Wednesday, 15 October 2008

ILaiyaraaja's Music is Unique!

Our Life revolves around numbers.

It is in deed impossible to think of any human activity without numbers.Our age, the time, the grocery, the Bus Route, the Car Registration, the TV Channel..well the list is endless..

And yes..Music and numbers..

It is an inextricable link.

Each number is unique and has its own beauty.

Thirumazhisai Aaazhwar-one of whose paasurams I had already quoted in my post on ‘Endrendrum Aanandame’(Laya Raja) in this thread-who lived in the 7th Century wrote 216 verses out of which 96 are classified are ‘Naanmugan Thiru Anthaathi’ and 120 are classified under ‘Thiruchchanda Viruththam’.

‘Thiruchchanda Viruththam’ is very musical. The verses have very deep philosophical connotations as well.

One of the verses is

‘AaRum AaRum AaRumaay Or Ainthum Ainthum Ainthumaay,
ERuseer iraNdum moonRum Ezhum AaRum ettumaay,
VERu VERu Gnaam Aagi meyyinodu poyyumaay,
OoRodu Osaiyaaya ainthum aaya aaya maayanE!

ஆறும் ஆறும் ஆறுமாய் ஓர் ஐந்தும் ஐந்தும் ஐந்துமாய்,
ஏறு சீர் இரண்டும் மூன்றும்,ஏழும், ஆறும், எட்டுமாய்,
வேறு வேறு ஞானம் ஆகி,மெய்யினோடு பொய்யுமாய்,
ஊறொடு ஓசையாய ஐந்தும் ஆய ஆய மாயனே!

The great Vaishnavite scholar Shri.K C Varadachary has translated this verse wonderfully:

Being the six, the six and the six being (worshipped) by the five, the five and the five
He who is the excellent two, the three, the seven, the six and the eight
Having made distinct the knowledge, being the True and the Untrue
The Self of the five (senses) He is the Lord, the magician!

As mentioned earlier, the verse has inner meanings and is beyond the scope of this discussion.

However, one can enjoy this verse just by reading without even scratching the head about the meanings.

Does it not sound so musical?

Now each number is unique and has a beauty of its own.

Let us take the number five.

There are five elements.

There are five senses.

There are five fingers in each hand.

The Tamizh Land was divided into Five different ThiNais in the Sangam period.

In Hindu Religion, Siva is known by the panchaakshara mantran(na ma shi va ya).
Lord Ganesha is described as the one with five hands(Ainkaran).

The number Five is very musical too.

While setting the Shruthi, the range is calculated from the base ‘sa’to ‘pa’which is the fifth note.

One of the greatest composers of all times, Saint Thyagaraja spent his life in Thiruvaiyaaru-the place where 5 rivers flow.

In Kerala, during all major functions, five percussion instruments-called as Pancha Vaadhyam- is played in unison.

In Carnatic Music, pentatonic Ragas-Ragas that have five notes are very popular.

Our Maestro invented a raga called ‘Panchamukhi’-meaning five faces.

His symphony score for the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra has five movements.

Today, we are going to see a composition that is based on a pentatonic raga.

The Raga is Abhogi.

This Raga is special for two reasons.

Before we get on with the composition, let us see why this Raga is special.

The Carnatic Music Trinity-Shyama Sastry, Thyagaraja,and Muththuswami Dikshitar-were contemporaries and have given us gems.
Yet another great composer, Gopalakrishna Bharatiyar-who composed many songs in Tamizh including the ‘Nandanar Charitram’ also lived during the same period in Mayilaaduthurai.

One day, he decided to visit Saint Thyagaraja.

As he entered the house, he saw and heard Thyagaraja’s disciples singing a Keerthana in Abhogi. Thyagaraja asked Bharati if he had composed any song in that raga. There was no answer.

The next day, Bharati went to the Saint’s house again and sang a Krithi in Abhogi.The Saint asked him as to why he did not sing that the previous day and Goplakrishna Bharatiyar replied that he composed it only the previous night.

