Tuesday, 29 December 2009

ILaiyaraaja-The Spiritual Musician..

One of the most misused (and to a great extent abused) words is spirituality. Many people believe that if they are ‘believers’, they are spiritual; or that if they visit any place of worship religiously, they are spiritual; or if they perform any act to ‘please’ their favourite God’, they are spiritual.

Such people can at best be called as Businessmen with strong negotiating skills.

Talking about Business, there is a growing number of self-styled God men and Swamijis who promise the sky to all their devotees (‘sky’ here does not mean the Moksha).

Quid pro quo!

Is this what spirituality all about?
Put in simple terms, Spirituality is directly related to the human spirit. One who is spiritual does not crave for physical comforts nor will he /she be materialistic.

Take the case of Saint Thyagaraja.

In one of the Krithis he says, ‘I see Erudite people proficient in Vedas/Epics waste their time in arguing about useless things. They are caught in a web and live in a Utopian world. They perform Yaagas and sacrifices so that they can enjoy the worldly pleasures. These people can never find the Truth nor the true meaning of God. I place my faith only on you since I realized that all the so called materialistic happiness is only a mirage.I therefore engaged myself in praying to you (to give me salvation)’ right from my childhood..’

‘Ninne nera namminaanuraa O Ramaa Raamayya.
Anni kallalanucu adi paadi vedi pannagashayana ne chinna tanamu naade.
Veda Shaastra Puraana Vidyalache bheda vaadamula deeraka bhramayu vaarala juchi.
Bhogamula koraku bhuvilo Rajasammuna Yagadulonarinchi yalayu varula juchi.
Ee Janmamula ninnu rajee chesuko ieka rajillarani Thyagaraja Raghava’.

This is what is spirituality!

Tamizh poetess AaNdaaL, whose name is synonymous with the month of the tamizh month Margazhi is another example.

Right from her childhood, she wanted to merge with the God and considered Him as her husband. This would sound somewhat odd to the uninitiated. But the fact of the matter is that her love for the Lord had nothing to do with the conjugal bliss. It was on a much higher plane and level (skeptics might quote some of her verses terming them as ‘erotic’ but the inner meanings are entirely different and to a certain extent is beyond the grasp of mortals!).
Look at this poem:

‘My bones melt and the eyelids of my long eyes have not closed for many days
Choked in torments of separation and love laden heart
I flounder in a sea of sorrow, without the canoe of Vaikuntan’s grace
You know it well Oh! Cuckoo,
Please Coo and call the sanctimonious Lord’
Whose body shines like the Gold!

‘என்புருகி இனவேல் நெடுங்கண்கள் இமைபொருந்தா பல நாளும்
துன்ப‌க்க‌ட‌ல் புக்கு வைகுந்த‌ன் என்ப‌து ஓர் தோணி பெறாது உழ‌ல்கின்றேன்
அன்புடையாரைப் பிரிவுறு நோய் அது நீயும் அறிதி குயிலே!
பொன்புரை மேனிக்க‌ருள‌க் கொடியுடைப் புண்ணிய‌னை வ‌ர‌க் கூவாய்!’

Unable to bear the torment of separation from the Almighty, she requests the cuckoo bird to ‘coo’ and herald his arrival.
What one sees here is the spirit that longs to be with the God forever. There is no other expectation and therefore absolutely no sense of materialism.

People who are genuinely spiritual, work with a single-minded devotion and dedication. Little do they care for other luxuries since they know what real happiness is all about. Such people are also highly disciplined and focused. In other words, they are austere.

Though it might sound far fetched, I feel people like Einstein and Ramanujam were also spiritual because they never hankered for any name or fame or money.

Likewise, I would put ILaiyaraaja too in the same bracket. Here, I am not just referring to his spiritual pursuits. I am viewing him through the prism of a music composer. Seeing him from this perspective throws up a lot of interesting facts. It is said that he composes tunes in a jiffy and that the score-sheet is given to the musicians (orchestra) within no time. Such a task is impossible unless people are highly focused, dedicated, disciplined and austere.

Now, people may argue that after all it is Cinema and that he is a ‘Music Director’ who delivers based on the demands of the Film-makers. Let us not miss the wood for the trees.
His works even in below-average films are stupendous and can be considered as great musical compositions (I can quote many examples.. In fact a cursory glance at this Bolg itself is proof enough!).

