Tuesday, 29 December 2009

ILaiyaraaja-The Spiritual Musician..

One of the most misused (and to a great extent abused) words is spirituality. Many people believe that if they are ‘believers’, they are spiritual; or that if they visit any place of worship religiously, they are spiritual; or if they perform any act to ‘please’ their favourite God’, they are spiritual.

Such people can at best be called as Businessmen with strong negotiating skills.

Talking about Business, there is a growing number of self-styled God men and Swamijis who promise the sky to all their devotees (‘sky’ here does not mean the Moksha).

Quid pro quo!

Is this what spirituality all about?
Put in simple terms, Spirituality is directly related to the human spirit. One who is spiritual does not crave for physical comforts nor will he /she be materialistic.

Take the case of Saint Thyagaraja.

In one of the Krithis he says, ‘I see Erudite people proficient in Vedas/Epics waste their time in arguing about useless things. They are caught in a web and live in a Utopian world. They perform Yaagas and sacrifices so that they can enjoy the worldly pleasures. These people can never find the Truth nor the true meaning of God. I place my faith only on you since I realized that all the so called materialistic happiness is only a mirage.I therefore engaged myself in praying to you (to give me salvation)’ right from my childhood..’

‘Ninne nera namminaanuraa O Ramaa Raamayya.
Anni kallalanucu adi paadi vedi pannagashayana ne chinna tanamu naade.
Veda Shaastra Puraana Vidyalache bheda vaadamula deeraka bhramayu vaarala juchi.
Bhogamula koraku bhuvilo Rajasammuna Yagadulonarinchi yalayu varula juchi.
Ee Janmamula ninnu rajee chesuko ieka rajillarani Thyagaraja Raghava’.

This is what is spirituality!

Tamizh poetess AaNdaaL, whose name is synonymous with the month of the tamizh month Margazhi is another example.

Right from her childhood, she wanted to merge with the God and considered Him as her husband. This would sound somewhat odd to the uninitiated. But the fact of the matter is that her love for the Lord had nothing to do with the conjugal bliss. It was on a much higher plane and level (skeptics might quote some of her verses terming them as ‘erotic’ but the inner meanings are entirely different and to a certain extent is beyond the grasp of mortals!).
Look at this poem:

‘My bones melt and the eyelids of my long eyes have not closed for many days
Choked in torments of separation and love laden heart
I flounder in a sea of sorrow, without the canoe of Vaikuntan’s grace
You know it well Oh! Cuckoo,
Please Coo and call the sanctimonious Lord’
Whose body shines like the Gold!

‘என்புருகி இனவேல் நெடுங்கண்கள் இமைபொருந்தா பல நாளும்
துன்ப‌க்க‌ட‌ல் புக்கு வைகுந்த‌ன் என்ப‌து ஓர் தோணி பெறாது உழ‌ல்கின்றேன்
அன்புடையாரைப் பிரிவுறு நோய் அது நீயும் அறிதி குயிலே!
பொன்புரை மேனிக்க‌ருள‌க் கொடியுடைப் புண்ணிய‌னை வ‌ர‌க் கூவாய்!’

Unable to bear the torment of separation from the Almighty, she requests the cuckoo bird to ‘coo’ and herald his arrival.
What one sees here is the spirit that longs to be with the God forever. There is no other expectation and therefore absolutely no sense of materialism.

People who are genuinely spiritual, work with a single-minded devotion and dedication. Little do they care for other luxuries since they know what real happiness is all about. Such people are also highly disciplined and focused. In other words, they are austere.

Though it might sound far fetched, I feel people like Einstein and Ramanujam were also spiritual because they never hankered for any name or fame or money.

Likewise, I would put ILaiyaraaja too in the same bracket. Here, I am not just referring to his spiritual pursuits. I am viewing him through the prism of a music composer. Seeing him from this perspective throws up a lot of interesting facts. It is said that he composes tunes in a jiffy and that the score-sheet is given to the musicians (orchestra) within no time. Such a task is impossible unless people are highly focused, dedicated, disciplined and austere.

Now, people may argue that after all it is Cinema and that he is a ‘Music Director’ who delivers based on the demands of the Film-makers. Let us not miss the wood for the trees.
His works even in below-average films are stupendous and can be considered as great musical compositions (I can quote many examples.. In fact a cursory glance at this Bolg itself is proof enough!).

Many of his songs also take us to a higher plane and we do not care for the name of the movie/story/hero. What matters to us when we listen to such compositions is the divine state we reach.

A real spiritualist is one who not only practises spirituality but also guides others or at least make others experience divine feelings.

Therefore, ILaiyaraaja is the spiritual guru for all of us..

Today, we are going to see one more great composition from an obscure film.
The song is ‘Vazhimel Vizhiyai Edhir Parthirunthaen’ from ‘Archanai PokkaL’(1980).

The composition is based on Pantuvarali, a very interesting ragam.
It is the 51st melakartha and is known by the name Kamvardhini.Muththuswami Dikshithar called it as ‘Kashiramakriya’.

It is the pratimadhyama raga of Mayamalavagowla-that is only the variant of ‘ma’ is different. But it has an entirely different flavour and is unique in its own way.

There are a lot of classical compositions in this ragam. This ragam is frequently sung by musicians in carnatic concerts since it has an ‘aura of popularity’.Beacause of this aspect, it is called as a ‘janaranjaka ragam’.

The structure of Pantuvarali is :
sa ri1 ga3 ma2 pa dha1 ni3 Sa/Sa ni3 dha1 pa ma2 ga3 ri1 sa.

The raga is more beautiful in panchama varjya phrases-ni ri ga ma dha ni, ni dha ma ga, ga ma dha ni…

Let us now look at the composition.

The beginning is somewhat different with the resonance of the sitar strings. It plays with verve as the pretty flute enters with flourish. It is delicate and soft. At the same time it reaches alluring depths to give a yearning melody. It is enriched by the lucent Jalatarangam.

The Pallavi in the dulcet tone of Janaki exudes sensitivity. One sees the aesthetic subtleties when the flute and the sarod alternate after the lines ‘Varuvai Maamukhile’ and ‘Nee Varuvai Maamukhile’ when they are rendered the second time. The line ‘Sukham Ekanthamai Malara’ touches the beautiful spots of the ragam.

The first interlude is marked by the gracefully grafting sitar. It moves like a clear gurgling stream with the Tabla and the rippling flow of the Jalatarangam. The musical ripples continue with the Jalatarangam and the melodic rhythms.

The CharaNam is finely etched. The first two lines are majestic while the third line is dynamic. The last two lines are magical. The contrasting motifs and the pirouetting at the end are stupendous.

The second interlude is sculpted with beautiful musical phrases.

The shehnai played with finesse strikes a deep chord. The subtle strings juxtaposed add to the beauty. The sitar gives an array of short phrases. We are then in for some scintillating moments as the nifty flute, the soft and supple piano and the subtle bass vie with one another. It looks like swathing layers and strokes of colours. Strung together brilliantly, it looks like an intricate tapestry.

The entire composition is replete with melodic progressions of phrasing that take us to a higher plane.

..and a spiritual experience!

வழிமேல் செவியாய் எதிர்பார்த்திருப்போம் உனது பாடல்களை..

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Saturday, 5 December 2009

Laya Raja-II

பாழ் என, கால் என, பாகு என, ஒன்று என
இரண்டு என, மூன்று என, நான்கு என, ஐந்து என
ஆறு என, ஏழு என, எட்டு என, தொண்டு என
நால்வகை ஊழி எண் நவிற்றும் சிறப்பினை

‘Zero, quarter, half, one,
Two, three, four, five,
Six, Seven, Eight, Nine,
Thus the four eons speak about the numbers’.

Does this sound like a Kindergarten class?
Well.. almost! But is it not a fact that what we read (or for that matter experience) during our childhood stays with us forever?

Foundation.. If this is strong, the building is strong. Otherwise, it collapses.

Going back to the poem quoted- it is from a work called ‘Paripaadal’. Paripaadal was composed by different poets during the 1st Century AD and is part of eight anthologies called as ‘Ettuththogai’. These eight along with the 10 long poems- called as ‘Paththuppaattu’- form the core of Tamizh Sangam Literature.

Sangam means an Academy or Fraternity. It is said that there were 3 Sangams – the first one lasting 4,440 years, the second one lasting 3,700 years and the third one lasting 1,850 years. It is also said that a Great Flood destroyed many kingdoms and a large body of literature.

All the works of the First Sangam have been lost forever. The grammar work ‘Tolkappiyam’(I had quoted from this work in my posts on the music of ‘ULiyin Osai’ where I explained as to how classical dance and music were part of the Tamizh culture) belongs to the Second Sangam while the ‘Eight Anthologies’ and the ‘Ten Long Poems’ are part of the Third Sangam period.

The length of the Sangam poems varies between 3 lines and 800 lines. There are 2381 Sangam poems of course not taking the first and the second Sangams into account.

'Paripaadal’ is the one of the oldest texts that has notes on music. In Tamizh music, a Raga is called as ‘PaN’. Under each group of poems in ‘Paripaadal’, there is a mention about the ‘PaN’ on which it is based on. Similar to our Films, the songs(poems) would be written by one person and would be set to music by another person.

The poem quoted in the beginning was written by ‘Kaduvan iLaveyinanaar’ and was set to music by ‘Pettanaaganaar’. It is sung eulogizing Lord Vishnu and is set to ‘Paalaiyaazh’ which is the equivalent of Shankarabharanam.

This also shows that God has always been part of tamizh culture despite the claim made by the so-called rationalists in Tamizh Nadu.

In a way, ‘Paripaadal’ was a precursor to ‘Naalayira Divya Prabandham’,the sacred book of Srivaishnavas.I find a lot of parallels between the works of ‘Kaduvan iLaveyinaar’ and Aazhwars-Thirumazhisai azhwar in particular.I have quoted some verses of ‘Thirumazhisai Aazhwar’in this thread.Please refer the post ‘Laya Raja’ and ‘ILaiyaraaja’s music is unique’ where I quoted from his ‘Thiruchchandaviruththam’ that talks about the numbers.

Talking about numbers, let us remember that numbers revolve around us always whether we like it or not.

Take the poem quoted for example. It sounds so simple but yet throws up a lot of philosophical pointers. I am not getting too deep into it since it is beyond the scope of this thread. It is enough if I say that the Universe revolves around numbers.Have a look at the paragraphs that follow the poems in my post.

‘1st Century, ‘8 anthologies’, ’10 Long Poems’, ‘3 Sangams’, ‘4440, 3700,1850 years’, 3 and 800 lines’, ‘2381 poems’… well can there be a world without numbers? Can there be a Life without numbers?

Eons, Years, Months, Weeks, Days, Hours, Minutes, Seconds..