The great Saint blessed him.

The song was the popular ‘Sabapathikku Veru Deivam Samaanamaaguma’.

This episode was described by the great Tamizh writer U.V.Swaminatha Iyer and has been reproduced by ILaiyaraaja in his book ‘Sangeeta KanavugaL’ while mentioning about a photograph he saw of the Western Music composer Strauss with another great composer Brahms in Vienna.

Abhogi is special for yet another reason.

A Krithi in this Raga was sung by ILaiyaraaja in pure Carnatic style in the presence of one of the greatest legends of Carnatic music, Shri.Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer-whose Birth Centenary is being celebrated across the country now.

After the rendering, Shri.Semmangudi placed his hands on Raaja sir’s head and called him a ‘Maha Vidwan’.

Let us now look at today’s composition that is based on this very special Raga.

Before that, let us see the structure of Abhogi.

It is derived from the 22nd Melakartha Karaharapriya and its Arohana/Avarohana pattern is:

Sa ri2 ga2 ma1 dha1 Sa/Sa dha2 ma1 ga2 ri2 sa.

And now for the composition.

The single string provides the adhaara shruti.We see the quintessential beauty of Abhogi as Jayachandran sings a sweet aalaap with subtle flute welcoming him.The Veena now plays with verve.

We are awestruck by the structure of the Pallavi.

The first two lines flow smoothly.

In the next line ‘KanavugaLin..’ is followed by a beautiful sangati that first stays in a couple of notes and then comes down following the avarohana pattern.
We see the same pattern in the next line.

The sweet voice of Vani Jayaram joins just towards the end of the pallavi.
The Flute now captivates us as it calls joyously. Its call is replied by the Veena.

The Dilruba now coalesces with the Veena giving us a very intense feeling. The Veena is so happy that it begins to sing rapturously with the Mridangam nodding its head happily.

The joy continues in the densely structured Charanam.
The way the Raga is delineated is amazing.

‘Poongiyil Sonnathu Kaadalin Mandiram’and ‘Poovinai Thooviya..’give the raga in a burnished form while ‘Naayagan Kai Thodavum’ show us the vibrant hues of Abhogi.

In ’Manjaththile..’Abhogi fondles us.

The tantalizing trajectory of the Swaras shows us the intrinsic beauty of the Raga.

To start with, it is reposeful.
It then becomes powerful.
It is then free flowing and pulsating.

A class act!

A pageantry of sorts!

Joie de vivre!

Unique experience.

As unique as the number five.

His Music-Joyful not just today, but forever!

அவரது இசை இருந்தால் இன்றைக்கு மட்டுமல்ல, என்றைக்குமே ஆனந்தம்தான்!

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Sunday, 12 October 2008

ILaiyaraaja-Musician Beyond Compare!

தோள் கண்டார் தோளே கண்டார்;தொடுகழற்கமலம் என
தாள் கண்டார் தாளே கண்டார்;தடக்கை கண்டாரும் அஃதே
வாள்கொன்ட கண்ணார் யாரே வடிவினை முடியக் கண்டார்?
ஊழ்கொண்ட சமயத்து அன்னான் உருவு கண்டாரை ஒத்தார்.

When Rama goes back to Mythila for his betrothal with Sita, the women of Mythila swarm him and vie with one another to have a glimpse of his beauty.

Poet Kamban says women who looked at his shoulders kept looking at it ...
People who looked at his hands could not go beyond that...
And those who looked at his feet could not take their eyes off...

But nobody saw his beauty in its entirety.

The clincher is the last line where Kamban says ‘It is like thinking that we know everything about the Almighty just by scrupulously practising our religion.’

Rama’s beauty was thus unfathomable..

In a similar vein I feel ILaiyaraaja’s Music is unfathomable. When we listen to a particular song of his, we get attracted to the tune and do not get out of that;

or we tend to get allured to the orchestration and sink in that;

or we tend to get hypnotized by the way it has been composed and immerse ourselves in that.

