Tuesday, 21 June 2011

ILaiyaraaja-The Effervescent Musician..

AruNagirinaathar, about whom I had written in my earlier posts-‘ILaiyaraaja-The Beautiful Musician’ and ‘Natana Raaja- Part I’- is a very special poet.

Special, not just because of his transformation from a vagabond to a great bhakti poet or because of the enormity of his works (close to 16,000 songs and a host of ‘Viruththams’).Nor is it just because of the command of the language in his songs or because of the fact that he travelled by foot to hundreds of places.

Yes, surely the aforementioned factors make us all say he is great but what makes him unique and special is his knowledge on Laya(rhythm) and his propensity to compose in almost all known TaaLas.

The difference between him and other poets is that while all great poets composed in metre- that had rhyming words- in specific paN(raga) and specific taLas, Arunagirinaathar was the only poet to compose songs(that invariably had 8 stanzas) keeping only the TaaLa aspect in mind. Such was his command over the Laya.

Now, look at this song:

nachcharavam endru nachcharavam endru
nachchumizh kaLanga ...... madhiyAlum

naththodu muzhanga naththodu muzhangu
naththirai vazhangu ...... kadalAlum

ichchaiyuNar vindri ichchaiyena vandha
ichchiRumi nondhu ...... meliyAdhE

eththanaiyi nenjil eththanamu yangi
iththanaiyil anjal ...... enavENum

pachchaimayil koNdu pachchaimaRa mangai
pachchaimalai yengum ...... uRaivonE

bakthiyuda nindru bakthiseyum anbar
paththiram aNindha ...... kazhalOnE

kachchivar kurumbai kachchavar virumbu
kachchiyil amarndha ...... kadhirvElA

kaRpaga vanangkoL kaRpaga visumbar
kaiththaLai kaLaindha ...... perumALE.

நச்சரவ மென்று நச்சரவ மென்று
நச்சுமிழ்க ளங்க ...... மதியாலும்

நத்தொடுமு ழங்க னத்தொடுமு ழங்கு
நத்திரைவ ழங்கு ...... கடலாலும்

இச்சையுணர் வின்றி யிச்சையென வந்த
இச்சிறுமி நொந்து ...... மெலியாதே

எத்தனையி நெஞ்சில் எத்தனமு யங்கி
இத்தனையி லஞ்ச ...... லெனவேணும்

பச்சைமயில் கொண்டு பச்சைமற மங்கை
பச்சைமலை யெங்கு ...... முறைவோனே

பத்தியுட னின்று பத்திசெயு மன்பர்
பத்திரம ணிந்த ...... கழலோனே

கச்சிவர் குரும்பை கச்சவர்வி ரும்பு
கச்சியில மர்ந்த ...... கதிர்வேலா

கற்பக வனங்கொள் கற்பகவி சும்பர்
கைத்தளைக ளைந்த ...... பெருமாளே.

This song follows ‘ta ki ta ta ka/ ta ki ta ta ka/ta ki ta ta ka/ta ka dhi mi’ pattern-that is a tala with 19 aksharaas.

Even people who cannot follow Tamizh or who do not have knowledge in music can appreciate the rhyming rhythmic words.

This is also one of the few songs of ArNagirinaathar with the Naayaki bhava with the poet assuming himself to be a girl in love with the Lord who is the Naayaka.

In this song the girl says ‘The Moon spews venom on me like the poisonous snake(ketu) that consumes it (during the eclipse),

Accompanied by the sound from the conches and sea shells and the boisterous thunder, the special waves from the sea tease me,

I do not have any clarity of thought, nor do I have any devotion; all I have is the desire to be one with You,

You-the one who is on the green hued peacock, the one who is married to the green hued Valli,

You- the one who lives on green verdant mountains, the one who is worshipped by people who are soaked in devotion,

You-the one who is in ‘Kanchi’

You- who broke the clutches of the Devas,

Please grant me refuge and bless me now!’.

Note how he has played with the word ‘Pachchai’(green) and the other rhyming words. But most importantly, look at the rhythm of the song.

This is what makes AruNagirinaathar and his compositions most special!

