Monday, 15 September 2008

ILaiyaraaja-The Mystic!

Saint Thyagaraja saw the Almighty in all living and non-living things.

In his ‘Paramaarthudu Velige’-a Kriti set in Vaagatheeswari Ragam, he says ‘The Almighty is present in the Five Elements, in Animals, in Birds, in the Trees, in Good Things as well as Bad Things and in all Human Beings.

‘Gaganaa Nila Tejo Jala Bhoomayamagu
Mruga,Gaga,Naka,Tharu Kodulalo
Sagunamulo Vigunamulo Sathathamu
Sadhu Thyagarajathi Achrithulalo’.

He also saw Music in everything and strongly believed that one can attain divinity through Music.

Nothing can exemplify this than his Life itself.

He lived like an ascetic and was so steeped in Music that it was his way of life. He was well versed with all the nuances of Music and his compositions act as a reference in the Theory of Carnatic Music itself. His compositions stand out for their Mystic appeal.

ILaiyaraaja like Thyagaraja leads an ascetic life. He is focused on Truth, Goodness and Beauty. He is well versed with all Music Forms, has a deep understanding of Music and is adept in new techniques. Integrating essentials with expressiveness, he brings out the subtleties and contrast.

And yes…his compositions have a Mystic Appeal that cannot be explained very easily.

Today, we are going to see a composition, which according to me is a Marvel.

It is a colourful portrait awash with the colours of the Swaras and it glows with the Imagery he has created.

The Composition is ‘KaNgaLukkuLUnnai Ezhuthu’ from the Film ‘Thanthu Vittaen Ennai’.

There is a very interesting story behind this.

I listened to this song for the first time in FM radio last year(nearly 15 years after the release)and was mesmerized the moment I heard this song..

The pallavi sounded like Raga Gunkali, a Hindustani Raga whose structure is sa ri1 ma1 pa dha1 Sa/Sa dha1 pa ma1 ri1 Sa.

Later on, I realized that the ‘pa’ is totally absent.
The absence of ‘pa’ makes this a Raga with just 4 swaras, Lavangi invented by Dr.Balamuralikrishna .

Let us now turn our attention to the composition.

The prelude of ‘KaNgaLukkuL’ itself is mesmerizing with the Flute sounding like the chirping of Birds - a covey of birds.

Then we hear the alluring voice of Janaki.

The pallavi is a wonderful construction with just four swaras.

In the interlude, the Violins brim with energy , the Strings play as the Flute Careens the astonishingly beautiful sound of the Trumpets.

Suddenly, there is a twist. The Trumpet ends in ‘ri’ and keeping this as the base ‘sa’, Janaki sings ‘KaNgaLil..’

It is now an entirely different Raaga-Mandaari!

We have already seen the concept of Gruha bedam in ‘Vaidegi Raman’

This concept is different from Raaga Maalika where only the Swaras are changed while the Shruti remains the same.

In Gruha Bedam, one of the swaras is taken as the base(in this case, it is ‘ri’) and it becomes a different Raaga. Maestro is a Master in this and as far as I know no Film Music composer has tried out this concept.

The way he executes this also needs a special mention.

In ‘Vaidegi Raman’, we saw as to how he used only 5 swaras. Kalyani became Todi but by using just the 5 swaras of Todi, he gave Hindolam, a pentatonic raga.

In ‘KaNgaLukkuL’,he does the opposite.The 4 swara Lavangi becomes the 6 swara Mandari.

Mandari ‘s structure is sa ri1 ga3 ma2 pa ni3 Sa/Sa ni3 pa ma2 ri1 sa.

Since the gruha bedam takes place from the ‘ri’ of Lavangi, logically the new structure should have been sa ga3 pa ni3 Sa/Sa ni3 pa ga3 sa. But the Master adds 2 more swaras to this –‘ri’ and ‘ma’-and makes it Mandaari ragam.

Creativity at its best!

The Charanam is like the sky in a lovely blend of Blue, White, and Grey with the Hills in unthinkable shades of Green and Blue and there….we also see the Sea in Sapphire Blue glistening in the Golden Rays of Sun..

We suddenly feel the sky descending to converse with the Sea as the line ‘Eninintha Mayakkam Enintha Thayakkam..’is rendered as Mandaari changes to Lavangi again.

It is like the chilling pure air moving audibly into our lungs!

In the second interlude, the Flute sounds like the burst of Ivy in an uninhibited riot of colours as the Swaras whirl.

It is then an incredible combination of Power and Elegance as the Strings and Violins join and the magic happens again towards the end ….the Raaga changes to Mandari.

The Magic is repeated in the second Charanam.

The Maestro gives a mélange of two different Raagas niftily and brilliantly without in anyway sounding jarring.

It is a Grand Spectacle with Aesthetic Content at the same time giving us a sense of Tranquility.

செவிகளுக்குள் அவரது இசையினை எழுதி விட்டால் நமக்கு பேரானந்தமும் சாந்தியும் தான்.

