Saturday, 8 May 2010

ILaiyaraaja-Musician with Vaatsalyam..

Words, like music have emotions.

When we read or write, what is it that that makes us involved in the subject?

Situations.. Yes..Of course!

Characters.. well..maybe!

But how do we even understand or even feel all these unless they are expressed with appropriate words?

Can we even imagine comprehending anything without that great thing called ‘words’?
Can we imagine communicating anything without that powerful thing called ‘words’?

Of course, there are times in our life when the unspoken or the unwritten are felt. I shall come to this a little later.

Let us go back to my statement about words having emotions.
Apart from emotions and feelings, words have culture too..
..Most importantly they are culture-specific and language-specific.

Therefore, some words when translated from one language to another may not covey the emotions attached to it though it may convey the meaning to a certain extent.

‘Vaatsalyam’ is one such word.

I really cannot think of any appropriate translation in English. At the most, one can say tender loving care.
When a mother fondles and nurses her child, it is Vaatsalyam. In tamizh, we call this as ‘parivu’(பரிவு).

Rather than trying to translate the word-which is seemingly impossible- let me quote a paasuram from Naalaiyira Divya Prabhandam.

Vishnu Chittar- better known as Periyaazhwar-who lived in the 9th century, composed 473 hymns out of which some 250 hymns are considered very very special. They are special because he considered himself as Krishna’s mother and described the child through the eyes of a mother.

It starts with the birth of the child and goes up to the point where Krishna goes on his own to herd the cows.
The lullabies are so powerful that it would bring tears even in an atheist’s eyes!

In this hymn, he asks the Moon to play with his sweet child.

‘Oh Moon!The shimmering rays from your beautiful face may cover the entire world..But is no match to the beauty of my little one.. Can you not see his little fingers waving at you, and inviting you? Come fast and play with him before he feels the pain in his cute little fingers’.

சுற்றும் ஒளிவட்டம் சூழ்ந்து சோதிபரந்தெங்கும்
எத்தனை செய்யினும் என்மகன் முகம் நேரொவ்வாய்
வித்தகன் வேங்கடவாணன் உன்னை விளிக்கின்ற
கைத்தலம் நோவாமே அம்புலீ! கடிதோடிவா.

This hymn is part of the 10 hymns in 'Ambuli paruva paththu'.

Most of us know how tiny tots get fascinated looking at the moon and how they wave at the moon with a smiling face.In fact, even now, children are fed in moonlight because of this reason.But how many of us have even bothered about the little fingers and the tiny hand that waves at the moon?

Periyaazhwar did..And that is Vaatsalyam!!

I mentioned in the beginning about words having emotions.
I also said that there are times when we feel the unspoken or the unwritten.

Yes.. this happens to us when we listen to music.

Coming to think of it, swaras play the role of the words. But aren’t there only 7 basic swaras while the number of words are much more(in millions in some languages)?
True! But it is the combination of these swaras that matter.One can have umpteen permutations and combinations and each one is different and unique.

So, while one combination of swaras can give us pleasure, some other combination can evoke a totally different kind of emotion- say sadness. That is the beauty of music!

The Raga system in Indian Classical Music is special not just because it is unique but also because each raga is known to evoke certain moods and emotions.

We have had composers who have understood this fact and have given us some immortal compositions. But still..I feel no composer in film music has understood, applied and executed this well than ILaiyaraaja.

He treats each swara and raga as his own child and fondles them.
But I feel, he also considers us as his children and treats us with Vaatsalyam.
Listen to his immortal compositions.

Don’t feel the tender loving care?

Don’t we feel the affection?

Don’t we feel the love?

Today’s composition is doubly special and you will soon know the reason.

This song is based on Shankarabharanam.

Shankarabharanam is one of the oldest ragas and is widely used in all major form of music.

It forms the major diatonic scale or the C Major in Western music.
It is called as Bilawal in Hindustani system and all the swaras used in this ragas are known by the word ‘shudhdh’(meaning pure).

It is called as ‘Pazhampanjuram’ in Tamizh PaN.

It is a very divine raga. It appeals to the senses and evokes a mood of sublimity. That is why it is considered to be the most superior amongst all ragas.

In Carnatic system, it is the 29th melakarta and has the following structure:
Sa ri2 ga3 ma1 pa dha2 ni3 Sa/Sa ni3 dha2 pa ma1 ga3 ri2 sa.

The pratimadhayama counterpart of Shankarabharanam is Kalyani but there is a world of difference between the two ragas in the way they are sung. There are some special prayogas in both the ragas that make them distinct.

For example, ‘ga’ is a flat swara in Shankarabharanam and this itself gives a very soothing effect.There is minimum oscillation of ‘ni’ as well.

This is balanced by the strong oscillation of ‘ri’ and ‘dha’.

Therefore it is a raga that is calm and sedate but at the same time majestic too..

It is because of this reason that Neelambari, a raga derived from Shankarabharanam is widely used in lullabies.
As a matter of fact, Shankarabharanam itself has contours of lullabies.

And Raaja has exploited this fact well in many compositions- a classic example being ‘Poove iLaiya poove’.