We find the numbers in music as well. Though all forms of music have rhythm(and therefore numbers), Carnatic Music gives a lot of importance to numbers.In the Raga system, it is the 72 melakartas and the different permutations and combinations of swaras while in the Tala system, it is the beats/cycle.

There are 108 Talas in Carnatic music.Let us now look at the major Five-patterns(called as Pancha Nadai).
The 3-beat cycle is called as Tisram, the 4-beat is Chatusram, the 5-beat is Khandam, the 7-beat-Misram and the 9-beat-Sankeernam.It is indeed a very vast subject and let us understand these basics as of now (Foundation!).

In a carnatic music concert, during the percussion ensemble-called as Tani avarthanam- the percussion artistes generally play in different nadais.

Almost all film songs follow the 8-beat cycle called as Adi Talam.There are also songs that follow the Tisra gati in this cycle. We will come to that a little later.

However, not many composers have composed songs in Misram and Khandam.

The Maestro is an exception.
In this Blog, we have been seeing his usage of not just the ragas but also the talas.

He has also used cross-rhythms (two patterns running simultaneously-example ‘Endrendrum Aanandame’ and change in gatis-example ‘Innum Ennai Enna Siyya PogiRai’

There have also been a lot of intricate mathematical patterns involved in his compositions.

He often talks about the ‘KaalapramaaNam’ in music.People who have seen him work vouch for his perfect sense of timing especially during the background scores. He would watch a scene, take a piece of paper, write the notes, give it to the various artistes and start recording. The piece of music would exactly fit the scene in terms of the duration.
This is because ‘Kaalapramanam’ is inherent in him.

That is why he is ‘Laya Raja’.

Today, we are going to see a composition of his that reveals his penchant for Laya.

The song is ‘ILamanadinil’ from the film ‘ManjaL Nila’(1982).

The song is based on Mayamalavagowla, the 15th Melakarta.

All basic (foundation) classes in carnatic music are taught in this raga because of its symmetric structure.

Its structure is: sa ri1 ga3 ma1 pa dha1 ni3 Sa/Sa ni3 dha1 pa ma1 ga3 ri1 sa.

The swara ‘ri1’ is very close to ‘sa’, with the ‘ga’ ‘ma’ and ‘pa’ ‘dha’ being next to each other.The last swara ‘ni’ is very close to the upper ‘Sa’. Such a structure is very easy to understand for beginners.

I mentioned about the Adi-Tala and Tisra nadai.

This composition follows this pattern. But something does happen in the CharaNams and let us see that soon.

I was talking about 8(adi tala cycle) and 3(tisram).The LCM of this is 24.Now, 24 is a multiple of 2, 4, and 6 as well. Using this theory of mathematics, the maestro has divided two lines in the charanams as 2, 4, 4, 4, 4, 6.So Tisram sounds Chatusram in 4 phrases.But the magician does not stop here. He has made the percussion play in ‘Usi’.

Let us understand the concept of Talas a little more.

The place where the Tala begins is called as ‘Eduppu’. A composition follows any of the following three different patterns of Eduppu .

1.Samam-when the tala begins along with the song.
2.Atheeta Eduppu-If the song begins first and Tala cycle starts after this,it is Atheetham.
3.Anaagata Eduppu-If the Tala beats start before the song begins, it is Anaagatam.

Apart from these is the concept of ‘Usi’-that is the stress on the even syllables/beats.

ILaiyaraaja has used all these four concepts rather prolifically.

‘ILamandinil’ starts in samam.However, In CharaNams when he divides the beats, he has applied ‘Usi’ to make it sound more beautiful.

We shall see this again as we go along.

The composition starts with the strings playing ‘ sa pa Sa’ and the chorus following suit. No percussion but still Tisram is clearly perceptible.

The notes are now strung together like a beautiful garland by the flute.We see the gentle curves of the Raga as the violins, viola and the cello peregrinate.

The percussion starts now and it follows
‘Ta ka ta ka dhi mi’ with the stress on the first ‘Ta’ and the second one (ka) not played. It weaves a splendid veil making us more curious.

The Pallavi starts now with the refined articulation and the melodic expression of Yesudass.

The first interlude slowly unveils the beauty.The chorus say syllables-‘ta ri ki ta thaam’ ‘ta ri ki ta dheem’ ‘ta ri ki ta jam’ ‘ta ri ki ta nam’-6 each.

The female voice of Sasirekha hums the raga and the chorus continues in Tisram-‘ta ki ta ta ka dhi mi ta ka’-with ‘ta ki ta’ in slow speed and ‘ta ka dhi mi ta ka’ in fast speed that is the speed matching the first ‘ta ki ta’.

The flute now voyages through the rhythmic patterns while the violins move with a sense of relish.

The chorus sings 6(3x2) 8 times completing one cycle(called as one avarthanam) of adi talam.The male voice sings the words in the same pattern followed by the female voice.

Suddenly there is a change of pattern.

It is now split as ta ka/ ta ka dhi mi/ ta ka dhi mi/ ta ka dhi mi /ta ka dhi mi/ta ka ta ka dhi mi twice making it 24x2.Most importantly the percussion is played in Usi with the stress on the second syllable ‘ka’.

It is like a starburst with thundershowers!

In the second interlude the dainty guitar is sated with delicate swirls with the violins making wide and spectacular sweeps. The languid grace juxtaposed with remarkable arithmetic accuracy is exhilarating.

The pattern of the first charaNam continues in the second and the third charaNams as well.

The Third interlude has the skilful embellishments with the veena , santoor and the bass guitar taking us to the deeper levels of the raga’s beauty. The aesthetically affable chorus adds punch.

The composition is a balance between subtlety and exuberance.
An ingenious work.
An exquisite ornament made of raga and tala.

அவர் மனதினில் எழும் இசையினில் விழி மலர்கிறதே..


Friday, 27 November 2009

ILaiyaraaja's Music is Poetic..

There is poetry in everything.

If only we are able to understand and appreciate the poetry in what we see, what we feel and what we experience, our life will be more beautiful.

One need not be a poet to do this. In fact, one does not have to be even a writer.All it requires is an objective view with a sense of aesthetics.
This does not mean that if one takes a poetic view, the problem will be solved automatically. Or that one can take an escapist route, live in a Utopian world and let things pass. One will certainly have to deal with a problem, and find a solution.

At the same time, there are things in the world that are beyond our control. Events that happen just like that. Episodes that unfold before us without our being prepared for them. Happenings that make us strongly believe that Life is very unfair to us.

Now, think!

The things, events, episodes, happenings cannot change. But the way we look at them is in our hands and this can definitely change.

What happens if we look at the hidden poetry in an event?

The cause or the effect would remain. But we become more refined. More mature. More affable.

One finds such happenings in Literature.

In my previous post, I mentioned as to how two small girls sang a poem when they were confronted with a personal tragedy.It is not that this emotive outflow directly helped them tide over the crisis.But it did give them solace.

It is also a fact that the poem brought them a lot of laurels.(as per history, they were later married off to King Deiveegan in a place called Thirukovilur and lived happily ever after!).

Now have a look at this poem from KuRunthogai written by MiLaipperum Kandhanar :

சுடர் செல் வானம் சேப்பப் படர்கூர்ந்து
எல்லறு பொழுதின் முல்லை மலரும்
மாலை என்மனார் மயங்கியோரே
குடுமிக் கோழி நெடுநகர் இயம்பும்
பெரும்புலர் விடியலும் மாலை
பகலும் மாலை துணையிலோர்க்கே

‘Only the dim witted say it’s evening when the sun goes down
And the sky reddens when misery deepens
And the mullai begins to bloom in the dusk
But even when the tufted cock calls in the long city and the long night breaks into dawn
It is evening; even noon is evening to one who has no one’.

The girl waits for her lover to return.And she pours out saying ‘to me everything looks like evening in the absence of my lover’.

Look how poetically she describes her misery.

There is poetry in waiting. There is poetry in longing. There is poetry in misery.

There is of course poetry in music.

In this Blog, we have been seeing the hidden beauties in ILaiyaraaja’s music.
All of us know his natural ability to compose melodious tunes.
But what sets him apart is the way the he deals with human emotions in his compositions.

Though each raga has an emotion attached to it, it is not the ragas alone that matter here.It is the way, they are used and applied (especially in film music).
ILaiyaraaja is a Master in this art and this makes his compositions sound more poetic.

The composition we are going to see today is about a complex relationship. It is sung by a woman who is caught between two worlds-one that gives her pleasure and the one that gives her pain. A case of pain being a pleasure and pleasure being painful. She is driven by an overriding sense of guilt, but still she seems to revel in the situation.

The composition is ‘Ennullil Engo’ from ‘Rosappoo Ravikkaikari’(1979).

It is based on Dharmavathy, a raga known to evoke nostalgic feelings and a sense of yearning.

It is the 59th melakarta and its structure is
Sa ri2 ga2 ma2 pa dha2 ni3 Sa/Sa ni3 dha2 pa ma2 ga2 ri2 sa.

If one changes the variant of ‘ga’, it becomes Kalyani, a totally different raga in terms of the emotions it invokes.

That is the beauty of music..

I had mentioned about the way the Maestro’s uses the ragas.
Just to quote an example, the same Dharmavathy was used in ‘MeeNdum MeeNdum Vaa’(Vikram)- a very romantic song.

In ‘Ennullil Engo’, he avoids the use of ‘ri’ and ‘dha’ in many phrases making it sound like Madhuvanti(loosely the Hindustani counterpart of Dharmavathy).
He does apply one more technique to depict the character and we shall see this later.

Let us look at the composition.

The rich tone of Sarod surrounds us and the Violins surge forth with energy.The Santoor now smiles the flute exuding sensitivity.

This prelude prepares us for the feast waiting for us.

The pallavi in the crystal clear voice of Vani Jayaram is redolent with melody.
The first part is simple until the words ‘En KetgiRathu’.It then oscillates gently giving us a very different feeling.

The pause between the Pallavi and the first interlude is brilliantly conceived and executed.

The violins then play with a yearning tone. They become enticingly energetic when the Flute joins and takes glittering flights. It is height of ecstasy as we hear the violins, the swirling flute and the succulent tone of the Santoor.

The CharaNam is delightfully layered.

We see and hear the melodic tint in the first two lines.This is followed by a plethora of sangatis giving the nuances of the raga with wonderful shades of musicality.

The second interlude is a masterpiece.
The Flute gives an array of arresting patterns.As we begin to lose ourselves in the lightning flashes, we are led to a world of sheer magic.

The Shruti changes and the ‘ri’ is taken as a base to give a completely different ragam-Chakaravagam.We have discussed this concept of Gruha Bedam in this thread.
The Maestro has used it extensively in many compositions and I think he used it for the first time in this song.

