Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Natana Raaja- Part V

Repetition is a interesting concept.

I am not referring to the repetition of empty rhetoric from our politicians nor am I referring to the shameless ‘Breaking News’ on the Television channels.

This is purely a thread for classical elements, a fact I am sure regular followers of this Blog know very well.

Yes..I am referring to the concept of Repetition in Classical music. Though one finds it in all major classical forms,’repetition’ in carnatic music is somewhat unique. Most of you who have listened to a Carnatic music concert must have noticed that the vocalist (or the instrumentalist) repeats a line (the number of times varies from Kriti to Kriti).A careful listener would have also noticed that each time the line appears with some additional quality. This additional quality is called as the ‘sangati’, a term I have used quite often in this thread.

Apart from this, the performer also takes up a line in one particular kriti , keeps repeating it and then starts singing swaras with the line repeated again at the end of each swara segment. This is called as the Niraval in carnatic music. Here again, the line would sound different , each time it is sung.

Let us now look at a very interesting verse:

kazhumala mudupathik kavuNiyan katturai
kazhumala mudupathik kavuNiyan katturai
kazhumala mudupathik kavuNiyan katturai
kazhumala mudupathik kavuNiyan katturai

கழுமல முதுபதிக் கவுணியன் கட்டுரை
கழுமல முதுபதிக் கவுணியன் கட்டுரை
கழுமல முதுபதிக் கவுணியன் கட்டுரை
கழுமல முதுபதிக் கவுணியன் கட்டுரை.

All the four lines identical..

Would you believe me if I say each line carries a different meaning?

The words have to be split to get the real meanings.

The first line is split thus:

kazhumal amudhu padhikka uLNee an kattu urai- You are born from the filth and die filthily.

Second line:
kazhu malam udhu padhi kavuNi ankaN thu urai- Pray to that Lord who removes the Maya, KaNmam, AaNavam(the impurities)

Third line:
kazhum alam amudhu padhi kam uNiyan kattu urai-The Lord who is in the guise of a mendicant is like the nectar and it is not easy to realize him(possible only for the ‘initiated’)

Fourth line:
kazhumalam mudhupadhik kavuNiyan kattu urai- Chant the verse about the Holy place Thirukkazhumalam(a.k.a. Sirgazhi) composed by Sambandar (who is from the Kaundinya gotra) .

This must be one of the best ever written poem/verse in Tamizh. As some of you might have guessed, this was written by Thirugnanasambandar- whose mastery over Tamizh language is amazing (and whose ‘palindrome’ verse was quoted in my second Natana Raaja post in this Blog).

Just like music and poetry, there is repetition in dance too. In a Bharatanatyam recital-mainly in the varnam piece- a single line will be repeatedly sung by the vocalist and the dancer would narrate a story in abhinaya generally related to the Lord on whom the song is composed. This is called as ‘sanchaari’.

In keeping with the objective of the thread, let us see the other three classical dance forms of India now.

Today’s Natana Raaja composition also shows us some facets of Kathak. More about this later. Before that, let us also briefly look at the two other classical forms-that appeared in the first Natana Raaja post in this thread.

They are Odissi and Manipuri.

Odissi, as the name suggests originates from the state of Orissa and is one of the most graceful dance forms.The movement of the head, chest and the pelvis-called as the Tribhangi- forms the core of this dance form.

Odissi is supposed to be one of the oldest dance forms and like Bharatanatyam, this too was mainly practiced by the Devadasis also called as Maharis.Over a period of time, two more types of schools emerged.Gotipau-where young boys dressed up like women and danced and Nartaki-which was essentially a Royal court dance.

Like the other dance forms, Odissi too has the pure dance item called as ‘Pallavi’where there are graceful movements of the eyes, neck, chest and the feet finally reaching a crescendo. There is an abhinaya piece as well-which is generally an Ashtapati of Jayadeva.

Manipuri is a subtle, graceful and unique dance form. Manipuri dancers do not wear ankle bells and also touch the ground very subtly while dancing. Devotion is the key in Manipuri dance. Delicate rounded movements mark this beautiful dance form.

