Friday, 27 November 2009

ILaiyaraaja's Music is Poetic..

There is poetry in everything.

If only we are able to understand and appreciate the poetry in what we see, what we feel and what we experience, our life will be more beautiful.

One need not be a poet to do this. In fact, one does not have to be even a writer.All it requires is an objective view with a sense of aesthetics.
This does not mean that if one takes a poetic view, the problem will be solved automatically. Or that one can take an escapist route, live in a Utopian world and let things pass. One will certainly have to deal with a problem, and find a solution.

At the same time, there are things in the world that are beyond our control. Events that happen just like that. Episodes that unfold before us without our being prepared for them. Happenings that make us strongly believe that Life is very unfair to us.

Now, think!

The things, events, episodes, happenings cannot change. But the way we look at them is in our hands and this can definitely change.

What happens if we look at the hidden poetry in an event?

The cause or the effect would remain. But we become more refined. More mature. More affable.

One finds such happenings in Literature.

In my previous post, I mentioned as to how two small girls sang a poem when they were confronted with a personal tragedy.It is not that this emotive outflow directly helped them tide over the crisis.But it did give them solace.

It is also a fact that the poem brought them a lot of laurels.(as per history, they were later married off to King Deiveegan in a place called Thirukovilur and lived happily ever after!).

Now have a look at this poem from KuRunthogai written by MiLaipperum Kandhanar :

சுடர் செல் வானம் சேப்பப் படர்கூர்ந்து
எல்லறு பொழுதின் முல்லை மலரும்
மாலை என்மனார் மயங்கியோரே
குடுமிக் கோழி நெடுநகர் இயம்பும்
பெரும்புலர் விடியலும் மாலை
பகலும் மாலை துணையிலோர்க்கே

‘Only the dim witted say it’s evening when the sun goes down
And the sky reddens when misery deepens
And the mullai begins to bloom in the dusk
But even when the tufted cock calls in the long city and the long night breaks into dawn
It is evening; even noon is evening to one who has no one’.

The girl waits for her lover to return.And she pours out saying ‘to me everything looks like evening in the absence of my lover’.

Look how poetically she describes her misery.

There is poetry in waiting. There is poetry in longing. There is poetry in misery.

There is of course poetry in music.

In this Blog, we have been seeing the hidden beauties in ILaiyaraaja’s music.
All of us know his natural ability to compose melodious tunes.
But what sets him apart is the way the he deals with human emotions in his compositions.

Though each raga has an emotion attached to it, it is not the ragas alone that matter here.It is the way, they are used and applied (especially in film music).
ILaiyaraaja is a Master in this art and this makes his compositions sound more poetic.

The composition we are going to see today is about a complex relationship. It is sung by a woman who is caught between two worlds-one that gives her pleasure and the one that gives her pain. A case of pain being a pleasure and pleasure being painful. She is driven by an overriding sense of guilt, but still she seems to revel in the situation.

The composition is ‘Ennullil Engo’ from ‘Rosappoo Ravikkaikari’(1979).

It is based on Dharmavathy, a raga known to evoke nostalgic feelings and a sense of yearning.

It is the 59th melakarta and its structure is
Sa ri2 ga2 ma2 pa dha2 ni3 Sa/Sa ni3 dha2 pa ma2 ga2 ri2 sa.

If one changes the variant of ‘ga’, it becomes Kalyani, a totally different raga in terms of the emotions it invokes.

That is the beauty of music..

I had mentioned about the way the Maestro’s uses the ragas.
Just to quote an example, the same Dharmavathy was used in ‘MeeNdum MeeNdum Vaa’(Vikram)- a very romantic song.

In ‘Ennullil Engo’, he avoids the use of ‘ri’ and ‘dha’ in many phrases making it sound like Madhuvanti(loosely the Hindustani counterpart of Dharmavathy).
He does apply one more technique to depict the character and we shall see this later.

Let us look at the composition.

The rich tone of Sarod surrounds us and the Violins surge forth with energy.The Santoor now smiles the flute exuding sensitivity.

This prelude prepares us for the feast waiting for us.

The pallavi in the crystal clear voice of Vani Jayaram is redolent with melody.
The first part is simple until the words ‘En KetgiRathu’.It then oscillates gently giving us a very different feeling.

The pause between the Pallavi and the first interlude is brilliantly conceived and executed.

The violins then play with a yearning tone. They become enticingly energetic when the Flute joins and takes glittering flights. It is height of ecstasy as we hear the violins, the swirling flute and the succulent tone of the Santoor.

The CharaNam is delightfully layered.

We see and hear the melodic tint in the first two lines.This is followed by a plethora of sangatis giving the nuances of the raga with wonderful shades of musicality.

The second interlude is a masterpiece.
The Flute gives an array of arresting patterns.As we begin to lose ourselves in the lightning flashes, we are led to a world of sheer magic.

The Shruti changes and the ‘ri’ is taken as a base to give a completely different ragam-Chakaravagam.We have discussed this concept of Gruha Bedam in this thread.
The Maestro has used it extensively in many compositions and I think he used it for the first time in this song.