I also feel he must have used it to depict the emotional upheaval of the character.

Sparks of ingenuity!

Dharmavathy is back with the puissant sound of the sitar followed by the dazzling santoor.

It is a composition captures the entire gamut of human emotions with unfettered musical acumen.

I yearn to hear more and more of your poetic music..

என்னுள்ளம் எப்போதும் ஏங்குவது உனது இசையினைக் கேட்டிடத்தான்..

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Saturday, 21 November 2009

ILaiyaraaja's Music- Subtle..and Graceful!

‘That month in that white moonlight,
We had our father and no one could take the hill.
This month in this white moonlight,
Kings with drums drumming victory have taken over the hill,
And we have no father’.

அற்றைத் திங்கள் அவ் வெண் நிலவில்,
எந்தையும் உடையேம்; எம் குன்றும் பிறர் கொளார்;
இற்றைத் திங்கள் இவ் வெண் நிலவில்,
வென்று எறி முரசின் வேந்தர் எம்
குன்றும் கொண்டார்; யாம் எந்தையும் இலமே!

(English Translation Courtesy-A.K.Ramanujan)

A very simple poem indeed! But there is something in this that gives us a very different feeling; a feeling that is difficult to describe..

Let us look at the background and see as to who wrote this.

This was sung by two small girls, Angavai and Sangavai who were the daughters of a King called Paari. They were just around 8 years old when they sang this.

Difficult to believe?

This poem is taken from ‘PuRanaanooru’, -a collection of 400 verses- part of the Ettuthogai of Tamizh Sangam literature(100 B.C.-A.D.250).

‘PuRanaanooru’ talks about kings, valour, war, death etc.,

Out of the 400 poems, 16 poems (105-120) revolve around the King Paari, a privilege not enjoyed by any other king.

Who was this Paari? What was so special about him?
A King who was magnanimous, giving, kind, charitable, benevolent, munificent and noble..

It is said that once when he was going around his kingdom in his chariot, he saw a jasmine creeper lying on the way without any support. So large hearted and compassionate was Paari that he offered his chariot to the creeper(for support) and walked all the way back to his palace!

His kingdom was the ‘PaRampu Hill’, very small compared to the other great kingdoms.

However, the Hill was as wide as the sky and the pools flashed like the stars. In his Hill, fruits were crammed with segments of sweet flesh and the rich tall hill would drip with honey. The Greenland knew no lack of rains and even the bushes would flower.

Hearing the beauty and the richness of the PaRampu Hill, the ‘Bigger Kings’ decide to acquire it. They scheme, plot and capture the Hill.
Paari, whose arms were strong, whose spears were sharp and whose chariots gleamed is killed by the cunning and crafty honchos.

Now, read that poem sung by the little girls.
Does it not have an indefinable tenderness and an irresistable appeal?
This is what great literature is all about.

Subtle and Graceful!

Great Music too has such an appeal. It takes us to a new plane; a territory that is beautiful and magnificent.

Many compositions of one of the greatest musicians in the Film world are so subtle that at times they even sound very simple. At the same time, if one delves deep into it, one understands how beautiful, graceful and intricate they are.

This musician’s journey in pursuit of sublime depth of music has given us compositions that touch a very deep chord in us. This is precisely the reason for many of his songs sounding so fresh and yet every time we listen to them, we discover new hidden meanings.

Today, we are going to see one more composition of his.

It is ‘Konji Karaiyalle’ from the Malayalam film ‘Poomukhappadiyil Ninneyum Kaaththu’(1986).

The composition is based on Sindhu Bhairavi.

This Raga is special because of many reasons.
Let us look at the formal structure.
Derived from the 10th Melakarata Natakapriya,
its Arohana is sa ri2 ga2 ma1 ga2 pa dha1 ni2 Sa
and its avarohana- ni2 dha1 pa ma1 ga2 ri1 sa ni2 sa.

However, this is only on paper and it is one of the ragas that is defined more by the prayogas.All the 12 swaras can be used in this raga.

The Raga originates from Hindustani music-where it is known by the name Bhairavi. ’Bhairavi’ is one of the eight forms of the Devi.The meaning of ’Sindhu’is ‘born from the sea or the river.

Look how the name itself is very interesting.

The raga has the capability to attract even the uninitiated or the untutored.
So well has the Carnatic system adopted this Ragam that a Carnatic recital is incomplete without the rendering of Sindhu Bhairavi Raga(either as a Slokam or as part of a Ragamalika).

A subtle and graceful Raga, Sindhu Bhairavi evokes a very different feeling difficult to express.
It is not a surprise that this is one of the most favourite ragas of the Maestro. I say favourite because he has composed more than 100 songs in this raga alone.

Now, you would have understood as to why I called this a very special Raga.

Let us now look at the composition.

It has a rather unusual beginning. A plaintive violin in the higher octave joined by the viola in the lower octave and a very different and distinct whistle. Musical piece that is stirring and inspiring.

It is enlivened by the voices of Yesudass and Janaki.The pause(of 2-beats) is supple as our hearts miss a beat or two.The Pallavi brims with energy and has an evocative appeal.

The yearning continues in the first interlude with the vivacious flute etching vignettes of a beautiful sketch.It is a chiaroscuro as the zestful strings and the whistle give a discursive picture of Sindhu Bhairavi.

We see the delicate sensitivities of expression in the CharaNam.The first two lines are pulsating and at the same time delicate.Mellifluence splashes in the next two lines as the duo Yesudass and Janaki sing together.The following line sparkles in the voice of Janaki.

It is divine sound now as we hear the chiming of the bell.The strings whoosh through with the viola moulding the nuances of the raga.We see the myriad hues and the attractive flounces as the notes in sets of three are played in varying patterns.

The second CharaNam is dynamic and delectable.

The composition shows the artistic integrity.

It is an outpouring of creativity.

It traverses unexpected vistas.

Simple.. yet Attractive..
Subtle.. yet Deep..
Graceful.. yet Meaningful..

‘Moist Eyes..Melting Hearts..’

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Friday, 13 November 2009

ILaiyaraaja's Music is Divine..

At times we tend to misunderstand or misinterpret certain words. The word ‘sensuality’ is a classic example.

In the Madras Music and Dance Season in Dec 2007, there was a symposium on a very interesting and intriguing topic-‘Sensuality in Dance and Music’. One of the persons ( a senior dancer!) who gave the introduction on the first day went to the extent of defining sensuality with the help of a Dictionary and said the word would also mean ‘debauchery’.

Thankfully, T M Krishna, the young and energetic musician known for his forthright views and comments said the word could be interpreted in so many ways. 'Sensuality' according to him is something that gives him immense pleasure.

Carnatic Music does give him great pleasure.

He went on to play the recordings of stalwarts like Madurai Mani Iyer, GNB, Semmangudi and said these voices are sensual according to him though some ‘purists’ may not agree.

The problem is such topics remain as taboos and even making a mention is considered to be sacrilegious.

Of course there is a thin line dividing between ‘sensuality’ and ‘vulgarity’. In the case of some artistes this line gets blurred and one feels the vulgarity -or even the term defined so well by that dancer who gave the introductory speech- when they perform.

It is the way the artiste expresses the art form.

The fact of the matter is almost all the Varnams, Padams, Javalis in Bharathanatyam are erotic but it is used as a vehicle to get close to the almighty and attain divinity.

We have this in Bhakthi Literature as well. Naalaayira Divya Prabandham, Geeta Govindam are some examples.

Therefore there is nothing wrong if we say classical music is sensuous (provided of course that we fully understand the meaning and say this!).

ILaiyaraaja’s music appeals to our senses and touches the soul. It is Sensual and Divine!

By using very different ragas, he has given new meanings and new dimensions.

One such Raga is Vakulabharanam.

Vakulabharanam is a very interesting Raga.It is the 14th Melakartha and is very close to Mayamalawagowla and Todi.

The variant of ‘ni’ is different in Mayamalawagowla and that of ‘ga’ is different in Todi.

But this is only on paper.

Vakulabharanam has a unique flavour that is unmatched. In fact it would surprise many if I say that this Raga has lot of Arabic flavour.

Yes, this Raga is sensuous in deed.

Raja brought out this flavour wonderfully in ‘Kinnaththil Then Vadiththu..’(ILamai Oonjalaadugirathu).

But what is more amazing is the way he used this Raga in a philosophical song, ‘Aaarum Athu Aaazhamillai’(Muthal Vasantham) bringing out the somber mood of this Raga.

That is why he is called Raga Devan!

Let us see the structure of the Ragam:

Sa ri1 ga3 ma1 pa dha1 ni2 Sa/Sa ni2 dha1 pa ma1 ga3 ri1 sa.

The composition?

It is ‘Eee Daha’ from the Kannada film 'Shikari'.

The song opens with Janaki singing a brief subtle aalap mellifluously and the Raga unfolds in absolute astuteness. The strings then play with dash and spirit.

The Pallavi exudes the characteristic charm of the Raga with a built- in interplay of laya.

The first interlude gives the energetic sound patterns imbued with an intensity that makes us dance. The riveting and reposeful chorus is soporific. Suddenly the trumpets leap out at us with vibrancy.

Mark of a Genius!

The Charanam has intricately braided passages as the voice glissades.The Bass Guitar swirls ,twirls and prances.


The second interlude sparkles with the myriad facets of the Raga.The Guitar gives the variegated patterns.

It glides sinuously ..

It whirs past us..

It is plangent ..

It is meditative ..

We see the Musical Intelligence, Integrity and Intent.

It is a state of enlightened mystification.

Sensuous …..Divine….

இசையென்னும் கிண்ணத்தில் இனிமையென்னும் தேனை அள்ளித்தருபவர் அல்லவா அவர்?

Does he not give us cups of honey in the form of Music?

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Monday, 26 October 2009

ILaiyaraaja-The Inimitable Musician

9994 is the Post Box No. of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in all the major cities in Australia.

Can someone guess the significance of the number 9994?

If one adds a decimal point after 99, it could make the guessing game somewhat easier..


Does it have something to do with averages?

Maybe a batting average…

But can someone have a career batting average of 99.94?

I am sure Cricket aficionados would have got the answer by now.

Yes, it is the career batting average of Sir Donald George Bradman , the best ever batsman cricketing world has ever produced.

He played 52 tests scoring 29 hundreds..

Out of these, 6 centuries were scored in just single sessions.
He also scored a triple century on a single day in a Test match.

Some of his records have been broken but it will be an insult to the great Don himself if his greatness is measured just by the Records and Statistics.What is of more significance is his batting style, his ability to torment any bowling, his precise footwork, his balance and his timing.

In essence, Bradman is the epitome of Batting and Cricket itself.

