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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sangishyam said...

Mallika Sarabhais comments are very thought provoking!
"Art in India has never been for entertainment."-Well I dont know if that is totally true atleast in today's terms... But creation that was only touched upon transient entertainment wasnt really looked upon. And today, so is art that solely aims at elevating the audience .. Paradoxical!
This only says that people want something that they can relate too!Art is also consumer driven-I guess in a sense that the artist needs to determine his audience and cater to them. Fortunately there is spcae for all kinds of artists in the whole wide world. But at times, one cant but feel the pinch that the good ones could thrive with more support!

"On the contrary, it was for enlightenment, but became extra-curricular with the advent of the Europeans.-" I feel there is no point blaming the Europeans here. Probably we have never been strong at Art Management (still not a course in the University:)While the Europeans especially the British and The French have come out with good grants and Support systems through their art councils, we have probably ended up creating councils with myriad names and no clear vision! What incentive do we have for kids who want to take up arts for career?

" If I teach Bharatanatyam and do not teach how it could be used in different ways in society, we are completely missing the point.”
- What actually is meant by this point is left to one's own interpretation.A thing of beauty is a joy forever... Contentment and Happiness can itself an end goal for creation. Not everything in world needs to be justified by a purpose and an application. It just complicates things!

We need to stop looking hard and reading inbetween lines. We need to let go and start enjoying the lines for their beauty! maybe!

(Not intended for publication!)

Naani said...

great post