Many of his songs also take us to a higher plane and we do not care for the name of the movie/story/hero. What matters to us when we listen to such compositions is the divine state we reach.

A real spiritualist is one who not only practises spirituality but also guides others or at least make others experience divine feelings.

Therefore, ILaiyaraaja is the spiritual guru for all of us..

Today, we are going to see one more great composition from an obscure film.
The song is ‘Vazhimel Vizhiyai Edhir Parthirunthaen’ from ‘Archanai PokkaL’(1980).

The composition is based on Pantuvarali, a very interesting ragam.
It is the 51st melakartha and is known by the name Kamvardhini.Muththuswami Dikshithar called it as ‘Kashiramakriya’.

It is the pratimadhyama raga of Mayamalavagowla-that is only the variant of ‘ma’ is different. But it has an entirely different flavour and is unique in its own way.

There are a lot of classical compositions in this ragam. This ragam is frequently sung by musicians in carnatic concerts since it has an ‘aura of popularity’.Beacause of this aspect, it is called as a ‘janaranjaka ragam’.

The structure of Pantuvarali is :
sa ri1 ga3 ma2 pa dha1 ni3 Sa/Sa ni3 dha1 pa ma2 ga3 ri1 sa.

The raga is more beautiful in panchama varjya phrases-ni ri ga ma dha ni, ni dha ma ga, ga ma dha ni…

Let us now look at the composition.

The beginning is somewhat different with the resonance of the sitar strings. It plays with verve as the pretty flute enters with flourish. It is delicate and soft. At the same time it reaches alluring depths to give a yearning melody. It is enriched by the lucent Jalatarangam.

The Pallavi in the dulcet tone of Janaki exudes sensitivity. One sees the aesthetic subtleties when the flute and the sarod alternate after the lines ‘Varuvai Maamukhile’ and ‘Nee Varuvai Maamukhile’ when they are rendered the second time. The line ‘Sukham Ekanthamai Malara’ touches the beautiful spots of the ragam.

The first interlude is marked by the gracefully grafting sitar. It moves like a clear gurgling stream with the Tabla and the rippling flow of the Jalatarangam. The musical ripples continue with the Jalatarangam and the melodic rhythms.

The CharaNam is finely etched. The first two lines are majestic while the third line is dynamic. The last two lines are magical. The contrasting motifs and the pirouetting at the end are stupendous.

The second interlude is sculpted with beautiful musical phrases.

The shehnai played with finesse strikes a deep chord. The subtle strings juxtaposed add to the beauty. The sitar gives an array of short phrases. We are then in for some scintillating moments as the nifty flute, the soft and supple piano and the subtle bass vie with one another. It looks like swathing layers and strokes of colours. Strung together brilliantly, it looks like an intricate tapestry.

The entire composition is replete with melodic progressions of phrasing that take us to a higher plane.

..and a spiritual experience!

வழிமேல் செவியாய் எதிர்பார்த்திருப்போம் உனது பாடல்களை..

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Saturday, 5 December 2009

Laya Raja-II

பாழ் என, கால் என, பாகு என, ஒன்று என
இரண்டு என, மூன்று என, நான்கு என, ஐந்து என
ஆறு என, ஏழு என, எட்டு என, தொண்டு என
நால்வகை ஊழி எண் நவிற்றும் சிறப்பினை

‘Zero, quarter, half, one,
Two, three, four, five,
Six, Seven, Eight, Nine,
Thus the four eons speak about the numbers’.

Does this sound like a Kindergarten class?
Well.. almost! But is it not a fact that what we read (or for that matter experience) during our childhood stays with us forever?

Foundation.. If this is strong, the building is strong. Otherwise, it collapses.

Going back to the poem quoted- it is from a work called ‘Paripaadal’. Paripaadal was composed by different poets during the 1st Century AD and is part of eight anthologies called as ‘Ettuththogai’. These eight along with the 10 long poems- called as ‘Paththuppaattu’- form the core of Tamizh Sangam Literature.