Time now for the Natana Raaja composition of today. As mentioned earlier, it reminds one of a Kathak performance particularly towards the end.

The song is ‘Gokulame Needhira..’ from Chakravyham(Telugu-1990).
It is based on Darbari Kaanada, a Hindustani Raag.

This Raag was adapted from Kaanada of Carnatic music first by Tansen. There is of course a lot of difference between Kaanada and Darbari Kaanada in the way they are sung- though in principle there is a similarity.

The structure of Darbari Kaanada is: sa ri2 ga2 ma1 pa dha1ni2 Sa / Sa dha1 ni2 ma1 pa ma1 pa ni1 ga2 ma1 ri2 sa .

However, like most of the Hindustani raags, this raag is also defined more by the prayogs and pakads than by the Aroh/Avaroh.
The Gandhar(ga) plays a very major role in giving the raag its special flavour.It is a very special ‘ga’(called as ati-komal gandhar).
Moreover, the occurrence of repeat swaras- as double or triple combinations like sasasa ninini papa..-is a special feature of this Raag.

Let us now look at the composition.

Ankle bells, Pakhawaj..Flute .. We enter the world of delicate imagery.
The leisurely floats of Sitar, the elegant flute and the circular motion of the Violins prepare us for the ethereal experience.

The humming of Chitra is beguilingly soft. It is a tryst with melody even as the subtle patterns of the Raag Darbari are rendered..

The first line of the Pallavi itself creates a reposeful ambience.
The line ‘Gopika maanasa chora..’ moves with a chiseled refinement while the last line which is an interplay of octaves is an exquisite glow of finesse.

One sees a clear stream of music in the first interlude the flute plays with sensitivity with the ankle bells as the undercurrent and the violins giving the melodic essence of the raag. The rhythmic cycle is clearly delineated by the pakhawaj.

The CharaNams are full of joyful phrases.

The first line is soaked Darbari .One hears the perpetual mellowness of the Raag in the lines that follow.. The raag moves with gay abandon but at the same time without any maudlin frills.

The last line that depicts the circular motion (spin) in a Kathak performance is a marvel.

When the Pallavi is rendered again after the first CharaNam, it is embellished with the resounding tabla and the salutary tonal modulation is mesmerising.

The second interlude is dominated by the vocals with Chitra singing the swaras and Mano singing in ‘akaaram’. The diligent weaving of swaras rendered with considerable panache and felicity of expression giving us the light and shade contrasts of the Raag shows the musical brilliance of the composer.

The second charanam is followed by some beautiful melodic phrases.

First we hear the melodic strains of the violins playing the leitmotif.

Then we have Mano singing the swaras and we see the Kathak patterns in the percussion and the ankle bells.

The swara singing picks up with the swaras covering the entire spectrum of the Raag with the triple combinations (sasasa papapa ninini..)

It is a rhapsody of sorts.

Next is the turn of the violins again.

The phrases that follow show us the beauty of Kathak in a matter of seconds.

We see the gracious patterns in an orderly progression.
It is like a stream flowing in a mountainous terrain that finally cascades like a gushing waterfall.

The melting last piece of the violins in the end says it all..

Gokulame mee Sangeetam…


Aakarsh said...

Classic composition.I am sure, Chitra might have had little tough time singing the last line of pallavi, because it is tricky. Sadly,not many people know about this song, even in Andhra Pradesh. It is a film directed by Balu Mahendra. I am sure if we manage to get a high quality version of this song, we might be able to listen/appreciate the bass portions too.

Raj said...

Yes,,It is a very rare composition and I chose this one precisely for this reason.

I enjoyed each phrase of the song as I was writing.

Suresh S said...

A very nice Darbari Kanada. As Kamal says not many people know about this song. You can include me in that general population :) This song reminds me of 'Rani Lalitha Priya Ganam' from 'Manjeeradhwani' because of the ragam used. Raja as usual takes up a different genre and puts his stamp on it!!

Raj said...

Thanks Suresh!

His Hindustani Raga usage is another dimension not known to many.He has used very popular Raagas like Jog, Darbari,Madhukauns and rare raaga like Bilaskhani Todi,Shyam Kalyan etc.,