When his Music enters our ears, don’t we attain the Blissful and Tranquil State?

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Wednesday, 10 September 2008

ILaiyaraaja-Musician With A Thirst!

''What could my mother be to yours?
What kin is my father to yours anyway?
And how did you and I ever meet?
But in Love our Hearts have mingled
Like red earth and pouring rain.''

These verses have been engraved in the coaches of London Tube (Rail) Trains.

If a poem gets such a royal status in ‘Queen’s Land’, it must be very special and certainly must have been written by a great English poet..

Was it Shelley who wrote this?

Or maybe Byron..

Or a new English Poet..


Then who was it that sketched this special poem?

Hold your breath…

This is the English translation of a Tamizh poem from the Sangam work Kurunthogai .

This is the original:

யாயும் யாயும் யாராகியரோ
எந்தையும் நுந்தையும் எம்முறைக் கேளிர்
யானும் நீயும் எவ்வழி அறிதும்
செம்புலப் பெயல்நீர் போல
அன்புடை நெஞ்சம் தாம் கலந்தனவே.

The poet acquired the name of Cempulappeyanirar(red earth and pouring rain) .

The English translation was done by the great Genius A K Ramanujan .

Is it not amazing that a poem written more than 2000 years ago is appearing in a foreign land?

What could be the reason?

The similes, the metaphors....

Well the poem itself!

What happens when the Rain pours down on a red soil? Can one distinguish between the water and the soil?

It is the union of the Heaven and the Earth.

Heaven and the Earth are very far but still the Rain unites both.

One of the lovers is the Heaven and the other is the Earth. Love is the rain that unites them and their parents.

Simply wonderful and wonderfully simple..

And that is the reason the poem finds a place in an alien land..

This also proves the fact that people from alien lands appreciate the gems from our country while people sitting in this glorious country do not realise the true value of some of our great geniuses.

The Genius of the gentleman hailing from a remote village called Pannaippuram has been recognized by foreign governments and people but not by our own country folk..

His compositions also match the quality of some of the greatest poems in the world..

With a ravenous appetite and a great thirst to learn, assimilate, and share, he has mastered all major forms of Music melding them all simply and wonderfully giving genuine music lovers a grand treat!

The enormous technical ingenuity of the gentleman is incredible.

The day is not far off when his major compositions are played across the World!

Today we shall see a composition I consider as one of Raja’s best ..

Based on the Madhyamavati Ragam, this composition is from the 1980 film ‘Enakkaaga Kaathiru’.

It is ‘Dhagam Edukkura Neram’.

Madhyamavathy is a pentatonic Raga and the structure is:

sa ri2 ma1 pa ni2 Sa/Sa ni2 pa ma1 ri2 sa.

The ‘ri’and ‘ni’ give life to this ragam.The Hindustani equivalent has two variations-Madhumad Sarang and Meg but each Raga is distinct.

A very pleasing Ragam, Madhyamavathy wards off evil and brings propitious things.

Raja has handled this with artistic dexterity in his compositions and each has been unique and special in its own way.

There are lot of special things about ‘Dhagam..’.

It is set to the simple 4-beat Chatushra Eka Talam and the pattern is Tha Ka Tha Ka Tha Ka Dhi Mi-and we hear a very specially tuned percussion instrument that also plays in Madhyamavathy during every alternate cycle of ‘Tha Ka Dhi Mi’.

The construction of the Pallavi and Charanam make it more special.

The first two lines of the Pallavi have plain Swaras while the last line has oscillating Swaras.In the Charanams, the third line goes up like a spin and the last line comes down gradually.

The pauses at the end of the Pallavi and at the end of each Charanam give an exhilarating feeling!

There is no prelude and the song starts with Uma Ramanan rendering ‘Dhagam Edukkura Neram’.The Flute wafts through the air and we feel the fragrance and smell of the sand just before the Rain.

As the Pallavi ends with ‘Ithu Santhana Pookkallil Sinthum Magarantham’ there is a pause as we feel the breeze.

The interludes have navigated patterns of magical quality.

When the strings sound, we see the clouds..

As we listen to the enticing excursions of the Violins, the pockets of clouds start gathering and converse with each other..

We listen to the sharp call of the peacocks that begin to dance as the Guitar plays with vivace. ..

The peacocks sing again and it starts raining…

It is the Rain of Music in the Charanam as we see drops kissing the Earth.

In the third line-Pesum Kiligale-we see the drops going up in a spiral becoming a stream up the hill in the lines ‘Devan Vanthan’ and flowing smoothly in the lines ‘Ini Naan paadum’..

The River now encounters craggy rocks as the violins play buoyantly in different notes .It becomes a Cascading waterfall spurred by the strings..

And it flows through verdant greenery as the Flute plays..

We feel the joy as the Flute, violins and the strings converse with each other and play with each other..

It is a chiaroscuro of sorts…

It is capriciously captivating..

It is a rich design inundated with innovative, imaginative ideas..

