Wednesday, 20 February 2008

ILaiyaraaja-The Beautiful Musician!

Thithath thaththath Thithath thithithaathai thaathathuth thithath thitha
Thithath thaththath Thithath Thithithitha Thethuthu Thithi thatha
Thithath thaththath Thithathai Thaathathi Thethuthai Thaathathathu
Thithath thaththath Thithithi TheeThee Thithithuthi Thee Thothathe.

திதத்தத்தத் தித்தத் திதிதாதை தாததுத் தித்தத்திதா
திதத்தத்தத் தித்தத் திதித்தித்த தேதுத்து தித்திதத்தா
திதத்தத்தத் தித்தத்தை தாததி தேதுதை தாததத்து
திதத்தத்தத் தித்தித்தி தீதீ திதிதுதி தீ தொத்ததே

Let me tell you that this is not the Morse- Code or any other Telegraphic code. Nor is it the language of Martians.

This is a verse from ‘Kandar Anthaathi’ written by the 16th Century Tamizh Poet Arunagirinathar.

Arunagirinathar has given us 9 gems including the popular work Tiruppugazh , Kandar Alangaram, Kandar Anubhoothi etc.,

He had an amazing knowledge of Music –especially the Talas-and it is said that he composed verses in all the 108 Talas.

His verses eulogized Lord Muruga. But they cannot be simply brushed aside as Bhakthi Literature because the lyrical values and the musical values are quite unmatched.

Take the aforementioned verse for example.

It gives a Tala Pattern but within that it also says

’’Lord Muruga!You are worshipped by the Dancing Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu. Please remind me to worship you even when the Fire destroys my physical body full of Bones and Flesh .’’

That is the beauty of the language.

That is the beauty of Music as well.

Incidentally, Murugu in Tamizh means Beautiful.

While talking about such great people like Arunagirinathar, I am reminded of ILaiyaraaja.

With his immense knowledge in World Music, and his boundless Creativity, he has given us beautiful compositions.

He has also used many Ragas and Talas and their different patterns.

His compositions have a Mystic Quality. We are surrounded by the Compositions and get entangled by them.

Today we are going to see a Composition that is based on a Raga called ‘Shanmukhapriya’.

The word ‘Shanmukha’ refers to Muruga since it is believed that he has six faces.

Shanmukhapriya is the 56th Melakartha and is the Prathimadhyama Raga of Natabhairavi. This Raga is also known by the name Chaamaram.

ILaiyaraaja has used this Raga widely in Films as well as in his Non-Film Albums like ‘How To Name It’ and ‘Thiruvaachakam’.

He used it for the first time in ‘Tham Thananam Thana Talam Varum’(Puthiya Vaarpugal).

The Composition follows a lovely pattern and it moves like the Waves.

There is a very interesting story behind this. During the composing session, Bharathiraaja was not too happy with the various tunes given by Illaiyaraaja.

They shut down everything, went to the Beach and spent the whole night talking about their Childhood and other happenings in their life. After this Nostalgic Trip, they went back to the composing session and ‘Tham Thanan Nam’was born.

Creativity blossoms when the mind is uncluttered, when we become Children again and when we spend time with the Nature.

Does one need any other proof for this?

The ‘Wavy Pattern’ in the song could also be because of the Sea seen by Raja.

Veena is a lovely instrument and the playing of what is called as ‘Thaanam’ in Carnatic Music on Veena is very pleasing to our ears.

The Composition starts with the Veena speaking to us. The Chorus appears from nowhere and it is like the Low Tide becoming a High Tide!

The Cohesive Design of the Pallavi gives us the essence of Shanmukhapriya.

It is stacked with the Main Swaras of the Raga and we are drenched by the waves of these Swaras.

The Violin Orchestra in Western Style and the Bass work in the interlude look like the Spume from the Sea.

And it is a Lullaby as the chorus sings ‘Thanana Thana Laali..’ followed by the Flute giving Ripples of Melody. The Chiming of the Bells gives a divine feeling.

The Charanams teem with beauty as one phrase after another moves like waves unequivocally telling us that it is Shanmukhapriya in full flow.

The lines glide and curve making us float on the waves.

The Tenacious Veena and the Chorus appearing in between the lines gently make us sway.

