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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Jayachandran said...

It was indeed a great experience to read your blog. Nice flow that speaks volumes about your passion for a great musician and more to say, his music. Wish to read more.

Raj said...

Thanks for your comments Jayachandran.
Please read all the posts and give your feedback.

Naani said...

ur posts are very pleasant to read. Very informative as well. I read somewhere that when Raaja went to Kolkata he performed this song for RD Burman and right after the Pallavi's start he stood up and started clapping.

Aakarsh said...


Great post as usual (Is there is a non-great post by you? i dont think so).

I agree with all the lines you wrote.

Yet, I just want to reflect on 2 lines:

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

- I think Naushad, S.D.Burman, Salil Chaudhary were the people who pioneered these specific elements you have highlighted here.

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

- Although I am a mad fan of IR's basswork.. factually speaking, this is untrue. The first film composers who paid attention to basswork were:
1. O.P.Nayyar (who used original bass and always emphasizes on staccato effect..That was an advent may be,because he songs had bass, but then.. not bass-lines set on a tune)
2. R.D.Burman (some of his songs in 60s and 70s have brilliant bass late 70s,his bass lines were phenomenal. Given that IR came on the scene in 1976, by which RD was already in top form,i think it was RD who observed the importance of Bass lines and started weaving that into his songs. RD is believed to be the 1st composer who was looking at whole world music scene and apparently, he had a great collection of world music.So,he must have picked up)
3. Salil Chaudhary (my assumption is that Salil Chaudhary picked up bass lines based on the plethora of western music he listened to.His bass-lines come out distinct in his works during 70s, although he has been making music since 50s.

Raj said...

Thanks for your comments Kamal.
Both your observations are factually correct.

Yes..They all pioneered it but it was Raaja sir who paid more attention to all these details..