Tuesday, 4 January 2011

ILaiyaraaja-The Charmer

What is it that which attracts us to great poetry?

Choice of words? Description? Narration? Or the subject itself?

I am sure it is a combination of all these. But most importantly, it should appeal to us spontaneously, cast a spell on us and at the same time make us look for inner meanings and more and more meanings..

Look at this poem:

“It is a misty morning.. The Buffalo hears the cry of its calf and Milk flows unabated from its udders making the floor wet and slushy. And you, the sister of the rich cowherd, is sleeping still, unmindful and totally oblivious to the happenings while the entire village seems to know this. Wake up at least now! Let us all go, sing and celebrate the deeds of the One who vanquished the King of Lanka!’’

கனைத்திளம் கற்றெருமை கன்றுக்கிரங்கி
நினைத்து முலைவழியே நின்றுபால் சோர
நனைத்தில்லம் சேறாக்கும் நற்செல்வன் தங்காய்!
பனித்தலைவீழ நின் வாசல் கடைபற்றி
சினத்தினால் தென்னிலங்கைக் கோமானைச்செற்ற
மனத்துக்கினியானைப் பாடவும் நீ வாய்திறவாய்!
இனித் தான் எழுந்திராய் ஈதென்ன பேருறக்கம்
அனைத்தில்லத்தாரும் அறிந்தேலோர் எம்பாவாய்.

These are the lines from the 13th Thiruppavai of AandaL.

Though it does make one look for deeper and inner meanings, let us ignore that for the time being and just look at the poem purely from an aesthetic perspective.

A simple beautiful story unfolds before us visually in a matter of seconds.

The wealth and richness of the house.. The laziness of the brother-who fails to do his duty of milking the cow-, and the sister who is in her own world...The Dew outside.. The group of girls all set to go to the temple..

This is the narration..

Now, look at the description..

The unusual scene of Milk flowing all over is described first. When we begin to wonder why and where, we get the answer almost immediately. We then get to know that the chief protagonist is standing outside the house with the dew falling on her head and the reason for her being there.

And look at the choice of the rhyming words..

‘Kanaiththu’, ‘Ninaiththu’..(to denote that the voice of the calf even from a distance makes the mother think of feeding it)

‘Nanaiththu’ ‘Paniththalai’..(both ‘wet’)

‘Sinaththinaal’ Manaththukkiniyanai’ ( contrast!)

‘Iniththan’ ‘Anaiththu’ (everybody now knows you.. at least now realise what you are doing)

Though it is not my intention to get into the hidden meanings (there are lots), let me just interpret one to make the appreciation of the poem complete.

Rama is described first as ‘the one who conquered Ravana out of anger’. The very next line calls him as ‘the lovable one’. Why this contradiction?

Rama is considered to be an epitome of calmness.But when he was made to lose his cool, it was doomsday for the evil minded man. Here, Rama is the symbol of Good and Ravana, the Evil.

Please don’t miss that these lines are preceded by the one describing the dew fall.
‘Dew’ is cool. ‘Anger’ is hot. ‘Loveable’ is cool.

Moreover, Dew, and Milk are white in colour and therefore symbolise peace and calmness while Buffalo, Sleep, Anger symbolise evil.

This is what makes ANdaaL a great poet and her poems are remembered and sung on all the days in the month of Margazhi even after 1200 years.

As I had already mentioned in one of my earlier posts, it just takes a few seconds for geniuses to compose great works since their brains are wired differently and there is an imperceptible link between their brain and the heart.

ILaiyaraaja takes very little time to compose music but what we get as a song/composition is wonderfully melodious and is packed with details which would take years to understand and analyse and mysteries which would take eons to unravel.

At the same time, irrespective of whether one knows/understands/analyses the details, his music steals our hearts.

Though all his compositions have something special ingrained in them, some compositions are very special in terms of the raga usage and many other technical aspects.

But the composition of the day I feel should be placed under a very special category-‘Very Very Special’.

‘Karaiyatha Manamum’, the composition we saw last time would automatically qualify for this category since it is based on a raga which is not in vogue used for the first time by him.

Today’s composition is also based on such a raga. But the subtle difference between the two is that while in the former one saw the gruha bedam technique (with the raga changing to yet another rare raga ), in the latter one sees the free flowing use of swaras of a Raga which is again not in vogue.

‘Yaava Shilpi Kanda Kanasu Neenu..’ from the Kannada movie Janma Janmada Anubandha’(1980) is the composition.

Going by the tune, it is rather easy to conclude that it is either based in Madhyamavati or Brindavana Saranga. However, there is more to it than meets the eye (ear).

First of all, let me explain as to why it sounds like these ragas.

There is a prominent use of Shadjamam (sa), Chushruti Rishabham(ri2), Shuddha Madhyamam(ma1), Panchamam(pa), Kakali Nishadam(ni3).In addition to this one feels one hears the other ‘ni’, the Kaisiki Nishadam. However, a very close listening suggests that it is actually the vivadi swaram ‘Shadshruti dhaivatam’(dha3).

Now, what could this Raga be?

Going by the swaras used, it should be a derivative (janya ) of either the 24th Melakarta ‘Megaranjani’ or the 30th Melakarta ‘Naga Nandini’.

On checking the ‘Raga Pravagam’ book, I saw no raga with this structure listed under the 24th. But thankfully, a raga called ‘Doorjatipriya’ listed under ‘Naga Nandini’ with this structure:

Sa ri2 ma1 pa dha3 ni3 Sa/Sa ni3 dha3 pa ma1 ri2 sa.

‘Yaava Shilpi’ uses these swaras though at times some swaras are skipped (for example, Sa ni pa ma and ri ma pa dha Sa).

But in the absence of any written rule (Raga Lakshana) for this particular raga, let us assume that it is ‘Doorjatipriya’ only.

Let us now look at the composition in this unique raga that sounds like Madhyamavati and Brindavana Saranaga but still has a beauty of its own.

The strings of the guitar strum very gently.. The Flute breathes charm. Suddenly it is robust all around with the percussion moving at a spanking pace. The joyously effervescent Saxophone is joined by the zestful violins.

The vocals begin with the a unique ‘papapapapa..’

We feel the verve and spirit in the voices of SPB and Janaki with the pristine flute sketching subtle hues.

The Pallavi is fluent, sweet and suave. It is adorned by the splendorous synthesisers.

The first interlude is magical.

The Saxophone is couched in winsome language. As it begins to melt our hearts, the twin-violins enter with a musical smile.

What follows is a short melodic document.

The violins traipse across the octaves giving stunning replies to the questions posed by the Sax.

It is delicate.
It is strong.
It is artistic.
It is gracious.

The violins then move with piercing intensity followed by the flute that shines radiantly with the vivadi notes.

The CharaNams are wonderful with the coil-into-coil phrases.

The first two lines have an aura of freshness. The line that follows has an intricate loveliness while the third line is a lustrous elaboration.

We have more surprise in store as the CharaNam continues with a very short aalap followed by the lines that have the same notes as that of the Pallavi.

The second interlude has intricately twined passages. It first brims with exuberance with the chatusram beats on the percussion. Enveloped in subtle overtones, the violins evoke melodic essence. It is an amalgam of the West and the East.

The radiant flute now moves with blazing intensity and the rapturous violins whirr.

A stunning display!

It is the music of hundred poets..