Saturday, 21 March 2009

ILaiyaraaja-The Spontaneous Musician!

’Music and silence combine strongly because music is done with silence, and silence is full of music’’

said Marcel Marceau.

Marcel was a French mime artiste and was the world’s most famous mime who created ‘Bip’, the white-faced clown.

Marceau has performed all over the world and spread L'art du silence meaning the ‘Art of silence’.

He respected silence and considered it as an art.

Is silence full of music?
I am not sure if many will agree with this.

For a moment, think of trees; think of mountains; think of snowfall; think of sculptures; think of a painting.

Do these speak? Do these make sounds?

But can we not agree that all these are musical?

Most of us read books(hopefully!).
What happens when we read?
Are we not in our own world full of silence?
Don’t we enjoy those moments?
Are'nt those moments musical?

Silence is poetic.

Silence is musical.

Silence gives us eternal happiness.

Silence is blissful.

Mahatma Gandhi said, ‘’In the attitude of silence, the soul finds the path in a clearer light, and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness. Our life is a long and arduous quest after Truth’’.

Gandhiji’s quest for Truth and his experiments with Truth are well known (though J Krishnamurthi would say that we do not ‘experiment’ with Truth and that we only experience it).

In the Hindu philosophy, there is a concept of ‘Dakshinamoorthy’.Dakshinamoorthy is one of the forms of Lord Shiva and is called as the Mouna Guru(Guru of Silence!).

He is supposed to be the Guru of the ultimate knowledge and understanding.
Dakshinamoorthy is in the form of abstract yogic meditation brimming with eternal bliss.

Symbolically, it means we acquire eternal knowledge when we are in a state of silence.

AruNagirinaathar-who has composed many verses/songs on Lord Muruga like Thiruppugazh, Mayil Viruththam, Seval Viruththam and whose work Kandar Anthaathi was quoted in the post on ‘Nam thananam thana’(ILaiyaraaja-the beautiful musician), sang about this silence in two different works of his.

In ‘Kandar Anubhoothy’, he says ‘The Lord asked me to shut up and not to talk, but I do not understand what it means’- சும்மா இரு சொல் அற என்றலுமே, அம்மா பொருள் ஒன்றும் அறிந்திலனே .

while in ‘Kandar Alankaaram’ – a later work he says ‘You let me lose everything and let me go into the boundary of silence.’
எல்லாம் இழந்து சும்மா இருக்கும் எல்லையில் என்னை செல்ல விட்டவா!

All these people realised the importance of silence and celebrated silence.

One of the best music composers in the world also celebrates silence.

He loves silence. He reveres silence. He worships silence.

We see this not only in most of his songs but also in his BGM in movies.
He would leave meaningful pauses and moments of silence that would convey more than what an instrument or voice would have conveyed.

Like Marceau, he believed that music and silence combine strongly and that silence is full of music.

And this is the reason for his being a spontaneous musician because silence leads to tranquility and tranquility leads to spontaneity.

It is ‘Mounamaana Neram’ from ‘Salangai Oli’(1983).

Interestingly, it is based on a raga called Pahaadi.
I am saying ‘interestingly’ because Pahaad in Hindi means the Mountain and can there be any better place for silence than the Mountains?

Pahaadi is a Hindustani Raag and is very close to the Maestro’s heart.
The structure is : sa ri2 ga3 pa dha2 pa dha2 Sa in the Arohanam and Sa ni3 dha2 pa ga3 ma1 ga3 ri2 Sa ni3 sa.

Another version is-pa dha2 sa ri2 ga3 pa dha2 Sa/Sa ni3 dha2 pa ma1 ga3 ri2 sa ni3 dha2 pa dha2 Sa.

Please note that there are many versions of the structure and I have given just two versions.

Like most of the Hindustani Raags, alien swaras are widely used in Pahaadi.
In fact, the use of such swaras add to the beauty of the Raag.
To be more specific, the ga2 and dha1 give a beautiful flavour to the Raag.

This film music-is confused with Sankarabharanam or Mohanam and at times Sudhdha Saaveri also.
If Sudhdha Saaveri is sung in madhyama Shruti, we get Raag Pahaadi.

This Raag is romantic, gives a sense of longing, is joyful and is painful!

So many emotions in one Raag?

As mentioned earlier, Maestro has used this Raag prolifically and has given all the emotions mentioned (in fact even more!).

Let us now look at the composition of the day.

