Friday, 30 January 2009

ILaiyaraaja's Music is Meditative!

Human mind is unique.

Unique not just because it feels things;
not just because it thinks;
not just because it perceives;
not just because it analyses;
not just because it reasons.

These of course are some of the important characteristics of our mind.

But there is yet another aspect that makes it unique and special. It is the capacity and capability to will.

Is this good or bad? Is it positive or negative?
It depends on how we channelize it. I would prefer ‘channelising’ to ‘control’.

But how does one do this? Is this possible at all?

For a moment, let us stop troubling our minds with such questions and think of any pleasant experience.

It could be a visit to any picturesque place..It could be the smile of a child..It could be a look at a painting..It could be listening to good music.

While experiencing any of these, how did we feel?

Happy?? Yes..of course.

But there would also have been moments when we were focussed only on the subject.
Moments when we were totally absorbed in the beauty.
Moments when we were aware .
Moments when we were alive to the situation.

A defining moment though it would have lasted just a fraction of a second.

And this is what is called as Meditation.

Like many wrongly understood and misinterpreted words in English, Meditation also has been misunderstood.

Many still feel the process involves utmost concentration and therefore is difficult.Some also feel Meditation is forgetting oneself.
These are wrong notions for meditation is a process that makes us more aware. It is an experience and the mind automatically gets channelized without any effort.

Bharati calls this as the light that shines brightly in the mind
‘Ullaththanaiththilum UlloLiyai..’(உள்ளத்தனைத்திலும் உள்ளொளியாய்)

AaandaL calls this as the seed sown in the mind
‘Vellathu Aravil Thuyil Amarntha Viththinai Ullaththil KoNdu (வெள்ளத்து அரவில் துயில் அமர்ந்த வித்தினை உள்ளத்துக்கொண்டு).

There are various techniques and forms of meditation and my intention is not to get into all these.

I feel one of the best methods of meditation is listening to music.
Music and meditation have a lot in common apart from the M factor.
While listening to good music, we tend to get totally involved.

We are aware and alive.

Silence envelopes us.

We are in a state of tranquillity.

We are in a state of Bliss.

Saint Thyagaraja- for whom music was a way of life – experienced this state quite often.That is why we are transported easily to that state when we listen to his compositions rendered by great musicians.

He considered Nadopaasana as a form of meditation.

In one of his Krithis, he calls Lord Krishna as Gaana Moorthy-Form of Music.

The Krithi is ‘Gaana Moorthe Shri Krishna VeNu Gaana Lola..’.

There are a lot of great things about this Krithi like the all the first letters in the Charanam starting with the letter ‘na’ and talking about ‘nara’(Arjuna) and ‘narasimha’(half man half animal,an avatar of Lord Vishnu)

But the most significant one is the first word of the Krithi itself. Generally ,we do not find the name of the raga in a Thyagaraja Krithi(unlike Muthuswami Dikshithar’s who made it a point to include the name of the Raga in most of his compositions).

Yes..the Raga itself is called Gaana Moorthi.

Gaana Moorthi is the third Melakartha and the structure is

Sa ri1 ga1 ma1 pa dha1 ni3 Sa/Sa ni3 dha1 pa ma1 ga1 ri1 sa.

It is a Vivadi Raga with the ‘ga’ being the Vivadi swara.

It is this Vivadi Swara that distinguishes this Raga from Mayamalawagowla.
But look how different the two ragas sound!

Another great musician for whom Music is a way of life has given a wonderful composition in this Raga in one of his albums.

The album is ‘ILaiyaraaja’s Geethanjali’ and the composition is ‘VetrigaLin Mudhal PoruLe’ on Lord Vinayaka.

It has no percussion and is sung as a ‘Virththam’.

The composition has a very divine beginning.
We hear the sound of the temple bell.

Our eyes closes automatically as the bell sounds 16 times.Is it just the bell?

What we hear is the Om.

‘Om’ is a combination of ‘A’ ‘U’ and ‘M’.Unlike what is popularly believed, it has no religious significance.It is the base.It is the Life.It is the salvation.

In other words, it is the music.

Another bell joins beautifully at the 14th strike.

The melody that follows stirs us.

