns Carnatic Music but it is the one and only Raja who has used it in Films.

In Carnatic Music Concerts, one gets to hear Ragam Thanam Pallavi . Here the Musician chooses a particular Ragam, elaborates it , sings a small Pallavi(usually in a tough Talam) and then goes on to sing the Pallavi in different Ragas.A knowledgeable and talented Musician applies Shruti Bedam here and changes the Ragas.

Before we move further, let me briefly try and explain the Raga system and the concept of Graha Bedam.

Out of the seven Swaras, Ri, Ga, Ma, Dha, Ni have two basic varaiants(though there are 4 variants , I am mentioning only 2 now so that I sound simple!).With various permutations and combinations of these 5 swaras plus the Sa and Pa , we get 32 complete ragas-Ragas that have all the seven notes in Arohanam(ascent) as well as Avarohanam(descent).

Now, let us take the third variant of Ri,Ga,Dha, Ni(Ma is avoided here and I shall explain this in days to come).Now, with the permutation and combination of each variant , we get 40 complete Ragas.These 40 are called as Vivadhi Ragas.

These 72 Ragas(32+40 =72) are called as the Melakartha or the Mother ragas. Rest of the ragas are derived from these.

For example, Shankarabharanam, Natabhairavi, Keeravani etc.,are Mother Ragas. Mohanam, Sudhha Dhanyasi, Sudhha Saveri, Lalitha are all Janya Ragas(derived ragas).

Please recall that I was mentioning about 4 variants of each of the 5 Swaras. Multiply this and we get 20.Add Sa and Pa to this and we get 22.Thus we have 22 Shrutis in Carnatic Music.

Sa is the basic Swara and all ragams start with this (there are some exceptions and let us not focus on them now).

Now, what happens if we keep the 'Ri' of a particular Ragam as the basic note ?The ragam obviously changes to a totally different one.This is what is called as Shruti Bedam since we are change the Shruti Value.

Let us now see one of Raja's masterpieces where he has applied the concept of Graha bedam wonderfully.

It is ‘Vaidehi Raman’ from Pagal Nilavu,

The composition is based on Kalyani-the 65th Melakartha.Being a Melakartha , it has seven notes.

Ri/ Ga/ Pa/ Dha/ Ni of Kalyani(or for that matter any Ragam) can be taken as the basic swara Sa and each time we get a new raga.Thus we get 5 different Ragas here.This is the theory.

But what amazes me is the way Raja has handled Shruti Bedam in this composition!

Logically, if we apply Graha Bedam to any Melakartha Raga, we get another Melakartha –or a complete Raga.

But in ‘Vaidehi Raman’, we get Pentatonic Ragas(Ragas with 5 notes) like Mohanam, Hamsadhwani, Hindolam, Sudhha Dhanyasi.


But before that let us see the composition very briefly.I am saying very briefly, because my objective now is to expand on his handling of Shrutibedam.

The song starts with the bells and one gets to hear the arohana of Kalyani.The brief Mridangam prelude with a wonderful mathematical pattern straightaway gives the ambience of a Classical Dance performance.

The Pallavi is simple and the first interlude with traditional instruments is attractive.

The second interlude is where we must turn our attention to.The Swara singing phrases start here and the Graha bedam takes place here.

Let us now go back to my earlier statement –

‘ But in ‘Vaidehi Raman’, we get Pentatonic Ragas(Ragas with 5 notes) like Mohanam, Hamsadhwani, Hindolam, Sudhha Dhanyasi.


The answer is while changing the Shruthi, the Genius uses only some Swaras(and not all the seven swaras!) from the changed Ragam.

Graha Bedam takes place from Ni Sa Ni Ni Sa Sa. That is, Ni is made to act like Sa and what we get is Todi Ragam,the 8th Melakartha.('Gangai Karai Mannanadi' from Varusham 16 is Todi).

This is just an introduction to the beauty which is to follow.

It is like the entrance to a Temple where we have the beautiful RajaGopuram and the huge Dhwajastambham!

He focuses on just 5 notes of Todi-Sa Ga Ma Dha Ni-to give us Hindolam a pentatonic Raga.

From Ni, he shifts his attention to Dha.

If Dha in Kalyani is made as Sa, it becomes Karaharapriya-the 22nd Melakartha- and this is what one would expect the Vocalist to sing when Graha Bedam takes place.

But with a Genius like Raja, we must always expect the unexpected!

He just uses 5 Swaras of Karaharapriya to make it sound like a Pentatonic Ragam Sudhha Dhanyasi.

Then from Dha, he jumps to Ri(again unexpectedly) and uses the five Swaras of Mohanam. Again, logically it should have been HariKambhodi-the 28th Melakartha- but he uses just 5 swaras of that ragam. Coming to think of it, since Mohanam does not have Ma, we can also say that these are the Swaras of Kalyani!

