Wednesday, 10 June 2009

ILaiyaraaja-The Unpretentious Musician!

‘’I go down to their level and then try to take them along with me to a higher level. It sounds easy but is difficult in practice.’’

‘’The setting does not matter. It is the intent that matters’’.

These are the words of Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, one of the popular Sufi musicians.

Rahat and his uncle, the great legend Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan were accused by the ‘purists’ of taking the Qawwali and Sufi Music to Marriage Halls and films.

This throws up lot of questions.

Should Classical arts be confined to the closed walls?

If yes, why?

If no, then should the form change?

Should it be too simplified?

In the name of ‘simplification’, should the artiste stoop to ‘conquer’?

Where does one draw a line?

Let us look at the questions one by one.

Classical Arts can never be the preserve of certain class of people. No single community can claim to be the owner of any Art Form.In fact, I discussed this at length in my post on ‘Paadariyen..’ sometime back.

All forms must reach the masses and only then can they grow.

But the danger is that in the name of ‘simplification’, some artistes –musicians and dancers- make it too simple that the classical essence itself is lost.

Instead of raising the bar, these artistes lower it finally ending up with gimmickry.
What starts off as ‘taking to the masses’ and ‘playing to the gallery’ takes the shape of (at times taking no shape!) a ‘Mass Product’.

What is shown and demonstrated then is the ‘capability’ of the artiste to perform gymnastics in fine arts.

It is here that the words of Rahat -‘It is the intent that matters’- assume significance.

If the intent is good, the mission will be successful.

Therefore, whether it is Music in Films or Music in a typical Classical Platform, what matters is the objective of the artiste, the way he/she is able to execute and most importantly the ability of the artiste to take the audience/listeners to a higher plane.

Though purists frown as soon as a mention is made of ‘Film Music’, it is an accepted fact that Films have played a very big role in propagating classical arts.

And the man hailing from a very small village called Pannaippuram in Madurai district has strived hard to popularize Classical music.And he did this without any pretentions.

He has simplified the form without in anyway tampering with the aesthetic values.

He has used very popular Ragas giving us the essence.

He has used very rare Ragas(some of the ragas were not known or used by the classical musicians until he brought them out-examples being Sallapam, Rasika Ranjani, Samudra Priya etc.,)

He composed using only the ascending notes- a new and novel concept- but not at the cost of classicism.

He composed using just three notes.

He applied the concept of Sruti Bedam .

He used very intricate Tala(rhythmic) patterns.

The point here is that the layman would not have understood many of these concepts.
But they enjoyed (and continue to enjoy) for the sheer happiness and pleasure the music gave (gives).

But I also know many people who got interested in classical music after listening to his compositions( a classic example is ‘yours sincerely’!).

Today, we are going to see an interesting composition of his.

Contrary to what is believed (of course by people who have not listened to many of his compositions), he has composed lot of songs in Hindustani Ragas.

Today’s Composition is also based on a Hindustani Raga.

The Raga is ‘Shudhh Saarang’ and the composition is ‘Oru Devathai’ from the Film ‘Naan Sonnathe Sattam’.

‘Shuddh Saarang’ is a very melodious Raga and it uses both the variations of ‘ma’ like many Hindustani ragas.

The Structure is:

sa ma1 ri2 ma2 pa ni3 Sa/Sa ni3 dha2 pa ma2 pa dha2 pa ma1 ri2 sa.

Now, let us look at the composition.

The Chorus voice spreads, swarms and warps. Suddenly, the violins loom into view.
The Flute and Strings stir to life and we get to see the Angel..

The intricately carved Pallavi sounds stunning with the voices of SPB and Asha Bhonsle. The line ‘En Manathil Puthiya RagangaL’ is exotic.

The Flute then plays with lucidity while the Guitar undulates gently with a satiny texture. In fact, one gets a taste of Hamsanadam- a Ragam very close to Shudhh Saarang.
The Violins give some unique touches mesmerizing us.

The Charanam can be divided into three parts.

The first one ‘Kaattinil Poo Vaasam’ and ‘Kadalinil Mazhai’ is scintillating with the sweet voices of Asha and SPB.

The second one ‘Anbenum..’ is tender.

The third one ‘Naan seitha..’oozes with zest.

The second interlude is caparisoned with beautiful orchestration.

The vivifying Flute is followed by the chorus voices singing with insouciant grace.

It is then the encompassing sweep of the violins as the Guitar plays with stylized musical fervour.

The composition is a continual rain of honey.

It is built on the edifice of beauty.

It gives us an exquisite image of the Raga.

It is a delightful treat.

It is the song of the angel….It opens our Hearts and pierces inside..

தேவதை வந்தது.மனச்சிறைக் கூண்டைத் துளைத்துச் சென்றது.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

ILaiyaraaja's Music is Omnipresent and Omnipotent!

‘There's music in the sighing of a reed;
There's music in the gushing of a rill;
There's music in all things, if men had ears:
Their earth is but an echo of the spheres.’

Said Lord Byron .

Subramaniya Bharati went one step ahead.

