Friday, 26 November 2010

ILaiyaraaja-The Bonhomous Musician..

‘Slicing through the dark clouds, the charming crescent moon reaches the cool hillock (of ThirukkodudumkunRam), the holy town where the one who bathes in ‘Panchagvaya-a mixture of five substances obtained from the cow resides accompanied by His Lady whose voice is as sweet as the honey’.

VaaniR poliveythum mazai megam kiziththodi
koonaR piRai cerum kuLir caaraRkodukunRam
AaniR poliainthum amarnthu Aadi ulageththath
theniR poli moziyaaLadum meyaan thirunagare

வானிற் பொலிவெய்தும் மழை மேகம் கிழித்தோடிக்
கூனற் பிறை சேரும் குளிர் சாரற்கொடுங்குன்றம்
ஆனிற் பொலி ஐந்தும் அமர்ந்து ஆடி உலகேத்தத்
தேனிற் பொலி மொழியாளடும் மேயான் திருநகரே

This is a verse composed by one of the greatest Tamizh poets Thirugnanasambandar about whom I had elaborately written in some of my previous posts (Natana Raaja-Part II and Natana Raaja-Part V).

Yes..It is a bhakti poem dedicated to Lord Shiva, but what is to be noted here is the way the poet has used the things in nature and of course his intelligent word play (the word ‘பொலி’ used in different contexts to give different meanings) which was literally a child’s play for him( as some of you may have known Thirugnanasambandar started composing poems since a very tender age).

He looks at the beautiful crescent moon which is peeping out from the dark rainy clouds. The moon looks like a sickle that slices through the dark clouds to land at the Hillock.

If one looks at it from a poetic angle, one can appreciate the description of the moon, clouds, hillock and the cow.

Philosophically speaking, one can say that the moon is our mind that wants to purify itself from the dark and filthy things (simile here: the dark clouds) to attain salvation. If one delves deeply, one can deduce that the poem talks about the harmony of nature.

Dark clouds, Moon, Hillock, Cow, Honey-all these exist in nature and though they have different qualities (some even contrasting) there is a perfect harmony or bonhomie between these natural elements.

If Samabandar did such magic with his words, ILaiyaraaja has been doing this with his music.We see the perfect harmony and bonhomie between the different instruments, between the different genres, between the singers …

The song of the day is a classic example of the bonhomie of the different contrasting sounds.It is ‘Aadai KoNdu Aadum’ from ‘KeLviyum Naane Badhilum Naane’ (1982) sung by Unni Menon and S.P.Shailaja.

The composition uses many modern western instruments including synthesizers to the accompaniment of Mirudangam, a traditional South Indian percussion instrument.

It is based on Dhenuka, a very classical raga.

Dhenuka is the 9th melakarta and its swaras are
sa ri1 ga2 ma1 pa dha1 ni3 Sa/Sa ni3 dha1 pa ma1 ga2 ri1 sa.

Scalewise, it is very close to Todi and it is the Sudhdhamadhyama counterpart of Subhapantuvarali, a raga known for pathos. Moreover, if the variant of ‘ri is changed, it becomes Keeravani and if the variant of ‘ga’ is changed, it becomes Mayamalavagowla.

But despite all these factors, Dhenuka does not resemble any of the aforementioned popular ragas and has a special identity of its own.

Let us now look at the composition.

The prelude itself is grand and is a forerunner to the musical edifice.

The air is resonant with the robust Mirudangam playing ‘Ta ka dhi mi’ with stress on the first and the third syllable. The scintillating piper moves reposefully. The synthesiser allies with the strings and we see a ravishing beauty. Enthused and energised, the flute sweeps us with a wave of excitement.

The Pallavi that starts in the higher octave has clusters of flowering phrases. The first line is dynamic, and the second line lilting. The last line gives us gliding aural images with the ‘Ta ka dhi mi tathomta’ dancing like a peacock.

The first interlude juxtaposes pace and the mood. First, the synthesizer moves with a gentle wave of vigour. The impeccable saxophone then takes over with a flourish.The short pauses and the ‘gumki’ of the Mirudangam breathe charm.Finally, the razor sharp stringed instruments and the Flute sustain the glory.

The CharaNams have insightful phrases.

The first part is benign while the second part shows us the beauty of the raga strata by strata.

The first two lines with the interweaving of instruments shine with emotive glints. The third line is fluent and exhaustive while the last line is simply mesmerising.

The composer weaves a beautiful soft fabric in the second interlude.
The Bass guitar splays the colours expansively with the Mirudangam brimming with exuberance. The guitar and the synthesizer that follow provide a serene edge evoking a totally different colour.

It is soft and sublime.

It is graceful.

It is meditative.

It is a chiaroscuro as the flute, and the other instruments join now.

It is a perfect harmony..

எழில் ராஜாங்கம் இசையே..அதன் ராஜாவும் அவரே..

He is the undisputed king of the beautiful Kingdom of Music..