It is a stately treatment giving allusive images..

His Music is enough to quench our Thirst.

தாகம் எடுக்குற நேரம் அவரது இசை ஒன்றே போதும்!

ILaiyaraaja-The Marvel!

Certain things in this world have an eternal charm.

A child’s smile or a giggle, the birds, whisper of the breeze, sound of the waves, the drizzle, sunrise, sunset, rainbow..

Isn’t this amazing?

Some people and their works too have that eternal beauty.
For example let us take Saint Thyagaraja ..

The lyrical and musical values in his compositions are amazing. His use of heavy ragas, popular ragas, rakthi ragas and rare ragas are extraordinary.

Though there are thousands of his compositions, one composition of his is very interesting and intriguing.

In this composition, he says, ‘I have unabashedly committed many sins. I praised others to covet wealth and earned my livelihood. I did not shun evil thoughts. Who ever will rescue me?’

He goes on and on about the ‘sins’..

The composition is ‘Duduku gala..’

Thyagaraja lived like an ascetic. He was not materialistic. He did not care for money. Once when he was offered huge money for singing in praise of the king he refused to sing. That was when he composed the popular ‘Nidhi Chaala sukhama..’(‘Is money more important than God?’)

This being the case, why did he call himself a sinner in ‘Duduku gala?’

It is because he was speaking on our behalf. The ‘I’ in the Keerthana is not Thyagaraja but ordinary mortals like us.

This composition is part of the Ghana Raga Pancharatna that is rendered by musicians every year at Thiruvaiyaru , the town where Thyagaraja lived.

‘Duduku gala’ is in Gowlai ragam and that makes it more special.

I shall come to this aspect soon.

Like Thyagaraja and his compositions, ILaiyaraja and his compositions have an eternal beauty.

Emotions play a major role in his compositions as well and the musical value in each of his compositions is amazing. He is also very versatile and has composed in different kinds of Ragas.

Let us now turn our attention to one of his special compositions .

It is ‘Vedam nee’from ‘Kovil Pura’. This is based on Gowlai.

While talking about ‘Dudukugala’, I said Gowlai Ragam makes it more special.

Gowlai is derived from the 15th Melakartha Mayamalavagowlai and its structure is:

sa ri1 ma1 pa ni3 Sa/Sa ni3 pa ma1 ri1 ga3 ma1 ri1 sa.

The avarohana is devious and the ‘ri ga ma ri sa’ prayoga is one of the specialities.

But what makes it more special is the ‘ri’. This ‘ri’ is Ekashruti and is unique to Gowlai.

That is why this Ragam is very special.

Let us now look at the composition.

The song is set in Tisra Gati Adi tala and therefore it fits into Roopaka tala as well.

The foundation of an elaborate musical edifice is laid in the prelude itself. The sonorous Veena and the Jalatharangam are powerfully energetic while the Flute brings out the emotional radiance of the raga.

The flashes of brilliance at the end of the prelude are enticing.

The pallavi that starts in the rich deep and melodious tone of Yesudoss exudes a unique magnetism. It is pure and weighty and one sees the beautiful shades of the raga.

The first interlude is dynamic with swirls. The combination of the puissant Veena and the soft Jalatharangam followed by the graceful Flute is amazing. The lilting sound just towards the end is another beauty.

The first Charanam is subtle and expressive. The plenitude of sangathis is an aural treat.

The second interlude is a real marvel.The pristine pure Gowlai glides, jumps and ambles across. The reverberations of repetitive notes ensuing from the bass string of Veena render a mystic quality.

Fertile imagination!

The second Charanam revolves around the succinct determinants of the Raga.

One sees the flights of creativity.

One sees the Raga’s intrinsic identity.

One sees the Regal aura.

The composition is a clear stream of musical values.

Artistry of high order..

‘You are the divine sound. You are the resonance..’

வேதம் நீ இனிய நாதம் நீ..

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ILaiyaraaja-The Amazing Musician!

'What all does the breeze bring?
Sound of the Bell, Sound of the Barking Dogs,
Sound of the Beggars,Sound of The Door,
Sound of the Conch,Sound of the Gossiping People,
Sound of the Crying Baby....
Let us sing and celebrate..'

மண்ணுலகத்து நல்லோசைகள் காற்றெனும் வானவன் கொண்டு வந்தான்
பண்ணிலிசைத்த அவ்வொலிகள் அனைத்தையும் பாடி மகிழ்ந்திடுவோம்
நண்ணி வருமணி யோசையும், பின்னங்கு நாய்கள் குலைப்பதுவும்
எண்ணுமுன்னே 'அன்னக் காவடிப் பிச்சை'யென்று ஏங்கிடுவான் குரலும்,
வீதிக் கதவை அடைப்பதுவும், கீழ்த்திசை விம்மிடும் சங்கொலியும்
வாதுகள் பேசிடு மாந்தர் குரலும் மதலை அழுங்குரலும்
ஏதெது கொண்டு வருகுது காற்றிவை எண்ணிலகப்படுமோ?