We see the niceties of silence in the prelude and the pallavi.

As we hear the bells and the guitar we feel the soft, gentle breeze. This gathers impetus as we hear the humming of Janaki that sounds serene and stirring.We discover the real meanings of quietude and tranquility.

The Pallavi emerges from the silence with splendour. It is mellow, exquisite, and imperial conjuring up a silhouette of silence.

In the first interlude, the piquant flute crisscrosses the spoken and the unspoken. It traverses through the arc of the raga’s deliciousness.
It is like the birds chattering their ditties.

The beginning of the Charanam is like a mild fountain.It becomes a lovely musical fountain that gathers momentum finally flowing like a quiet stream.

We see the nuances of the Raga in this stream.

The second interlude is ornate. It shows the varied textures of the raga. The flute interspersed with the other musical instruments plays with sensitivity.
It shows us the contrastive colours of the raga.

It is weighty and zestful. It is innocent and sharp.

It is languorous and lucid. It is straight and circumfluent.

The composition gives us an admixture of feelings-Joy,Pain,Romance,Longing.
What is elusive and deceptive resolves into crystal clearness.

Music full of silence and silence full of music.

That is Tranquility !

மெளனமான நேரம் அவர் இசை இருந்தால் போதும்!

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

ILaiyaraaja-The Wonder!

Out of the 12 Vaishnavite saints-called as Aazhwars- Nammaazhwar is considered to be very special.

The 12 Aazhwars composed verses in Tamizh totaling 4000 in number and this compiled work is called as the ‘Naalaayira Divya Prabhandam’. This treatise is considered to be very sacred..

But is not the Bhakti element alone that attracts Literature lovers to this work. The Language and the Description make this a poetic work making even Non believers read and appreciate.

Let us go back to Nammaazhwar now.

Out of the 4000 verses, he composed 1296 verses-about 32%.
He composed these under four different headings-Thiruviruthham,Thiruvaasiriyam,Periya Thiruvanthaathi, Thiruvaaimozhi- and these are considered to give the essence of Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharva Vedas respectively.

In one of his verses, he says, ‘He is present here if we believe He exists.He is present here without any form if we believe He does not exist.’ Being’ and ‘Not Being’ are his characteristics.’

உளன் எனில் உளன்,அவன் உருவம் இவ் உருவுகள்;
உளன் அலன் எனில்,அவன் அருவம் இவ் அருவுகள்;
உளன் என,இலன் என,இவை குணம் உடைமையில்,
உளன் இரு தகைமையொடு ஒழிவு இவன் பரந்தே.

It does sound philosophical but what is life without philosophy?
And reading this gives one pleasure whether one concurs with this or not.

It is even said that after Nammaazhwaar was born, he was like a still- born baby for 16 years after which he started composing the verses.

He was a Wonder!

If Nammaazhwar composed the maximum number of verses, Madurakavi Aazhwaar composed the minimum no.of verses-just 11.

And these 11 were not on the Almighty but on the person he considered as his Guru, Guiding force, and leading light.

Yes, he considered Nammaazhwar as his Guru and propagated the verses of Nammaazhwaar.

In one of his verses, Madurakavi Azhwaar says ‘Talking about my Guru gives me immense pleasure. I shall roam around singing his verses. I do not know anything else.’

நாவினால் நவிற்று இன்பம் எய்தினேன்.
மேவினேன் அவன் பொன்னடி மெய்ம்மையே!
தேவு மற்று அறியேன் குருகூர் நம்பி,
பாவின் இன்னிசை பாடித் திரிவேனே.

On this auspicious day, it gives me immense pleasure to talk about a person whom I consider as my Guru.

He is divine like Nammaazhwar and is a wonder.

Luckily, for this Nammaazhwaar, there are lots of Madurakavi Aazhwaars..

He made me realise what music is..

He made me understand Music.He made me appreciate Music.

He taught me the nuances through his compositions.

He made me develop interest in many good things in life.

One of my objectives in life is to propagate his compositions (many unknown) and try and analyse the finer elements in his music. My real journey began more than one year back when I started sharing my observations with like- minded people.

Today, I am taking up a composition that is very special to me. Not just to me but to many of my friends who have listened to this song.

I consider this composition as one of his masterpieces.

It is ‘Engengo Sellum’ from ‘Pattakkathi Bhairavan’(1979).

This composition is based on Sudhha Dhanyasi.

