Monday, 29 August 2011

ILaiyaraaja-The Multi-Hued Musician..

Of all the beautiful and interesting things in this world, colours are very special. Colours give us energy, enthusiasm, peace and tranquility.

Who is not fascinated by colours?

Enthralled by the beauty of the colourful sky, Mahakavi jumps with joy:

Oh..How beautiful the colours are!
How many shapes!How many mixtures!
Lotions of Fire..Streams of molten gold..
Golden Pools!Golden Islands!
Pools of Blue..Oh..How many varieties of Blue..
White and Black..
Golden Boats float on Blue Pools..
Golden light on the black peaks.
Golden whales float all around..
It is a repository of colours!

என்ன இந்த வண்ணத்தியல்புகள்!
எத்தனை வடிவம்!எத்தனை கலவை!
தீயின் குழம்புகள்!செம்பொன் காய்ச்சிவிட்ட ஓடைகள்!
வெம்மை தோன்றாமே எரிந்திடும் தங்கத் தீவுகள்!
நீலப் பொய்கைகள்!அடடா நீல வண்ணமொன்றில் எத்தனை வகை!
எத்தனை செம்மை! பசுமையும் கருமையும் எத்தனை!
நீலப் பொய்கையின் மிதந்திடும் தங்கத்தோணிகள்
சுடரொளிப் பொற்கரையிட்ட கருஞ்சிகரங்கள்
ஆங்கு தங்கத்திமிங்கிலம் தான் பல மிதக்கும்.
எங்கு நோக்கிடினும் ஒளித் திரள் ஒளித் திரள்

He sees the colours as divine.
Another poet sees the Divine with the colours.

The great Vaishnavite saint and poet Thirumangaiyaazhwar says, ‘Ridding the colours of falsities, I saw Him here in Thiruvarangam in colours of radiant black hue, the dark cloud and Emerald and realized His true colours’.

பொய்வண்ணம் மனத்தகற்றிப் புலனைந்தும் செலவைத்து,
மெய்வண்ணம் நினைந்தவர்க்கு மெய்ந்நின்ற வித்தகனை,
மைவண்ணம் கருமுகில்போல் திகழ்வண்ண மரதகத்தின்,
அவ்வண்ண வண்ணனையான் கண்டதுதென் னரங்கத்தே

Here, the poet very intelligently talks about different shades of black and also the shade of Green. As we all know, black is the colour of darkness and green the colour of fertility. ‘Dispel all negative thoughts. Your mind becomes fertile and you see the Divine.’

Here, colours are used symbolically to depict many things.

Coming to think of it, there are a lot of similarities between colours and music.

The basic swaras are 7 while the basic colours are also 7.

There are different variations in each swara. There are different shades in each colour. The different combinations of swaras take the shape of ragas while the different shades of colours become a beautiful painting in the hands of a great artist.

Just like the hidden gems, there are also some hidden colours and ragas and only great artistes/musicians bring these out.

In a period spanning three decades, ILaiyaraaja has used a lot of colours as swaras and ragas in his palette resulting in a painting as beautiful and marvelous as the evening sky. With his music, he has made us shed the falsities and the negativities and move towards the Ultimate Truth and has made us feel the divine.

Not only has he used very familiar colours but has also shown us some very new colours hitherto not shown by many.

We have seen his use of very rare ragas like Hema Bhushani, Makaranda Priya, Doorjati Priya, Mrigakshi, VarNa RoopiNi etc.,

On this special day, we are going to see yet another rare raga in a beautiful composition.

This raga like the other aforementioned ragas were not used by any other musician (classical or cinema) before him.

The raga is Mallika Vasantam and the composition is ‘Saavira JanumagaLu’ from the Kannada film ‘Nyaya Gedditu’.

Mallika Vasantam is derived from Mayamalavagowla and follows a audava sampoorNa structure-that is 5 notes in the ascending and 7 in the descending:

sa ga3 ma1 pa ni3 Sa/Sa ni3 dha1 pa ma1 ga3 ri1 sa.

Though the structure sounds rather simple, the raga sounds unique while rendered.

Please note that the swaras in the arohaNam are common to another grand raga ShankarabharaNam which for all practical purposes sounds very different from Mayamalavagowla because of the other ‘ri’ and the other ‘dha’.
This arohaNam pattern is almost similar to Kedaram(a raga derived from ShankarabharaNam).Of course Kedaram’s arohanam is ‘sa ma ga ma pa ni sa’ while the swaras go straight as ‘ sa ga ma pa ni Sa’ in Mallika Vasantam.

However, this raga sounds so unique and different that one can be misled to think that it is a mix of Kedaram and MayamaLavagowla.

Let us now look at the composition.