Mahakavi Subramaniya Bharathi was a poet par excellence.In this poem,
First he talks about the sound of the bell..We all agree.Yes..It is musical.

Then he does the unthinkabale..Barking dogs...Beggars,Gossipping people..crying baby..

Now for a moment let us all close our eyes and listen to things around us..

Don't we 'consider' only some as 'Musical'?

Our conditioning plays a major role here.

A Genius like Bharathi is able to concentrate , listens to everything without any bias and is able to celebrate life..


This is what distinguishes a genius from ordinary people.

A Genius like ILaiyaraaja has used(and has been using) the sound from nature and has wonderfully woven these in his compositions.

What is also amazing is the way he uses different concepts well within the parameters of classical music.

There is a set pattern but suddenly this pattern changes and a new pattern emerges taking us out of the world.

His music has happiness, sorrow, anger, love, yearning, laughter, compassion..

But most importantly it is as enjoyable as Life itself.

Today, we are going to see a great old composition of his that describes Nature and also uses the sound of Nature.

It is ‘Engum Niraintha Iyarkkaiyil Enna Sugamo’ from 'Ithu Eppadi Irukku'(1977).

The song is based on Mohanam.

Mohanam is a very beautiful Ragam.It is a pentatonic raga with sa ri2 ga3 pa dha2 Sa / Sa dha2 pa ga3 ri2 sa as the Arohanam and Avarohanam.

As a scale, it is widely used in S.E.Asian music.

It is one of Raja’s most favourite ragas and he has widely used this especially in his earlier works. So much so that he can be called as 'Mohana Raja'.

One of the features of Raja’s Mohanam is the sparing use of ‘ni’, a Swara that is non -existent in this raga .

The compositions stand out beautifully because of the way he has used it.

Some of the examples are ‘Kannan Oru Kaikuzhanthai’(Bhadrakali),’Thaen Malli Poove’(Thyagam),’Oru Thanga Rathathil’(Dharma Yudhdham)…

The Raga has a timeless allure..

‘Engum Niraintha’ has a timeless allure as well.

It starts with the cuckoo like voice of Janaki humming ‘lala lala la..’.
In Raja’s compositions, even humming and Aalap follow a rhythmic pattern.Here it follows the Tisram(3) beats..

The Violins throb to welcome us with the small Flute and the Bass Guitar joining. It sounds like the Tundra Swan.

The Pallavi shines with resplendent brightness.

Besotted with the beauty, the Flute and the Violins play a short interlude.

There is a short anupallavi in the resonant timbre of Yesudass giving drawing the sketch of the Raga.

We see tiny yellow and orange berries, deep violet wild flowers with one tree standing sentinel and we hear the song of the cuckoo. The yodeling of Yesudass is amazing here!

We listen to the music from their chirpings and see the colours.

It is harmony at its best!

As the strings play, we see the aurora. There is a sudden wondrous sway of Guitar and we see the light glowing in shot colour glints.

The intricately carved Charanam continues.

The short flute pieces in between lines, the ‘lalala..’ and the traversing of the pitches in ‘Vaa..’ add to the zing and glamour.

The pattern changes beautifully in the next interlude as the Veena starts playing Hamsanadham, a different Raga altogether.The Flute produces another magic as it plays Amrithavarshini Raga.

It is like the Sun suddenly deciding to tease and ruffle the tall blades of Grass making the Green colour Golden.

With a casual sweep, the Violin orchestra goes back to Mohanam and the long flute plays soberly as if it is totally oblivious to the spectacle!

It is sheer artistry and poignant romance.

One is amazed by the unbounded creativity and the clinical precision.

And this is the pattern I was talking about in the beginning..

As one sees a clear pattern emerging, it undergoes a beautiful change…

The composition is with multifarious delineations!

The composition is embedded with various emotions!

The composition is a veritable fare!

It is just like our Life!

Is not his Music like the Nature itself?

அவரது இசை எங்கும் நிறைந்த இயற்கை!

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ILaiyaraaja-The Concise Dictionary Of Music!

At times it is amazing to note how simple things could be so beautiful.

Crisp, Concise, Short words carry more weight than lengthy, verbose, garrulous statements.

Communication experts would often say KISS.

If your imagination is running wild, let me tell you that KISS is the acronym of Keep It Sweet and Short!

Take ThirukkuraL for example.

It is the embodiment of enlightened wisdom; a literary masterpiece of verses with poetic excellence,brevity and crispness, rhythm and syntax, easy to grasp and remember..

ThiruvaLuvar has covered a wide array of topics including Management Science.

I am giving 3 samples(out of the 1330) below:

1.For efficient management, select a person with appropriate means to tackle the job, and entrust the job to him.

2.Hurry up tasks that demand quick action;delay does not matter on acts that have to proceed cautiously.

3.It is enlightening to impress the listeners with meaningful words, and grasp the essence of wisdom from others .