The Veena plays the Thaanam .
The heightened resonance gives a sense of calmness.

Then the magic happens....

We hear the divine voice of the Master himself.

‘You are the beginning. You are the Knowledge.
You are the Truth. Arts attain meaning with your blessings.’

The Veena now flows with lucidity; with depth; with crispness; with fluidity.

The voice now continues,
‘You are the remover of obstacles.Your blessings reach even an ordinary man.
You give us all great things in this world’.

It is a dexterous display of Veena as it shows the wonderful vistas of the Raga.

The Raga now glows luminously with the voice lighting up all directions.
The melting phrases follow with the Veena digging deep and bringing out the nuggets of Gaana Moorthy.

Harmonious Precision!

‘Your name is enough to bring us glory.We pray to you..’

We see the silvery expanse of very fine sand.

We see the cerulean blue waters.

The raga enters us imperceptibly and lingers on with tenderness.

We are steeped in tranquillity.

We feel the stillness.

Silence envelops us.

We are focussed and involved.

We are in a state of meditation!

AnaiththiRkum Muthar PoruL Isai..

Music is the beginning and is the ultimate!

Saturday, 10 January 2009

ILaiyaraaja's Music-Traditional and Modern!

‘’Not all tradition is to be valued. Tradition that does not respect the rights of individuals as people, need to be changed…. Tradition is born out of circumstance and the need of the hour or the power of the hour. Situations change, our perspectives change.”
says Mallika Sarabhai, a well known classical dancer(and the daughter of one of the greatest scientists in India Dr.Vikram Sarabhai).

She goes on to say: “Art in India has never been for entertainment. On the contrary, it was for enlightenment, but became extra-curricular with the advent of the Europeans. It is the most core-curricular… Either we teach tradition or its application, but rarely realise that India is about the interconnection. If I teach Bharatanatyam and do not teach how it could be used in different ways in society, we are completely missing the point.”

One may agree or disagree with these points but the fact of the matter is that these words make us think.

One of the recent grammar text in tamizh, ‘Nannool’ written by PavaNanthi AdigaL says,
‘Pazhaiyana Kazhithalum Puthiyana Puguthalum Vazhuvala Kaala Vagaiyinaane’
பழையன கழிதலும் புதியன புகுதலும்
வழுவல கால வகையி னானே

It means, ‘'the old order changes yielding place to new'’.

What is tradition all about?

Is there a link between tradition and modernity?

Can one say that all classical forms are traditional and therefore are not relevant?

Or can we say that Tradition has no place in modern society?

Does being traditional mean believing in everything(including the existence of God) ?

Does being Modern mean being rational?

Is there any connection between spirituality and science?

Here, I am forced to quote Pope Bendict XVI:
‘’There is no opposition between faith’s understanding of creation and the evidence of the empirical sciences’’ ..

I am also forced to look at Indian Mythology.

Most of us are familiar with the concept of Dasavataram of Lord Vishnu.But how many of us know that it strictly follows the Theory of evolution?

The first Avatar was Fish.
As per Science, life in this world started with water and aquatic life.

Next came the amphibians and the second Avatar was tortoise.

Land animals are the next and we have the Boar(pig) as the third Avatar.

Half –animal and half-man and we have the form of Narasimha.

A dwarf and there we have Vaamana.

A angryman or a hunter is next and we have the form of Parasurama as the next Avatar.

A Complete Man and it is Rama.

Playfulness, Cunningness...

An enlightened man and we have Budhdha.

A superman who will save this world and it is Kalki.

Let us for a moment assume that the Dasavatharam (and even God for that matter) is just a figment of imagination.But can we not appreciate the knowledge and wisdom of our ancestors who were able to give us the theory of evolution much before a man called Charles Darwin discovered this?

Now is this not proof enough to show that science and spirituality-modernity and tradition- go hand in hand?

There are a lot of things for us to learn in tradition.At the same time, sticking to or following tradition strictly without any questions will do us no good.

Even in the Upanishads, there is a character called Nasiketas who is said to have questioned even Yama-the Lord of death as per Hindu mythology.
Therefore, Tradition needs to be respected. There has to be a value system.

