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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1 comment:

SS said...

8 year olds were they?

Apart from the fact that wasteful military incursions have decreased by a good degree and conquest in physical terms isnt really something nations flaunt about (well almost!), looks like humankind hasnt made much of a progress.
Current Tamil literate 8 year olds may not even be able to read that leave alone understand it!