இதனை இதனால் இவன்முடிக்கும் என்றாய்ந்து
அதனை அவன்கண் விடல்.

தூங்குக தூங்கிச் செயற்பால தூங்கற்க
தூங்காது செய்யும் வினை.

வேட்பத்தாம் சொல்லிப் பிறர்சொல் பயன்கோடல்
மாட்சியின் மாசற்றார் கோள்.

The first one gives the essence of Delegation, the second one is on Task- Orientation (and implementation), and the third one is on Public Speaking and Communication.

Look how beautiful and effective the message is -that too in just a few words..And to think that these were composed 2000 years ago !

ILaiyaraaja , like Thiruvalluvar also conveys a bevy of emotions through his Music.A typical Film Song lasts 4 to 5 minutes but the impact it has on us is something incredible.

Not only is the essence of Music given in a very short period but also that it leaves us bewildered-because of the sheer intensity!

His Music has the power to illuminate and the potency to inspire.

The composition we are going to see today is relatively short but still it showcases the brilliance of the Emperor of music.

In fact, this song was composed after the sequence was picurised.

It is ‘PaLlikkoodam Pogaamale’ from 'Kadalora KavithaigaL'.

The composition is based on Sankharabharanam, a Raga that has been already been discussed.

Just to recap, Shankarabharanam is a Universal Ragam .Old Tamizh Music Texts refer to this Ragam as Pazham Panchuram, it is called as Bilaval in Hindustani Music and the notes of this Ragam form the Major Scale in Western Music.

In the Carnatic System, it is the 29th Melakartha and lot of popular Ragams are derived from this.

The structure is-sa ri2 ga3 ma1 pa dha2 ni3 Sa/Sa ni3 dha2 pa ma1 ga3 ri2 sa.

Let us now look at the composition.

But before that the Sequence...

The main character in the Film(also called as the Hero) wants to become a literate and requests the School Teacher to teach him.She refuses and he stands one –legged (a kind of a penance!) on a high wall and would not get down until his request is met.

The opening of the song itself is like a cadence.It is like the tone of a Mantra to portray the penance. We get to hear Raja’s voice in two octaves simultaneously, one superimposed on the other.

A classic example of how technology can be put to use at the right time and the right place!

It also shows us the humour in the situation and at the same time it depicts the steely resolve of the character .

The Strings and the Chorus voices sound as though they are pleading to the Heroine to be considerate!

The wonderful Chatushram(4) beats follow smugly.

The Pallavi follows and as we involuntarily vibrate to the beats, the auditory waves and the unabashed rendering(again to indicate the character) sound Majestic.

The Interlude has the aesthetically melodious chorus voice coaxing us to empathise with the ‘Good Boy’ who was once a rogue!

The short and beautiful charanam weaves magic and is peppered with lovely touches.

There is one more highlight.

As mentioned earlier, this sequence was shot first.

Director Bharathiraja once remarked that he was left speechless after watching it on screen because it is ‘Dass Dass’ when the Hero appears and ‘Pass Pass’ when the teacher(heroine) appears!

Such is the Maestro’s sense of Timing!

We do not have to go to Music School.We do not have to study Music lessons.
We just have to listen to such great Music....We can understand Music better!

இசைப் பள்ளிக்கூடம் போக வேண்டாம்;இசைப் பாடங்களைக் கேட்க வேண்டாம்.
இது போன்ற ராஜ இசையைக் கேட்டாலே போதும்! நமக்கு இசை வந்து விடும்!

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ILaiyaraaja-The Conjuror!

காதலினால் மானுடர்க்குக் கவிதை யுண்டாம்;
கானமுண்டாம் சிற்பமுதற் கலைக ளுண்டாம்;
ஆதலினால் காதல் செய்வீர்;உலகத்தீரே
அ.'.தன்றோ இவ்வுலகத் தலைமை யின்பம்.

Love Gives Poetry;
Love Gives Music;
Love is the Source of Fine Arts;
Therefore, Please Love!
Is it not the Eternal Bliss!!

Subramania Bharathi, was a multi-faceted, multi dimensional personality. His poems covered a gamut of topics like Patrioticm, Feminism, Spirituality, Philosophy, Socialism and many more. His ideas were revolutionary and his language simple. He was also a visionary and his approach was scientific.

Though he was a Believer, he condemned the Division of people in the name of Religion, and Caste. He gave a clarion call to the youth to build a new India and wanted people to burn all their superstitions.

He strongly believed in the dictum ‘Love is God’.

He simplified the language of Tamizh –mainly its poetic form- so that even a layman could understand what is being said.

That is why he is called as the Mahakavi!

I find lot of parallels between ILaiyaraaja and Bharathi.

Like Bharathi, Raja revolutionized Cine Music.His music is also multi dimensional and he has used all the major forms of World Music.

He simplified Classical Music so that it reached the Common Man.His approach to Music has been both Scientific as well as Artistic.

Innovation and improvisation have always been his forte.

That is why he is called as ‘IsaiGnani’.