Like AruNagirinaathar, ILaiyaraaja is also an emperor of Laya and I have highlighted and discussed this aspect in many of my posts in this blog.

Some of his laya patterns(including the cross-rhythms) are mind boggling and make one wonder as to how a human brain could conceive of such intricate patterns so spontaneously.

Let us take up yet another composition of his where the percussion and the rhythm play a major role.

It is ‘Adi Naagu’ from ‘Karumbu Vil’(1979).

The song is based on Raag Jog, a beautiful Hindustani Raag.

Its structure is: sa ga3 ma1 pa ni2 Sa/Sa ni2 pa ma1 ga3 ma1 ga2 sa.

Some ‘gharanas’(simply put ‘style’) include the ni3 as well but a more traditional view of Jog suggests the absence of ‘ni3’. The speciality of this Raag however is the use of both the ‘ga’ s in the avroh and the glide from ‘ga’ to ‘sa’. ‘ga ma pa ni pa ni Sa’ is another special prayoga or phrase in this Raag.

Let us now look at the song of the day.

The song has a rather unusual beginning with a kind of announcement for a swayamvara. What follows is a rhythmic treat. The percussion in the tribal beats is fused with energy. The tribal instrument, that sounds somewhat like Jalatarangam adds fillip while the Shehnai that plays short notes is tantalizingly beautiful.

The Pallavi in the voice of Jayachandran is a delectable harmony of expression. The vibrant swirls with the percussion underpinnings are stunning.

The first interlude has some very interesting combinations. First, we have the tribal instrument that shows the magical glimmer. The synthesiser then plays with pin point precision. As the two play with each other musically, the long bass flute shows the hidden hues and shades of the Raag with the percussion playing with a different pattern.

We see the tranquil luminescence.

The stringed instrument that appears in the end moves with sensitivity.

Another speciality of this composition is that each CharNam is rendered by three different male singers-with the first one by Krishnamoorthy, the second one by T.L.Maharajan and the third one by Jayachandran.The rhythmic patterns and the percussion instruments also change subtly in each of the CharaNams.

The first four lines have fluid phrases and the lines that follow are crisp. The second and third charaNam also have beautiful sangatis as aalap wedged between the first part and the second part. The aalap done with an astute perception of the raag is musically delightful.

The second interlude is imaginatively conceived. The group of Shehnais plays silken smooth glides with an amazing richness of patterns. It is also woven with pertinent rhythmic designs.

The third interlude is a short apotheosis of rhythm.

We see the shifting rhythms with aesthetically fulfilling variations.

We see the plume of jatis that race into twists and coils.

We see a mini ‘Tani Avartanam’as the melody glides over rhythm grids with the rhythm in turn dancing with glee.

Effervescent music!!

We become the ants drawn towards the jagerry ..

நாம் கட்டெறும்பு..கட்டி வெல்லம் அவர் இசை!

(This post and the song are dedicated to all music lovers and followers/fans/fanatics of the greatest living film music composer who makes us all realise how beautiful music is...

Happy World Music Day!! )

Thursday, 2 June 2011

ILaiyaraaja-The Simple and Esoteric Musician..

‘Their Eyes full of tears, Mind Brimming with happiness, Body Ecstatic, Tongue searching for words, Brain numbed.. They look mad, mad.. For they are in love with you Goddess Abhirami, only Your path is good and blissful!’

‘virumbith thozhum adiyaar vizhinNeer malki, mei puLakam
arumbith thathumbiya aanantham aaki, aRivu izhanthu
karumbin kaLiththu, mozhi thadumaaRi, mun sonna ellaam
tharum piththar aavar enRaal abhiraami samayam nanRe.’

விரும்பித் தொழும் அடியார் விழி நீர் மல்கி மெய் புளகம்
அரும்பித் ததும்பிய ஆனந்தம் ஆகி அறிவு இழந்து
கரும்பின் களித்து மொழி தடுமாறி முன் சொன்ன எல்லாம்
தரும்பித்தர் ஆவர் என்றால் அபிராமி சமயம் நன்றே.

Thus sang Abhirami Bhattar, the 18th Century poet.

