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!

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