I also feel he must have used it to depict the emotional upheaval of the character.

Sparks of ingenuity!

Dharmavathy is back with the puissant sound of the sitar followed by the dazzling santoor.

It is a composition captures the entire gamut of human emotions with unfettered musical acumen.

I yearn to hear more and more of your poetic music..

என்னுள்ளம் எப்போதும் ஏங்குவது உனது இசையினைக் கேட்டிடத்தான்..

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Saturday, 21 November 2009

ILaiyaraaja's Music- Subtle..and Graceful!

‘That month in that white moonlight,
We had our father and no one could take the hill.
This month in this white moonlight,
Kings with drums drumming victory have taken over the hill,
And we have no father’.

அற்றைத் திங்கள் அவ் வெண் நிலவில்,
எந்தையும் உடையேம்; எம் குன்றும் பிறர் கொளார்;
இற்றைத் திங்கள் இவ் வெண் நிலவில்,
வென்று எறி முரசின் வேந்தர் எம்
குன்றும் கொண்டார்; யாம் எந்தையும் இலமே!

(English Translation Courtesy-A.K.Ramanujan)

A very simple poem indeed! But there is something in this that gives us a very different feeling; a feeling that is difficult to describe..

Let us look at the background and see as to who wrote this.

This was sung by two small girls, Angavai and Sangavai who were the daughters of a King called Paari. They were just around 8 years old when they sang this.

Difficult to believe?

This poem is taken from ‘PuRanaanooru’, -a collection of 400 verses- part of the Ettuthogai of Tamizh Sangam literature(100 B.C.-A.D.250).

‘PuRanaanooru’ talks about kings, valour, war, death etc.,

Out of the 400 poems, 16 poems (105-120) revolve around the King Paari, a privilege not enjoyed by any other king.

Who was this Paari? What was so special about him?
A King who was magnanimous, giving, kind, charitable, benevolent, munificent and noble..

It is said that once when he was going around his kingdom in his chariot, he saw a jasmine creeper lying on the way without any support. So large hearted and compassionate was Paari that he offered his chariot to the creeper(for support) and walked all the way back to his palace!

His kingdom was the ‘PaRampu Hill’, very small compared to the other great kingdoms.

However, the Hill was as wide as the sky and the pools flashed like the stars. In his Hill, fruits were crammed with segments of sweet flesh and the rich tall hill would drip with honey. The Greenland knew no lack of rains and even the bushes would flower.

Hearing the beauty and the richness of the PaRampu Hill, the ‘Bigger Kings’ decide to acquire it. They scheme, plot and capture the Hill.
Paari, whose arms were strong, whose spears were sharp and whose chariots gleamed is killed by the cunning and crafty honchos.

Now, read that poem sung by the little girls.
Does it not have an indefinable tenderness and an irresistable appeal?
This is what great literature is all about.

Subtle and Graceful!

Great Music too has such an appeal. It takes us to a new plane; a territory that is beautiful and magnificent.

Many compositions of one of the greatest musicians in the Film world are so subtle that at times they even sound very simple. At the same time, if one delves deep into it, one understands how beautiful, graceful and intricate they are.

This musician’s journey in pursuit of sublime depth of music has given us compositions that touch a very deep chord in us. This is precisely the reason for many of his songs sounding so fresh and yet every time we listen to them, we discover new hidden meanings.

Today, we are going to see one more composition of his.

It is ‘Konji Karaiyalle’ from the Malayalam film ‘Poomukhappadiyil Ninneyum Kaaththu’(1986).

The composition is based on Sindhu Bhairavi.

This Raga is special because of many reasons.
Let us look at the formal structure.
Derived from the 10th Melakarata Natakapriya,
its Arohana is sa ri2 ga2 ma1 ga2 pa dha1 ni2 Sa
and its avarohana- ni2 dha1 pa ma1 ga2 ri1 sa ni2 sa.

However, this is only on paper and it is one of the ragas that is defined more by the prayogas.All the 12 swaras can be used in this raga.

The Raga originates from Hindustani music-where it is known by the name Bhairavi. ’Bhairavi’ is one of the eight forms of the Devi.The meaning of ’Sindhu’is ‘born from the sea or the river.

Look how the name itself is very interesting.

The raga has the capability to attract even the uninitiated or the untutored.
So well has the Carnatic system adopted this Ragam that a Carnatic recital is incomplete without the rendering of Sindhu Bhairavi Raga(either as a Slokam or as part of a Ragamalika).

A subtle and graceful Raga, Sindhu Bhairavi evokes a very different feeling difficult to express.
It is not a surprise that this is one of the most favourite ragas of the Maestro. I say favourite because he has composed more than 100 songs in this raga alone.

Now, you would have understood as to why I called this a very special Raga.

Let us now look at the composition.

It has a rather unusual beginning. A plaintive violin in the higher octave joined by the viola in the lower octave and a very different and distinct whistle. Musical piece that is stirring and inspiring.

