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..

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கைப்புள்ள said...


I got tears of Joy reading this post of yours. My music knowledge is not as deep as yours. But I have definitely loved many of the songs that you have quoted in your Genius Raja Blog and this blog. Reading your analysis for each song make me realise the beauty of each song. Keep up the good work.

Have a look at these when you get time.

Raj said...

Thanks a lot for your comments.
By the way, 'Genius Raja' is not mine.It is a blog of one of my friends Ravi Natrajan.

Pl. go thru my other blog where I discuss his very rare songs:

Shall go thru your blogs soon.


கைப்புள்ள said...

Thanks for the clarification and Sorry for my goof-up. Your other blog is as interesting as this.

Iam going on and on and reading your memories associated with SLBC, Raaja and Kannadasan combination and your other song analyses. Its really nice and makes a good reading. Thanks again and I will follow your posts from now on.

Raj said...

I run a community exclusively for Raaja sir in orkut.If you are a member in orkut, pl. join the community.