Though many batsmen have come and have even succeeded in breaking some of his records, no batsman can even come closer to the Don stands tall among all of them and it is a fact that his name will exist as long as the game of cricket exists!

He is inimitable!

Australian Broadcasting Corporation has honoured itself by keeping his 'Average Figure' as its Address.

In a similar vein I feel that the Sangeet Natak Academy in India or any other Organisation of Music in India must keep its post box no. as 261943 or at least 1976.

I am sure all die-heard fans know the significance of these numbers in this community.The first number is the date of birth of one of the greatest geniuses the music world has seen and the second one is the year he entered the world of Film Music.

I find a lot of similarities between ILaiyaraaja and Bradman.

The records set by him-in terms of time taken to compose and many ‘firsts’-are known to all of us and need no elaboration.These records can never be broken by anybody else.

But again, it will be an insult if he is known just by the records.

His style of composing, his approach, his sense of timing(called as ‘kaalapramaNaa’ in Carnatic Music),his unique blending of many forms of Music make him a composer who cannot be compared with anybody.

During his days, Bradman was criticized by some ‘self-acclaimed denizens’of cricket whose only job was to find fault but the Don stayed clear of all these.

Similarly, Maestro is also being criticized by people who do not even know what Music is.

But little do they know that the Maestro is unassailable and that nothing will affect him.

I am reminded of a ThirukkuraL:

அகழ்வாரைத் தாங்கும் நிலம்போலத் தம்மை
இகழ்வார்ப் பொறுத்தல் தலை.

He is like the Mother Earth who bears with people who dig it.

He is also inimitable because he is a class apart!

Today, we are going to see a composition of his where he has woven his magic.

It is ‘Kattikkidalam’ from Poovarasan.

Though the composition is based on Sindhu Bhiravi, it has traces of Karaharapriya and Nata Bhairavi as well..

But more than the Raga, what is of particular interest is the Rhythmic Pattern..

As I have always been saying, he is not just Raga Raja but ‘Laya Raja’ as well.

The first thing that strikes us in ‘Kattikkidalam’ is the percussion underpinnings.
It is set to the 8 beat Adi talam.

The 8 beat is multiplied by 2 and this is divided as 3 2 3 and 3 2 3-Ta Ki Ta Ta Ka Ta Ki Ta in the first half and Ta Ki Ta Ta - Ta - -.

A Film Song with the pattern of - 3 2 3 -is not unusual.

But in the first half, the Tabla is played with the ‘Gumki’ sound giving a very different feel to the entire song.

And the beauty in the second half is the second ‘Ta a’ and the third-‘Ta a a’-where the ‘a’ s are left blank.

Silence means many things.

For him, even silence is Music!

This pattern is palyed twice for one cycle of Adi Tala.

It is a romantic song and who else can bring sensuality in just one cycle of Tala?

The composition opens with a very peculiar background of a synthesizer sounding just the ‘sa’.

The Violin orchestra appears slowly but with panache. Then it is that wonderful Tabla beats.

The Pallavi thrums with life with the voices of Chitra and SPB with the long flute adding to the romantic mood.

The interlude has the electronic instruments and the traditional instruments playing with flourish and dash creating the right ambience.

The Charanam is sensuous and has an insidious magic. The vocals wallow with glee and zest. One does get to hear the alien Swaras here and there but they are used very subtly.

The second interlude is sequined with gems and jewellery celebrating Love and Romance.

Any composer would have easily got carried away by the situation and would have given a blitzkrieg of sorts but here this composer whose Music is dignity personified gives a very soft effect with the strings and the violins and reels us in.

As mentioned earlier, the sheer beats of the Tabla give the requisite effect.

Delicate, Graceful and with Poise!

அவர் பூவரசந்தானே..இசை என்னும் பூவிற்கு அரசன்தானே!

Is he not the King of that Flower called as Music!

Sunday, 27 September 2009

ILaiyaraaja-Musician nonpareil

Says the mother of the love-struck girl to the Lord,

‘’If she says anything at all she says nothing but your Name.
Remembering your sacred body she melts.
Her Love is great and she can do nothing.
With eyes long and shaped like fish, she has forgotten sleep.
My fool, my little fool, she is so young, yet she knows you.
In the presence of scandalmongers what do you mean to do
O Lord of Itavitanthai,
With my Girl, her waist thin as a creeper..’’

ஓதிலும் உன் பேர் அன்றி,மற்று ஓதாள்;
உருகும்,நின் திரு உரு நினைந்து;
காதன்மை பெரிது,கையறவு உடையள்;
கயல் நெடுங்கண் துயில் மறந்தாள்
பேதையேன் பேதை பிள்ளைமை பெரிது;
தெள்ளியல்;வள்ளி நுண் மருங்குல்,
ஏதலர் முன்னா என் நினைந்திருந்தாய்?
இடவெந்தை எந்தை பிரானே!

This is the verse written by Thirumangai Azhwar and is part of the Treatise ‘Naalaayira Divya Prabhandam’.

Thirumangai Azhwar , who lived in the 8th century wrote 1253 verses-out of the 4000 written by the 12 Azhwars.

His verses are packed with emotions and have a very unique flavour.

The aforementioned verse sounds like a love poem but it is the divine love for the Lord.

Devotion at its best!

At the same time, atheists and agnostics can also enjoy this poem for its sheer beauty and the mastery of language..

I am reminded of ILaiyaraaja whenever I read such beautiful poems.

His compositions are beautiful and one can see his mastery of the idioms of Music.

Like a dedicated priest, he adorns his compositions with garments, jewellery, and flowers.

His decorations look so fresh that every time we look at them, a new feature strikes us. There are so many intricate patterns that at times one spends hours together looking at the beauty and still do not get tired..

He is a Musician nonpareil!

Today, let us see two of his wonderful compositions.

One is ‘Yem Debba Teesavura’ from the Telugu Film Aswamedam and the other is ‘Isayil Thodanguthamma’ from Hey Ram.

‘Yem Debba’ is based on the 59th Melakartha Dharmavathy.
The Raga itself is packed with several emotions making us go again and again to it..

Though it is very close to some popular Ragas like Simhendra Madhyamam and Gowrimanohari, it has its unique identity.

Surprisingly enough, it is just the variant of the swara ‘ga’ that separates this Raga from Kalyani but look how different they sound!

That is the beauty of Music.

‘Isaiyil Thodanguthamma’ is based on Hamsanadam.But it has flavours of Saranga Tharangini, Shudh Sarang and to a certain extent Yaman Kalyan as well.

Hamsanadam is again a very interesting Raga and as per the older Raga texts this Raga is derived from the 60th Melakartha Neethimathi having six Swaras in the ascent and descent.But over a period of time it became a pentatonic Raga with just 5 Swaras..

‘Isaiyil Thodanguthamma’ is yet another proof of Raja’s iguana like grip on Laya(rhythm).

It is set to the 7 beat Mishram.

In the prelude and the interludes, the pattern is played in a fast pace(called as ‘Mel Kaalam’) and here the Master divides the 14(7x2) as ThaKaDhiMi ThaKa ThaKaDhiMi ThaKaDhiMi that is 4 2 4 4..

In the vocal part, it is played as 3 4- ThaKiTa ThaKaDhiMi.

Various combinations of percussion instruments are also used.

The prelude has only the percussions- playing the same pattern 12 times- followed by the chorus.

This special resonance itself creates a curiosity.

We now hear the wonderful voice of Ajoy Chakraborthy.A word or two about this Musician. He is a very well known Hindustani Vocalist belonging to what is called as the Patiala Gharana. He has also learnt Carnatic Music from Dr.Balamuralikrishna.

The Pallavi is vibrant with his mellifluous and powerful voice and has an unmatched quality.

If the harmony of chorus voices followed by the languorous charm of the Shehnai is delectable, the humming of Ajoy is tender and gripping. It just shows how the Maestro can create magic by just using the voices appropriately.

The Charanam is another beauty. It has strands of empathy and the humming is perky.

The second interlude has the percussion following a curvilinear pattern.The Dilruba scythes us with a piercing intensity. One feels the traces of Raag Shudh Sarang here.

The second Charanam has the lissome touches and when the Swaras are rendered in a kind of Hindustani style, it transports us to a totally different world.

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The second composition ‘Yem Debba’ is yet another marvel.

It has an inherent beauty and charm but what makes it unique is the technique used by the magician in the Charanam.We shall go to that in a moment but before that let us take a look at the prelude, Pallavi and the interlude.

The Synthesiser and the Rhythm move in a canter like a horse.

The Pallavi is lush and has shades of Madhuvanti, a Hindustani Raga derived from Dharmavathi.

The interlude irradiates wisps of soothing light with the haunting Flute and the Violins juxtaposed with electronic instruments.

The first two lines in the Charanam move smoothly with precision when the marvel strikes.

The next lines ‘Elaiyaa intha thondara’..are sung in the next Shruthi.

The technique of Gruha bedam is used so effectively and the Raga now becomes Chakravagam,the 16th Melakartha..

The Swara ‘ri ‘ of Dharmavathi becomes the base Swara ‘sa’ here giving us another Raga.

What can one say about this genius?

No doubt it is a clear grasp of techniques of music but what sets him apart is the way he executes these..

It gets back to Dharmavathi in the interlude.

The second interlude is garnished with the sounds of traditional and electronic instruments. It is like a riot of mild colours blending into one another giving us a whole spectrum of emotions.

It encapsulates the tremendous verve of the beautiful Raga.

The two compositions stand testimony to the fact that the Musical Expression of the Maestro transcends the formal framework at the same time laying emphasis on the innate artistic process.

It is the convergence of his intellectual and artistic senses that makes him unique.

Our Life begins with his Music!

அவரது இசையில் தொடங்குவது நமது வாழ்வு!

Thursday, 17 September 2009

ILaiyaraaja-The Awe-inspiring Musician!

‘Her hair, rough-washed in water, on her face
So spread her swollen lower lip is hurt.
She sighs when thinking of us and our sport
When on an instant now those nights revert
To hot tears falling on her sleeping place’.

'Without her ornaments, too heavy grown,
She lies the midway through her bed of pain.
Enfeebled, miserable, consumed by tears:
Assuredly to view her is to drop your rain,
An act to which the tender soul is prone'.

Poets and artistes have a unique way of looking at things in the world.
When we look at some of the major works of great poets and artistes, we are awestruck. We cannot control our amazement and appreciation at their imagination and aesthetic sense.

Look at the aforementioned verses. Can you guess who is addressing whom?The second verse if read carefully gives the hint. Yes..it is the cloud that is being addressed. And who is talking to the cloud?

A Yaksha (simply put an attendant in the court of Kubera, the Hindu God of wealth) is obsessed with his wife.So smitten and besotted that he even neglects his duties thus earning the wrath of his Master who curses him and banishes him to the Earth for one year.