But one also needs to change with time.As Mallika says, Tradition that does not respect the rights of individuals will have to change.And this is applicable to all forms of arts as well.

For example, the Bharatanatyam that we know today was called as Sadir and was once the preserve of a particular community -and was mainly performed in the courts of kings and Zamindars and in temples- until Shrimati.Rukmani Devi rebelled and brought it to the public domain.

In Carnatic music , concerts had no structure until a gentleman called Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar devised a structure and even now a typical concert more or less follows the pattern set by this legend.

Tamizh film music had pure Carnatic music during early years.Slowly this got diluted and then the genre called ‘light music’ evolved.

It was only after the entry of a gentleman from a remote village in Madurai district that things changed for the better.

Not only were we exposed to the beauty of known and unknown ragas.We were exposed to counterpoints and Harmony.

While we learnt to appreciate Thyagaraja and Dikshithar better, we also learnt to appreciate Mozart and Bach.

We were exposed to ‘Gruha Bedam’ and ‘modulation’.

It was not just classical music that we got to know.We got to know about Rock, Pop as well.

In short it was a blend. A blend of all the great music of the world.

A marriage between Tradition and modernity.

In this Blog, we have been seeing his use of traditional ragas in films.

Today, we are going to see yet another traditional Ragam.
This beautiful Ragam is Lalita.

In my post on Sriragam, we saw as to how Muthuswami Dikshitar sang a krithi in Lalita.
Today, we are going to see the use of Lalita ragam by our Maestro.
The song is ‘Idazhil Kadai Ezhuthum Neram ‘from ‘Unnal Mudiyum Thambi’(1988).

Lalita is derived from the 15th melakarta Mayamalavagowla and its structure is
Sa ri1 ga3 ma1 dha1 ni3 Sa/Sa ni3 dha1 ma1 ga3 ri1 sa.

Let us now look at the composition.

We see the overwhelming beauty of the raga just with the sound of the bells.The violins beckon us as the guitar plays with pulsating vibrancy and the flute hums.
The Guitar continues to give beauteous shades and the violins add colour.

The gentle and majestic voice of SPB and the captivating voice of Chitra show us the contours of the raga with some beautiful sangatis in the pallavi itself.There is a short anupallavi as well adding to the beauty.

What follows as the interlude is sedulous craftsmanship!

We get to see Laya Raja,and Raga Raja as the rhythm and melody merge.The Raga shimmers and the Tala reverberates.The delectable beats appear again and towards the end making it an aural treat. In the 8 beat adi tala cycle ,the first and the third beats are further broken into 2micro beats-that is they are played in double speed.

It is spiritual radiance as the flute takes over.The delectable beats appear again and towards the end making it an aural treat. In the 8 beat adi tala cycle ,the first and the third beats are further broken into 2micro beats-that is they are played in double speed.

The charanam is suffused with melodic phrases.

It is languid in the beginning and rapid in the end.
The first two lines are diaphanous.
The next two lines have rich tones and depth.
The lines that follow glow and reache a towering crescendo making it an esoteric experience.

The second interlude has unusual phrases.
It starts with the Piano showing an entirely different face of the ragam.It is a soft shower of swaras.The flute then coaxes us with a sparkling and colourful melody with the guitar guiding us to the path to the heaven.

It is simple.

It is the luxuriance of sweetness and softness.

It is gentle.

It is powerful.

It has a winsome smile.

It makes us cry.

It is a supple.

It dominates us.

It is tradition and modernity blended together..

(அவரது) இசையில் நம்மை மறந்திருக்கும் வேளை இது!

Time for us to forget ourselves in his music!

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Sunday, 4 January 2009

ILaiyaraaja-The Maverick!

“In art and in science, discoveries are made by breaking the rules.”

“How can we use our creative imagination to visualise the invisible? I am fascinated by the nature of creative thinking; the mind’s ability to transform information from everyday experiences into the most sublime works of art, literature, music and science. Is there anything that links the thought processes of the world’s greatest artists like Picasso and the world’s greatest scientists like Einstein? And if so, what is it? Can it make us more creative?”

