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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Aakarsh said...

Good post! Wonderful composition.In the prelude portion, till the point where Jatharangam begins, the raagam seems to be different. It seems Amritavarshini to me, which dissolves into Panthuvaraali. Can you please clarify/confirm?

if it is amritavarshini, then this is one more addition to my list (I have recently been tracking all amritavarshini songs and portions by IR).

Raj said...

Good observation Kamal..
He has used 'ga ma pa ni' in that segment and it gives an illusion of Amrithavarshini.in fact, such an experiment from him is not new to his fans like us.In 'Kaadhalin Deepam ondru'(http://rajamanjari.blogspot.com/2008/09/ilaiyaraaja-conjuror.html), he has used only 5 swaras 'sa ri ga pa dha' to make it sound like Vaasanti.

By the way, have you listened to 'Kaaththirundha malli' from 'Mallu vetti Minor'?It is based on Amrithavarshini.In the caranam, he does gruha bedam..

Aakarsh said...

yes, I heard that one. It is P.Susheela's song right! beautiful and unconventional song.
I have been longing to know this, in lay man terms: what is the difference between Shruthi Bhedham and Gruha Bhedham?

Raj said...

As far as i know, there is no difference between the two though some people beg to differ.
But to me the term 'Shruti Bedam' sounds jarring because it also tends to mean 'off-key'.

I prefer 'Gruha Bedam' to 'Shruti Bedam'.I also happened to hear Raaja sir's interview on BBC where a question on 'Shruti Bedam' was asked.He corrected the interviewer and said 'It is Gruha Bedam and not Shruti Bedam'.

ks said...

I do like the Film music composed by Ilayaraja-especially when he uses Carnatic Ragas. I find his Popular Numbers in Tamil/Telugu/Malayalam are based on either MM Gowla/S.Priya/Keeravani/S.Madhyamam Keeravani-oft repeated. Has he ever admitted in public his using these Ragas extensively ?

Raj said...

Dear ks,

Seriously, I don't know how to react to this comment.
Please go through all the posts in my blog to understand the kind of ragas used by him.Let me reiterate once again-NO FILM MUSIC COMPOSER HAS USED DIFFERENT CARNATIC RAGAS AS EXTENSIVELY AS ILAIYARAAJA.

What exactly do you mean by popular numbers?As he has said in his recent interview, there is nothing called 'Hit songs'.The song is either good or bad.
And why should he 'publicly admit' using ragas?Does anybody 'own' the ragas?
By the way, I am also interested to know as to the number of songs of Raaja you have listened to..

ks said...

Dear Raj
What I meant-Has the Composer in him ever admitted to the fact that credit also owed to the Beauty of the Raaga, when the composition turns good. I as also other genuine admirers of C.Music would always appreciate the fact that Raagas are Divine Dispensations.A Composer however great cannot claim toown any Raaga as his own.

Raj said...

Hi ks,

I have heard him talk about the greatness of carnatic music on many occasions.

When he went on a tour to Europe and the US way back in 1983, he said in an interview that without any doubt Carnatic music is the greatest form.When he was probed further, he quoted 'Endaro mahanubhavulu' and said only great souls can compose like this offering praNaams to all the great people in the world.

Moreover, he always says that he is still a learner.

Hope that answers your questions.
Now, I expect answers to the questions raised by me in my previous comment.

Have you gone thru' all the posts in the blog?Has it given an idea about the kind of ragas used by him?And I have not even covered 10% of the ragas used.

How many compositions of his have you listened to?

Thanks for visiting my Blog again!


ks said...

Dear Raj
I too, as many others of my age grew up enamoured by I.Raja's Film Music. I do admit/appreciate his extensive usage of various Ragaas captured in essence befitting various moods. Being a Keralite, I ve been listening to his compositions in Tamil/Malayalam often and other languages occasionally. I ve gonr thru the details provided by U. Interestingly I found that many of his Hit Songs are based on the Ragaas mentioned by me.
Anyway I must thank U for all Ur responses.

Raj said...

Thanks ks.

But let me once again tell you that the term 'hit song' is subjective.In fact,I like his 'not so popular' songs than his so called 'popular song'.

Moreover, what was popular then may not be popular now because many things have changed and the exposure to media is more now- while media does not realise its responsibility and churns out the 'hit songs' of today,songs that have a maximum shelf life of one month.

Even if one goes by your argument, let me tell you that there are many other songs that fall under your 'popular category' where he has used ragas like Shankarabharanam, Kalyani, Mohanam, Hindolam, Sudhdha Dhanyasi, Sudhdha Saveri, Pahaadi, Sindhu Bhairavi etc.,

Interestingly, these comments appear under a post on Pantuvarali.

I also request you to view my other blog http://ragamanjari.blogspot.com/

where I take up lesser known gems of his and where I do not discuss any technical aspect.

Thanks again!!