Before Graha Bedam, he uses Sa Ri Ga Pa Ni in some phrases –swaras of Kalyani- no doubt but at the same time Swaras of Hamsadhwani as well!

Kalyani made to look like Hamsadhwani !

What can one say about this Genius!!

Avar Isaikkum Gaanangal Nammai Engengo Azhaithu Chellum Aarohanam…

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Wednesday, 23 January 2008

ILaiyaraaja-The Master

“There is a lot of Mathematics in Music. Not just in places where the Talam is explicitly seen but also in Music that does not follow any Talam. Music is not just in complex calculations.Rhythm or Mathematics(called as Kalapramanam in Carnatic Music) is inherent though subtle in every phrase.In its natural course and flow, all forms of Music have Mathematics in them.”

“In a painting there is symmetry.In Saint Thyagaraja’s compositions, there is Mathematics in structure.”

These are the words of Maestro ILaiyaraaja.

An Artiste not only has to have deep knowledge of the subject but also should enjoy, internalize and express what he or she feels. After all , is not Art a form of an expression?.

We all know how true this is in the case of ILaiyaraaja.

In his Music,

there is Symmetry , there is Beauty;
there is Melody, there is Rhythm;
there is Mathematics, there is Science;
there is Expression, there is a Feeling;

Going back to what Raaja said about Mathematics in Music, let us see how these two are related apart from the 'M'factor.

The structure of the Ragam -Arohanam/Avarohanam- follows a Mathematical Pattern.
The Melakartha System is Arithmetics and is a permutation and combination of the seven basic Swaras.
In Carnatic Music,there are also very complex mathematical calculations in the rhythmic patterns.So much so that at times a Concert would be reduced to jugglery similar to a Circus.

Raaja has used lot of complex calculations in his Ragas as well as Talas but never at the cost of Aesthetics.Being a Film Music Composer, he has to operate on certain limited parameters and with a lot of constraints.But this has not stopped him from experimenting new elements in Music .

At the same time he has always struck the right balance and has never compromised on the beauty of Music.

Today we are going to see two such compositions.

'Nanna Neenu Gellalare’from the Kannada Film ‘Nee Nanna Gellalare’ is a very different composition.

We have seen how Raaja has used either a single Raga or more than one Raga in his compositions.But he has used a very different technique in ‘Nanna Neenu..’

Let us see how.

The song starts with Janaki humming the Raga Sudhha Dhanyasi in Western Style.Dr.Rajkumar’s humming follows but it has traces of Hindolam-another pentatonic Raga. While Sudhha Dhanyasi uses Sa Ga Ma Pa Ni, Hindolam has Sa Ga Ma Dha Ni-that is Dha is substituted for Pa .A very minor difference but the two Ragas sound different, though in some phrases they may sound very similar.

Raja has brilliantly exploited this Symmetry and the Asymmetry.This is a song where the Hero and the Heroine challenge each other and that must be the reason for this pattern.

The Pallavi is in Sudhha Dhanyasi while the Charanams have the colour of both Sudhha Dhanyasi and Hindolam.Indications of some kind of a Magic to follow.

We wait with bated breath expecting this to happen anytime…

And it happens in the second Interlude.Janaki starts singing the Swaras of Hindolam while Dr.Rajkumar sings Swaras of Sudhha Dhanyasi.

No overlapping and therefore no counterpoints.It is just that one voice sings one Raga while the other sings another Raga as a reply.Towards the end of this phase, Dr.Rajkumar sings the Arohana of Mohanam, Madhyamavati and Suddha Saveri.

The song culminates with a beautiful Dance Jathi section.

The beats, and the first interlude give a jazzy look with the Trumpets, Sax and the Synthesiser!

Experimentation at its Best!

I am reminded of a Tamizh Film Song where again there is a challenge between the Hero and the Heroine .

In ‘Vaa Veliye’ from ‘Paadu Nilave’, Raaja tries a different technique in terms of the Raga , the Swara usage and the Rhythm.

This composition is set to the Raga Subhapantuvarali, a Raga considered to be the Mother of Pathos.

But here it is used in a competition song!

If we think that this is the only surprise element here, we are mistaken.

The Rhythm in the Pallavi and the first Charanam is in the 4/8 beat Chatusram.This suddenly becomes the 3/8 beat Tisram when the female voice(Chitra) sings ‘Naan Ariven’ towards the end of the first Charanam.

Again if we assume that the rhythmic pattern has changed, we are in for another surprise.The O’ Henry streak in Illayaraja takes over .The MaleVoice(SPB)-that follows the Female Voice - sings in the 4-beat Chatusram!

The second Charanam is in Tisram until the fifth line where it goes back to Chatusram.

Then there is the Swara singing section.

It is O’ Henry Raja again .