These are the words of Arthur Miller(not the playwright),the physicist-writer who has authored books like ‘Empire of the Stars’, ‘Einstein, Picasso: Space, Time and the Beauty that Causes Havoc’ and ‘Insights of Genius: Imagery and Creativity in Science and Art’.

Creativity is a very interesting subject. How is it that some people are more creative than others? How different is the thought process of a creative person from that of others?Do they think differently? Is there a special ‘chip’ inside their brains that makes this possible?

Though there is a lot of advancement in technology, I feel it is still very difficult to find out what happens in a creative person’s brain.

Maybe it is the right brain that is more active.
Maybe they are conditioned by a set of chromosomes.
Maybe it is in their genes.

Sometime back-while discussing about ‘KalaivaaNiye’, I had talked about the third eye concept.

Apart from all these factors, the ability and the audacity to break the rules distinguish these people from others.

But let it not be misconstrued that criminals and politicians who break rules are creative.

We are talking about constructive creativity.

Take AandaL for example.

Born in the 8th Century, she had the audacity to openly declare that Lord Vishnu would be her Groom and she would claim him at any cost , composed 143 verses in chaste tamizh.

She also invented a concept called ‘Paavai nonbu’and sang 30 poems.The fomer called as ‘Naachiyaar Tirumozhi’ is part of the Vaishnavite Treatise –Naalaayira Divya Prabhandam-and the latter is called as ‘Tiruppavai’.

Even after 1200 years, the month of maargazhi is synonymous with AandaL and every nook and corner of Tamizh Nadu reverberate with Tiruppavai.

Forgetting the religious/spiritual angle, let us look at it from the literature and the sociological angle.

Considering the position of women in the society where women were never encouraged to choose their grooms on their own, it takes a lot of courage on the part of a girl to openly ‘announce’ her choice and go around the town singing about him.

AandaL was hardly 12 years old when she composed the verses. But the command over the language and the similes and the metaphors used are mind- boggling and one is awestruck.

Scholars now say ‘AandaL tamizhai aandaL’(AandaL ruled the language of tamizh).

Look at the way she addresses the cuckoo bird:

‘O! Tiny cuckoo, pecking, budding leaves of Greenish-Red in the grove of Honeyed Mangoes!
My Lord, who skillfully wields the bow Sarangaa, A Lovable Suitor, concord with me;
We enjoy secret codes that He and I alone know;
O! Cuckoo, if you call Him to come soon as He is far away
You shall witness stipulations I set for Him!’

சார்ங்கம் வளைய வலிக்கும் தடக்கைச் சதுரன் பொருத்தமுடையன்
நாங்கள் எம்மிலிருந்தொட்டிய கச்சங்கம் நானும் அவனும் அறிதும்
தேங்கனி மாம்பொழில் செந்தளிர் கோதும் சிறுகுயிலே!திருமாலை
ஆங்கு விரைந்தொல்லைக் கூகிற்றியாகில் அவனை நான் செய்வன காணே!

Note the words ‘secret codes that He and I alone know’and ‘witness stipulations set for Him’.

There are both esoteric and exoteric meanings to this.

But as I said, let us focus only on the literary and the sociological aspects.
Great command over language! But more than this her assertiveness and the audacity to dictate terms.

That is why, AandaL was a maverick.

The gentleman from a small village in Tamizh Nadu whose music mesmerizes and hypnotises millions of people across the world also thought differently.

In fact, the main reason for his appealing music is because of the way he handles any composition.

Be it the orchestration, arrangement, the Rhythm, the tune itself everything was(is) different.

He was the first film music composer to have paid attention to the Bass work.

He was the first film music composer to have used counterpoints to a great extent.

He was the first film music composer to have used the concept of Gruha Bedam.

He was the first film music composer to have used so many Ragas.

He was the first film music composer to have handled many Vivadi Ragas.

These are just some samples and there are many more..

He dared to think differently and had(has) the capability to translate his thoughts to action.

Today, we are going to see yet another composition of his where he weaves magic in terms of the orchestration and the tune.

The composition is ‘Sundari Kannal oru Seithi’from Dalapati(1991).

Let us see why it is magical.