It starts with the aalaap in the caressing and felicitous voice of SPB. The akaaram has winsome variations touching the higher octave towards the end of the prelude. The haunting charm is further accentuated by the musical elegance of the strings and the subtly integrated laya pattern.

The composition follows the Chatushra Eka talam that follows the 4-beat cycle. The 4 is further subdivided into 8 small beats in pairs of ‘ta ka’ and ‘dhi mi’. The last ‘dhi ‘mi’-that is the 7th and the 8th beats- are made to sound sharper giving a very special colourful effect.

The Pallavi unfolds with great zeal. It has grace as well as sensitivity with the dulcet tone of Janaki giving a soothing touch.

The first Interlude has spectacular passages.

First, the Synth Violin glides in rather quietly without any percussion. The stringed instrument lights up in short colour glints. And the percussion joins.. Unmatched in spirit, the Violin continues its journey with its other friends following it closely.

Mesmerised by this, the Flute plays with unfettered imagination melting our hearts. The Guitar now welcomes its musical friends with a unique rapier cut and thrust. The playful Violins follow it in a zig zag pattern. The mellow flute channelises the energy, shows us the unique melody of the raga and lead us to the CharaNam.

The CharaNam moves with coherency and fluidity.

The first part spreads gentle fragrance.

The second part is a dazzling delineation touching the higher octave with the Flute showing alluring depths of the raga.

The last part sways gently.

The second interlude is dotted with rhythmic patterns of skill with abundant melodic phrases.

The ‘ta ka dhi mi’ in mel kaalam(faster pace) responds to the melody in a friendly banter.
The Veena shows the hidden ecstasy. We see the aura as the Flute plays intensely and powerfully. The pulsating Santoor and the rich Violins coalesce with the Flute.

The glow of the raga seeps into our consciousness.

Colours come alive as Swaras. Swaras-in the form of his music- come alive in multi hues, bond together and bond us all together.

A musical bond that will continue for 1000 janmas.

Saavira JanumagaLu, ee bandha beledirali…

ps:This post and the previous post in Tamizh were read out to an invited audience in Chennai on the 28th of August 2001 as part of an Event totally dedicated to ILaiyaraaja.


Aakarsh said...


I never heard this song/film before. Such an exquisite composition. Never heard about the raagam too! I must thank you for unearthing this rare gem and also for initiating me into this new raaga. You rightly said it - it has shades of Kedar and MMG. I loved the rhythm. I always loved it when Ilaiyaraaja used Mridangam in an unconventional way (like in Kalise Prathi sandhyalo from Aalapana). There are many examples anyway.

Hail the genius!

A small request: Can you share the mp3/(or this album completely) with me. I dont have it and I would want this in my IR Compendium. Just asking!

Suresh S said...

Excellent song Raj. I don't know how I got this song earlier. Probably from tfmpage as usual. It was in a loop for a long time. Excellent melody and vintage Raja orchestration, especially the mridangam beats.

I always have one nagging doubt though. I somehow feel Raja doesn't go for these new ragas. Instead he takes a known ragas and starts tweaking with and gets a consistent sound. We can name that raga something based on literature but many of these ragas exist only on paper, with no krithis in them. As I said, I strongly believe Raja is approaching this in a different way and not like selecting an existing raga. We are probably slotting it into a name for our satisfaction. What is your take?

Raj said...

Thanks Kamal!

SHall mail this song to your yahoo id soon..

Raj said...

Yes Suresh! I listened to this for the first time sometime during last year and had been wanting to write about this since then.Maybe it had to happen during the Event.

The point you raised about his use of rare ragas was discussed during the Geetanjali Event.I feel, in most of the cases,it just happens.In fact, he himself is on record saying he does not think of any raga while composing and 'it just happens'.

At the same time, there could also be occassions when he specifically chooses a particular raga.

In the case of 'Saavira..', he must have played the scale(in fact 'sa ga ma pa ni Sa/Sa ni dha pa ma ga ri sa' is not a new structure since we have Dhanyasi,Abheri,Carnataka Devagandhari..having the same structure in different swara variations) and must have decided to use it.After that, he would have checked the texts to find out the name.

Please note that there is not one alien swara anywhere.

What surprises me is the fact that carnatic composers have never used this raga despits its sounding so nice!!

Vijay said...

This should be one of your best! :) Hats off! I have been reading through your write-up and listening simultaneously continuously, still could not quench my thirst as the composition is such and your write-up gave its due appreciation and credit.

Wonderful to know the raagam behind it. For a novice like me, I can only sense the shade of kedaram (that too when the song starts similar to ithu oru ponmaalai pozhuthu), but I can sense various colors through your write-up. Thanks a lot!

Raj said...

Thanks a lot Vijay :).

Yes, it is a very different ragam and I am surprised that carnatic musicians have never paid attention to this scale which sounds like a mix of Kedaram and Mayamalavagowla.

And what a great tune!!