Both ILaiyaraaja and Bharathi are Geniuses in their own way and have made our country proud.

Now let us turn our attention to a Composition that is one of the (many) Masterpieces of Raja.

It is ‘Kaadhalin Deepam Ondru’ from the Film ‘Thambikku Entha Ooru’.

This is based on a Raga called Charukesi-literally meaning the Woman with Beautiful Hair!

Raja used this Raga for the first time in ‘Amma Nee Sumantha Pillai’(Annai Oru Alayam).It was a melancholic cry of a son who had just then lost his mother.

And here we have the same Raga being used in a Romantic situation!

No doubt any Raga has many dimensions but it is also a fact that Raja’s Music has many dimensions.

Charukesi is a Classical Raga and is the 26th Melakartha.

The structure is-sa ri2 ga3 ma1 pa dha1 ni2 Sa/Sa ni2 dha1 pa ma1 ga3 ri2 sa.

The Raga has a unique beauty and flows very smoothly like a River.

Now the Composition…

Though the entire Song is very beautiful, two things stand out.

First is the Tala structure.

The Composition is set in the 8 beat cycles and the rhythm follows the pattern - Ta Ki Ta Ta (Ka) Ta Ki Ta.

The first akshara (ka) in the second cycle is almost silent.

The ‘eduppu’(beginning) of the pallavi is after ¾ count(called as Mukkaal Idam).

Generally in any song if the pallavi starts like this, it also ends in the same place in the Tala cycle. In this case, it does not end there but ends at another point.

We see such unusual patterns in the charanams as well.

But finally the cycle is completed at the end of the whole song.

I cannot remember any other song with such a unique design.

Second is the design of the Pallavi.

Only five Swaras of Charukesi –sa ri ga pa dha- are used in the pallavi making it sound like Vaasanthi, a pentatonic raga.

Maya (theory of illusion)?

In fact, the entire song was composed in a Hospital.Raja was recuperating from his surgery and he whistled the entire tune- including the BGM-while his assistant took notes.

Let us now look at the song…

We see the Flamboyance in the brief Aalap followed by the Violins.

Celebration of Love at its best!

In the first interlude, Violins exult with the small Flute playing with effulgence. It is like the twittering of the Birds.

The Charanams are intricately carved and delicately etched.

‘Netru Pol Indru Illai’ also has only the five Swaras and the sixth Swara ‘ma’ makes its appearance only in ‘Indru Pol Naalai Illai’.

‘Anbile Vaazhum’ is glorious with the sangathis that have an ineffable effect!

And ‘Ennam Yaavum Solla Vaa’ resonates and reverberates.

The Second Interlude starts with a solid and melodious percussion followed by the Guitar.

We see a Panoramic Valley. We see bursts of wild endless colours - Minty Green, Wine Red, Sunny Yellow, Woody Brown, Lemony Orange, Snowy White, Dreamy Blue…

It is a riot of Colours…

Various Colours of Love…

The Composition is a Marvellous Condensation of the Raga..

It is the unraveling of the Mystic Beauty of the Raga(and Tala as well).

It is a Delectable Improvisation..

It is an Unostentatious presentation of Love..

It is the Light of Music.. glowing Forever!

இது அவர் ஏற்றிய காதலின் தீபம்..இசையின் தீபம்..அணையா தீபம்!

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ILaiyaraaja-Connoisseur's Delight!

Whenever we read something beautiful, we say it is poetic.
Whenever we hear something great, we say it is musical.

But we also use these expressions whenever we undergo a great experience…
We say ‘The journey was Musical’ or ‘The valley is poetic’.

At times we also say that the Music is so poetic or that the Poem is so Musical..

This is because there is a Connoisseur in all of us!

Now look at this poem by Subramania Bharathiyar:

‘’It is the Sun Light all around;
On the Mountains, On the Sea,
On the Earth, On the Trees,
On the Forests, On River Banks;
Why is there Darkness in Man’s Mind?’’

வானமெங்கும் பரிதியின் ஜோதி;
மலைகள் மீதும் பரிதியின் ஜோதி;
தானை நீற்கடல் மீதிலும் ஆங்கே
தரையின் மீதும் தருக்களின் மீதும்
கானகத்திலும் பற்பல ஆற்றின்
கரைகள் மீதும் பரிதியின் ஜோதி;
மானவன்றன் உளத்தினில் மட்டும்
வந்து நிற்கும் இருளிது வென்னே!

This is what is called as Music in poetry. is beautiful.

At the same time there are lot of hidden meanings and the more we explore, the more we discover..

And that is why Bharathi is called as the Mahakavi. .
He is indeed a Connoisseur’s delight!

If Bharathi’s verses are Music in Poetry, ILaiyaraaja’s compositions are Poetry in Music.

Human Mind is in deed intriguing.

It is a mix of simple as well as complex things.Otherwise, how can we explain our childlike behaviour at times.

The simplicity in a Composition appeals to the Layman in all of us.