The use of the Traditional Instrument, Jalatharangam -which is played with water cups-is exquisite and makes us go underwater.

The Resplendent Veena takes over followed by the Chorus Voice and we spin around in a circle.

The Western Movement in Violin Orchestra is amazing as we traverse the Sea.

The prolonged Sojourn is Gentle, Feathery, Vibrant, and Breezy.

We hear new melodies, new expressions and feel the aroma and new flavours in his Music!

புது ராகம் வரும் பல பாவம் வரும் அதில் சந்தன மல்லிகை வாசம் வரும்...

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Monday, 18 February 2008

Illaiyaraaja-The Path Breaking Musician!

Nature is the Fountain’s Head,
The Source from whence
All originality must spring.

These were the words of John Constable , the pioneering and path-breaking English Artist who lived between the years 1776 and 1837.

His paintings were huge Six-footers capturing the beauty of timeless rural scenes of the English countryside in a vibrant and ever-changing light and imparting a unique character that reflected the soul and spirit of the era.

Constable drew ideas from the nature itself rather than using just his imagination. In fact this attitude was considered to be path breaking and somewhat rebellious since the artistic culture prevalent during the 18th Century taught painters to use only the imagination.

There was a natural sequel to this line of thinking.

Constable wrote ‘’No two days are alike , not even two hours; neither were there ever two leaves of a tree alike since the creation of all the world; and the genuine production of art, like those of nature , are all distinct from each other.’’

This applies to Music as well. Though Music is nothing but the combination of Seven Swaras, each composition is unique.

While reading about John Constable, I immediately thought of Illaiyaraja.

When he entered the Film Music World in the year 1976, he revolutionised the concept of Film Music..

He combined the finer elements in Indian Classical , Folk and Western Classical brilliantly melding all the forms to give a very unique and a vibrant form of Music.Words like 'orchestration' and 'arrangement'acquired new meanings!

More importantly, he drew inspiration from nature.One of the Film Directors revealed in a TV Music Show recently that Raja would sit on nature’s lap staring at the Mountains and Rocks for hours together. This serene atmosphere made him more creative and he imbibed the Music of Nature.

Today we are going to see one of his Masterpieces that would take us straight to the Nature’s lap.

It is ‘Putham Puthu Kaalai’ from the album ‘Alaigall Oyvathillai'.

I say ‘Album’ because this song is not part of the movie though the sequence was shot.

Though when I watched the movie the first time,I felt very disheartened that this Masterpiece was not seen as visuals, I felt very happy later on.

Happy because no Director or Cinematographer can do full justice to this song..

If we had seen this song in motion , it would have certainly affected the way we visualise the song and whenever we listen to this song the images and visuals would be that of the Director's..

But now that there are no visuals, we are free to form mental images and enjoy this masterpiece without any inhibitions.

This composition is based on a Raga called Nata Bhairavi.

Nata Bhairavi is a very interesting and a very unique raga.

In fact I am really intrigued at times while thinking about this Raga.

It is the 20th Melakartha in Carnatic System.But though it is a Mother Raga, there are not many compositions in this Raga in Carnatic Music.And interestingly(and intriguingly as well!) there are many popular ragas derived from this Raga..

In Nata Bhairavi, if the variant(semitone) of Ri is changed it becomes Todi,
if that of Ga is changed it becomes Charukesi,
if that of Ma is changed it is Shanmukhapriya,
if that of Dha is changed it is Karaharapriya and
if that of Ni is changed it is Keeravani.

All these are very popular Ragas.

In Western Classical Music, the Nata Bhairavi scale is called the Melodic Minor Descending.

This Raga is very popular among Cine Musicians.

Now is it clear as to why I am so intrigued by this Raga?

Our Maestro has composed hundreds of songs in this Raga.

Let us now look at the composition-'Putham Puthu Kaalai'.

Subramaniya Bharathi while describing the Dawn said

I looked up at the Heavens early in the Morning
The Sun shines in the East and it is Brightness all around’.

காலைப் பொழுதினிலே கண்விழித்து மேனிலை மேல்
மேலைச் சுடர்வானை நோக்கி நின்றோம் விண்ணகத்தே

கீழ்த்திசையில் ஞாயிறுதான் கேடில் சுடர் விடுத்தான்
பார்த்த வெளியெல்லாம் பகலொளியாய் மின்னிற்றே.

