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!)

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