The more we think we know him and his music the more enigmatic it is.

That is why I consider him as- A Musician Beyond Compare!

Today we are going to see two of his works that were composed exclusively for the Italy Show.

The first one is the Composition with Three Notes and the second one is ‘Mood Kapi’.

Let us first take up ‘Three In One’.

But before that let me briefly explain about the concept of three notes. In some of my previous posts, I had explained about the concept of Raga.

A Raga is a unique combination of notes ascending and descending. As per the grammar of Indian Music, any Raga must have at least five notes.

There have been exceptions to this rule and relatively new Ragas like 'Navarasa Kannada' and 'Kathanakuthookalam' have only four Swaras in Arohana(ascending).Dr.Balamuralikrishna invented a Raga called Mahati with just four notes both in Arohana and Avarohana and MSV sir used it in Athisaya Ragam in the Film Apoporva Ragangall.

We have also discussed about Lavangi(KangaLukkuL unnai ezhuthu..)

One of the oldest Vedas, Sama Veda (also considered to be a Musical Veda) uses Sa Ri Ga extensively and Illaiyaraja used only these Swaras in the first two lines of ‘Poovaar Senni Mannan’(Thiruvaachakam).

However, the ‘Three In One’ is unique because it is a Musical Composition running to three and half minutes and nobody has ever even made an attempt to venture into this kind of a composition.

Going back to the grammar of Carnatic Music, the minimum requirement of five Swaras is just to ensure that the there is more scope for delineation of a particular raga so that there are no repetitive phrases.

But here is the case of a composition that breaks grammar without in any way compromising on the Musical Quality. Most importantly there is never a dull moment. This is because of the way the Swaras have been used and because of the way the orchestration has been done.

There have been comments-some sardonic and some acerbic- saying it is some kind of a cheating since there is a change in the octave.But the fact of the matter is that it is well within the rules of Music. I do not want to dwell on this further.

Let us look at the composition.The Swaras used -as per Carnatic Music Parlance-are Shadjamam, Chatushruthi Rishabham, Antara Gandharam.

In fact, this is the first half(called as poorvaangam) of two very popular Ragas-Mohanam and Hamsadhwani-and the composition has shades of the former.

When the notes were given to the orchestra, none of them discovered that only three notes have been used..And if it was not publicly announced as ‘Three In One’, I am not sure how many listeners would have discovered it.

The composition starts with the Flute playing with gay abandon and we feel we are at the Foothill ready to climb the Stubbly Mountain.

As the percussion in the Chatushram beat joins, we begin to climb wending our way, go down again only to climb a little further.

As the Flute continues to play, the strings and the Bass join with a kind of unique insouciance, and we see the grassy rolling hills.

The breeze kisses us gently as the Violin plays in pure Western Classical style.

We hear the rustle of crisp spiky leaves and are surrounded by the fragrance of the flowers.We see the wild grooves of bamboo thistles and bramble as the viola traipses octaves. We see the gurgling river with a sparkling stream as the humming we hear the humming.

The Violins play with yearning tenderness and we are on nature’s lap with the Music caressing us.

Captivating beauty and splendour of Nature and Music at its best!

It is the Summit and the Acme. ..

Let us now turn our attention to the other piece-Mood Kaapi.

This tune has appeared as a song with lyrics in Films. However, this piece is very special considering the fact that in the Italy show it was played as a eight minute piece without any lyrics!

The Raga is originally from Hindustani Music though the Kaapi sung in Carnatic style is somewhat different from the Hindustani Kapi.In fact, Raag Kaapi in Hindustani Music is a ‘Thaat’(equivalent of Melakartha in Carnatic) and it is nothing but the Karaharapriya Ragam in Carnatic.

Kaapi in Carnatic style has five notes in Arohana-sa ri2 ma1 pa ni3 Sa-and all the seven notes in the Avarohana albeit in a devious form(called as vakra prayoga)-Sa ni2 dha2 ni2 pa ma1 ga2 ri2 sa.It uses both variants of the ‘ni’-the Kakali Nishadam in Arohanam and the Kaisiki Nishadam in the Avarohanam.