Even during the exile, the Yaksha thinks about his Lady Love and pines for her. One day, he spots a cloud kissing the mountain and he requests the cloud to carry his message to his beloved.What we then get to see is a set of 100 odd verses that take us out of this world(literally).

This set of poems forms what is called as ‘Megadootam’(the cloud messenger).
Megadootam was written by Kalidasa.

Kalidasa is regarded one of the best poets in that beautiful language called Sanskrit. There are a lot of stories about Kalidasa and historians still find it difficult to record his period with authenticity.He lived during the 3rd, 4th or the 5th century(as per an archeological study conducted during the mid ‘80s, Kalidasa lived between 370 AD and 450 AD).

It is said that he was blessed by Goddess KaLi who rewarded him with an extraordinary wit and knowledge and that is why the name Kalidasa.At the other extreme, we also have many ‘scholars’ who have taken the liberty of dissecting his personal life and have made efforts to ‘prove’ that he was after all an ordinary person.

Ambiguous-this is what one can conclude if one tends to study Kalidasa’s life history.

However, why do we need to dig deeper into the life of a genius whose works speak for themselves. Reading his works (even translated works) give us so much of pleasure and everlasting bliss.

Apart from Megadootam, the other works of Kalidasa include Raghuvamsam-Dynasty of Raghu kings, Kumara sambhavam-the Birth of Muruga or Karthikeya, Ritu Samharam-experience of two lovers in the six seasons, Malavikaagnimitram-story of Malavika and King Agnimitra, Abhijnanasakuntalam-story of Dushyant and Sakuntala and Vikramorvasiyam-King Pururavas and the celestial dancer Urvasi.

Go through the verses again(translation courtesy:John Holcombe).Can you not empathise with the lover?

The beauty of Megadootam lies not just in the concept.The way the Yaksha describes the route to the clouds(there are two parts-poorva mega or the previous cloud and the uttara mega, the subsequent or the next cloud) is so vivid and beautiful that one literally sees and feels each and every place traversed by the cloud(s).The images are fresh and at the same time convey the emotions of the despondent Yaksha simply captivating our hearts.

Is this not what poetry is meant for?

Like such beautiful immortal poetry, Music also gives us feelings and emotions especially if it is composed by geniuses. Geniuses whom we get to see once in a while and who are awe-inspiring.

We are very lucky to have a living legend in film music who portrays human emotions so beautifully that we keep wondering how it is humanly possible.

Like Kalidasa’s poetry, ILaiyaraaja’s music gives us vivid imagery made possible with intricate detailing and exquisite craftsmanship.

Like Kalidasa, ILaiyaraaja also has divine powers (and this is purely a personal opinion) without which it would be impossible to compose such music.

Most importantly, a lot of attempts are being made to dissect the personality and personal life of ILaiyaraaja by people who consider themselves as scholars and bask in the publicity generated by such futile efforts.

For Kalidasa, it was the choice of words, the combination of words and the beautiful description.

For ILaiyaraaja, it is the choice of the Ragas, the combination of swaras and the beautiful arrangement/orchestration/tune.

Today, we are going to see yet another composition of Raaja’s which I consider a gem.
The song is ‘Maalai Nera Kaatre’ from ‘Agal ViLakku’(1980).
It is based on the Hindustani Raag Bilaskhani Todi.

Bilaskhani Todi is a very interesting Raag.It was invented by Bilas Khan, the son of Miya Tansen-who is considered to be one of the greatest composer/musician in Hindustani music.It is said that Bilas Khan composed and sang this Raag immediately after his father died and that Tansen’s hand moved in appreciation.

Bilaskhani Todi is derived from the Bhairavi Thaat(Thaat is the equivalent melakartha of Carnatic) though it has the Todi tag-Todi being another Thaat and is the counterpart of Subhapantuvarali.However, the Todi tag is not there without any reason.

The Raagang(loosely translated as the structure) follows Todi.I shall leave it at that since it is too technical to define and explain this concept and is beyond the scope of this blog.

Bilaskhani Todi is considered to be among the greatest of Raags in Hindustani music and to compose or sing(leave alone master) is not that easy.

The aro/avaroh is:

Sa ri1 ga2 pa dha1 Sa/ri1 ni2 dha1 pa dha1 ni2 dha1 ma1 ga2 ri1 ga2 ri1 sa.

This special raag cannot be confined to the Aroh/Avaroh alone since there are a lot of special prayogas in this Raag.

Let us now look at the composition.

The opening itself is very different and is rich with musical intimacy. It is replete with a stirring articulation that is heart-wrenching. The violins play with languorous grace.It is an interplay of emotions as the guitar suddenly appears and play with a benevolent tenor.

The Pallavi has an aura of sanctity. The crystalline voice of Janaki educes the image of the raga succinctly.The first line exudes brilliant radiance while the second line is solicitously appealing.The third line is impeccably deep and brings out the pangs of separation and dejection wonderfully.

In the first interlude, the raga moves with unimpeded flow with the violins giving a soulful delineation.We see the flashes of musical sublimity as a special modern instrument gives a drizzle of delicate touches. We feel the tenderness of melody as the Dilruba continues.The ending in the higher octave is a masterstroke!

The CharaNam encompasses the dimensions of the raga.The first two lines in the CharaNam lances and pierces our hearts. The third line has pervasive mellowness and the fourth line with subtle pauses in between is poignant.

The long flute pieces interspersed between the lines give feathery touches with their gentle glides.

The second Interlude is maneuvered with expert precision.

The Guitar played with finesse and the Flute with poise combine together to produce an extraordinary piece of music.
It has the deft touches and the delicate shades.
It is then the turn of the Dilruba that plays with the weight of volume and vibrancy giving us subtle and varied emotions.

The entire composition is a study in subtlety.
We internalize it, try to discover it, dwell in it, get soaked and finally get drenched!

It is profound.
It is rich and mellow.
It is redolent with mystique and has a meditative impact.

It is the musical silence of the evening breeze!

மாலைநேர காற்றின் மௌனமும் இசைதான்!

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

ILaiyaraaja-The Vibrant Musician!

Our life is full of vibrations.

These vibrations are very subtle and most of the times, they are sensed only by the subconscious mind.

But sometimes the vibrations are so powerful that we sail to a new world-a world that is blissful, a world that is peaceful, a world that is tranquil.

It is a different feeling altogether.

We feel a sudden burst of energy entering us, ripping through us, and permeating each and every cell in the body.

This could happen to us while seeing some people.. while reading a book.. while meditating.. while listening to music..

What is it that that gives us such powerful vibrations?
The Subject? Or our reaction?

Now, take this Thyagaraja Krithi. ‘Sujana Jeevana Rama Suguna Bhushana.‘ Bhujaga Bhushanarchita ‘

Don’t we feel the vibrancy of each word even if one does not understand the meaning?

Let us look at the meaning.

Addressing Rama, Thyagaraja says,

‘’O Immaculate Lord! You are the indispensable support of men (“budhajana”) who walk the path of righteousness (“sujana jeevana”)’’

“All virtues adorn you (“arcchita”) like priceless ornaments (“ bhujaga bhushanaa”)”.

We feel the vibrations when the words are properly uttered and rendered well.

It is because of the way the entire song has been conceived and composed.

Now let us look at this verse:

வெள்ளைநுண் மணற்கொண்டு தெருவணிந்து
வெள்வரைப்பதன் முன்னம்துறை படிந்து
முள்லுமில்லாச் சுள்ளி யெரிமடுத்து
முயன்று உன்னை நோற்கின்றேன் காமதேவா!
கள்ளவிழ் பூங்கணை தொடுத்துக் கொண்டு
கடல் வண்ணனென்பதோர் பேரெழுதி
புள்ளினை வாய் பிளந்தான் என்பது
ஓர் இலக்கினில் புக என்னை எய்கிற்றியே.

It means,

“Oh!Kamadeva!ardently do I penance,and beseech you,
Bathing in water courses, in early dawn,
Decorate beautifully, the streets with fine sand-white,
And also offer twigs, sans thorns, in the kindling fire,
Oh!Cupid! Throw me unto Him,
By your flowery arrows with odorous pollen
And nectarine driblets, inscribing Lord’s name
Who in hue like bluish sea
Tore asunder the beak of ‘Baka’ the demon!”.

Thus sang AndaL in her Naachiyaar Thiromozhi.

Consisting of 143 verses, Naachiyaar Thirumozhi -which can also be translated in English as ‘the beautiful sacred utterances of the Lady’ reveals Bridal mysticism in exquisite lyrics.

In the aforementioned verse,, she prays to Manmadha, the God of Love to make Krishna her husband.

Though the entire verse sounds beautiful and vibrant, just look at the two phrases:
Kallavizh poongaNai thoduththu and Pullinai vaai piLanthaan .

Rhyming words Kallavizh and Pullinai sound musical but there is more to it than meets the eye (or is it ears?).

Though Krishna is known by hundreds of names, ANdaaL refers Krishna as the one who killed the Demon who was in the form of a bird.

We all know that the weapon of Manmadha is the flowery arrow. Arrow symbolizes aggression and it is bedecked with flowers that symbolize tenderness.

In a similar vein, Crane is a soft creature but the demon took the form of this bird only to be killed by Krishna.

AandaaL conveys that we mortals have both the qualities in us –good and bad-and once we surrender ourselves to the Lord, we retain only the good.

Thaygarajar and AandaL..

Their works are powerful and give us vibrations because each and every word they use are thought-provoking, meaningful and special..

As a matter of fact, these are people with extra ordinary talent and such things happen to them spontaneously and naturally.

It is not that one has to go back centuries to find such powerful and vibrant works.

One of the greatest film music composers born in Tamizh Nadu is also capable of such magic.

He gave a new identity to Film music in general and Tamizh film music in particular. His music resonates because of the ragas he chooses and the tune he composes. It reverberates because of the talas and the rhythmic patterns he sets. It vibrates because of the way the orchestration is conceived and executed.

On this special day we are going to see a beautiful composition of his.

The song is ‘Maargazhi Maadam mun Pani VeLaiyile’ from the film Panchami.
It is based on Khamas.

Khamas is derived from the 28th Melakarta Harikamboji and its structure is
Sa ma1 ga3 ma1 pa dha2 ni2 Sa/Sa ni2 dha2 pa ma1 ga3 ri2 sa.
There is also a school that uses the bhashanga swara Ni3-the Kaakali nishadam.

Though on paper, Khamas is very close to its parent raga(it misses only the ‘ri’ in the arohanam), the ragam has it unique flavour and beauty.It gives peace and tranquility and at the same time gives energy to be more active.
Khamas has a deceptive simplicity.It sounds so simple but yet it has a lot of intricacies.

