Monday, 17 August 2009

ILaiyaraaja-The Eloquent Musician!

We human beings are guided by our emotions.

But have we ever sat back and thought as to how we express our emotions? How do we convey what we intend to convey? What kind of language do we use?Is it appropriate and at the same time striking?

The fact of the matter is our personality to a great extent is determined by the way we communicate.When we communicate anything, the other person's mind silently observes us and the quality of his/her response depends on how we communicate rather than what we communicate.

That is why eloquent people have the ability to influence us more. One of the most striking examples is a politician.

Eloquence is a positive word. So why make it negative by associating it with a politician?

Let us look at how the great Tamizh poet Kamban-considered to be one of the most eloquent poets in Tamizh- narrates a situation in Ramayana.This situation itself is a turning point in Ramayana.

On the eve of Rama's coronation, Kaikeyi asks two boons from Dasarata.
1.Her son Bharata to rule the Kingdom.
2.Rama to be sent to forest for 14 years.

Dasarata was too attached to Rama.Kaikeyi brilliantly starts by saying,' First boon- My son to rule the kingdom'.

What follows is a masterstroke.

She knew the very mention of 'Rama' would make Dasarata sit up and react which would ultimately spoil her flow.She feared that if she was interrupted, she might end up not asking what she was 'asked to'.The fact is she was also too attached to Rama but her mind was poisoned by Mantara (kooni).

Therefore, she says 'Seeta's husband to rule the forest'!!

Look at her eloquence...

''ஏய வரங்கள் இரண்டின், ஒன்றினால், என்
சேய் அரசு ஆள்வது; சீதை கேள்வன் ஒன்றால்
போய் வனம் ஆள்வது' எனப் புகன்று, நின்றாள் -
தீயவை யாவையினும் சிறந்த தீயாள்''.

Let us now skip Dasarata's reaction and see what(rather how) Kaikeyi conveys this message to Rama.

'Bharata will rule the world and you will do penance and pray in the forest for 14 years'...and says ' the King(your father) said this'.

"ஆழி சூழ் உலகம் எல்லாம் பரதனே ஆள, நீ போய்த்
தாழ் இருஞ் சடைகள் தாங்கி, தாங்க அருந் தவம் மேற்கொண்டு,
பூழி வெங் கானம் நண்ணி, புண்ணியத் துறைகள் ஆடி,
ஏழ்-இரண்டு ஆண்டின் வா" என்று, இயம்பினன் அரசன்' என்றாள்''.

What do we call this?'Sugar coated poison?
Reminds us of our politicians?

By making Kaikeyi communicate so effectively, Kamban gets the desired result.The readers begin to hate her more..

It is not that only poets/writers/speakers are eloquent.

Musicians are eloquent too.

ILaiyaraaja-one of the greatest cine-musicians has been weaving magic with his music because of his eloquence.

With his appropriate choice of ragas/swaras and the delineation, he is able to bring out subtle emotions so naturally and effectively.

When we listen to the compositions, we laugh; we cry; we roar; we dance; we sing;

In short, we empathise with the characters.
And this is where the greatness of a musician lies.

Today's composition is one such composition.

It is 'Oru Kaatril' from 'Naan KadavuL'(2009).

The composition is based on Rasikapriya.
Rasikapriya is the 72nd(last) melakarata and we have already seen this raga in the post on 'Aganthaiyil aaduvada'(ILaiyaraaja-The Sculptor-Part I dated 11.12.2008).

A vivadi raga-with two vivadi notes 'ri' and 'dha'- Rasikapriya gives a very scary feeling.

Surprisingly enough, Chalanaattai(no.36) , the Sudhdha Madhayama counterpart of Rasikapriya gives a kind of 'mangala' feeling.It is the 'ma' that does the trick here.

The structure of Rasikapriya is:
sa ri3 ga3 ma2 pa dha3 ni3 Sa/Sa ni3 dha3 pa ma2 ga3 ri3 sa.

Now, did I say the song is based on Rasikapriya?

It is..but only some parts.. In the Charanam, the Maestro applies a technique he is very conversant with and it becomes a different raga altogether.

Before I take this up, let me narrate an interesting story.
The first time I listened to this, it sounded Rasikapriya but as I listened to the interludes and the charaNams, I was confused and deciphered the ragam as Kosalam, the 71st Melakarata.

But my musical friend, Tamizharasan made me listen to the CharaNams more closely and it was only then that I discovered the hidden treasure.

I shall explain when I go to the CharaNam part.

Let us start with the prelude.

The opening Dilruba- followed by the brief synthesiser that gives the outline of the tala cycle- is riveting and gives us a tantalising glimpse of Rasikapriya. The percussion along with the synth and the guitar pulsates with buoyancy.

The Pallavi is captivating with the spry fresh voice of the master itself. The first two lines are soft while the third line is effulgent and activates our lachrymal glands.

The first interlude has a swirl of patterns.The Dilruba is interspersed with swift flashes of modern instruments and of course the Bass Guitar.