There are of course various versions of the Aro/Avaro.

The phrase 'ga ma ni pa ga' clearly gives the essence of the Ragam.

The first thing that strikes one in ‘Mood Kapi is the rhythmic pattern. It is set to the 8 beat Adi Tala and the two Avarthanas(2x8) are beautifully divided as ‘Ta Ka Dhi Mi Ta Ki Ta Ta Ka Ta Ki Ta Ta - - -' .

That is instead of 8 +8, it is 7+9.

Not a computer generated pattern but purely from the mind of the creative genius!

‘Mood Kaapi’ begins with the wistful Dilruba playing an incandescent Aalap.A single stroke of brush makes us visualize the whole portrait.

The Violin orchestra now plays with immaculate beauty showing us the regality of Kapi.

The feisty Tabla sparkles in the entire piece.

The Flute gives soft touches followed by the violin orchestra playing without any frills.The Dilruba appears again and shows the unfettered imagination of the composer.

It is then a Metronomic Progression.

The contours of the Raga are presented crisply by the solo violin.It is a clearly defined musical motif as the chorus renders ‘Tham Tham..’.

It delves into new depths as there is a conversation between the Dilruba and the Tabla and finally the Tabla plays the ‘Dha Thai Dhi Tha’ beats ubiquitous in a Kathak dance.

The Swara singing passages give a sensitive portrayal of the raga with a beautiful mathematical calculation -typical of Carnatic Music- and are rendered jauntily.

In the end the sounds dissolve into silence and we are in a trance.

The Composition is an excellent match between the musical vision and the delivery.

It is couched in winsome language.

It is mesmerism in the form of Music.

No poetry can match the beauty of this Music!

இந்த இசை சங்கத்தில் காணாத கவிதை!

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Wednesday, 1 October 2008

ILaiyaraaja-The Brilliant Classical Musician!

Ancient Literature has dealt with various aspects and dimensions of Life.The beauty of Literature lies not just in the Subjects/Topics but in the way these have been presented aesthetically.

The Sangam Literature in Tamizh has poems of Love and War –the former called as ‘Agam’ and the latter ‘Puram’.

The Sweep , the immediacy and minute observation of Human Behaviour make these poems one of the finest ever.

Kurunthogai , which is part of the Tamizh Sangam Literature describes in detail about Love.

Reminiscing about the time spent with his lover and unable to bear the pangs of separation a man says,

‘As a little white snake with lovely stripes on its young body
Troubles the jungle elephant
This slip of a girl
Her teeth like sprouts of new rice
Her wrists stacked with bangles troubles me.’

சிறு வெள்ளரவின் அவ்வரிக் குருளை
கான யானை அணங்கி யா அங்கு
இளையள் முளைவாள் எயிற்றள்
வளையுடைக் கையள் எம் அணங்கியோளே.

Such a beautiful expression reminds me of ILaiyaraja’s Music.

With his Razor Sharp Brain , and profound knowledge, he has given and has been giving us compositions that are not just melodious but also very poetic.

His search for excellence and his never ending thirst for innovation are something Extraordinary.

His Music is a Gift to all genuine Music Lovers of the past and present and the future Generations.

What sets him apart from others is his ability to bring out the essence and beauty of each Raga.

He is the only Film Music Composer to have used many Melakartha Ragas –Vivadi Ragas in particular.

All Vivadhi Ragas are unwieldy and even some of the Carnatic Musicians stay away from these Ragas.

ILaiyaraja who is a Master Musician has used Vivadhi Ragas time and again to suit the mood of the sequence in Films.

The Film Sindhu Bhairavi-being the story of a Classical Musician- is replete with Classical Music.There is a situation in the movie where the Hero is obsessed by the thoughts of the ‘other woman’.

Unable to bear the torments, he does the only thing he knows- which is singing!

This is where the Composer’s brilliance and thoughtfulness come into play.