There are a lot special prayogas in this raga,'Ganidhanipadhani' 'sagamapadhani', 'dhapamagari' being some of them.
The raga is also widely used in Tamizhisai and is called as Panchchamaram PaN.

Let us now look at the composition.

It starts with a meticulously uplifting musical rhythm. We feel the vibrations. It is intensely vigorous but at the same time stirs our finer instincts. We breathe khamas even before a single swara is played or sung.

There is a pleasant surprise here as the Sitar plays. Sitar is generally considered to be a Hindustani instrument.But here it plays in Carnatic style reflecting the quintessence of the raga.

The violin now enters gracefully with all the ingredients of classicism. The euphonious Jalatarangam moves very subtly with the violin.The Sitar now welcomes the violin and the violin reciprocates.

..And the western instrument wallows in sagaciously.

It is dawn and the month is margazhi.We feel the salubrious and serene atmosphere as the sweet voice of Janaki renders the pallavi. Khamas poetically adorns the charming face of Margazhi.

In the first interlude, the Sitar gives gentle flowery strokes with the vivifying Mridangam responding energetically. The Sitar now continues its regal mien.

The filigree-rich phrases of Jalataranagam and the flute are very interesting with the former spreading enchantment and the latter bringing out the intrinsic beauty. The violin saunters and breathes life showing us the shimmering hues.

At the end of the first interlude, we see a sudden flash of resplendent light.

The CharaNam is well-chiseled.

The first line ‘Malaiyin mugattil oliththa..’ followed by the sangati is couched in a language of virtuosity. We also notice the subtle change in the nadai-that is the gait- in the mridangam here. Fecund imagination!

The second line ‘Malarnatha Thaamarai’ is rich in aesthetic passion.

The voice of T.V.Goplakrishnan joins now taking us to the crux of the raga.

The lines that follow are finely braided with glistening strands.

The raga’s exalted quality comes to the fore in the swara-singing session in the second interlude. The deftly woven swaras show the variegated facets of the raga. It is an enriching musical experience as the fine and delicate cadences are rendered with uncanny precision.

The Raga and the Tala merge into one another subtly leaving us enraptured.

The exotic flute then captures arresting images.

The composition is a glowing edifice..

We see and feel the spontaneity of musical sentiments..

It is still, is rich with musical content and runs deep..

It is a well spring of tranquility..

It is vibrant..

As fresh as the ozone-rich early dawn of Margazhi..

ps:ILaiyaraaja-The Vibrant Musician and the Tamizh version below were written and read exclusively for an invited audience on the 30th of Aug 2009 in Chennai.

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Tuesday, 1 September 2009

இளையராஜா‍ - நிலையான அதிர்வுகளைத் தரும் இசைக் கலைஞன்!

அதிர்வுகள் நிரம்பியதே மனித வாழ்க்கை.

யோசித்துப் பார்த்தால்,மனித வாழ்க்கையே ஒருவிதமான அதிர்வுதான்.

இந்த அதிர்வுகளை பெரும்பாலும் நமது ஆழ் மனதே உணர்ந்து கொள்ளுகிறது.எனினும்,சில வேளைகளில் மிகவும் சக்தி மிக்க அதிர்வுகள் நம்மை அமைதியான,பேரானந்தமயமான ஒரு உலகிற்கு அழைத்துச்செல்லுவதை உணர்கிறோம்.

அப்பொழுது ஒரு சீறிய சக்தி பாய்ந்து,நம்முள் புகுந்து ஒவ்வொரு அணுவிலும் புகுந்து நம்மை ஆட்கொள்ளும்.

இம்மாதிரி உணர்வு சில மனிதர்களைப் பார்க்கும்பொழுது ஏற்படலாம்.சில புத்தகங்களைப் படிக்கும்பொழுது ஏற்படலாம்.தியானம் செய்யும்பொழுது உண்டாகலாம்.இசை கேட்கும்பொழுது எழும்பலாம்.

இவ்வ‌ள‌வு ச‌க்திவாய்ந்த‌ அதிர்வுக‌ளை ந‌ம‌க்குக் கொடுப்ப‌து எது?
அந்த‌ப் பொருளா?அல்ல‌து ந‌ம‌து செய‌லா?

இந்த‌ தியாக‌ராஜ கீர்த்த‌னையைப் பார்ப்போம்:
‘சுஜ‌ன‌ ஜீவ‌னா..ராமா சுகுண பூஷ‌னா..புஜக பூஷ‌ணார்ச்சித‌ புத‌ஜ‌ன‌வ‌ன‌த்..’

பொருள் புரியாம‌ல் இருந்தால் கூட‌ ஒவ்வொரு வார்த்தையும் அதிர்வுட‌ன் இருப்ப‌தை உண‌ர்கிறோம்.

இந்த வரிகளின் பொருள்தான் என்ன?

'ந‌ல்வ‌ழிப்பாதையில் செல்லும் ம‌க்க‌ளின் ஆதார‌ம் நீயே..ந‌ற்குண‌ங்க‌ளால் என்னும் விலைமதிப்பில்லாத ஆபரணங்களால் அலங்க‌ரிக்க‌ப்ப‌ட்டவ‌னே ராமா!'

இதன் ஒவ்வொரு சொல்லும் சரியானபடி உச்சரிக்கப்பட்டாலோ, பாடப்பட்டாலோ நாம் அதிர்வுகளை உணர்கிறோம்.

பாடல் இயற்றப்பட்ட முறையே இதன் காரணம்.

இப்பொழுது இந்தக் கவிதையை சற்று கவனிப்போம்:

வெள்ளைநுண் மணற்கொண்டு தெருவணிந்து
வெள்வரைப்பதன் முன்னம்துறை படிந்து
முள்லுமில்லாச் சுள்ளி யெரிமடுத்து
முயன்று உன்னை நோற்கின்றேன் காமதேவா!
கள்ளவிழ் பூங்கணை தொடுத்துக் கொண்டு
கடல் வண்ணனென்பதோர் பேரெழுதி
புள்ளினை வாய் பிளந்தான் என்பது
ஓர் இலக்கினில் புக என்னை எய்கிற்றியே.

இது நாச்சியார் திருமொழியிலிருந்து எடுக்கப்பட்டது.

மொத்தம் 143 செய்யுள்களைக் கொண்ட நாச்சியார் திருமொழி,கடவுளின் மணப்பெண்ணாகத் தன்னை உருவகப்படுத்திப் பாடல்களைப் புனைந்த ஆண்டாளால் இயற்றப்பட்டது.
மேற்கூறிய பாடலில், அவர் கண்ணனே தனது கணவானாக வரவேண்டும் என்று காதலுக்குத் தேவனாகிய மன்மதனிடம் வேண்டுகின்றார்.

இந்த முழுப்பாடலுமே சக்தி மிகுந்ததாக இருந்தாலும்,இதில் வரும் இரண்டு வார்த்தைப் ப்ரயோகங்கள் மிகவும் விசேஷமானவை;அதிர்வு மிக்கவை.

'கள்ளவிழ் பூங்கணைத் தொடுத்து', 'புள்ளினை வாய் பிளந்தானை' எனும் சொற்களே அவை.

கள், புள் மோனைச் சொற்கள் என்ற மேலோட்டமான ஒரு காரணத்தைத் தவிர இன்னொரு காரணமும் உண்டு.

கண்ணனுக்குப் பல பெயர்கள் இருந்தாலும்,பறவையின் வடிவில் வந்த அசுரனைக் கொன்றவன் என்று எதற்காக இங்கே குறிப்பிட வேண்டும்?

கொக்கு என்ப‌து ஒரு சாதுவான ப‌றவை.அசுர‌ன் கொக்கைப் போல‌ வ‌ந்தான்.
அதாவ‌து, கொடிய‌ குண‌முள்ள‌ அசுர‌ன் சாந்த‌ குண‌முள்ள‌ ப‌ற‌வையினைப் போல‌ உருவ‌ம் கொண்டான்.

அதே போல‌, ம‌ன்ம‌த‌னின் ஆயுத‌ம் அம்பு.ம‌ல‌ர் அம்பு.கொடிய‌ வேக‌த்தையுடைய‌ அம்பு மென்மையான‌ ம‌ல‌ரோடு சேர்ந்திருக்கிற‌து.

ந‌ம‌து ம‌னித ம‌ன்த்திலும் ந‌ல்ல‌வையும், தீய‌வையும் க‌லந்து இருக்கின்ற‌ன‌.இறைவ‌னிட‌ம் அடி பணிந்து ந‌ம்மை நாமே அர்ப்ப‌ணித்தால்,ந‌ல்ல‌வை ம‌ட்டுமே ந‌ம்மிட‌ம் த‌ங்கும்.தீய‌வை தீயினில் தூசாகும் என்ப‌தே இத‌ன் பொருள்.

தியாக‌ராஜ‌ர், ஆண்டாள்.

இவர்கள் இயற்றியவை, எழுதியவை,ந‌மக்கு அதிர்வுகளைத் தருவதன் காரணம் நம்மைப் பலவாறாக சிந்திக்க வைக்கும் பொருள் நிறைந்த சிறப்புச் சொற்கள்.
இந்த சக்தி எந்தவிதத் தூண்டுதலுமின்றி இயற்கையாகவே இவர்களுக்கு இருந்தது இன்னுமொரு சிறப்பு.

பல நூற்றாண்டுகளுக்கு முன்பாக வாழ்ந்தவர்களிடம்தான் இதுபோன்ற சக்தி இருந்தது என்பதில்லை.

இன்றும் நம்மிடையே வாழும் சிலருக்கு அந்த சக்தி இருக்கிறது.

தமிழ் நாட்டில் பிறந்து, இந்தியாவின் தலைசிறந்த திரைஇசையமைப்பாளர்களுள் ஒருவராக இருக்கும் இந்த மனிதரிடமும் மாயாஜால‌ சக்தி உண்டு.

திரைஇசைப்பாடல்களுக்கு ஒரு புதுவித அடையாளத்தை இவர் காட்டினார்.

இவரது இசை தேனாக வந்து நமது செவிகளில் பாயும்‍, இவர் தேர்ந்தெடுக்கும் ராகங்களாலும், அதனால் அமைக்கும் மெட்டுக்களாலும்.

இவர் இசை எங்கும் எதிரொலிக்கும், இவரின் தாள சந்தத்தால்.

இவர் இசை எங்கும் அதிரும், ஒவ்வொரு வாத்தியக்கருவியின் இனிமையை அறிந்து அதற்கேற்றபடி, வாத்தியக்குழுவை இவர் வடிவமைப்பதால்.

இந்த இனிமையான நாளில் அவர் இசையில் வந்த ஒரு அருங்கனியைப் பார்ப்போம்.
அது 'மார்கழி மாதம் முன்பனி வேளையிலே' என்ற பஞ்சமி என்னும் திரைப்படத்தில் இடம்பெற்ற பாடல்.