The structure is:
Sa ga2 ma1 pa ni2 Sa/Sa ni2 pa ma ga2 sa.

Since the interludes are in Western Classical style, the Ragam tends to deviate but this makes it more beautiful!

Let us now look at this marvel.

The Composition starts with the Guitar giving feather like touches. The Violin Orchestra now gives the melodic stimulation. The Music that follows fondles us!

The Pallavi is full of deft phrasings and is ingeniously structured.
What does one say about the voices of SPB and Janaki. Sweetness personified.

The first Interlude pulses with energy. The Violins play with vivacity and suddenly we see the magic. The Double Bass makes its entry as the Violins change track and continue to play. It is the beautiful blending of delicate and sonorous sounds.

We are wonder- struck by the potency, intensity and the glow!

But this is only the beginning.

The Charanam is ornate with subtleties.

It starts with a long sojourn in ‘Aaaa..’ followed by ‘Naan KaaNbathu Un Kolame..’.As we begin to lose ourselves, it is magic again.
’Angum.. Ingum… Engum… ‘ reverberate.

The echo-like effect is produced by using three different pairs of Swaras continuosly- gapa.. nipa… Sapa..

As if this is not enough, we see the same effect in the last line ‘Nee..Nee..Nee’ .

Raaja-The Magician!

Raaja-The Wonder!

The second interlude has relishable twists and turns.

We see the beauteous landscape with the sun painting the sky at dawn.

The Sun now slowly spreads its golden rays.

We see the small raindrops falling from the heavens.

We see the iridescent Rainbow hues.

As the Guitar is played, we see the delectable converging of a cadence of colours.

The Stones in the Mountains turn into beautiful Flowers.

It is thrilling.

It is spectacular.

This composition has purposeful innovative phrasings laced with clarity.

It is exotically redolent and aesthetically linked.

It is a veritable feast.

எங்கெங்கோ செல்லும் நம் எண்ணங்கள் இங்கே நாம் கண்டோம் அவர் வண்ணங்கள்.
நம் வாழ்க்கை வானில் நிலாவே..
அவர் அன்றும் இன்றும் என்றும் ராஜாவே!

Our thoughts go here and there..
We get to see his colours now..
He is the Moon in our Life.
King-then, now and forever!

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Monday, 2 March 2009

ILaiyaraaja-Musician Extraordinaire!

Tamizh language is extraordinary.

Yes.. It is more than 3000 years old and it is a language still in use unlike other classical languages.
But it is extraordinary not just because of this fact.

The literature of Tamizh is very rich and incomparable with any of the major languages.
Starting from the Sangam literature-that itself has 18 works- it has the five major epics, five minor epics, ThirukkuraL, Pazhamozhi,Aaththichoodi, Kamba RamayaNam..just to name a few.

Apart from these, there is an endless list of works in Bhakti literature that include Thevaaram, Thiru Arutpa, Naalaayira Divya Prabandham,Thiruppugazh etc.,.And of course, one of the greatest poets in the world Subramaniya Bharati’s works..

What amazes one is not just the list but also the range of subjects and emotions covered by the literature.

There is valour, love, preaching, devotion, affection, life style, nature..
All these told with a unique sense of aesthetics!

Look at the following verse from KuRunthogai, that is part of the Sangam literature composed more than 2500 years back.

The Heroine waits and waits months together for her beloved to arrive.
Finally, he arrives.

Her friend addresses the Hero:

“Melt all the butter from all the cows of all the cowherds in the woods of Nalli who has strong Chariots,
Mix it with the steaming rice from the dense white paddy of Tonti fields.
Heap them in seven bowls and offer it all to that crow that cawed those good omens
Bringing guests and an end to the grief that has been wasting the girl’s arms
Even so, the offering would still be too little.”

திண்தேர் நள்ளி கானத்து அண்டர்
பல்லா பயந்த நெய்யில் தொண்டி
முழுதுடன் விளைந்த வெண்ணெல் வெஞ்சோறு
எழு கலத்து ஏந்தினும் சிறிதென் தோழி
பெருந்தோள் நெகிழ்த்த செல்லற்கு
விருந்துவரக் கரைந்த காக்கையது பலியே.

The cawing of the crow is believed to announce/indicate the arrival of a guest or somebody very close to us.

The friend says that even if the Heroine offers many bowels of rice to the crow that cawed the previous day, it may not be equal to the happiness she has now or the suffering she underwent waiting for you.

