Friday, 10 December 2010

ILaiyaraaja-The Alluring Musician

“Oh.. The one who is in a supine posture....My entire body is filled with love for you.. You melt me.. Oh! My sweet nectar..”

ஆரா அமுதே அடியேன் உடலம் நின்பால் அன்பாயே,
நீராய் அலைந்து கரைய வுருக்குகின்ற நெடுமாலே,
சீரார் செந்நெல் கவரி வீசும் செழுநீர்க் திருகுடந்தை,
ஏரார் கோலம் திகழக் கிடந்தாய் கண்டேன் எம்மானே.

sang the inimitable Nammazhwar, about whom I have already written elaborately in my post on ‘Enegengo Sellum’(ILaiyaraaja-The Wonder’ 4th March 2009).

I am not getting into the philosophical contours of this verse now. What is important here is the feel of the poem.

Don’t we feel the love, passion, and the devotion of the poet when we read the verse?

To put it simply and succinctly, Nammazhwar was allured by the beauty of the Lord. To him nothing in this world mattered except the Lord. Most importantly, he was able to communicate his feelings through beautiful words. Maybe, that is why we are allured by the poetry of people like Nammazhwar even after 1000 years.

If poets like Nammazhwar used poetry as a medium to express themselves, great musicians like Saint Thyagaraja used both poetry and music as a medium to describe the beauty of the divine.

In one of his kritis in the ragam Vagadeeswari, he says, ‘The Divine shines with grandeur everywhere.. It is present as Vishnu, Shiva, human beings, animals, birds, trees, the three basic qualities, the five elements..’.

‘Paramaathmudu velige mucchata baaga telusukore..’

Likewise, ILaiyaraaja, sees and makes us see the Divine everywhere through his Music.

The song of the day is yet another special composition of his and is based on a very rare ragam. One can even say that a ragam which has not been used by any other musician.

The composition is ‘Kariyaadha Manamum uNdo’ from ‘Varusham 16’(1989) and the ragam is Hema Bhushani(which literally means ‘adorned with gold’).

Hema Bhusnani is a janya of ‘Gangeya bhushani’, the 33rd melakarata and its structure is:

Sa ri3 ga3 ma1 dha1 ni3 Sa/Sa ni3 dha1 ma1 ga3 ri3 sa.

Incidentally, the ragam of Thyagaraja kriti quoted above-‘Paramathumudu’- Vagadeeswari is the 34th melakarta and is in the same chakra as that of
Gangeyabhushani .

‘Kariyadha Manamum..’ is special because of many reasons.

One, it is based on a very rare and unknown ragam.

Two, the song does not appear in the movie.

The third reason is the second charaNam and we shall see how and why it is special.

The Pallavi -which starts without a prelude- radiates positive energy and is resplendent not just because of the structure but also because of the soothing warmth in the voices of Yesudass and Chitra.

If the first line is effulgent, the second line has an alluring distinction, the reason being the vivadi note ‘ri3’.

The Sitar and violins slice through and infuse exotic shades of the raga in the beginning of the first interlude. The Flute shows the emotive facets of the Ragam and our hearts begin to melt.

The sitar and the Veena yearn evocatively.

The first CharaNam has a tranquil luminescence.

The first line dwells on niceties, while the second line gives a caressing touch. We are pierced by moments of poignancy in the following line.

The second interlude is marked by some wonderful aalaps by Yesudass.

It takes silky glides.

It sketches graceful silhouettes.

It flows smoothly through various terrains.

It bubbles with creative excitement.

Can any instrument substitute a memerising human voice?

The second charaNam looks at hidden ecstatic possibilities.

Remember my third point in the beginning of the description where I had said ‘The third reason is the second charaNam and we shall see how and why it is special’?

The ‘ga’ of the ragam is now taken as the base ‘sa’. I had discussed this concept called ‘Gruha Bedam’ in some of my earlier posts. Please refer ‘ILaiyaraaja-The Genius’, and ‘ILaiyaraaja-The Eloquent Musician’.

But the difference between those compositions and ‘Karaiyadha..’ is that while the former are based on known ragas, the latter is based on an unknown raga.
Most importantly, the raga that emerges after the Gruha Bedam is another unknown raga.

As per the theory of Gruha Bedam, the new raga-that is the raga one gets after applying the technique- has the same number of swaras as that of the original raga.

For example, let us take a very popular ragam ShankarabharaNam. If the ‘ri’ is kept as the base, it becomes Karaharapriya, if ‘ga’ is taken as the base, it becomes Todi, if ‘ma’ is the base, it is Kalyani, if ‘pa’ is the base, it is Harikamboji and it is Natabhairavi if ‘dha’ is the base.

Three points are worth noting here.

1.All the aforementioned ragas are well known and popular.

2.All these have seven swaras (like the ‘original’ ragam ShankarabharaNam).

3.Most importantly, since people have already tried and tested applying Gruha Bedam on such ragas, they clearly know the raga(s) that would emerge.

But ILaiyaraaja believes in chartering unknown territories and discovering gems that are not hitherto known to the world.

He also breaks the rule while staying within the boundaries of virtuosity. If this statement sounds somewhat ambiguous, please look at the following examples:

In ‘Vaidegi Raman’, he applied Gruha Bedam in Kalyani and instead of giving us the sampoorna (or complete ragams) like ‘Todi’ and ‘Harikamboji’, he ‘hid’ a couple of swaras to make them pentatonic ragas (Hindolam/Mohanam).

In ‘KaNgaLukkuL unnai ezhuthu’, he did the reverse. The 4 note ragam(Lavangi) became a 6 note ragam(Mandaari).

But by doing this, he never compromised on the beauty and the virtuosity.

Now, let us go back to ‘Kariyadha Manamum’.

I am sure this was the first time Gruha Bedam was done on an unknown raga. Added to this is the fact that the raga that emerges is also little known and has never been used before.

The new raga that begins the charaNam is called as ‘Makarandhapriya’(as per the Raga text ‘Swaraprastara Sagaram’ authored by Nathamuni PaNditar) whose structure is:

sa ri1 ga3 dha1 ni3 Sa/Sa ni3 dha1 ga3 ri1 sa.

It is ‘Lalita’ without the ‘ma’.

Here too, the Maestro has made a ‘Shadava raga’(6 note raga) ‘Audava’(5 notes) by skipping one note after the Gruha Bedam.

Artistically Innovative!!
Innovatively Artistic!!

Let us continue with the description of the CharaNam.
The first two lines in the second charaNam are subtly integrated and is a striking combination of sensitivity and beauty.

The beats of Tabla –that gives various permutations and combinations in a matter of half a cycle- in between the lines- steal our hearts.

The finale is meditative.

‘Kariyatha manamum uNdo’

‘அவர் இசைக்குக் கரையாத மனமும் உண்டோ..’