In fact he goes on to discuss wonderful things in the poetry.

Illaiyaraja also discusses wonderful things in the song ‘Putham Puthu Kaalai’.

The composition starts with the Flute singing like a cuckoo heralding the arrival of the dawn.

A Curl, a Flourish, and a Beautiful piece of Music unfolds.

We feel we are standing on a froth- lipped beach and lo and behold …we see the Sunrise!

Swept by the waves of melody and rhythm we now hear the voice of Janaki humming like a bird and go with the ebb and flow of the waves.

It is a lilting experience as she sings ‘Putham Puthu Kaalai..’.

The Flute now wafts through the air and it shakes up the languor and the indolence of mortals like us. The other Flute now trundles as we see a Myriorama of sorts with beautiful colours flecked liberally.

The Strings play now and festoon the surroundings with glittering jewelry. We see the primary tones of the spectrum.

The Flowers sprinkle prettiness to the panorama while their fragrance itself seems like a Raga to us.

We climb the slopes and peek at the beauty as the magic is weaved in the Charanam.The voice is sequined with the interjection of the Flute and the pulsating beats.

As the first Charanam ends and the Violins play, we see a glimpse of a Waterfalls hidden in a valley below.The sparkling water glistens with froth and bits the pebble bed.

The voice now ricochets like an echo as the water tiptoes along the pebbles forming charming eddies on its way.It is further accentuated by the impish beats sending us into raptures.

The composition is draped in a velvety blanket making us love it irrevocably.

We feel the plenitude and at the same time feel empty!

புத்தம்புது காலையில் புத்தம்புது கீதங்கள் படைக்கும் அவரது இசையின் அலைகள் ஓய்வதில்லை!

The waves of Raja’s Music will never stop!

Friday, 15 February 2008

ILaiyaraaja-Musician with the Third Eye!

Quite often, I wonder as to how some people are very special. By ‘special’, I do not mean the VIP status given to many people(though undeservingly!).In fact , most of the genuinely special people were not even given due recognition during their lifetime.

I am talking about people who were/are extraordinary in one field or the other and are born Geniuses.

A close analysis and observation suggest three things.

One-these people have natural talents somewhat different from the other mortals.

Two-These geniuses have certain common traits. One of the most common traits I find is their propensity and proclivity to think and act differently and not follow the beaten track.

Three-these special people put in lot of efforts in the right direction and though they have/had natural abilities and unnatural powers, they work(ed) very hard and never rested on their laurels.

Let us take the examples of Issac Newton and Albert Einstein.Both these scientists were born geniuses and had the ability and audacity to question things and commonly held beliefs. But they did not stop with that. They spent years in finding out the Truth .

We have read about the Mathematical Genius of Srinivasa Ramanujan whose entire life was focused on inventing new theorems and Numbers Theory.

Subramania Bharathi who gave a new lease of life to Tamizh poetry with his use of words and revolutionary ideas/thoughts was a born genius.He was a voracious reader and was very well versed with many other languages as well.He constantly updated his knowledge and the results are there to see.

I also feel that the Geniuses have a Third Eye.They view things in a different perspective.

Esoterically, the Third Eye is considered to be present between the two brows and one needs constant yogic practice to awaken and open this.But for the Geniuses , it is already open.

For the Genius whose other name is Illaiyaraaja ,this third eye is wide open .He has the three ‘I’s as well-Intelligence, Innovation and Improvisation.

I can cite thousands of his compositions but one composition stands apart because in the History of Music no one had dared to venture into this aspect nor has anyone believed that such an aspect would be in the realm of possibility.

That is composing a song with just the ascending notes.

To go back to the basics,the structure of any raga or a scale is made up of Arohana(ascent) and Avarohana(descent).

But Raja composed a song with the ascending notes only in keeping with the sequence in the movie where a Musician after touching the nadir gets a new life and rises again.

The song is ‘Kalaivaniye..’ from Sindhu Bhairavi.

Usually it is the Director who gets such ideas and requests the Music Composer to give a song as per the sequence.But here it was Raja, the Genius who gave this idea to Balachander.Not only did he give the idea but also that he gave a Masterpiece.

