Tuesday, 8 February 2011

ILaiyaraaja-The Versatile Musician

The versatility of geniuses is indeed amazing.

Though we mortals tend to generalize and categorise people based on the little half baked knowledge we have, the great geniuses are beyond any classification or categorization.

Though I can give many examples, let me just give one now.

Most of you are familiar with Thiruvalluvar and his great work ThirukkuRaL. His ThirukkuRaL is one of the most revered works on morals, ethics and values. Thiruvalluvar is also said to have led a life of an ascetic though he was married.

Now, read the following:

1.‘Dear pupil of my eye! You please move and make way for my Lady Love.’

2.‘I sense the joy of touch, sight, sound, smell and taste in the beauty of my girl the one who wears beautiful bangles.’

3.‘She looks down when I see her. But when I do not look at her, she looks at me and smiles gently.’

4.‘Pearly smile, Bamboo shoulders, Hair full of fragrance, Lancing eyes,..She is beauty personified..’

1.கருமணியிற் பாவாய் நீ போதாய்யாம் வீழும்
திருநுதற்கு இல்லை இடம்..

2.கண்டு கேட்டு உண்டுயிர்த்து உற்றறியும் ஐம்புலனும்
ஒண்டோடி கண்ணே உள.

3.யான் நோக்கும் காலை நிலன்நோக்கும் நோக்காக்கால்
தான்நோக்கி மெல்ல நகும்.

4.முறிமேனி முத்தம் முறுவல் வெறிநாற்றம்
வேலுண்கண் வேய்த்தோள் அவட்கு.

Is it easy to believe that these were written by the same person who wrote,

‘Chase away all unwanted desires and lust’ , ‘Purify the mind from lust and other unwanted desires’ and many such couplets?

So, were his life and therefore his works full of contradictions?

Far from it..

‘ThirukkuRaL’ tells us the art of living.

‘Living’ encompasses everything under the Sun.

But one obvious question is ‘how is it that a man who is supposed to have led an led an ascetic life wrote couplets so sensuous and full of eroticism?’

This is where versatility comes into picture.

A poet, or an artiste or for that matter anybody involved in creative work cannot shut off their eyes or the mind and be selective in what they do. Not only should they know the realities of life but they should also know to express these. And for this to happen, they should be well-versed with all aspects of life and the art form they represent.

Geniuses have one more quality.

They are attached and at the same time detached.

Detached attachment. Is this not what Gita says?

That is why, we are able to see such great beautiful erotic verses from Thiruvalluvar.

That is why, we are able to listen to sensuous, erotic music full of love from ILaiyaraaja.

Some questions have been raised and many eyebrows have gone up regarding some of the songs of ILaiyaraaja. I have seen, heard and read people questioning the ‘love and lust’ factor in some of his songs.

What I have written so far in this post is the answer to their questions..

Today, we are going to see another wonderful erotic composition of his which again falls in the Very Very Special category which I mentioned in my previous post on ‘Yaava Shilpi’.

The composition is ‘Thathom thalangu thathom..’ from Vetri Vizha(1989).

This song uses just 5 swaras-sa ri1 ga2 ma1 ni2.

A cursory look at the swaras suggests that these are the swaras present in that great raga called Todi.

A deeper analysis suggests as per the ‘Sangeeta Swaraprastara Sagaram, there is indeed a raga with a structure of

sa ri1 ga2 ma1 ni2 Sa/Sa ni2 ma1 ga2 ri1 sa

and this is derived from Hanumath Todi.

This pentatonic raga is called as Mrigakshi-which literally means ‘Doe eyed’.

As usual, ILaiyaraaja is the only music composer to have used this raga.
The beauty is that though it is a fast paced song full of modern orchestration, nowhere does any alien note crop up.

Another beauty is the use of the higher octave swaras almost throughout the song.

Let us now look at this gem.

The prelude is spanking fresh.

The Bass guitar and the synthesiser make sharp excursions as the notes dance twinkle toed. The razor sharp instruments pierce our hearts.

The Pallavi in the voices of SPB and Janaki, shines beautifully with streaks of charming profundity, and pulsating phrases.

At the same time, it is woven with a silken web.

The intermeshing of human voices and the electronic synthesiser in the first interlude is radiant and benign. It is a gracious exposition punctuated by rich melodic contours. We see the variegated colours of quick silver when the Bass Guitar joins with the synthesiser in the second part.

The Charanams are pregnant with melody.

The first two lines impart charm while the next two lines have exciting curves and bends.
The lines that follow are bewitching and haunting.

The Pallavi which is rendered again at the end of the first CharaNam has a plethora of mellifluent innovative and improvised phrases.

The second interlude is laced with free flowing phrases.
We see the burst of energy. At the same time we also see gentleness in the pervasive patterns..

The Repetitive phrases that follow are stupendous.
It is rounded off with melody-steeped notes and we see the opulent colours of music.
பரவட்டும் பரவட்டும் இசை வெள்ள‌ம் பரவட்டும்..

Let this beautiful music spread all over..