The Dilruba drills, takes us to the patterned depth of the raga and then takes a flight.A flight that is gradual but with a turn that is sensitive and sudden. It is a beguiling flight indeed.

It touches the 'ni' and taking this note as the 'aadhara'(base) 'sa' it gives a surprise twist. Applying the concept of 'Gruha Bedam', if the 'ni' is taken as the base, the raga becomes Mayamalawagowla.But the genius avoids the note 'pa' totally and makes it sound like Lalita, a raga derived from Mayamalawagowla.The violins and the synthesisers now play Lalita.

Before I take up the CharaNam and the next interlude, let me try and give my interpretation.

The story of 'Naan KadavuL' is based on the Agoris and the physically challenged beggars.

Rasikapriya, a scary raga for Agoris.
Gruha Bedam- for beggars.
Chopping off one note-for the physically challenged.

This is what is eloquence all about!

Let us now go back to the song from where we left.

As mentioned, it now continues in Lalita.

The Charanam has an exemplary structure.The first two lines are silk-edged.The third line shines with emotive content.The last line has fecund articulation.

The second interlude emerges with aesthetic flows.The Raga is now back to Rasikapriya and what is striking here is the use of double bass and the violins in the low pitch to kindle the softer emotions.

The strings then move on intricately drawn passages exquisitely.

We see the curve and the linear.
Towards the end, the Gruha Bedam takes place and it is Lalita again.

We see the beauteous niches of music built on the edifice of depth.

We are permeated by the musical fervour and are inexorably tied.

Sparks of ingenuity!

The Maestro with his musical eloquence adorns the music with a diadem.

இசைக்காற்றில் அலையும் சிறகு நம்மைத் தேடி நம்மிடம் சேரும்..

Get this widget | Track details | eSnips Social DNA

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

ILaiyaraaja's Music is Eternal!

Not all things we see or hear are eternal in this ever changing world. In other words, only few things in this world are everlasting.

Take the sea for example. Waves come, waves go, but it lives forever.

Trees grow, trees fall..but the Mountains continue to exist.

Some more examples can be given but in any case these are part of nature.

What about man-made things?Is it true that only God’s(or nature’s) creations are everlasting?
Not exactly. Human beings are also part of the Creation but are we immortals?

At the same time, some of the works of human beings continue to exist for many years.They may not be everlasting but they give us an everlasting or eternal feeling.

Picasso’s or Ravi Varma’s..

Ellora or Mahabalipuram..

Shakespeare’s or Thiruvalluvar’s..

Talking about Literature, one of the everlasting works in terms of the quantity and the quality is a work called ‘Naalayira Divya Prabhandam’.Quantity, because there are 4000 verses sung by 12 different poets.


After all it was sung by 12 devotees of Lord Vishnu.So what is special about it?

It is because of the variety and the range and the way these poets handled the tamizh language.

I have seen and heard many of the so-called rationalists quote from this work without any inhibitions.

Composed independently by the 12 Vaishnavite devotees-called as Azhwars- this work is unique.

The verses were an outpouring from devotees whose sole intention and objective was to attain Moksha(the divine status).

Many verses are erotic as the Azhwars considered the Lord as their lover.
In fact, I have written about some of the Azhwars and have alsoquoted some verses from their work in this thread.

The story of each Azhwar is as unique and interesting as their poems.

Let us take Thirumangai Azhwar.

He was a trusted and an efficient Lieutenant in one of the Chozha’s kingdoms.Because of his dedication, loyalty and efficiency the King offered him a small part of his kingdom. Parakalan-as he was called then fell in love with a lady called Kumudavalli.It was on her insistence that he took to Bhakti and started feeding 1008 Vaishnava devotees everyday.

Having had to spend a lot of money for this ,he took to stealing money and it is said that one day he stole from the Lord himself who was disguised as a man and that he found it impossible to carry the sack that had the bootie.

The transformation happened.

Parakalan became Thirumangai Azhwar.

The 1253 verses sung by him are real gems.

His poems abound with love and eroticism. I feel this has to do with his earlier love for Kumudavalli because of whom he took to Bhakti.His thoughts were channelised and the romantic in him became a devotee.But the romantic streak continued to exist.

Look at this poem:

ஊழியில் பெரிதால் நாழிகை என்னும் , ஒண் சுடர் துயின்றதால் என்னும்
ஆழியும் புலம்பும், அன்றிலும் உறங்கா, தென்றலும் தீயினில் கொடிது ஆம்,
தோழி!ஓ!என்னும்;துணை முலை அரக்கும்;சொல்லுமின், என் செய்கேன்?என்னும்;
ஏழை என் பொன்னுக்கு என் நினைந்திருந்தாய்? இடவெந்தை எந்தை பிரானே!

‘A moment stretches longer than an aeon, she says
The bright sun is dead she says.
Friend, the ocean too is crying; the Anril bird will not sleep;the southern breeze burns worse than fire.
O, how terrible, she says.
She looks as if she would pluck from their roots her two breasts.
What shall I do?Tell me, she says.
What did you mean to do, lord and master of Idaventhai
About my poor girl, my golden girl?’