The composition uses the Arohana of Kalyani.

This concept of a song with Arohana alone, the idea and the composition were praised wholeheartedly by none other than the Carnatic Music Legend Maharajapuram Shri.Santhanam.

Let us now look at this great Composition.

The Pallavi itself is so thoughtfully conceived and elegantly put through.It has a total of thirteen words with each one sounding different from one another (different combinations of Swaras!).With a very limited scope for exposition, is it not true this is possible only by a Genius ?

The Charanam shows his refined vision.

If the lines ‘Suram Padi Sirithai..’ is beauteous, ‘Siru Viralgallil Thalai Kodhi..’ caresses us gently.

‘Mugam Kaatta Maruthaai..’ and the sangathis following this has the stamp of superior Craftsmanship as it uses the higher octave Ri and Ga.

In ‘Nee Mun vanthu Poo Sindhu,’ the jump from Poo to Sindhu is wonderful.

The Original Sound Track has a solo Violin interlude here.As per the sequence in the movie, it is the silent interplay of emotions between a mother and a daughter and the Violin gives the essence of their entire relationship in a matter of just 30 seconds.

Here the Maestro does the incredible...

He does Shruthi bedam and the violin plays Sindhu Bhairavi ragam..
Can any other Film Music Composer even imagine doing this?

I doubt............

The second Charanam is constructed differently and is somewhat fast paced.It is a combination of Intelligence and Sensitivity and our hearts melt as we hear ’Ullam Azhuthathu..’.

The hearts begin to cry as ‘Kanneer Perugiyathe’ and the cascade of Janta Swaras are rendered in Akaaram.

The cascading phrases ’Ini Azha Valuvillai’ following ‘Uyire..Uyirin Uyire’ are examples of smooth flow of Improvisation.The phrases use alternate Swaras-saga ,rima, gapa, madha, rima, gapa,madha, pani,dhaSa, madha,pani,dhaSa,niRi-Mark of a Genius!

This composition has a distinctive flavour that lingers on.

This composition stirs us with resounding refrain.

This composition is pregnant with emotions.

‘Swaram Paadi Sirithai..Sirippale Erithaai..
Madi Meethu Marithen Maru Janmam Koduthaai’.

‘You laughed composing and singing Swaras.
I died on your lap. You gave me a new Life!’

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Saturday, 9 February 2008

ILaiyaraaja-The Devout Musician!

Oh! Happily Singing Cuckoos! What Music is this - Dull And Gloomy?
When The Lord Of The Venkata Hill Bestows The Vivacious Life On Me ,
Come To Sing In Glee,
And If The Lord With Garuda In His Banner Graces And Commingle With Me ,
I Will Entreat You To Come And Delight Me in Soul Stirring Music!

பாடும் குயில்காள்!ஈது என்ன பாடல்?நல் வேங்கிட
நாடர் நமக்கு ஒரு வாழ்வு தந்தால் வந்து பாடுமின்
ஆடும் கருளக்கொடியுடையார் வந்து அருள் செய்து
கூடுவராயில் கூவி நும் பாட்டுக்கள் கேட்குமே!

Tamizh Literature is very rich in deed !

Apart from the wonderful Sangam Literature comprising Patthu Paattu and Ettuthogai composed more than 3000 years back, we have the Great Thirukkurall, The Five Major Epics-Silappadigaram, Manimegalai, Seevaga Chintamani, Valaiyapathi, and Kundalakesi- and The Beautiful Kamba Ramayanam just to name a few.

Apart from these , we have the Bhakti Literature which abound with Piety, Devotion and Compassion. The Poets were able to convey and express their feelings in a lucid way and their mastery of the language is simply amazing.

The above verse is from the ‘Naachiyar Thirumozhi’ which is part of the Vaishnavite Treatise ‘Naalayira Divya Prabandham’.

’Naachiyar Thirumozhi’ is a collection of 143 poems penned by Aandall. She has used beautiful Similes and Epithets in her poems and it is a real treat for avid lovers of Literature.

One of the major aspects of the Bhakthi Literature is that the poets never hankered for material possessions.They were steadfast in their approach and their only focus was to attain Supremacy by being in unison with the Almighty!