இந்தப் பாடல் கமாஸ் என்னும் ராகத்தில் அமைந்தது.
ஹரிகாம்போஜி என்னும் 28ஆவது மேளகர்த்தாவில் பிறந்தது கமாஸ்.

இதன் ஆரோஹணம்:ஸ ம1 க3 ம1 ப த2 நி2 ஸா
அவரோஹணம்:ஸா நி2 த2 ப ம1 க3 ரி2 ஸ.

இன்னொரு நிஷாத ஸ்வரமாகிய காகலி நிஷாதம் இதில் சில வேளைகளில் சிலர் கலப்பதும் உண்டு.அமைப்பில் இத‌ற்கும், இத‌ன் தாய் ராக‌மாகிய‌ ஹ‌ரிகாம்போஜிக்கும் இத‌ற்கும் மிக‌ச் சிறிய அள‌வு வித்தியாச‌மே இருந்தாலும்,க‌மாஸ் ராக‌த்திற்கென்று ஒரு அழ‌கு உண்டு.த‌னித்துவ‌ம் உண்டு.

மனத்திற்கு அமைதி தரும் அதே நேரத்தில் நம்மை சுறுசுறுப்பாக இயங்க வைக்கும் சக்தியும் கமாஸிற்கு உண்டு.

பார்ப்பதற்கும், கேட்பதற்கும் மிகவும் எளிதாகத் தோன்றும் கமாஸ் தன்னுள்ளே பல சூட்சுமங்களை அடக்கி இருக்கிறது.

இதன் சிறப்புப் பிரயோகங்கள் கமநீதநிபதனிஸா,கமபதநி,தபமகரி போன்றவை.
தமிழிசையில் இந்தப் பண்ணின் பெயர் பஞ்சசாமரம்.

இப்பொழுது பாடலைக் கவனிப்போம்.

இசைச் சந்தத்துடன் ஒலிக்கும் மிருதங்கமும், சலங்கை ஓசையும் நம்மை ஆரம்பத்திலேயே எங்கோ அழைத்துச் செல்லுகிறது.நாம் அதிர்வுகளை உணர்கிறோம்.வேகத்துடன் ஒலிக்கும் அந்த ஓசை நம்முள்ளே இருக்கும் இனிமையான உணர்வுகளைத் தட்டி எழுப்புகிறது.
ஒரு ஸ்வரமும் ஒலிக்காமலேயே நாம் கமாஸை சுவாசிக்கிறோம்.

இப்பொழுது நமக்கு ஒரு இனிமையான வியப்பு.ஹிந்துஸ்தானி ராகங்களையே பெரும்பாலும் இசைக்கும் சிதார், கர்னாடக இசைப் பாணியில் கமாஸின் சாராம்சத்தை வாசிக்கிறது.இப்பொழுது நேர்த்தியாக நுழைகிறது வயலின்.

காதிற்கு இனிமையான ஜலதரங்கம், மென்மையாக வயலினைப் பின் தொடர்கிறது.சிதார் வயலினை வரவேற்க,அதற்கு நன்றி கலந்த வணக்கத்தைக் கூறுகிறது வயலின்.

இதனைக் கவனித்த மேற்கத்திய வாத்தியம் நுண்ணியமாக‌
புகுந்து முகமன் செய்கிறது.

அது மார்கழிமாதக் காலை.அமைதியான, ஆரோக்கியமான சூழ்நிலை.ஜானகியின் இனிய குரல் ஒலிக்கிறது.கமாஸ் கவிதை நயத்துடன் மார்கழிமாதத்தை அலங்கரிக்கிறது.

முதலாவது வாத்திய இடைச்செருகலில், சிதார் இரண்டு பூக்கணைகளைத் தொடுக்கிறது.அதை வாங்கிய மகிழ்ச்சியில் திளைக்கிறது மிருதங்கம்.கணைகளைத் தொடுத்த கர்வத்துடன் ராஜ நடை போடுகிறது சிதார்.

அழகிய நகை அலங்காரத்தைப் போல் வசீகரிக்கும் ஜலதரங்கமும், உள் அழகைக் காட்டும் புல்லாங்குழலும் இப்பொழுது சுவாரசியமான விளையாட்டில் ஈடுபடுகின்றன.
பொறுமையாக உள்ளே வரும் வயலின்,பல நிறங்களை நமக்குக் காட்டுகிறது.இறுதியில், பளீரென்ற வெளிச்சம் நமக்குப் புலப்படுகிறது.

அழகாகச் செதுக்கப்பட்ட சரணம் இப்பொழுது தொடர்கிறது.

'மலையின் முகட்டில் ஒலித்த' என்று தொடங்கும் வரியும் அதனைத் தொடரும் இனிமையான சங்கதியும்,தூய்மை என்னும் மொழியினால் நெய்யப்பட்டிருக்கிறது.மிருதங்கத்தில் தாள நடை அழகாக மாறுவதை கவனிக்கிறோம்.

வளமான கற்பனை என்பது இதுதானோ!

'மலர்ந்த தாமரையின்' என்னும் இரண்டாவது வரி அழகுணர்ச்சியின் வெளிப்பாடு.
டி.வி.கோபாலகிருஷ்ணனின் குரல், நம்மை ராகத்தின் மையத்திற்கு அழைத்துச் செல்லுகிறது.
தொடர்ந்து வரும் வரிகள் பளிச்சிடும் நூல்களால் பின்னப்பட்டு ஜொலிக்கின்றன.

அடுத்துவரும் ஸ்வரக்கோர்வையில் ராகத்தின் உயர்ந்த தன்மை நமக்குப் புலனாகிறது.

பலப்பல வண்ணங்கள் நேர்த்தியாக, அழகாக , ஒன்றன்பின் ஒன்றாக வருகின்றன.நுணுக்கமான கோர்வைகள் துல்லியமாக ஒலிக்கின்றன.

ராகமும் தாளமும் ஒன்றோடு ஒன்று கலக்கின்றன.
அது ஒரு செறிவூட்டும் இசை அனுபவம்.

இந்த அனுபவத்தில் கிளர்ந்து எழுந்த குழல்,மனத்தைக் கொள்ளைகொள்ளும் படிமங்களை நமக்குக் காட்டுகிறது.

இந்தப் பாடல் ஒளிவீசும் கோபுரம்.

தானாகவே எழும்பும் இசையுணர்வுகளை நாம் கண்கூடாகக் காண்கிறோம்.

இயக்கமற்ற நிலை..ஆழமான இசையின் உட்பொருள்..

அமைதியின் ஊற்று..

அதில் வரும் அதிர்வுகள்..

மார்கழிமாதம் முன்பனிக்காலையின் புத்துணர்வு!

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Monday, 17 August 2009

ILaiyaraaja-The Eloquent Musician!

We human beings are guided by our emotions.

But have we ever sat back and thought as to how we express our emotions? How do we convey what we intend to convey? What kind of language do we use?Is it appropriate and at the same time striking?

The fact of the matter is our personality to a great extent is determined by the way we communicate.When we communicate anything, the other person's mind silently observes us and the quality of his/her response depends on how we communicate rather than what we communicate.

That is why eloquent people have the ability to influence us more. One of the most striking examples is a politician.

Eloquence is a positive word. So why make it negative by associating it with a politician?

Let us look at how the great Tamizh poet Kamban-considered to be one of the most eloquent poets in Tamizh- narrates a situation in Ramayana.This situation itself is a turning point in Ramayana.

On the eve of Rama's coronation, Kaikeyi asks two boons from Dasarata.
1.Her son Bharata to rule the Kingdom.
2.Rama to be sent to forest for 14 years.

Dasarata was too attached to Rama.Kaikeyi brilliantly starts by saying,' First boon- My son to rule the kingdom'.

What follows is a masterstroke.

She knew the very mention of 'Rama' would make Dasarata sit up and react which would ultimately spoil her flow.She feared that if she was interrupted, she might end up not asking what she was 'asked to'.The fact is she was also too attached to Rama but her mind was poisoned by Mantara (kooni).

Therefore, she says 'Seeta's husband to rule the forest'!!

Look at her eloquence...

''ஏய வரங்கள் இரண்டின், ஒன்றினால், என்
சேய் அரசு ஆள்வது; சீதை கேள்வன் ஒன்றால்
போய் வனம் ஆள்வது' எனப் புகன்று, நின்றாள் -
தீயவை யாவையினும் சிறந்த தீயாள்''.

Let us now skip Dasarata's reaction and see what(rather how) Kaikeyi conveys this message to Rama.

'Bharata will rule the world and you will do penance and pray in the forest for 14 years'...and says ' the King(your father) said this'.

"ஆழி சூழ் உலகம் எல்லாம் பரதனே ஆள, நீ போய்த்
தாழ் இருஞ் சடைகள் தாங்கி, தாங்க அருந் தவம் மேற்கொண்டு,
பூழி வெங் கானம் நண்ணி, புண்ணியத் துறைகள் ஆடி,
ஏழ்-இரண்டு ஆண்டின் வா" என்று, இயம்பினன் அரசன்' என்றாள்''.

What do we call this?'Sugar coated poison?
Reminds us of our politicians?

By making Kaikeyi communicate so effectively, Kamban gets the desired result.The readers begin to hate her more..

It is not that only poets/writers/speakers are eloquent.

Musicians are eloquent too.

ILaiyaraaja-one of the greatest cine-musicians has been weaving magic with his music because of his eloquence.

With his appropriate choice of ragas/swaras and the delineation, he is able to bring out subtle emotions so naturally and effectively.

When we listen to the compositions, we laugh; we cry; we roar; we dance; we sing;

In short, we empathise with the characters.
And this is where the greatness of a musician lies.

Today's composition is one such composition.

It is 'Oru Kaatril' from 'Naan KadavuL'(2009).

The composition is based on Rasikapriya.
Rasikapriya is the 72nd(last) melakarata and we have already seen this raga in the post on 'Aganthaiyil aaduvada'(ILaiyaraaja-The Sculptor-Part I dated 11.12.2008).

A vivadi raga-with two vivadi notes 'ri' and 'dha'- Rasikapriya gives a very scary feeling.

Surprisingly enough, Chalanaattai(no.36) , the Sudhdha Madhayama counterpart of Rasikapriya gives a kind of 'mangala' feeling.It is the 'ma' that does the trick here.

The structure of Rasikapriya is:
sa ri3 ga3 ma2 pa dha3 ni3 Sa/Sa ni3 dha3 pa ma2 ga3 ri3 sa.

Now, did I say the song is based on Rasikapriya?

It is..but only some parts.. In the Charanam, the Maestro applies a technique he is very conversant with and it becomes a different raga altogether.