ILaiyaraaja uses Kanakangi, the first Melakartha Raga in which all the Swaras are too close to each other giving an eerie feeling.

Only Geniuses-who are born in this world once in a while- can come up with such ideas and execute them to perfection.

The Raga typifies the mental state of the Hero.He wants to be very close with the woman but at the same time he knows it is immoral!

Again….it is not just the Raga that makes the difference..the structure, the Tala and above all the use of Taanam-which is an integral part of Carnatic Music-all these prove yet again as to why Raja is a boon to the Music World.

In major Carnatic Music Concerts, Ragam-Taanam-Pallavi-is a section where a Raga is taken for exposition and is delineated by the Musician.A typical RTP takes at least 45 minutes.

ILaiyaraaja has touched all the dimensions of Kanakangi in less than two and half minutes.He is like the legendary Tamizh Poet Thiruvalluvar who was able to give the essence of a topic in less than two lines.

The Composition starts with ‘Thom Thom Thom Tha Nam Tha Thom Thom Thom Tha Nam Tha Nam Thom’-a total of 24 Aksharaas.

In Carnatic Music and for that matter in Film Music, the 8 beat cycle called as Adi Tala is the most popular one and the Rhythmic patterns revolve around the multiples of 8 in this Tala.

He prepares us for a feast by opening with 24 Aksharaas.

This is followed by a silent phase- depicting the mood of the character- and one entire cycle of Adi Tala is quiet .The only sound we hear is the drone of the Tanpura.

We now feel the melting of the Hero’s Heart in the Fire that is Lust.Only three Swaras-sa, ri and ni- are used.

The Musician Hero sees the woman as a Strobe light and he wants to kill the illusion that is Lust.

As he throbs, the Mridangam makes an appearance stealthily, first producing the sound of a slap(on his face!) as the word ‘Mogam’(meaning lust) is sung and then reverberates when he sings ‘Kondru Poda Vendum’(I must Kill).

His angst now becomes increasingly intolerable as he says ‘My entire body is filled with lust. Please pour water to douse this fire.’ The Swara Structure is brilliant –it is ga ga ga followed by ri ri ri and sa just to show his isolation.

Now the Hero reveals how dominant the thoughts of the Lady are as he sings ‘Manathil Unathu Aathikkam..’.

The Mridangam is strident now and the interval between each Mridangam beats is reduced.The Swaras which were isolated join as they take the ascent- sariga , rigama, gamapa.

He continues to reveal that the Storm of Lust is about to uproot him and he pleads to save him.

Raja the Master uses only the lower octave Swaras until now.As the plea to save the Hero from Lust is made, it jumps to the upper Sa and Ri…

Now comes the Taanam and the vignettes of Kanakangi are in view as the Swaras conflagrate.

The brilliance of Raja comes into fore again as the phrases ‘Thaa Nam Tha Thana Tham Tham Tham become ‘Aanandam’-meaning happiness.Just to show that the Viraha or the pangs of separation is enjoyable though it is negative!

Then there is a free wheeling sanchara with a 50 Akshara.

Now it is a Rollicking experience as the Thom becomes Dhom-to indicate the intensity.

The Graphic Phrasings continue in the higher octave Swaras.

The climax is reached as Dhom Dhom Dhom Dhom Dhom Dhom Dhom Thana is rendered very forcefully and vehemently.

The progression from one Sthayi to another is amazing. The first Dhom… is rendered with the higher Ga Ma , the second one with the higher Sa Ri while the last one with the lower ga ma.

The composition is amazing because of the cohesive design capturing the special fragrance of Kanakangi-a Vivadhi Raga.

The Composition is wonderful because of the Felicitous Voice of Yesudass.

The Composition is beautiful because of the Taanam augmented by suitable Swaras .

The Composition is Brilliant because of the Tala pattern.

An uncanny experience!!

It is Tha Nam Tha Tha Na Tham Tham Tham
Tha Nam Tha Tha Na Tham Tham Tham


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