Apart from Aandall , there have been many poets who have sung verses extolling the Omnipotent/Omnipresent/Omniscient.

Maanickavaachakar was one of them.

Maanickavaachakar lived in the later part of 9th Century –just after Aandall.Though he has two works to his credit-Thirukkovaiyar and Thiruvaachakam-he is known more for the latter. Both these works are part of the 8th Thirumurai(treatise) of the 12 Saiva Thirumaurais.

His original name was Thiruvathavoorar(Thrivathavoor being the place of his birth which is about 25km.from Madurai) and he was the Chief Minister in the Court of the Pandiya King Arimarthanan. It was a normal life for the Minister until a Divine Intervention happened in a place called Thiruperunthurai and his life changed thereafter…

After penning ThiruVaachakam(Thiru-Divine, Vaachakam-Words/Verses), people started calling him as ManiVaachakar or MaanickaVaachakar(one who utters Gemlike Words).

Thiruvaachagam is the cry of the soul that wants to be free from the bonds and that longs to be united with the Supreme. The Mystic appeal in Thiruvaachakam melts one’s heart and makes one shed tears.

There is a saying in Tamizh ‘ThiruVaachakathirkku Urugaar Oru Vaachakathirkum Urugaar’meaning ‘One who does not melt while reading or listening to ThiruVaachakam will not melt for anything’.

ThiruVaachakam consists of 684 Verses in 51 parts!

While reading ThiruVaachakam, one is stunned by the fact that ManickaVachakar was also a mortal like us having all worldly desires but none of the verses is a prayer that petitions God for Material Possessions. Realising that everything other than the Almighty is only an illusion, he makes a fervent plea to be released from the bonds that imprison the deluded soul.

One can appreciate the real beauty of ThiruVaachakam , if it is rendered by someone who has really understood and appreciated the True Meaning and one who is an expert in Tamizh, Mysticism, Spirituality and most importantly Music.

Can there be a better person than the great Maestro who is the Master in all these and whose music is simply Outstanding and Divine?

Though there are a lot of great things about ILaiyaraaja’s interpretation of ThiruVaachakam, what strikes one first is his diction.

At a time when the ‘ள’(lla), ‘ண ‘(nna), ‘ழ’(zha),’ ற’(rra)-which are unique letters and are very special to Tamizh- are pronounced very badly in conversations and in the present day songs, he sets an example in pronouncing these letters and words and in the process shows how beautiful Tamizh is.

The second thing is that his tunes are set in pure Carnatic Raagas but the Orchestration is in Western Classical style!Though he does this regularly in his Film Compositions, it does take a lot of guts and gumption to do this in a Classic Work!

And he does this with aplomb !

Unlike what is widely believed , Raja has never called his ThiruVaachakam work as a Symphony nor has he named it a Symphonic Oratorio.

It is an Oratorio using Symphony Orchestra.

It is an humungous task to render all the 654 verses . After years of research, Raja has picked out the verses that give the essence of this great work.

What we are going to see today is the ‘Thirukkotthumbi Pathigam’ where the Knowledge is symbolized as the Humming Bee and MaanickaVaachakar requests the bee to ‘hum and sing’ to The Almighty!

There are totally 20 verses in Thirukkotthumbi Pathigam out of which 7 verses are rendered in the Album.

The Theme Raaga is Sudhha Dhanyasi. The Swaraas of the Raaga change in a coruscating way and in the process Sudhha Dhanyasi changes its colour- at times totally becoming a different Raga.

Throughout the 7 Verses here, one gets to hear the Drone of the Bees and it sounds differently in each of the Verses.

The Composition starts with the Violin Orchestra sounding like the Humming Bee taking a low flight and hovering around to listen to the greatness of the Almighty;
The Divine Force whose power cannot be fathomed by anybody.

The Maestro with a Voice Chockfull of Spontaneity now sings a pithy Aalap of Sudhha Dhanyasi as the Bee listens:

Who Am I-Who Is My Mind-Who would Know Me-if Only the Almighty who wears the Moon on His Head had not Bestowed His Grace on Me?Go and Hum to his Honeyed Feet..’

The Bee now takes a Joyous Flight ready to taste the honey…

Now comes the Honeyed Phrase that says ‘Don’t Drink the Honey from the Flowers that are just ordinary.Go to the Almighty who effuses Honey that enters each and every bone’.