In the process, the poet also describes the beauty of the land of their leader ‘NaLLi’ who ruled the ‘ThoNdi’forest.

This verse was composed by a lady ‘Nachchellair’ who earned the sobriquet of ‘Kakkai Paadiniyaar’ meaning the one who sang about the crow.

Poetic imagination and beauty at their best!

Like Tamizh literature, the composer so revered and loved by many is also extraordinary.

Not just because he has composed music for more than 875 albums.
But because of the range of subjects and emotions his music encompasses.
And because of the felicitous use of the best things in International music and the way these have been applied to suit the situations in the movies.
And because of the aesthetic quality of the compositions..

As we have been seeing in this thread, he has used (and been using) Indian classical ragas in the process bringing out the beauty and the essence of the ragas, a task not that easy in the environment he is living in.

He has an uncanny understanding of poise of the Ragas and his conscious assimilation of different forms of Music makes him and his compositions unique!

Today, we are going to see his usage of two allied ragas in one composition.

The two ragas are Arabhi and Saamaa.

The Arohana of the two Ragas are the same as that of Sudhha Saveri.While the Avarohana of Aarabhi is complete with all the seven Swaras, Saamaa drops ‘Ni’ in the Avarohana and has only six Swaras.

Arabhi’s structure is sa ri2 ma1 pa dha2 Sa/Sa ni3 dha2 pa ma1 ga3 ri2 sa while Saama’s structure is sa ri2 ma1 pa dha2 Sa/Sa dha2 pa ma1 ga3 ri2 sa.

But the major difference lies in the way the two Ragas are rendered.

The Phrases-‘pa pa ma ga ri’ and ‘sa dha’ ‘ri sa’ ‘ma ga ri sa.’- give us Arabhi while ‘sa ri sa ri ma ga ri ‘ ‘sa dha pa ma ma pa ma ga sa ri’ ‘dha ri ri sa’, dha sa ri ma ga ri ga ri sa ri ‘ give us Saama.

The speciality of Saamaa is the very soft rendering of ‘Ma’. This Raga gives us mental peace.It is not without reason that Saint Thaygaraja sang ‘Saanthamu Lekha Sowkhyamu Ledhu’(there is no happiness without Mental Peace) in Saama.

Sadaasiva Brahmendra sang ‘Manasa Sancharare Brahmani Maanasa Sancharare’in Saama-meaning ‘Oh..mind!Undertake your pilgrimage in the Brahmam!’

A Raga for tranquility and peace!

Let us see the composition of the Maestro.
It is ‘Mannavane Mannavane’ from ‘Thanthu Vitten Ennai’(1992).

We get to see the Aesthetic Simplicity with Flashes of Brilliance as the composition starts with the percussion.

The opening is very different with the percussion sounding ‘ta ki ta ta ki ta ta ka’followed by the strings, violins and the Flute in lower Octave.

The rhythmic pattern not only makes us sway but also takes us to the Palace of the King.

A Musical Palace!

The Pallavi gives Arabhi in a burnished form in the voice of SPB and Janaki.
The line ‘Kannithamizh thene’ pours like Honey into our ears.

In the interlude, he is able to produce amazing sounds not just because of his Music Knowledge but also because of his predilection to do things differently and beautifully!

The violins cruise over a gradual incline as the electronic instruments follow suit. The Guitar plays with a flamed intensity. The violins take over again with sprightly elegance. Towards the end, we see the resplendent flashes of the bass.

But what is gripping and to a great extent the cornerstone of the composition is the Charanam. We hear phrases of Saama brilliantly juxtaposed giving a Poignant Feeling.

The lines ‘Eduththu naan padiththa ettu kaNakku’ and ‘Indru vanthu sernthathamma’are in Aarabhi entwined with subtle shades of Saamaa. The following two lines are in Aarabhi.

Saamaa is in full flow as the line ‘Nallathoru paadam solla kaadhal vaguppu..’

Scintillating stuff!!

In the second interlude, Janaki hums with elegant fluency to the joyful accompaniment of the strings, the violins and the flute.The richness, the verve and the vibrancy are astonishing.

In the gorgeous multi dimensional musical canvas, we get to see the niceties and the nuances.

It transcends the grammar and bridges the gap between the traditional and modern.

It gives us perpetual joy and eternal bliss.

இந்த மன்னவனின் இசை கன்னித் தமிழைப் போல் என்றுமே தேன் தான்!

The music of this King is as sweet as the language of Tamizh!

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