The pallavi is based on Kalyani, a very popular Ragam whose structure is

Sa ri2 ga3 ma2 pa dha2 ni3 Sa/Sa ni3 dha2 pa ma2 ga3 ri2 sa.

The tune beautifully transforms itself in the interludes and the Charanams into Kosalam whose structure is

Sa ri3 ga3 ma2 pa dha2 ni3 Sa/Sa ni3 dha2 pa ma2 ga3 ri3 sa.

Kosalam is a Vivadi Ragam and we have already discussed the concept of Vivadi Ragam in this thread.

As one can see, on paper the difference between Kalyani and Kosalam is only in the ‘ri’.

But look how it changes the entire complexion.

The composition starts with humming of the violins.The lilting Flute kisses us gently like a breeze.Punctuated with the right kind of speed and suppleness, the Violins now march gracefully.

The scintillating bells welcome us as the Pallavi starts.

The Pallavi is soft and melting with the voices of SPB and Janaki.The Flute appears gracefully between the lines stirring us.We begin to drown ourselves in the nectar when the change happens.

So far it was gentle love.Now it is a gory war.The transformation is amazing in deed!

The drums play with majestic grandeur while the wind instruments give out a war cry.

The sonorous chorus gives an eerie feeling. The Bass instruments juxtaposed with violins give an elgant touch to the war.

The Charanam is full of sensitivity as one sees a very different kind of romance in Kosalam.

It is a sketch of graceful silhouettes with charming shades of love in the background.

The first two lines are rendered with poise and panache.

The next two lines are suffused with love and separation.

The last two lines are adorned with charm and effervescence.

The second interlude is impeccable as love and war are deftly interwoven.

It crackles with energy.

It bursts with different colours, each colour being distinct.

It has subtle overtones.

It glides smoothly.

It gives a surreal silence.

It moves us intellectually,mentally, and emotionally.

It is Musical Mastery at its best.

Work of a Maverick!

அவரது இசைக் கண்ணால் ஒரு செய்தி சொன்னால் எந்நாளும் நல்ல தேதிதானே!

His Musical Vision makes all our days great!

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Thursday, 1 January 2009

ILaiyaraaja-The Sculptor-Part V

Each Moment is a Surprise,
Each Moment A Dream,
Each Moment is A Pleasure,
Is It Possible To Express?’

‘KaNamthorum ViyappugaL Puthiya Thondrum,
KaNamthorum Vevveru KanvugaL Thondrum,
KaNamthorum Navanavamai KaLippugal Thondrum,
Karudhidavum Sollidavum Ellitho?’

கணந்தோறும் வியப்புகள் புதிய தோன்றும்;
கணந்தோறும் வெவ்வேறு கனவுகள் தோன்றும்;
கணந்தோறும் நவநவமாய் களிப்புகள் தோன்றும்;
கருதிடவும் சொல்லிடவும் எளிதோ?

This is the description of the evening sky by Subramania Bharati in ‘Paanchaali Sabatham’.

A close look at this song suggests many things.
The passing of time.. the uncertainty of life.. the beauty of life.. the beauty of a moment.

Let us take ‘moment’.It is amazing to know how different things happen in a moment..and how it changes the entire perspective.

Very recently, we saw in the Olympics how a split second could make a huge difference.In the final analysis, it is the fraction of a second that separated the winners and the vanquished.

In Cricket, the duration of a shot is hardly a second but the way it is executed can change the course of a match itself.

In Music and Dance, timing is as important as oxygen is to all living things.

Carnatic music lays lot of emphasis on the tala and Kaalapramaanam.
Similarly, in Classical Dance, a small slip in Tala is enough to disturb the entire composition.

If we take life itself, a very small event that happens in a moment is enough to change everything.

Life, Games,Music and Dance cannot be separated and there is a clear link between these.

In the previous four posts, we saw the history of Dance and Music in Tamizh society and Literature.

Starting from Tolkappiyam, many texts like Pancha Marabu, Kooththa Nool, Bharata Senapathiyam have defined the grammar of classical dance.

‘Silappathikaaram’ gives a perfect description about Classical Dance and Music.

‘MaNimekalai’- considered to be an offshoot of ‘Silappathikaaram’ since MaNimekalai was the the daughter of Madhavi and Kovalan- also talks a lot about the dance.