The phrases ‘Ninaithorum’, ‘Kaandorum’, ‘Pesumthorum’ follow a wavy pattern and sound like the wind dancing on the drooping branch of a tree..

The Bee now slows down as its listens to the story of Kannappan who offered his eyes to the Lord.

The ‘Ma’ in Sudhha Dhanyasi is changed beautifully and it now becomes Raag Madhukauns(Madhu in Sanskrit means Honey!).The Gait or Gathi-as it is called in Carnatic Music Parlance- is also changed.

In a Yearning Tone , the Maestro sings ‘Despite My Love not being equal to what Kannapan had , the Lord has graced me with his Skylike Compassion.Go and sing to that Golden Feet’ .

The Bee is now in a pensive mood after listening to the story of Kannapan as the Shruthi Bedam takes place.The ‘Ga’ and ‘Ma’ change and only three Swaras Sa Ga Ma are used to depict the Mundane pleasures like Money, Fame, Family and the Cycle of Birth and Death.

The Raaga becomes Sudhha Dhanyasi again when he says ‘Go and sing to the One who dispelled all these Myths’.

The Bee takes a Graceful Flight and takes leisurely glides as the Raaga goes back to Madhukauns .

I am worse than a Dog with a Mind like a Monster.He pardoned me and made me sing quelling my unpleasantness like a Mother.Go and sing to him.’

The Bee now takes a Tantalising Trajectory with Repose as it listens to’ Who am I in front of the Supreme,
The One who rules the Heavens, All the Directions and the Seas.
Go and Sing to his Feet which is Immersed in Honey..’

The Bee now moves like waves and tries to visualize the Incandescent Figure which is All and Nothing and From whom Compassion flows like a Flood.

The Brilliant use of Ankle Bells symbolizing His Cosmic Dance ,the Structure of the Verse to making it sound like a Mangalam(the piece of Homage sung at the end) and all the four lines taking a Sinuous Pattern making it look like the Dance Of The Waves are like The Diamonds in the Crown!

Thiruvaachakam –set to Music by Illaiyaraja is a soft and supple fabric,

A Fabric woven with Devotion,

A Fabric laced with Spiritual Punctuations,

A Fabric Radiating Positive Energy,

A Fabric as intensely Colourful as It Is Emotional!

திருவாசகத்திற்கு உருகார் ஒரு வாசகத்திற்கும் உருகார்

இளையராஜாவின் இசைக்கு உருகார் ஒரு இசைக்கும் உருகார்.

One who does not melt for Thiruvaachakam will not melt for anything.
One who does not melt for ILaiyaraaja’s Music Will Not Melt For Any Other Music!

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

ILaiyaraaja-The Guiding Force!

I wonder how many of you noticed the rainbow last evening? It was just over the water, and one came upon it suddenly. It was a beautiful thing to behold , and it gave one a great sense of joy, an awareness of the vastness and the beauty of the earth.To communicate such joy one must have a knowledge of words, the rhythm and beauty of right language, mustn’t one? But what is more important is the feeling itself, the ecstacy that comes with the deep appreciation of something lovely; and this feeling cannot be awakened by the mere cultivation of knowledge or memory.”

These are the words of one of the greatest thinkers of 20th Century-J Krishnamurthi.

It conveys many meanings and I was reminded of this quote when I listened to one of the greatest compositions.

I shall come to that later but I feel what has been said by JK applies to Music as well. Mere knowledge is not enough to appreciate Music. What is important is the feeling itself .Any analysis devoid of the sense of ecstasy is like a beautiful body without soul.

In the recent past , many of my friends have been telling me that they consider their lack of knowledge of Classical Music a weakness and a kind of a stumbling block. But it is my strong belief that if one is able to appreciate the inherent beauty, other things like understanding the nuances happen naturally.

In fact this is much better than being an ‘expert’ in the theory of Music which gives some people a self –assumed halo and in the process stopping them from having an open mind to appreciate finer elements!

Now coming back to the composition that reminded me of JK’s Quote.

Shankarabharanam is one of the most versatile Ragams. One can find this Ragam in Folk Music, in Tamizh Pan(called as Pazham Pancharam),in Hindustani Music-as Bilaval- and in Western Major Scale.