(Translation-A.K Ramanujan).

The deity addressed is Adivaraha PerumaL at the Temple at Thiruvidavidanthai, about 30 kms from the present day Chennai. The voice is the foster-mother’s who describes her daughter’s frenzied passion for the Lord.

While each and every word in this verse is beautiful, a special mention must be made about the last line ‘Ezhai en ponnukku en ninainthirunthai’.

‘Ezhai’ means poor and ponnukku means gold.PoN also means a girl.
Poor and gold-how is it possible?

What the poet means is that the girl who is poor without you will become rich if only you shower her with your love.
The use of ‘Pon’ conveys a lot of other meanings as well..
Without getting too deep into the philosophical contours, let us enjoy the beauty of the poem.

Verses like these last even after 1300 years because of this beauty element giving us an everlasting eternal feeling.

All Saint Thyagaraja’s compositions have this element and therefore are everlasting.
He too considered Rama as his lover.

In one of the songs, he says, ‘Oh..beautiful and handsome Rama..I Love you’

(‘Mohanarama Mukhajitasoma!!Mohamu neepai Monasiyunnathira).

He brilliantly chose Mohana Ragam for this.Mohana itself means beauty. In fact, Mohanan is one of the names of Lord Krishna.

One can go on and on about Thyagaraja and the beauty element.

In a similar vein, one can go on and on about the beauty element in ILaiyaraaja’s compositions.

In this thread, we have been seeing as to how he weaves swaras, ragas and talas in the fabric called music.

What is of particular interest is his choice of ragas.

It is a fact that the ragas in his compositions truly reflect the situation in the movie. One classic example is ‘Idhazhil Kadhai Ezhuthum’(Unnal Mudiyum Thambi) where he used the Lalita ragam, Lalita being the name of the heroine.

His speciality lies in the way he handles the ragas. While choosing a raga for a particular song, he does not strictly go by the book.For example, he has used a raga like Subha Pantuvarali- that is supposed to give sad feeling- in romantic and humorous situations.
And an auspicious raga like Kalyani in sad situations.

But what amazes me is the way the raga is made to sound..

Maybe that is why his compositions sound so great giving us an everlasting feeling.

Today’s composition is also one of his special compositions.

I made a mention about the Mohana ragam that is supposed to give us a very happy feeling.

Raaja has used this happy ragam in sad situations and also to depict Viraha.

‘Raasave Unnai Naan Enniththaan’(Thanikkattu Raja) and ‘Oru Ragam Paadalodu’(Ananda Ragam) are based on Mohanam but sound so differently.

But my first preference is for a duet that appears in the movie ‘Nadodi Thendral’.

The song is ‘Oru KaNam Oru Yugamaga’.

Before we take up the song, let us look at Mohanam.

It is a pentatonic ragam derived from the 28th Melakartha Harikamboji and the structure is:

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

The raga is considered to be one of the oldest raga.The notes of this raga are found in almost all forms of music.
The Hindustani counterpart is called as Bhoop or Bhoopali.
The Mohanam scale is found in the South Eastern Music and in gypsy music as well.

In Carnatic music, it is a very special ragam because generally pentatonic(ragas with 5 notes) are not Gamaka laden.(Gamakam is the oscillation of notes and is unique to Carnatic music).But Mohanam is an exception and is full of gamakams.

Let us look at today’s composition. The composition depicts Viraha-the pangs of separation wonderfully. It indeed needs a lot of guts to compose this kind of a song in Mohanam.I have hardly come across a better Viraha song.

The song starts with lucid humming of Janaki.It breathes graciousness and is majestic.

The first two lines are sung without any percussion adding to the beauty. The vibrancy is palpable as the strings and tabla take over.The shrill flute at the end of each line is serenely luminous.

The first interlude moves with tenderness. The feather-touch repartee of the bass flute shows us the sensitive nuances.
The violins move languorously as the shrill-flute shines with radiance.

The Charanam shows us the world of ethereal beauty.The first two lines are sketched with flourish as we see the star studded sky.The cogent melodic progression is amazing and even the alien swara(‘ni’) sounds beautiful.

The sangatis in the last line are lively and lend a quiet glow.

The atmosphere gets enlivened by the succinct and clear voice of the Maestro. The pause here makes us feel want more and more.

We see the variegated pattern unfold before us in the second interlude as we hear the lively violins and the soft and gentle flute. The subtle hues of the raga are shown with a delicate touch.

The second Charanam is also beautifully chiselled.The first two lines have depth and resonance while the other lines are embellished by the notes that shine like diamonds.

The entire composition is built on a grand edifice and it encompasses the entire range of the raga.
It is tender, direct and is deep.

The mellow aspects and the musical effervescence send us into a reverie.

A moment or an aeon-his music is everlasting!

ஒரு கணமாயினும் ஒரு யுகமாயினும் நிலைத்து நிற்கும் இசை..

Get this widget | Track details | eSnips Social DNA