Monday, 18 October 2010

ILaiyaraaja-The Uncanny Musician..

‘Out of the world experience..’ ‘I got transported to another world..’ ‘He/She did Mayajaal..’

How many times have we used/heard others use these phrases.

Generally, we say this after listening or watching something extraordinary. At times, while reading some great works of poetry too..

Why do we feel the experience itself is a different world? Aren’t we aware that we exist and continue to exist in the same world?

What is this ‘out of the world experience’ or ‘Maya’ all about?

The concept of Maya is very intriguing.
Maya literally means ‘not that’.
It is an illusion though it seems to be a reality.

I do not want to get too much into philosophy and shall try and put it in simple terms.

As per Indian philosophy, Maya is the illusion a veiling of the true. Since it seems to be a reality, it is both true and untrue. It is true but when compared to the Absolute Truth (one call it as ‘Sathyam’) , it is untrue. Maya is said to be created by the Almighty to help us see the Ultimate or Absolute Truth.

Coming to think of it, literature, music, dance also take us to a world of illusion.
True or Untrue?

Yes.. At the same time, great literature and divine music while taking us to an illusory world make us see the absolute truth.

Great composers/writers/artistes have an uncanny knack of making us see the Truth through their esoteric works.

Look at these two verses of Kamban:

வரம்பு எலாம் முத்தம்;தத்தும் மடை எலாம் படிலம்;மாநீர்க்
குரம்பு எலாம் செம்பொன்;மேதிக் குழி எலாம் கழுநீர்க் கொள்ளை;
பரம்பு எலாம் பவள‌ம்;சாலிப் பரப்பு எலாம் அன்னம்;பாங்கர்க்
கரும்பு எலாம் செந்தேன்;சந்தக் கா எலாம் களி வண்டு ஈட்டம்.

ஆலைவாய்க் கரும்பின் தேனும்,அரி தலைப் பாளைத் தேனும்,
சோலைவீழ் கனியின் தேனும்,தொடை இழி இறாலின் தேனும்,
மாலைவாய் உகுத்த தேனும்,வரம்பு இகந்து ஓடி,வங்க‌
வேலைவாய் மடுப்ப‍ உண்டு,மீன் எலாம் களிக்கும் மாதோ

Pearls shimmer on paddy fields. Gold glitter on the banks of the lakes. Rubies shine on the valleys. Conches glow on the sluices. The white swans swim with glow. Tasteful honey oozes out from sugar canes. Singing bees in the groves.

Honey from sugar cane, Honey from the petals (of flowers), Honey from the fruits, Honey directly from the Honey comb, Honey from the garlands.. flow to the sea , fill the sea making the fish swallow these varieties of honey.

The salt sea becomes the Honey Sea!

These are just 2 samples from the 60 verses in ‘Naattu Padalam’ in Bala Kandam where Kamban describes the beauty and richness of the Kingdom of Kosalam ruled by Dasaratha.

Now, a logical question: What would happen if honey were to flow directly into the sea? What would happen if one sees gold and gems on the paddy fields and by the lakeside? First of all, is this possible in reality?

The obvious answer is No.

At the same time, let us realise that the character of Rama symbolises Absolute Truth. Kamban, the philosopher helps us see the ultimate truth through Kamban, the poet. By exaggerating –albeit poetically - he takes us through a wonderful world, makes us experience the beauty and finally making us realise the Absolute Truth!

One finds this uncanny ability- of showing us a Maya world and using it as a veil to make us realise the Truth- in some people even now. These are the people whose works are extraordinary, beyond compare and beyond even logical reasoning.

A classic living example is ILaiyaraaja.

I am sure most of us undergo a totally different experience while listening to many of his songs. We do get transported to a new world. But after the song is over, aren’t our minds left with a feeling which is impossible to explain or put in words?

This is what is the absolute truth!

And ILaiyaraaja is one of the few people to have this uncanny ability!!

(At this point, let me also tell you that there are also great artistes/musicians who take us to the world of Maya through. But the difference is that while one experiences pleasure in their works, it seems to be transient without any permanent value).

Today, let us see yet another composition of his where we go to the Maya world and finally experience what I have tried to describe.

The composition is ‘Yenidu Yenidu Maya Maya..’ from the Kannada film Nannavanu(2009).
The composition is based on a Raag called Brindavana Saranga.

Brindavana Saranga has been adopted into Carnatic music from the Hindustani system.
There is still a lot of confusion about the structure of this Raag.

Some say it is a pentatonic raga with ‘ga’ and ‘dha’ being absent and that it uses both the ‘ni’.

Some say there is only one variant of ‘ni’ and that ‘ga’ is sparingly used in the avarohanam.

After discussing with some great musicologists, my personal opinion is it has 5 swaras in the arohanam and 6 swaras in the avarohanam- with a very minimum use of ‘ga’.

Its structure is: sa ri2 ma1 pa ni2 Sa/Sa ni2 pa ma1 ri1 (ga2)sa.

The ‘ri’ and ‘ni’ are considered to be the Jeevaswaras (notes that give life to this raga).

Let us see the composition now.

We see the glowing delicate filaments that prepare us for the mystical experience. The vivid flow of violins with the bass guitar running as the undercurrent shows us the mystical stream. The Flute has a meditative impact.

The gentle flavour of the Raga is felt in the Pallavi as Sriram Parthasarathy renders the lines. The second line is sharp while the third line shows the facets of the raga rippled colours. The fourth line is aglow with bhava-rich gamakas. The female voice of Bela Shinde now joins caressing niceties. The Flute interspersed between the lines makes our hearts jump with excitement.

The first interlude is a plethora of melodic and rhythmic threads that spell virtuosity.

It starts innocuously with the electronic instruments giving a joyful smile that welcomes the violins and the Laya Raaja. The composition is basically set in the 3-beat cycle Tisram while the Bass Guitar now play in Chatusram as 8 beats followed by a gap of 4 counts. This is repeated 4 times. The number of beats is 48 - which is divisible by 4 as well as 3.

One Maya already revealed!

The nectar-filled flute and the cadences in violin at the end and take us further into the esoteric world.

The subtly layered CharaNam is another marvel and shows us one more Maya.
The first two lines are supple and glow with inner light.

The Laya Raaja enters again in the next line. As the vocals follow the Tisram pattern, the violins in the background follow the chatusram pattern and goes as ta Ka dhi mi (4) 9 times. The Tisram and Chatusram merge ecstatically at the end of the CharaNam as if to show that there is only one absolute truth!

The second interlude starts with symmetrical motifs. We then see the subdued and refined Violins, and Flute moving with splendour and showing us the variegated hues of the world. There is a sudden unexpected touch as we hear the humming in akaaram that takes exhilarating flights across octaves.

Makes us see the Absolute Truth!

An uncanny experience!!

Maya Maya.. Sathya..Sathya..