The male voice sings Swaras of Subhapantuvarali .The Female voice also does the same ..but with a difference.

Only Five Swaras-Sa Ri Ga Pa Dha- are sung to make it sound like a different Raga, Bhoopalam-considered to be a morning Raga.

It was Adi Sankara who was the exponent of Maya or Illusion theory.
But here we have Illayaraja who depicts Maya in his compositions!

The Interludes need a special mention here.It is Western Orchestration throughout despite being a Indian Classical Raga.The only time one gets to hear an Indian percussion instrument is during the Tisram beats when the Tabla makes an appearance.

The song which starts with a soul stirring Aalap by SPB, culminates with the Mathematical pattern of Swara singing.


Well, yes but our Life itself is paradoxical and Music is no exception!

Raagangall Kodi Kodi Ethuvum Puthithillai.
Aanal Avarathu Isai Endrume Puthithuthaan!

(There are millions of Ragas and none of them is new.But Raaja’s Music is always New!)

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

ILaiyaraaja-Inseparable From My Heart!

Seperation or Viraha is a pet topic of poets.

All major literary works depict Viraha beautifully.

One of the major works in Sanskrit ,’Geeta Govinda’ was written by Jayadeva in the 12th century .It talks about Krishna and Radha -symbolizing the Supreme being and a devotee respectively- and has lot of philosophical connotations.

But it also depicts divine love at its best and therefore can be classified under Love poems. The poems are incredibly beautiful.

In one of the Ashtapathis(8th),Radha’s friend approaches Krishna and informs him of the agony of Radha owing to her state of separation(from Krishna):

‘She fears and reviles the dint of moonbeams as though they are the arrows of Love-god. She loathes the sandal-paste.
She reckons the cool and sandal-scented breeze from Mt. Malaya venomous, as though it has caressed the abode of serpants
Thus, now she is lovelorn, as you have left her in the lurch..’.

‘Nindati chandanam IndukiraNam anuvindati khedamadheeram
Vyaalanilayamilanena garalamiva kalayati malayasameeram
Saa Virahe Tava Deenaa..’

This is Viraha in poetic form!

One of the masterpieces of Raja describes separation in musical form.

The English Film ‘Man Woman and a Child’ inspired many film makers. It came out as ‘Masoom’ in Hindi, as ‘Olangal’ in Malayalam and ‘Oru Odai Nadiyagirathu’ in Tamizh.

The Tamizh film was directed by the great film maker Shridhar.

The story of the film is beyond the scope of this discussion and therefore let me try and explain the sequence.

One of the heroines-Sumalatha- has a past connection with the Hero Raghuvaran , a fact both of them do not know(pl do not ask me I said it is beyond the scope of this thread).When she meets him after a while, she is attracted towards him-despite knowing he is married. Unable to take him away from her thoughts,she cannot bear the separation.

Let us focus our attention on the song.

The sequence itself is abstract and appears as a dream.

The song is ‘Kanavu Ondru Thondruthey..’ and is rendered by Janaki.
It is based on Revati, a pentatonic raga that evokes feelings of nostalgia, fear, sympathy , compassion and above all an unexplainable feeling.It is a more recent raga .

The structure is sa ri1 ma1 pa ni2 Sa—Sa ni2 pa ma1 ri1 sa.

The first thing that strikes us in 'Kanavu Ondru..’ is the rather unusual prelude.The string instrument sounds like a Tanpura and the feathertouch piano keys kindle our emotions.

The Bass guitar itself acts as the rhythm playing the three notes of Revathi repeatedly as the punchy western flute and the synthesizer join. Meanwhile the Bass Guitar continues to play nonchalantly.

Janaki sings ‘Kanavu Ondru Thondruthe ithai yaarodu solla’twice without any percussion instruments…And then the magic unfolds…The perussion starts as we hear ‘vizhiyorangaL..’and the 8 beats are divided as ‘Ta ka Dhi mi Ta ka Ta –‘.

Four things are to be noted here:

The stress is on ‘Dhi’ and the last ‘Ta’.

The last beat is left blank.

The Bass Guitar plays during Ta ka Dhi mi.

The percussion stops towards the end of the pallavi as ‘Kanavu Ondru’ is rendered again.

All these create a very different ambience.

The Bass Guitar plays with piercing sharpness supported by the punchy violins and the synthesizer.

Suddenly the piano appears from nowhere and moves decorously even as the bass guitar plays in the background. The violins join and just towards the end, the percussion reappears with a very interesting pattern:

Ta – Ta ka (gap) Ta – Ta ka (gap) Ta – Ta ka (gap).

Let me explain what this is.

24 is divided as 4,4,4,4,4,4.The gaps are filled with violins.

Cutting edge precision!

What one sees here is the heady shimmer of gold crust!!

The charanam is another beauty.Each line is sung with emotive intensity. ‘Poomagal Meladai.’.is sung with beautiful ‘podi sangathis’and as we tend to forget ourselves more things follow.