Carnatic Music is replete with compositions in this Ragam.

Muthuswami Dikshithar-one of the Trinity- was a perfectionist.He composed Keertanams in Hindustani Ragas after learning Hindustani Music.

He also learnt the basics of Western Music from his brother Balu Dikshithar–who introduced Violin to Indian Classical Music- and composed some Keertanams in Western Classical style.All these compositions follow the Major Scale. ’Shyamale Meenakshi..’ ‘Sakthi Sahitha Ganapathim’ are some of the examples.

ILaiyaraaja who has a firm grasp of all forms of Music has given us (and continues to give) countless gems .His Music acquires Kaleidoscopic Dimensions mesmerizing and bewitching Listeners.

One of his more recent compositions is stunning and is sitting transfixed in me. In the limitless world of Music , this composition is unique simply because it combines all major forms of Music.It proves the fact that Music is the same irrespective of the form it acquires.

‘Kaattu Vazhi Kaal Nadaiya Pora Thambi’ from the film ‘Adhu Oru Kanaa Kaalam ‘ is like the Rainbow JK saw.

The composition is based on Shankarabharanam.

It is rendered in a Tamizh Folk Style.The interludes sound Western Classical(somehow I get a feeling of Four Seasons by Vivaldi though there is a lot of difference!) and European Folk.

Is it an amalgam , a blend or a juxtaposition ?

I feel it is something more than all these…

It is simply Divine!

It has an elusive fragrance of a Rain Washed Breeze.

The composition penned by the Maestro teaches the Philosophy of Life in a matter of four Minutes.Rendered in a Base Voice(called as Manthra Sthayi), it is a continuous probing of unseen layers.As the composition unfolds, one by one do the layers peel….

We feel that we are desolate in an alien land caught in a Quagmire longing for somebody to guide us. Suddenly we hear a Marble like voice and we discover that this is our Guiding Force.

The Voice says

‘‘Reach your Destination before it is too late.
Watch your Steps.. .
On the Way, You will Discover and Learn New Things ...
If you are Focused, Future is yours’’

Amidst the Rustle, Hissing and Crackling sounds in our Journey, we see a Clear Stream of Water …

And the Voice continues,

‘’Life is like the endless Stream of River-the banks are your Faith.
Let it run Ceaselessly..
If there is a block, open it.
Remember!Time is like the River.
One moment you see the Wave.. the next moment vanishes..’’

As we Swirl and Twirl , the Voice Continues,

‘‘You have a Dream and See your Dreamgirl,
She Promises To Be With You Forever,
You Wake Up only To Find That These were Just Your Thoughts
Life is Neither a Dream nor Thoughts
Life Is The Truth!’’

The brilliant use of the Swaras Pa Dha Sa repeatedly and the simple but quaint Orchestration handled with Dexterity and Finesse gel very well with the theme...

I have never come across such a composition where the Tune symbolizes World Music and the Lyrics Symbolise our Life!!

Do we need to worry about Life as long as his Music is the Guiding Spirit?

Saturday, 2 February 2008

ILaiyaraaja-The Pious Musician!

‘Amma Ravamma Tulasamma Nannu Palimpa’..

Saint Thyagaraja sang this Krithi on Tulasi, the Garland of which adorns Lord Vishnu .

Tulasi has lot of Medicinal qualities .The Flavour of Tulasi is enough to give a divine feeling.It is like the healing touch of the Mother.

Addressing Tulasi as Mother is the most beautiful part of this Krithi.

The Supreme is worshipped in different forms.

Considering the Supreme as the Mother has been in vogue for many years.The Devi Worship finds a mention in one of the oldest texts in Tamizh, Silappadigaram:

ஆனைத்தோல் போர்த்தும் புலியின் உரி உடுத்து
கானத்து எருமைக் கருந்தலைமேல் நின்றாயால்
வானோர் வணங்கு மறைமேல் மறையாகி
ஞானக் கொழுந்தாய் நடுக்கின்றியே நிற்பாய்

Adorning the skin of the elephant and that of the Tiger
You stand on the Head of the Buffalo
You are the Supreme Veda and the Supreme Knowledge
And You are Worshipped by One and All.