Sangam means an Academy or Fraternity. It is said that there were 3 Sangams – the first one lasting 4,440 years, the second one lasting 3,700 years and the third one lasting 1,850 years. It is also said that a Great Flood destroyed many kingdoms and a large body of literature.

All the works of the First Sangam have been lost forever. The grammar work ‘Tolkappiyam’(I had quoted from this work in my posts on the music of ‘ULiyin Osai’ where I explained as to how classical dance and music were part of the Tamizh culture) belongs to the Second Sangam while the ‘Eight Anthologies’ and the ‘Ten Long Poems’ are part of the Third Sangam period.

The length of the Sangam poems varies between 3 lines and 800 lines. There are 2381 Sangam poems of course not taking the first and the second Sangams into account.

'Paripaadal’ is the one of the oldest texts that has notes on music. In Tamizh music, a Raga is called as ‘PaN’. Under each group of poems in ‘Paripaadal’, there is a mention about the ‘PaN’ on which it is based on. Similar to our Films, the songs(poems) would be written by one person and would be set to music by another person.

The poem quoted in the beginning was written by ‘Kaduvan iLaveyinanaar’ and was set to music by ‘Pettanaaganaar’. It is sung eulogizing Lord Vishnu and is set to ‘Paalaiyaazh’ which is the equivalent of Shankarabharanam.

This also shows that God has always been part of tamizh culture despite the claim made by the so-called rationalists in Tamizh Nadu.

In a way, ‘Paripaadal’ was a precursor to ‘Naalayira Divya Prabandham’,the sacred book of Srivaishnavas.I find a lot of parallels between the works of ‘Kaduvan iLaveyinaar’ and Aazhwars-Thirumazhisai azhwar in particular.I have quoted some verses of ‘Thirumazhisai Aazhwar’in this thread.Please refer the post ‘Laya Raja’ and ‘ILaiyaraaja’s music is unique’ where I quoted from his ‘Thiruchchandaviruththam’ that talks about the numbers.

Talking about numbers, let us remember that numbers revolve around us always whether we like it or not.

Take the poem quoted for example. It sounds so simple but yet throws up a lot of philosophical pointers. I am not getting too deep into it since it is beyond the scope of this thread. It is enough if I say that the Universe revolves around numbers.Have a look at the paragraphs that follow the poems in my post.

‘1st Century, ‘8 anthologies’, ’10 Long Poems’, ‘3 Sangams’, ‘4440, 3700,1850 years’, 3 and 800 lines’, ‘2381 poems’… well can there be a world without numbers? Can there be a Life without numbers?

Eons, Years, Months, Weeks, Days, Hours, Minutes, Seconds..

We find the numbers in music as well. Though all forms of music have rhythm(and therefore numbers), Carnatic Music gives a lot of importance to numbers.In the Raga system, it is the 72 melakartas and the different permutations and combinations of swaras while in the Tala system, it is the beats/cycle.

There are 108 Talas in Carnatic music.Let us now look at the major Five-patterns(called as Pancha Nadai).
The 3-beat cycle is called as Tisram, the 4-beat is Chatusram, the 5-beat is Khandam, the 7-beat-Misram and the 9-beat-Sankeernam.It is indeed a very vast subject and let us understand these basics as of now (Foundation!).

In a carnatic music concert, during the percussion ensemble-called as Tani avarthanam- the percussion artistes generally play in different nadais.

Almost all film songs follow the 8-beat cycle called as Adi Talam.There are also songs that follow the Tisra gati in this cycle. We will come to that a little later.

However, not many composers have composed songs in Misram and Khandam.

The Maestro is an exception.
In this Blog, we have been seeing his usage of not just the ragas but also the talas.

He has also used cross-rhythms (two patterns running simultaneously-example ‘Endrendrum Aanandame’ and change in gatis-example ‘Innum Ennai Enna Siyya PogiRai’

There have also been a lot of intricate mathematical patterns involved in his compositions.

He often talks about the ‘KaalapramaaNam’ in music.People who have seen him work vouch for his perfect sense of timing especially during the background scores. He would watch a scene, take a piece of paper, write the notes, give it to the various artistes and start recording. The piece of music would exactly fit the scene in terms of the duration.
This is because ‘Kaalapramanam’ is inherent in him.

That is why he is ‘Laya Raja’.