The Complexity appeals to the Connoisseur in all of us.

It does need some training to wake up the Connoisseur within us.

But not for a moment am I saying that to enjoy Music, one needs to be a Connoisseur.
However, if we get to understand the finer elements, we enjoy it more.

Today we are going to see a composition that is based on a very interesting Raga.It is a very rare Raga as well.

The Raga is VarNa DhariNi!

As far as I know, there is no Carnatic Composition in this Raga and Raja was the first one to use this in Films.

The Hindustani equivalent is called as Vibhaas(though there are three variations of this Raag) and it is a Morning Raga.

As per the Carnatic System, it is derived from the 16th Melakartha Chakravagam and the Arohana/Avarohana pattern is Sa Ri1 Ga3 Pa Dha2 Sa/Sa Dha2 Pa Ga3 Ri1 Sa.

Only the variant of ‘Ri’ separates this and Mohanam but both the Ragas sound so different.That is the beauty of Music(remember my post on Shivaranjani)!

Raja used it in ‘Amuthe Tamizhe’(Kovil Pura) for the first time and followed it up with ‘Neelakuyile’(Magudi).

The composition we are going to discuss today is ‘Ethilum Ingu’ from ‘Bharathi’(the song is not a Bharathiyar song).

The composition has an inherent beauty and an unimpeachable Musical Value!

Again it is the wonderful blend of the Raga with the Tala structure that makes it unique.

The Tala is both Adi and Roopaka.It is Adi, if it is in the Tisra(3) beat and Roopakam if it is in the 4 beat Chatushram.


This is because Caranatic Music involves lot of Mathematics and the calculations are done in such a way that it meets the criteria of both the Talas.
The Rhythmic pattern is divided beautifully and it is

Ta Ka Ta Ka Dhi Mi Ta- Ki- Ta-..

Here while the first part –Ta Ka Ta Ka Dhi Mi- is in the fast tempo (called as Mel Kaalam), the second part -Ta Ki Ta – is slow (called as Keezh Kaalam) giving a ‘Wavy ‘ feeling to the entire Composition.

The Raga also follow a ‘Wavy Pattern’ like the Tala .

The Composition starts with the Gentle and Powerful voice of Madhu Balakrishnan invoking Repose.It seems like we are in for a sober trail.

But what follows is a pulsating experience!

The Pallavi is an emotive flow with Blazing Intensity.Every Facet sparkles as one hears ‘Adiyum Mudiyum Ariya Mudiyaan, Eliya Adiyaar Othum Veda Nathamagi’.

The Craft Skills of the Master is amazing in the first Interlude.

If the Flute flows Dulcetly, the Strings radiate Serenity.It is uniformly Graceful!
The Charanam is full of Silken passages.

The Frist Two Lines starting with ‘Varippuli Athai Thariththavan Ezhil’ is redolent with the Flavour of Beauty while the Second Two Lines ‘Tamizh Kavi Tharum’ is pregnant with exceptional Literary Quality.

The Gentle Movement in ‘Aaalankuiyil’ is followed by a Sweeping Movement in ‘Patruthalaikku Neruppvan’.

And this is where we see the stamp of the Genius yet again.

The Rhythmic pattern (in the way it is rendered) changes here and it is
Ta Ka Dhi Mi repeated 4 times and in 3 cycles.What is interesting is the stress given in the second count - Ka - in each of the cycle.

In English Language, there is a relatively new word called ‘Fantabulous’ which is the melding of the two words ‘Fantastic’ and ‘Fabulous’.

I would say this is the best word to describe the improvisation done here!

It also goes to prove how rich our Classical Music is and how it can do wonders in the hands of a Genius at a time when Computers and Technology give us ‘new’ rhythmic patterns!

In the Second Interlude, the Percussion Instruments echo evocatively and one plunges into the River swimming with the Tala and Floating with the Raga.The Rhythmic Burble of the Stream is enchanting as the Soughing Wind Rustles, Bustles and Tickles.

It is gentle and at the same time pulsing!

We feel we are caught in the middle of nothingness.

It is a Wellspring of Joy.
It is a Celebration of Life!

His Music is here and everywhere…

எதிலும் இங்கு இருப்பது அவரது இசை.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

ILaiyaraaja-The Majestic Musician!

‘’Veni, Vidi, Vici’’.

These words were spoken by Julius Caesar after his victory over Pharnaces II of Pontus.The English Translation of this Latin phrase, ’I Came, I Saw, I Conquered’ is one of the most famous quotes of all times and one is left wondering as to how words could sound so Majestic!

Tamizh Poet Kamban –who is called as the Master of Words-has composed lot of verses that abound with such subtle and majestic expressions.

There is an instance in Ramayana where Rama breaks the Bow of Shiva to marry Sita.To indicate how quick and dexterous Rama is Kamban says,

‘All efforts not to blink and see Rama in action are in vain.
Nobody sees him walk;
Nobody sees him lift the Bow;
All they see is the Bow in Rama's hand ..and...hear the sound of the Bow!!