Devi-also considered to be Shakthi, the embodiment of Energy- was worshipped by Poet Subramaniya Bharathi as well.

Muthuswami Dikshithar, and Shyama Sastri -who along with Thyagaraja are called as the Carnatic Music Trinity - have sung many Kirtanas on Devi.

Devi Worship involves a lot of connotations.

Muthuswami Dikshithar’s Krithis have not just the Musical Value but are also full of Mantras.The boundaries of Mantras and Music tend to overlap constantly in his compositions and it is transformed to a place of collective worship.

Devi worship also involves a Mystic Diagram called as Srichakra (Holy Wheel).It consists of concentric circles , inverted triangles, and Lotus Petals arranged in nine tiers symbolizing progressive levels of spiritual attainment.

Adi Sankara who lived in the 8th Century consecrated these Chakras and had them installed in some places in India.Such Temples are regarded as being very powerful and are esoteric. One such Temple is the Mookambika Temple in Kollur(Karnataka).

ILaiyaraaja had a very Divine Experience at the Mookambiga Temple way back in early '70s that transformed him completely and spirituality became part of his life after this.

That is why one composition of his is very special and is ensconced in our hearts as one of the most Divine Songs Tamizh Cinema has ever had.

It is ‘Janani Janani’ from ‘Thai Mookambikai’.

Kalyanam means good ominous thing(s).

Kalyani Raga is an embodiment of all the good things.

ILaiyaraaja , who is always in search of excellence and is in pursuit of the values embedded in a Ragam , has given us excellent compositions in Kalyani and has shown the contours, colours and various dimensions of this Ragam.

Kalyani is the 65th Melakartha and is an eternal charmer.It is a very old Ragam.In Tamizh Pann, it is called as ‘Arumpaalai’(அரும்பாளை).In Hindustani Music, it is called as Yaman.

The Thyagaraja Krithi mentioned in the beginning is also in Kalyani.

It is very difficult to describe the emotions Kalyani evokes because it is so deep.

Let us now look at ‘Janani Janani’.

As per the situation in the movie, this song is sung by Adi Sankara.

It starts with a Sloka from ‘Soundarya Lahari’- a collection of poems/slokas composed by Adi Sankara describing the Beauty(Soundarya) of Devi.

The sound of Tanpoora melts our hearts as we hear ‘SivaShakthya Yuktho..’ rendered in proper cadence with mellowness and passion:

‘Oh…Mother!You are the Universe.
You are the Reason.You are Complete’.

The Chitraveena now plays with depth and crispness as the Veena gives out a radiant smile.

With great sensitivity of expression, Raaja now renders

‘You are the most Beautiful Being in this Universe.
You sit on the Lion and occupy the left portion of your Nayaka(Lord Siva)’.

The Flute now plays with high melodic quotient distilling the essence of the Ragam.It mines valuable nuggets that add a rich glow to Kalyani.

The second stanza is very intelligently chiselled .The Divine Numbers go in the ascending order.

‘The Four Vedas,
The Five Elements,
The Six Maargas-ways of worship established by Adi Shankara,
The Seven Rivers,
The Eight Yogas,
The Nine Yagnyas

Worship You.

You are the daughter of the Mountains(Parvati),
You are the Daughter of the Seas(Lakshmi).
You are the Daughter of Fine Arts(Saraswathi).

The Veena now plays with Gentle, Persuasive, and Soothing Calmness striking a chord in our hearts.We feel the aroma of Kalyani pervading the surroundings.

The soulful phrases are now rendered with piety:

You formed on your own with the Golden lines.
The Slokas, Sastras and Your Netras(Eyes)
Form the Sakthi Peetam.

As he renders ‘Sakthi Peetamum Nee..’the first time, we feel joyfully evocative.

As he renders this the second time, we feel brimming with energy.

As he renders it the third time, we feel blissful.

The composition is heart wrenching and poignant and we do not feel like getting out of it.

Drawing inspiration from consecrated principles,

Assimilating the Concept and Spirit behind Tradition,

Guiding us to a Cadence of Spirituality and Contemplation,

It is an undefiled pure presentation.

It is the Sri Chakra itself in the form of Music.

Sakthi Peetamum Nee..Sarva Mokshamum Nee…..