Today’s composition also has shades of a classic lullaby.
The composition is ‘Sandhanamittu sadhiraadum mottu’ from ‘Rusi kaNda poonai’(1980).

The prelude itself brings a sense of calmness and sedateness.

The (electric) violin is lucid as the flute blossoms. The violin then glides adding more sangatis and the flute responds with equal flair. In fact, the Flute just repeats what the violin says and there lies the whole beauty. The surprise element is the piano base that make our hearts flutter. The stringed instrument then takes over and we can easily visualize a child prancing in front of us. The tune of the Pallavi now takes shape.

He teaches a lesson or two(as always) to all aspiring music composers on how a prelude should lead us to the Pallavi.

The percussion (tabla) makes an appearance now just towards the end of the Pallavi and that takes me to the Laya Raja aspect in this composition.

The composition follows the simple 8-beat cycle but let us see how he has beautifully used the tabla in line with the theme of the song and the tune.

As I mentioned, the Tabla appears towards the end of the prelude and it repeats the pattern played by the stringed instrument:
Ta – dhi-.
A simple pattern ‘ta ka dhi mi’ where only the first and the third syllables are played.

As the Pallavi starts the Tabla remains silent until the 5th beat. Thereafter, it plays only the first syllable ‘Ta’until the 8th beat where it plays the first and the third syllable(ta dhi).When the Pallavi is rendered the second time, the Tabla starts right from the first beat , again playing only the first syllable until the eighth syllable where it plays the first and the third syllable.

If we assume that this will be the pattern throughout, we are not genuine Raaja followers. For, all genuine followers know his propensity to spring a surprise and his fascination for trying out things differently.

The interludes that follow the ‘ta ka dhi mi’ pattern do not have any percussion instrument.

In the CharaNams, the Tabla appears only from the fourth beat-playing the first and the third syllable.The tabla continues from the second line playing only the ‘ta’ and playing the ‘ta ‘dhi’ every fourth beat.

We see this pattern in the first 6 lines(first 3 lines are repeated once).
The second part-from the 7th line ‘punnagai vizhiyil aada’ in the first charaNam and ‘kaigaLil thuzhuvum mullai’ in the second charaNam- is what makes him a Laya Raja.

The first time we hear, we expect the fourth beat to have ‘ta dhi’(despite being genuine Raaja followers!).But only the ‘ta’ is heard until the eighth beat when we hear the ‘ta dhi’ and this continues till the end of the charaNams.
When the Pallavi is rendered after the charaNams, the Tabla again joins at the 5th beat and the ‘ta dhi’ is heard at the 8th beat.

This is the pattern:

Pallavi from the time Tabla joins in the first line : ta – dhi –
Second line: ta- - - ta - - - ta - - - ta - - - ta - - - ta - - - ta- - - ta – dhi –

First line from the time tabla joins: ta – dhi –
Second line:ta - - - ta - - - ta - - - ta – dhi –
Third line: ta - - - ta - - - ta - - - ta – dhi – ta - - - ta - - - ta - - - ta – dhi –
Fourth line: ta - - - ta - - - ta - - - ta – dhi –
Fifth line: ta - - - ta - - - ta - - - ta – dhi –
Sixth line: ta - - - ta - - - ta - - - ta – dhi – ta - - - ta - - - ta - - - ta – dhi –
Seventh line: ta- - - ta - - - ta - - - ta - - - ta - - - ta - - - ta- - - ta – dhi –
Eighth line: ta- - - ta - - - ta - - - ta - - - ta - - - ta - - - ta- - - ta – dhi –

Look how a very simple ‘ta ka dhi mi’ pattern does wonders in the hands of Laya Raja.

Let us now go back to the Pallavi for the melodic and the orchestration aspects.

Only two lines but they are repeated and this itself gives a mesmerizing lullaby effect.
Both the lines have classical dignity with the voice of Suseela lending the right kind of impetus and sweetness.

The first interlude is suffused with deep colours of the raga.

It starts with the luminous bells. The single violin is intensely elegant and tantalizingly beautiful. We begin to immerse ourselves in this beauty not realizing that this is just a sample. The gait changes and three violins enter the party. The first one dazzles, the second one gives dart-like flashes and the third one captures the special fragrance of Western Classical Music.

A string of quicksilver passages arranged meticulously!

The CharNams are replete with classicism.

The first two lines are succinct and the third line in the higher octave gives radiant shades of the raga.
The lines are repeated again and the subtle sangati in the fifth line-which is a repetition of the second line- is Raaja Special.

The following lines weave well-knit patterns nourishing the already healthy child!

There is a plethora of phrases in the second interlude.

To start with we hear a synthetic blend of violins in western classical style. The Flute played with imperceptible finesse takes spiraling spins even as the violins continue in their immaculate style. Suddenly, the guitar dances with ecstasy and we see wonderful vistas. The violins wind up with a gentle flavour.

The composition is full of intricate detailing woven around gentle human emotions.

Is that not this composition all about?

உன்னிசை காதில் பட்டுத் தழுவும்பொழுது மலரும் மனது..
When your music enters our ears and embraces us, our minds blossom..