The story of Abhirami Bhattar is very interesting. It is said that he would be in a trance for hours and days together. One day, the King of Thanjavore, Saraboji Maharaja visited the Temple at Thirukkadavoor-where Bhattar was the priest- and annoyed that he did not bother to even acknowledge his presence, asked him what day it was-New Moon or Full Moon. Bhattar-who was in a state of trance- replied it was Full Moon (while it was New Moon).

The King ordered that Bhattar be burnt alive in case the Moon does not appear full that night. Tied to the rope on both the sides with fire rage below him, Bhattar composed 100 verses in simple but beautiful Tamizh extolling Abhirami. The verses full of esoteric meanings followed the ‘Anthadi format’-that is the last word of each verse became the first word of the following verse. It is said that the Goddess appeared at the end of the 79th verse and threw one of her ear rings to the sky and the ring appeared as the Moon on a New Moon night!

For some, this may sound irrational, unscientific and illogical. But even these rationalists can appreciate the beautiful verses in chaste tamizh.

I somehow find a lot of parallels between the story of Abhirami Bhattar and the music of ILaiyaraaja. While people who are initiated into music appreciate the nuances and techniques in his music, the common man just enjoys his music without any frills for its sheer beauty.

ILaiyaraaja is eccentric too in the sense that he is totally devoted to music just like how Abhirami Bhattar was immersed in Abhirami.

He has his own individuality and he is very firm in what he believes in.

Like Bhattar, he is capable of making Moon appear on a New Moon night-with music being the Moon and senseless movies being the dark New Moon night.

In short, he is simple as well as esoteric.

On this special day, it is my privilege to write on a composition which is very special.

‘Chinna ThaayavaL..’ from ThaLapathi(1991) is the composition of the day.
It is based on Charukesi, the 26th melakarta whose structure is sa ri2 ga3 ma1 pa dha1 ni2 Sa/Sa ni2 dha1 pa ma1 ga3 ri2 sa.

However, the usage of ‘ga2’ very close to ‘ga3’ in some phrases gives the feel of Ragavardhini, a vivadi mela (32nd ).Please refer my earlier post ‘ILaiyaraaja-The Sculptor-Part II’ in this Blog to understand the relationship between Charukesi and Ragavardhini.

In fact, one can even argue that the clear presence of ‘ri2’ rules out Ragavardhini and at the most one can say that it is a mix of Nata Bhairavi and Charukesi. However, a closer analysis suggests that the ‘ga3 ma1 ga2’ phrase in the Pallavi does give the feel of Vivadi raga and therefore the shades of Ragavardhini.

But one can either choose to use the intellect or simply enjoy shutting off the brain and let the heart feel the beauty.

Let us now look at the composition.

The opening flute piece itself speaks volumes about the greatness of the composition. Initially it gives an eerie feeling (because of the vivadi swaras). But as one listens more, it instills a sense of serenity. Emotions come out gleaming as the Saarangi sings with acute sensitivity. It is a spontaneous output of melody-perceptive and wholesome.

The Pallavi in the voice of Janaki moves with willowy grace. The first part-humming to the second line- is rendered with dignity and weight while the middle part moves with persuasive refinement. The last line that gives a caressing touch says it all.

The Tabla that plays the Tisram beats is meditative.

Imbued with lilting phrases, the violin makes stenciled movements. The folksy instrument juxtaposed with the violin heightens the emotions. We feel the ineffable splendour of music as the tonally rich Saarangi takes over. It is entrenched with crystal clear enunciation and is replete with classic phrases.

The CharaNam is an exquisite exposition.

The first two lines are punctuated with malleable phrases.

Coffers of melody overflow in the following lines.

The last line that sparkles with fervour, passion, affection and most importantly exudes and aromatic fragrance coveys a lot musically and emotionally.


Eyes full of tears, Mind Brimming with happiness, Body Ecstatic, Tongue searching for words, Brain numbed.. we look mad, mad.. For we are in love with you the Emperor of Music.. Your Music is great and blissful!

சின்னத்தாயவள் தந்த ராசாவே..நீவிர் வாழிய பல்லாண்டு!உமது இசை வாழிய ஆயிரமாண்டு!!

Hail thee- The one born to Chinnaththaayee!
Your music will live for thousand years!!