Written by ‘Seeththalai Saaththanaar’, the text mentions about Tala Aruthi,the eleven different forms of dance-as already mentioned in detail in ‘Silappathikaaram’-the two forms of ‘Kooththu’ and the existence of a grammar book on ‘Bharatam’.

In another major text, ‘Seevaka ChintamaNi’, the chief protagonist, Seevakan himself is a dancer.

In Bhakti Literature,texts like Thevaram and Tirumanthiram talk a lot about the dance of Siva.

Some verses in the ‘Naalayira Divya Prabhandam’ describe the dance of Krishna.

‘Thiruppugazh’ written by AruNaGirinathar has lot of verses that use the dance syllables.In one of the verses, ‘Athala Sethanaar aada’, he makes all the gods in the heaven dance.

These are some of the glimpses from literature.

If we look at the different periods, during the sangam period, all art forms were their best.

After this, there was a lull as the Tamizh land was ruled by strangers called ‘KaLappiRars’.In fact, this period is supposed to be a dark period in the history.

The Pallavas took over and this period was the Golden Period.All major art forms flourished.The dance sculptures at Maamallapuram still exist and tell us the aesthetic sense of the Pallavas.

After this was the Chozha period and the Bruhadeeswara temple at Thanjavore depicts 81 karanaas out of the 108 Karanaas.The Nataraja temple at Chidambaram and the Saarangapaani temple at KumbakoNam have all the 108 karanaas depicted.

This shows the passion and the dedication of our ancestors and how deeply they were involved in fine arts.It also shows that fine arts was an intrinsic part of their lives.

Folk dance forms like Karagaattam, Oyilaattam, Mayilaattam also flourished. Unlike what some of the purists think, these forms are not appendages of Classical forms and have their own beauty.

Let us now see the composition from ‘ULiyin Osai’ where the folk forms have been described.

It is ‘Alai Ellam’.

The composition has a folk flavour and is a mélange of different ragas and changing rhythmic patterns..

As the master himself renders ‘Alai ellam’ with evocative grandeur, we see the beautiful sea and the fertile land. We see the waves in ‘KaadugaLil..’ and as we hear ‘Pattuk Kodi’, we are plunged into the sea of music.
The different facets of Tisram decorate the sea.

Until now,it is Sudhha Saveri whose structure is sa ri2 ma1 pa dha2 Sa/Sa dha pa ma1 ri2 sa.

The Raga now changes to Pahaadi as the prelude starts beautifully.

Pahaadi’s structure is sa Ri2 Ga3 Pa Dha2 Pa Dha2 Sa in the Arohanam and Sa Ni3 Dha2 Pa Ga3 Ma1 Ga2 Ri2 Sa Ni3 sa. Other alien swaras peep in now and then and that adds to the beauty of the Raga.At times, because of its structure, it can easily be mistaken as Mohanam with alien Swaras or even Shankarabharanam.

The Pallavi now starts vibrantly.

The rhythmic pattern in Tisram is again a treat.

In the first interlude, the Flute plays with tenderness infusing joy.

It is a view of the sea and land at the same time from a mountain as the Charanam gives shades of Shankarabharanam, Maand and Pahaadi.

It gives a serene feeling!

The second interlude and the Charanam weave beautiful patterns as we hear the Kummi.It is the intermingling of depth and appeal.

It is a sudden ebullient swirl as we hear the percussion in the music that follows.The rhythm changes.The raga changes to Karaharapriya and Natabhairavi and is sprinkled with Manji, another raga that has contours of folk.

It is rendered with gusto.

It is a cascading profusion sung and played with electrifying vim and vigour.

The Rhythmic pattern changes.

The Ragas change.

But each and every moment is a surprise;each and every moment a dream;each and every moment a pleasure.

And this is what is his music all about!

It makes even the waves dance!!

அவரது இசையில் அலையெல்லாம் நடனமாடும்!

With this, the series on the history of Classical dance and music in Tamizh literature and soceity comes to an end.

Though I had read lot of things before, I must acknowledge the information provided by Prof.Raghuraman in the book titled 'Tamizhar Natana Varalaaru' !

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