Thursday, 27 November 2008

ILaiyaraaja-Musician par Excellence!

‘Love my enemy Oh!
‘Love my enemy.’

Sounds odd?

These are the words of the great Subramania Bharati.

Addressing this to his mind, he goes on to say ‘Don’t we see the shining flame amidst the darkening flame? The Lord lives in all the souls.. yes in my enemy’s soul as well..?’

பகைவனுக்கருள்வாய் நன்னெஞ்சே!

புகை நடுவினில் தீயிருப்பதை பூமியிற் கண்டோமே
நன்னெஞ்சே பூமியிற் கண்டோமே!
பகை நடுவினில் அன்புருவான நம் பரமன் வாழ்கின்றான் நன்னெஞ்சே
பரமன் வாழ்கின்றான்!

Now, how many of us can even think on such lines leave alone write a poem?

There are lots of philosophical overtones in the poem but the simple thing that strikes me is the nature of the mind.

After all, there is only one mind. And we get positive and negative thoughts from the same mind.


Are we the mind? Or is mind different from us?

Anyway, without getting too philosophical, let us all accept the fact that there is positive in negative and negative in positive!

Going back to the ‘enemy factor’, it will surprise some of you if I say that in Carnatic Music too there is something called ‘enemy’.

No.. I am not talking about people who smirk and frown on just hearing the word classical/carnatic Music.

I am talking about what are called as the Vivadi Swaras.

There are 12 swaras in all-two variants of ri,ga ma,dha,ni with sa and pa having no variants.

These 12 swaras or notes are part of any Music.

Each swara has its own position-called as swarasthana-and has its own shruti value.

Though the Mela system of ragas was first invented in 1550 by Raamamaatya,it was Venkatamakhi who revolutionized the system by introducing a new concept in the 17th century.

He introduced a third variant of ‘ri’,’ga,’dha’‘ni’.

This third variant is called the vivadi swara.
Vivadi means dissonance-as opposed to Vadi/Samvadi.

Why is it dissonant and why was it introduced?

It is dissonant because it is very close to the other swara in terms of the Shruti value thereby producing a rather different sound.

Now using all these three variants, Venkatamakhi propounded the 72 Raga Melakartha system.

Vivadi was introduced to make the already beautiful Music more beautiful and more systematic.

‘Make the enemy your friend by loving him..’

Bharthiyar and Venkatamakhi-Can we miss the similarity?

I cannot think of any other form of music that is as systematized as Carnatic Music.

Though in the Hindustani system, it is common to use the two variants of a particular swara in some(many) ragas, the Shruthi value does not change and therefore they are not vivadi swaras.

The 72 Ragas are divided into 12 groups-called as Chakras-each group consisting of 6 ragas.

Out of these, 40 are Vivadi Ragas(majority in the assembly!)

Let us also understand that the third variant of the 4 swaras is not new. It is already existing in some other name but with a reduced Shruti value.

Just to quote an example, in the first Melakartha, Kanakangi(Raga of ‘Mogam Ennum’..) the first ‘ri’ is followed by the second ‘ri’.The second ‘ri’ is sung as ‘ga’(ga1).Similarly, the first ‘dha’(d1)is followed by the second ‘dha’, but is sung as ni(ni1).


The Shruthi values are different and therefore the swaras sound different.

‘Make the enemy your friend by loving him..
There is fire behind the smoke’

Bharati and Venkatamakhi-Can we miss the similarity?

Well, why am I discussing these things?

Three reasons.

One-As fans of the Maestro, I thought it is essential for all of us to understand some basic concepts in music.

Two-Raaja sir is the only film music composer to have used many vivadi ragas.

Three-Today’s composition is based on a beautiful Vivadi Raga.

I also see lot of similarities between Venkatamakhi, Bharati and ILaiyaraaja.

Multi dimensional, Revolutionising an existing system, Innovative approach, Intelligence..

Mathematics, Poetry, Music.

Three different personalities, three different eras ..

That is the beauty of life!

I was mentioning that today’s composition is based on a Vivadi Raga.The composition is ‘Sangeetham en Degamandro..’ from Bala Nagamma(1981).

It is based on Chitrambari-the 66th Melakartha.

It is next to Kalyani in the Melakartha system and only the Vivadi swara-Shatshruti Dha-separates the two.

The structure is

sa ri2 ga3 ma2 pa dha3 ni3 Sa
Sa ni3 dha3 pa ma2 ga3 ri2 sa.

ILaiyaraaja is the only film music composer to have used this Raga.

As a matter of fact, except for a composition by Koteeswara Iyer-who has composed in all the 72 melakartha ragas-there is no other known composition in this Raga.

‘Sangeetham..’ starts with the melodious Veena.The sedate atmosphere continues as the music from the violins blossom like a flower...

Suddenly, Chitrambari is borne forward by the fascinating Flute.
As the prelude reaches its climax, we see the beauty of the raga that is adorned by pretty robe and ornaments..

We now hear the honey soaked voice of Vani Jeyaram.

The pallavi flows with lucidity showing us the grandeur of the Raga.
‘Aalilai meloru noolidai megalai..’and ‘Isai Ezhaga..’ use only the normal swaras giving us a Kalyani flavour.

In the first interlude, the Veena is serene and sparkling and the violins bend gracefully. The flute spins a web around us. The Veena now plays the Vivadi swara in combination with other swaras and we spin with it.

The Charanam gives us the subtle shades and the nuances of the Raga.
It moves like a breeze gently caressing us.

Is our thirst quenched with the sangathis?

No..we want more of the Raga..

And we get this in the second interlude.

It is suffused with the colours of the Swaras.

It is a cascade..

It capers about with ecstasy..

It runs around..

It dances..

It prances..

The clarity, grasp, emphasis and laya control is amazing..

This is what is called Tempestuous Virtuosity!

The composition is filled with linear motif.

It decants the essence of the beautiful Vivadi Raga.

It is dazzling and vibrant..

It transports us to a spiritually elevated level..

Raaja’s body is Music, his heart his music, his Mind is Music, his breath is music his soul is music..

சங்கீதம் அவர் தேகம் அன்றோ.. அவர் இதயம் அன்றோ..அவர் மனம் அன்றோ..அவர் மூச்சு அன்றோ..அவர் உயிர் அன்றோ..
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Vijay said...

Another brilliant article, this time it was a great learning experience to me, learning about vivadi swaras and vivadi raagas. Thank you very much.

But one dumb question. For example, as you say, if ri2 and dha1 overlaps or ri2 is sung as dha1, dha2 as ni1, dha3 as ni2, it is amazing to know that there will be change in sruthi values. Wow! Very enlightening!! Even if they sing ri2 as dha1, sruthi will be different for dha1 compared to ri2? Can you please explain?

Raj said...

Hi Vijay,

Thanks!Am just now fresh from a short trip and therefore shall reply in detail about the Vivadi concept.

Mmeanwhile, I have not understood the question properly. 'ri2' and 'dha1' can never overlap.Could you please rephrase the question(if possible after reading my post again)?

Apologies for my later reply!

Vijay said...

Sorry that was a silly typo Raj, my bad. I meant ri2 and ga1 overlap and ri3 and ga2 overlap. If that now makes clear.

Raj said...

Mine was also a typo.It should be 'late' reply and not 'later' reply.

Right now I am too busy.Shall try and clear your doubt soon.