தடுத்திமை யாமல் இருந்தவர்,தாளில்
மடுத்ததும், நாண்நுதி வைத்ததும் நோக்கார்
கடுப்பினில் யாரும் அறிந்திலர்;கையால்
எடுத்தது கண்டனர்,இற்றது கேட்டார்!

The expression ‘Eduthathu Kandanar, Ittrathu Kettaar’(Saw him lift and heard it Break!) is similar to ‘Came, Saw , and Conquered’!

I am also reminded of Raaja’s Music while reading these Expressions.

There are three reasons.

The first reason is because he also Came, Composed Music and Conquered millions of hearts.

Secondly, the speed with which he composes Music is incredible and nobody can match it-like the Rama in Kamba Ramayanam.

Thirdly, he also composes songs that are as majestic as these great expressions.

Today, we are going to see a composition of his that is based on a Raga which is literally Majestic.The Raga is Gambheera Nattai(Gambheera-Majestic).

The composition is ‘Innum Ennai Enna Seiya Pogirai’ from ‘Singaravelan’.

As usual, the Raga is handled with dexterity but there is one more beauty in this composition that makes it stand apart majestically!

We shall see that soon!

Gambheera Nattai is a pentatonic raga and is derived from the 36th Melakartha Chalanattai.

The Arohana/Avarohana pattern is sa ga3 ma1 pa Ni3 Sa/Sa ni3 pa ma1 ga3 Sa.

The Hindustani Raga Jog is very close to this Raga in structure.While Gambhira Nattai uses only one variant of ‘Ga’, Jog uses both the variants. Of course, the Ragas differ in the way they are sung/played.

Gambhira Nattai is also part of the Indonesian Music where this scale is used quite often!

Let us look at the composition now.

The opening itself is sparkling.The Strings follow a colourful pattern and it is an electric blend of melody and rhythm.It is amazing to see the way it has been chiseled .

The Pallavi is infused with energy with the voice of SPB.

The entire composition is adorned with the enticing Flute.

One feels the breezy and the effervescent air as the orchestra alternates between subtlety and sprightliness.

The Charanams are gorgeous, not just because of the melody, not just because of the mellifluous voices of the two legends, not just because of the Flute in between the lines.

It is because of

Raja, the Virtuoso;

Raja, the Magician;

Raja, the Majestic Musician!

The composition follows the 8 beat- tala cycle.

As SPB finishes the line ‘Moga Pari Pooraniye’, Janaki starts singing ‘Poovodu Naan Sera’in the 5 beat Khandam -ta ka ta ki ta- while the percussion continues-somewhat nonchalantly- in the different pattern.

It is sheer magic as one gets to hear both Chatusram and Khandam.Rhythmic equivalent of Counterpoints?

Well, let me tell you that this is not uncommon in a Carnatic Music Concerts where what is called as the ‘Nadai’ is changed. However, I cannot think of any other Composer who has done this in Films.

Let me try and explain more..

SPB-‘Paadi varum Vaanmathiye……… moga paripooraniye…’
The vocals follow the same pattern as that of the percussions.

The magic starts from ‘Poovodu..’.

Janaki sings in the 5-beat khandam-ta ka ta ki ta- while the percussion moves in its original pattern of 5, 3.Now, the obvious question- percussion also has 5 beats in the first part.So, will both not match? will match..but only in the first phrase.After that the vocals move in 5-beats while the percussion moves in 5,3.So, is there a mismatch?Well..for sometime..yes.But they do meet.

Where and how?

The khandam part is sung 6 times.
The percussions complete 4 cycles by then.
This happens twice in the charanam.

Where is the meeting point?
Do you notice the small extension of ‘pothu’ and ‘podu’ followed by small gaps?
The ‘podi sangatis’ there are to accommodate one ‘ta ka ta ki ta’ and the gaps are to accommodate these 4 beats(2x2).

Let me try and explain by breaking each phrase:

First line is the vocals. Second is the tala representation, third the beats, fourth the percussion pattern and the fifth percussion beats.

Intelligence, Innovation and Improvisation=ILaiyaraaja.
Let us also appreciate the brilliance of Poet Vaali. A complete laya piece is called as ‘Theermanam’.He says ‘It will not end without meeting(each other).Put the ‘Theermanam’ in the right place'.

Maybe , even the Pallavi is also addressed to Raaja-Innum Ennai Enna Seiyya pogiRai(what else are you going to me)- after hearing this tune while composing.

I shall explain the concept of Talas in my future posts as well so that people can understand and appreciate.

The Second Interlude with Strings, Trumpets, and Flute is Meaty, Moving, Tender, Soporific, Vibrant, and Resonant.

This is a Composition that is opulent and gleams like Gold.

This is a Composition that has unexceptionable Musical Values.

This is a Composition that has both Majesty and Evocativeness.

What else can we ask for?

இன்னும் என்ன வேண்டும் நமக்கு?