The violins stir us at the end of each word. It twinges our hearts when she cries ‘Kaamane Vaaradhe..’ first in the higher pitch and then in the lower pitch, and we too begin to cry.

In the second BGM(interlude), the vivacious violins, the double bass and the cello make us swivel and as the intoxicating flute plays we become dizzy. We are in a state of trance and we see illuminated brilliant flashes of divine light as the piano plays ..

Paradise on the Earth!

I have never seen a better Film composition in Revati nor will I see ever!

The Western arrangement and orchestration-without mixing even a single alien swara- combined with the Indian rhythmic calculations and patterns are possible only by one person!

கனவு ஒன்று தோன்றுதே அதில் இந்த தெய்வீக இசை கேட்குதே!

I listen to this Divine Music in my dreams …

Monday, 21 January 2008

ILaiyaraaja-The Romantic Musician!

The poetic beauty of Kamba Ramayanam is very well known.

Kamban was a Poet par excellence .His choice of words and his beautiful, and meaningful descriptions convey many intricate things!

Here is a scene from his ‘Bala Gandam’.A Battery of People from Ayodhya throng Mythila for Rama-Sita’s Wedding. Romance is in the air and Kamban wonderfully describes Love.Not the Love of Rama –Sita , but the Love of the Battery of people.A man from the Army travels along with his Lady Love.

Those days Spear and Tridents were the major weapons - apart from the Bow and the Arrow.Looking at his Lover’s eyes, he wonders if his spear is sharper than her eyes.His weapon can only go and destroy the enemies.But her ‘Weapon’ can look at him with compassion and love.Yes, it pierces his heart and his soul.He then concludes that her eyes are definitely sharper than his Spear!

சுழியும் குஞ்சி மிசைச்சுரும்பு ஆர்த்திடப்

பொழியும் மாமத யானையிற் போகின்றான்,

க‌ழிய கூரிய என்றொரு காரிகை

விழியை நோக்கித்தன் வேலையும் நோக்கினான்.

That is the beauty of Kamban.

Like Kamban and his poetry, Illaiyaraaja’s Music also pierces our hearts and we wonder if anything else can be sharper than this.

We are now going to see one of his amazing compositions.

A composition that is Romance Personified.

A Composition that would make all Young Lovers dance.

A Composition that would make all Old Lovers sway.

A Composition that would make People fall in Love.

It is ‘Pani Vizhum Malarvanam’ from ‘Ninaivellam Nithya’.

Chala Naattai-the Raga of Pani Vizhum- is the 36th Melakartha.There are 72 Melakartha (mother ) Ragas.These 72 are divided into 12 groups –of 6 Ragas each.The first 36 use one variant of ‘Ma’which is called as Sudhha Madhyama while the next 36 use the other variant of ‘Ma’ which is Prathi Madhayama.Kanakangi –the Raga of Mogam Ennum- is the first Melakartha while Chala Naattai is the 36th Melakartha- the last Raga using Sudhha Madhyama in the system.

Though Chala Naattai is not as eerie as Kanakangi, it does give a Haunting feel. Only the Maestro can think of using this Vivadhi Raga for a very romantic song!

This wonderful composition starts with a rather unusual prelude.The Guitar hums very quietly as the soft voice of SPB sings ‘Pani Vizhum Malarvanam..’.The Violins welcome the Romantic Lover , the Guitar picks up momentum and the drums dance happily.

A Breathtaking Build up!

In the first interlude, we see the Foliage in the garden of Love as the Flute sings like Birds with joyous profusion, the Veena replying with elegant fluency, the Synthesiser emerging eloquently , the violins waddling and the Tabla joining the fray.It is a Musical Loop now as the violins play the same pattern-sa ga ma pa-indicating how the Love travels in concentric circles.

The first stanza continues with Vigour and Vitality as the Flute and the Veena alternate between the lines showing us the shimmer of twenty moons.The line ‘Kaigall Idaithanil Neligaiyil’ follows a splendid chain of Swaras-pa da pa ma repeated five times- while ‘Eriyum Vilakku Sirithu Kangall Moodum’ is electrifying.

The second interlude is a Dazzling Canopy with a Cornucopia of Flowers.The immaculate Guitar is the Rose, the melodious Flute being the Lily, the ecstatic Violin being the Jasmine, the Elegant Veena being the Sun Flower.

The imaginative juxtaposition of the Notes is of course the speciality of the Maestro.

The Fluid Curves of the Guitar, the Resplendent Flashes and Sparkle of the Violin(s), the gracefulness and the tranquility of the Flute make it a montage of sorts mesmerizing us.

The Composition is tenderly textured with a stamp of Classical Purity.

Pani Vizhum Malarvanam Unathu Isai Oru Varam….

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