It is enlivened by the voices of Yesudass and Janaki.The pause(of 2-beats) is supple as our hearts miss a beat or two.The Pallavi brims with energy and has an evocative appeal.

The yearning continues in the first interlude with the vivacious flute etching vignettes of a beautiful sketch.It is a chiaroscuro as the zestful strings and the whistle give a discursive picture of Sindhu Bhairavi.

We see the delicate sensitivities of expression in the CharaNam.The first two lines are pulsating and at the same time delicate.Mellifluence splashes in the next two lines as the duo Yesudass and Janaki sing together.The following line sparkles in the voice of Janaki.

It is divine sound now as we hear the chiming of the bell.The strings whoosh through with the viola moulding the nuances of the raga.We see the myriad hues and the attractive flounces as the notes in sets of three are played in varying patterns.

The second CharaNam is dynamic and delectable.

The composition shows the artistic integrity.

It is an outpouring of creativity.

It traverses unexpected vistas.

Simple.. yet Attractive..
Subtle.. yet Deep..
Graceful.. yet Meaningful..

‘Moist Eyes..Melting Hearts..’

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Friday, 13 November 2009

ILaiyaraaja's Music is Divine..

At times we tend to misunderstand or misinterpret certain words. The word ‘sensuality’ is a classic example.

In the Madras Music and Dance Season in Dec 2007, there was a symposium on a very interesting and intriguing topic-‘Sensuality in Dance and Music’. One of the persons ( a senior dancer!) who gave the introduction on the first day went to the extent of defining sensuality with the help of a Dictionary and said the word would also mean ‘debauchery’.

Thankfully, T M Krishna, the young and energetic musician known for his forthright views and comments said the word could be interpreted in so many ways. 'Sensuality' according to him is something that gives him immense pleasure.

Carnatic Music does give him great pleasure.

He went on to play the recordings of stalwarts like Madurai Mani Iyer, GNB, Semmangudi and said these voices are sensual according to him though some ‘purists’ may not agree.

The problem is such topics remain as taboos and even making a mention is considered to be sacrilegious.

Of course there is a thin line dividing between ‘sensuality’ and ‘vulgarity’. In the case of some artistes this line gets blurred and one feels the vulgarity -or even the term defined so well by that dancer who gave the introductory speech- when they perform.

It is the way the artiste expresses the art form.

The fact of the matter is almost all the Varnams, Padams, Javalis in Bharathanatyam are erotic but it is used as a vehicle to get close to the almighty and attain divinity.

We have this in Bhakthi Literature as well. Naalaayira Divya Prabandham, Geeta Govindam are some examples.

Therefore there is nothing wrong if we say classical music is sensuous (provided of course that we fully understand the meaning and say this!).

ILaiyaraaja’s music appeals to our senses and touches the soul. It is Sensual and Divine!

By using very different ragas, he has given new meanings and new dimensions.

One such Raga is Vakulabharanam.

Vakulabharanam is a very interesting Raga.It is the 14th Melakartha and is very close to Mayamalawagowla and Todi.

The variant of ‘ni’ is different in Mayamalawagowla and that of ‘ga’ is different in Todi.

But this is only on paper.

Vakulabharanam has a unique flavour that is unmatched. In fact it would surprise many if I say that this Raga has lot of Arabic flavour.

Yes, this Raga is sensuous in deed.

Raja brought out this flavour wonderfully in ‘Kinnaththil Then Vadiththu..’(ILamai Oonjalaadugirathu).

But what is more amazing is the way he used this Raga in a philosophical song, ‘Aaarum Athu Aaazhamillai’(Muthal Vasantham) bringing out the somber mood of this Raga.

That is why he is called Raga Devan!

Let us see the structure of the Ragam:

Sa ri1 ga3 ma1 pa dha1 ni2 Sa/Sa ni2 dha1 pa ma1 ga3 ri1 sa.

The composition?

It is ‘Eee Daha’ from the Kannada film 'Shikari'.

The song opens with Janaki singing a brief subtle aalap mellifluously and the Raga unfolds in absolute astuteness. The strings then play with dash and spirit.

The Pallavi exudes the characteristic charm of the Raga with a built- in interplay of laya.

The first interlude gives the energetic sound patterns imbued with an intensity that makes us dance. The riveting and reposeful chorus is soporific. Suddenly the trumpets leap out at us with vibrancy.

Mark of a Genius!

The Charanam has intricately braided passages as the voice glissades.The Bass Guitar swirls ,twirls and prances.


The second interlude sparkles with the myriad facets of the Raga.The Guitar gives the variegated patterns.

It glides sinuously ..

It whirs past us..

It is plangent ..

It is meditative ..

We see the Musical Intelligence, Integrity and Intent.

It is a state of enlightened mystification.

Sensuous …..Divine….

இசையென்னும் கிண்ணத்தில் இனிமையென்னும் தேனை அள்ளித்தருபவர் அல்லவா அவர்?

Does he not give us cups of honey in the form of Music?

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