Before I take this up, let me narrate an interesting story.
The first time I listened to this, it sounded Rasikapriya but as I listened to the interludes and the charaNams, I was confused and deciphered the ragam as Kosalam, the 71st Melakarata.

But my musical friend, Tamizharasan made me listen to the CharaNams more closely and it was only then that I discovered the hidden treasure.

I shall explain when I go to the CharaNam part.

Let us start with the prelude.

The opening Dilruba- followed by the brief synthesiser that gives the outline of the tala cycle- is riveting and gives us a tantalising glimpse of Rasikapriya. The percussion along with the synth and the guitar pulsates with buoyancy.

The Pallavi is captivating with the spry fresh voice of the master itself. The first two lines are soft while the third line is effulgent and activates our lachrymal glands.

The first interlude has a swirl of patterns.The Dilruba is interspersed with swift flashes of modern instruments and of course the Bass Guitar.

The Dilruba drills, takes us to the patterned depth of the raga and then takes a flight.A flight that is gradual but with a turn that is sensitive and sudden. It is a beguiling flight indeed.

It touches the 'ni' and taking this note as the 'aadhara'(base) 'sa' it gives a surprise twist. Applying the concept of 'Gruha Bedam', if the 'ni' is taken as the base, the raga becomes Mayamalawagowla.But the genius avoids the note 'pa' totally and makes it sound like Lalita, a raga derived from Mayamalawagowla.The violins and the synthesisers now play Lalita.

Before I take up the CharaNam and the next interlude, let me try and give my interpretation.

The story of 'Naan KadavuL' is based on the Agoris and the physically challenged beggars.

Rasikapriya, a scary raga for Agoris.
Gruha Bedam- for beggars.
Chopping off one note-for the physically challenged.

This is what is eloquence all about!

Let us now go back to the song from where we left.

As mentioned, it now continues in Lalita.

The Charanam has an exemplary structure.The first two lines are silk-edged.The third line shines with emotive content.The last line has fecund articulation.

The second interlude emerges with aesthetic flows.The Raga is now back to Rasikapriya and what is striking here is the use of double bass and the violins in the low pitch to kindle the softer emotions.

The strings then move on intricately drawn passages exquisitely.

We see the curve and the linear.
Towards the end, the Gruha Bedam takes place and it is Lalita again.

We see the beauteous niches of music built on the edifice of depth.

We are permeated by the musical fervour and are inexorably tied.

Sparks of ingenuity!

The Maestro with his musical eloquence adorns the music with a diadem.

இசைக்காற்றில் அலையும் சிறகு நம்மைத் தேடி நம்மிடம் சேரும்..

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Wednesday, 12 August 2009

ILaiyaraaja's Music is Eternal!

Not all things we see or hear are eternal in this ever changing world. In other words, only few things in this world are everlasting.

Take the sea for example. Waves come, waves go, but it lives forever.

Trees grow, trees fall..but the Mountains continue to exist.

Some more examples can be given but in any case these are part of nature.

What about man-made things?Is it true that only God’s(or nature’s) creations are everlasting?
Not exactly. Human beings are also part of the Creation but are we immortals?

At the same time, some of the works of human beings continue to exist for many years.They may not be everlasting but they give us an everlasting or eternal feeling.

Picasso’s or Ravi Varma’s..

Ellora or Mahabalipuram..

Shakespeare’s or Thiruvalluvar’s..

Talking about Literature, one of the everlasting works in terms of the quantity and the quality is a work called ‘Naalayira Divya Prabhandam’.Quantity, because there are 4000 verses sung by 12 different poets.


After all it was sung by 12 devotees of Lord Vishnu.So what is special about it?

It is because of the variety and the range and the way these poets handled the tamizh language.

I have seen and heard many of the so-called rationalists quote from this work without any inhibitions.

Composed independently by the 12 Vaishnavite devotees-called as Azhwars- this work is unique.

The verses were an outpouring from devotees whose sole intention and objective was to attain Moksha(the divine status).

Many verses are erotic as the Azhwars considered the Lord as their lover.
In fact, I have written about some of the Azhwars and have alsoquoted some verses from their work in this thread.

The story of each Azhwar is as unique and interesting as their poems.

Let us take Thirumangai Azhwar.

He was a trusted and an efficient Lieutenant in one of the Chozha’s kingdoms.Because of his dedication, loyalty and efficiency the King offered him a small part of his kingdom. Parakalan-as he was called then fell in love with a lady called Kumudavalli.It was on her insistence that he took to Bhakti and started feeding 1008 Vaishnava devotees everyday.

Having had to spend a lot of money for this ,he took to stealing money and it is said that one day he stole from the Lord himself who was disguised as a man and that he found it impossible to carry the sack that had the bootie.

The transformation happened.

Parakalan became Thirumangai Azhwar.

The 1253 verses sung by him are real gems.

His poems abound with love and eroticism. I feel this has to do with his earlier love for Kumudavalli because of whom he took to Bhakti.His thoughts were channelised and the romantic in him became a devotee.But the romantic streak continued to exist.

Look at this poem:

ஊழியில் பெரிதால் நாழிகை என்னும் , ஒண் சுடர் துயின்றதால் என்னும்
ஆழியும் புலம்பும், அன்றிலும் உறங்கா, தென்றலும் தீயினில் கொடிது ஆம்,
தோழி!ஓ!என்னும்;துணை முலை அரக்கும்;சொல்லுமின், என் செய்கேன்?என்னும்;
ஏழை என் பொன்னுக்கு என் நினைந்திருந்தாய்? இடவெந்தை எந்தை பிரானே!

‘A moment stretches longer than an aeon, she says
The bright sun is dead she says.
Friend, the ocean too is crying; the Anril bird will not sleep;the southern breeze burns worse than fire.
O, how terrible, she says.
She looks as if she would pluck from their roots her two breasts.
What shall I do?Tell me, she says.
What did you mean to do, lord and master of Idaventhai
About my poor girl, my golden girl?’

(Translation-A.K Ramanujan).

The deity addressed is Adivaraha PerumaL at the Temple at Thiruvidavidanthai, about 30 kms from the present day Chennai. The voice is the foster-mother’s who describes her daughter’s frenzied passion for the Lord.

While each and every word in this verse is beautiful, a special mention must be made about the last line ‘Ezhai en ponnukku en ninainthirunthai’.

‘Ezhai’ means poor and ponnukku means gold.PoN also means a girl.
Poor and gold-how is it possible?

What the poet means is that the girl who is poor without you will become rich if only you shower her with your love.
The use of ‘Pon’ conveys a lot of other meanings as well..
Without getting too deep into the philosophical contours, let us enjoy the beauty of the poem.

Verses like these last even after 1300 years because of this beauty element giving us an everlasting eternal feeling.

All Saint Thyagaraja’s compositions have this element and therefore are everlasting.
He too considered Rama as his lover.

In one of the songs, he says, ‘Oh..beautiful and handsome Rama..I Love you’

(‘Mohanarama Mukhajitasoma!!Mohamu neepai Monasiyunnathira).

He brilliantly chose Mohana Ragam for this.Mohana itself means beauty. In fact, Mohanan is one of the names of Lord Krishna.

One can go on and on about Thyagaraja and the beauty element.

In a similar vein, one can go on and on about the beauty element in ILaiyaraaja’s compositions.

In this thread, we have been seeing as to how he weaves swaras, ragas and talas in the fabric called music.

What is of particular interest is his choice of ragas.

It is a fact that the ragas in his compositions truly reflect the situation in the movie. One classic example is ‘Idhazhil Kadhai Ezhuthum’(Unnal Mudiyum Thambi) where he used the Lalita ragam, Lalita being the name of the heroine.

His speciality lies in the way he handles the ragas. While choosing a raga for a particular song, he does not strictly go by the book.For example, he has used a raga like Subha Pantuvarali- that is supposed to give sad feeling- in romantic and humorous situations.
And an auspicious raga like Kalyani in sad situations.

But what amazes me is the way the raga is made to sound..

Maybe that is why his compositions sound so great giving us an everlasting feeling.

Today’s composition is also one of his special compositions.

I made a mention about the Mohana ragam that is supposed to give us a very happy feeling.

Raaja has used this happy ragam in sad situations and also to depict Viraha.

‘Raasave Unnai Naan Enniththaan’(Thanikkattu Raja) and ‘Oru Ragam Paadalodu’(Ananda Ragam) are based on Mohanam but sound so differently.

But my first preference is for a duet that appears in the movie ‘Nadodi Thendral’.

The song is ‘Oru KaNam Oru Yugamaga’.

Before we take up the song, let us look at Mohanam.

It is a pentatonic ragam derived from the 28th Melakartha Harikamboji and the structure is:

sa ri2 ga3 pa dha2 Sa/Sa dha2 pa ga3 ri2 sa.

The raga is considered to be one of the oldest raga.The notes of this raga are found in almost all forms of music.
The Hindustani counterpart is called as Bhoop or Bhoopali.
The Mohanam scale is found in the South Eastern Music and in gypsy music as well.

In Carnatic music, it is a very special ragam because generally pentatonic(ragas with 5 notes) are not Gamaka laden.(Gamakam is the oscillation of notes and is unique to Carnatic music).But Mohanam is an exception and is full of gamakams.

Let us look at today’s composition. The composition depicts Viraha-the pangs of separation wonderfully. It indeed needs a lot of guts to compose this kind of a song in Mohanam.I have hardly come across a better Viraha song.

The song starts with lucid humming of Janaki.It breathes graciousness and is majestic.

The first two lines are sung without any percussion adding to the beauty. The vibrancy is palpable as the strings and tabla take over.The shrill flute at the end of each line is serenely luminous.

The first interlude moves with tenderness. The feather-touch repartee of the bass flute shows us the sensitive nuances.
The violins move languorously as the shrill-flute shines with radiance.

The Charanam shows us the world of ethereal beauty.The first two lines are sketched with flourish as we see the star studded sky.The cogent melodic progression is amazing and even the alien swara(‘ni’) sounds beautiful.

The sangatis in the last line are lively and lend a quiet glow.

The atmosphere gets enlivened by the succinct and clear voice of the Maestro. The pause here makes us feel want more and more.

We see the variegated pattern unfold before us in the second interlude as we hear the lively violins and the soft and gentle flute. The subtle hues of the raga are shown with a delicate touch.

The second Charanam is also beautifully chiselled.The first two lines have depth and resonance while the other lines are embellished by the notes that shine like diamonds.

The entire composition is built on a grand edifice and it encompasses the entire range of the raga.
It is tender, direct and is deep.

The mellow aspects and the musical effervescence send us into a reverie.

A moment or an aeon-his music is everlasting!

ஒரு கணமாயினும் ஒரு யுகமாயினும் நிலைத்து நிற்கும் இசை..

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