Listening to the song of a cuckoo, he wants to become a cuckoo himself . The cuckoo inspired him so much that he dedicated one of his works to the bird.
Titled ‘Kuyil Paattu’(Song of the Cuckoo), this work of his is one of the beautiful works ever with Philosophical contours in Tamizh language.

‘It seems that
The breeze is mixed with nectar,
With the lightning showing its face,
The Beauty Queen from the Heaven
Descending in the form of music.
I am in a state of ecstasy
Listening to this song of Cuckoo
And I want to become a Cuckoo
To say many unknown things to this world!’

இன்னமுதைக் காற்றினிடை எங்கும் கலந்ததுபோல்
மின்னற்சுவைதான் மெலிதாய் மிகவினிதாய்
வந்து பரவுதல்போல் வானத்து மோகினியாள்
இந்த உரு எய்தித் தன் ஏற்றம் விளங்குதல்போல்

இன்னிசைத் தீம்பாடல் இசைத்திருக்கும் விந்தைதனை
முன்னிக் கவிதைவெறி மூண்டே நனவழியப்
பட்டப் பகலிலே பாவலர்க்குத் தோன்றுவதாம்
நெட்டைக் கனவின் நிகழ்ச்சியிலே கண்டேன் யான்
கன்னிக் குயிலொன்று காவிடத்தே பாடியதோர்
இன்னிசைப் பாட்டினிலே யானும் பரவசமாய்
'மனித உரு நீங்கிக் குயிலுருவம் வாராதோ?'
குக்குக்கூ என்று குயில் பாடும் பாட்டினிலே
தொக்கப் பொருளெல்லாம் தோன்றியதென் சிந்தைக்கே
அந்தப் பொருளை அவனிக்கு உரைத்திடுவேன்.

People like Byron and Bharati worshipped nature. They saw music everywhere. They knew that Music is omnipresent and omnipotent.

That is why their works continue to exist.

Coming to think of it, can there be anything in this world that is not musical?
If only we realise this fact, there would be no quarrels, squabbles, fights, wars and the world would be a better place to live.

Let us celebrate music on this special day.A day when Film Music acquired a new dimension.

Like Byron and Bharati, this gentleman saw music everywhere.
Not only did he see music, but also that he understood it.

Not only did he understand it, but also that he improvised it.

Not only did he improvise it, but also that he made it sound simple.

Not only did he make it sound simple but also that he made it sound very different.

Not only did he make it sound different but also that he made it sound very melodious.

In this thread, we have been seeing the classical and finer elements in his music.

This special day’s composition is also very special befitting the occasion.
Special because it talks about music itself. Can there be a better way of wishing a special person on this special day?

The composition is ‘Vaana Mazhai Pole Varum GaanangaL’ from ‘Ithu Namma Bhoomi’(1992).

It is based on a raga called Raageshree.

Raageshree is a Hindustani Raag derived from the Khamaj thaat(equivalent to Carnatic Harikamboji).
Its Aroh is ni2 sa ga3 ma1 dha2 ni2 Sa and Avaroh Sa ni2 dha2 pa ma1 ga3 ri2 sa.

‘pa’ is used very sparingly and the phrase ‘Sa ni ni dha ma ga sa’ adds beauty to this Raag.

As per the texts, this Raag is sung in the night and is majestic and meditative.

The song starts with the distinctively mellifluous humming of Yesudass.
The Pallavi woos us with its simplicity.It is reposeful and has a sense of quietude. Very soft framing of the Pallavi. The tabla beats evoke a focussed ambience of a Gazal.

‘Music pours like the rain from the heavens.The clouds sing melody. This music lasts forever’.

In the first interlude, the flute brimming with vim and vigour plays with undulating energy to the accompaniment of modern percussion instruments. The tender but deep Sitar gives the Flute and angelic strength as the Flute elegantly sings like a cuckoo.

The CharaNam is deftly framed giving us an enchanting harmony.

The first two lines are exquisite while the next two lines have liquid glides. The last line gives a sparkling finish.The icing on the cake is the sympathetic strings(resonance or auxiliary strings found in the Hindustani instruments like Sitar and Sarod).

‘The mind and the heart are relaxed in the night with music.It gives a healing touch. Flower blooms in the Dry rock and the Steel becomes moist with music’.

It is ‘Hop, skip and jump’ in the second interlude as we see the shades of western music with modern instruments that play with insouciance. The exquisite Sitar appears now with grace and style. We now enjoy the moments of beauty as the swaras are sung.

Free flowing expressions at its best!

The malleable phrases continue in the CharaNam.

‘Who has soaked honey in the voice of the cuckoo?
Who has made the heart so light-as light as the music?
I do not need the Stage..I can sing in a small room.
Do the cuckoos sing to attain name and fame?
I am happy to sing and this is enough!’

The composition caresses us gently like a breeze.

We see the Snow-capped Mountains and the Dollops of snow.

We see the ripples of melody as the droplets of rain furrow down.

We see the emerald green valley and smell the fresh grass and the flowers.

We see the serene blue translucent lake and we see ourselves there.

We are in communion with nature.

His Music is omnipresent and omnipotent.

நிலைக்கும் கானம் இது..நெடுநாள் வாழும் இது!

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