Today, we are going to see a composition of his that reveals his penchant for Laya.

The song is ‘ILamanadinil’ from the film ‘ManjaL Nila’(1982).

The song is based on Mayamalavagowla, the 15th Melakarta.

All basic (foundation) classes in carnatic music are taught in this raga because of its symmetric structure.

Its structure is: sa ri1 ga3 ma1 pa dha1 ni3 Sa/Sa ni3 dha1 pa ma1 ga3 ri1 sa.

The swara ‘ri1’ is very close to ‘sa’, with the ‘ga’ ‘ma’ and ‘pa’ ‘dha’ being next to each other.The last swara ‘ni’ is very close to the upper ‘Sa’. Such a structure is very easy to understand for beginners.

I mentioned about the Adi-Tala and Tisra nadai.

This composition follows this pattern. But something does happen in the CharaNams and let us see that soon.

I was talking about 8(adi tala cycle) and 3(tisram).The LCM of this is 24.Now, 24 is a multiple of 2, 4, and 6 as well. Using this theory of mathematics, the maestro has divided two lines in the charanams as 2, 4, 4, 4, 4, 6.So Tisram sounds Chatusram in 4 phrases.But the magician does not stop here. He has made the percussion play in ‘Usi’.

Let us understand the concept of Talas a little more.

The place where the Tala begins is called as ‘Eduppu’. A composition follows any of the following three different patterns of Eduppu .

1.Samam-when the tala begins along with the song.
2.Atheeta Eduppu-If the song begins first and Tala cycle starts after this,it is Atheetham.
3.Anaagata Eduppu-If the Tala beats start before the song begins, it is Anaagatam.

Apart from these is the concept of ‘Usi’-that is the stress on the even syllables/beats.

ILaiyaraaja has used all these four concepts rather prolifically.

‘ILamandinil’ starts in samam.However, In CharaNams when he divides the beats, he has applied ‘Usi’ to make it sound more beautiful.

We shall see this again as we go along.

The composition starts with the strings playing ‘ sa pa Sa’ and the chorus following suit. No percussion but still Tisram is clearly perceptible.

The notes are now strung together like a beautiful garland by the flute.We see the gentle curves of the Raga as the violins, viola and the cello peregrinate.

The percussion starts now and it follows
‘Ta ka ta ka dhi mi’ with the stress on the first ‘Ta’ and the second one (ka) not played. It weaves a splendid veil making us more curious.

The Pallavi starts now with the refined articulation and the melodic expression of Yesudass.

The first interlude slowly unveils the beauty.The chorus say syllables-‘ta ri ki ta thaam’ ‘ta ri ki ta dheem’ ‘ta ri ki ta jam’ ‘ta ri ki ta nam’-6 each.

The female voice of Sasirekha hums the raga and the chorus continues in Tisram-‘ta ki ta ta ka dhi mi ta ka’-with ‘ta ki ta’ in slow speed and ‘ta ka dhi mi ta ka’ in fast speed that is the speed matching the first ‘ta ki ta’.

The flute now voyages through the rhythmic patterns while the violins move with a sense of relish.

The chorus sings 6(3x2) 8 times completing one cycle(called as one avarthanam) of adi talam.The male voice sings the words in the same pattern followed by the female voice.

Suddenly there is a change of pattern.

It is now split as ta ka/ ta ka dhi mi/ ta ka dhi mi/ ta ka dhi mi /ta ka dhi mi/ta ka ta ka dhi mi twice making it 24x2.Most importantly the percussion is played in Usi with the stress on the second syllable ‘ka’.

It is like a starburst with thundershowers!

In the second interlude the dainty guitar is sated with delicate swirls with the violins making wide and spectacular sweeps. The languid grace juxtaposed with remarkable arithmetic accuracy is exhilarating.

The pattern of the first charaNam continues in the second and the third charaNams as well.

The Third interlude has the skilful embellishments with the veena , santoor and the bass guitar taking us to the deeper levels of the raga’s beauty. The aesthetically affable chorus adds punch.

The composition is a balance between subtlety and exuberance.
An ingenious work.
An exquisite ornament made of raga and tala.

அவர் மனதினில் எழும் இசையினில் விழி மலர்கிறதே..