Tuesday, 15 November 2011

ILaiyaraaja-The Immaculate Musician..

The Lady quarrels with her beloved. He leaves the town after trying in vain to make peace with her. Only when he is away does she realise how much she loves him and most importantly how much he loves her. She decides to go to him but her ego comes in her way. Stealthily, she sends her parrot. No..she does not use it as an ambassador.Nor does she want the parrot to convey anything to him.

Then why does she send it?

This is where one sees the beauty of that great poet called Kamban.

Before that, let me tell you that this poem appears towards the end of Bala Kaandam in Kamba RamayaNam just before the Sita-Rama wedding. A lot of people travel from Ayodhya to Mythila to be part of the grand function.It is here that one sees Kamban, the Romantic. His poetic imagination runs riot as he creates a lot of fictitious characters and narrates their ‘stories’.One gets to see the various dimension of Love in these poems.

Let us now go back to the ‘story’ quoted in the beginning.
The Heroine sends her parrot so that she can see him and still pretend that she went there only to search for her parrot and not for him!

Human psychology at its best!!

யாழொக்கும் சொற்பொன்னனையாள் ஓர் இகல்மன்னன்
தாழத் தாழாள்;தாழ்ந்த மனத்தாள் தளர்கின்றாள்;
ஆழத் துள்ளும் கள்ளம் நினைப்பாள்;அவன் நின்ற‌
சூழற்கே தன் கிள்ளையை ஏவித் தொடர்வாளும்.

..I had already discussed about Kamban-The Psychologist in one of my earlier posts(ILaiyaraaja-The Distinct Musician).But what makes reading the work of this psychologist interesting is the use of his words and his narrative skills.

It seems her words are as musical as the ‘Yaazh’(an ancient instrument somewhat similar to the VeeNa). She refuses to budge when her ‘Strong Hero’ pleads with her.Here, note the contrasts- ‘Strong’ and ‘Bending’.And the same word with a slight variation-‘Thaazha’- being used to depict her mood when he is away. The third line is a stunner. ’Aazha thullum kallam’- Her cleverness/slyness(scheming to send her parrot and making it a ruse to see him- dances deep inside her heart. What a description!

This is what makes a poem and the poet immaculate.

Let us now look at the immaculate music and the musician.

The song of the day is another marvel from the Master.
Here too, the Lady love tries to woo her beloved using music and dance as tools.

The song is ‘Manmada RaagangaLe’ from Bala Naagamma (1981).
It is a Ragamaalika but what makes the composition immaculate is the choice of the ragas. The Pallavi, the first interlude and the first CharaNam are in PantuvaraLi.

PantuvaraLi (called as Kamavardhini in the melakarta system) is the 51st melakarta and is the pratimadhyama counterpart of Mayamalavagowla. But the two ragas sound different from each other because of the way they are sung and the gamakas.

Its structure is sa ri1 ga3 ma2 pa dha1 ni3 Sa/Sa ni3 dha1 pa ma2 ga3 ri1 sa.

PantuvaraLi is a very classical raga and generally gives a Bhakti feel.

But the Maestro has used it in different situations(pathos- Vazhimel Vizhiyai, romance-Rojavai thaalattum, bhakti- Om Shiva Om) bringing out the unknown dimensions of the raga.

‘Manmada RaagangaLe’ brings out yet another dimension.

Let us have a look at the composition.

It starts with the tampoora that creates a beautiful ambience. The sympathetic chords of a string instrument draw a sleek silhouette of the raga. The pakhawaj zestfully plays the Tisram beats.The sympathetic chords join the pakhawaj.The Jalatarangam plays with relish.

We then see the varied texture of the raga as the percussion, VeeNa and the violins join.The mellow flute plays the avarohanam swaras in sets of 3.The Veena starts with the ArohaNam and then playfully plays the other swaras with impeccable precision.The Bass string of the VeeNa gives an esoteric touch saying ‘Om’ as the marvelously supple voice of VaNi Jayaram sings the akaara.

A piquant Prelude!

The Pallavi is lucid. If the first part is elegant, the second part moves with verve and vigour.

The first interlude delves into the facets of the Raga with the sizzling Flute, the meticulously gliding VeeNa and the enlivening Jalatarangam giving a chiseled musical motif.

Aesthetic patterns are woven in the first CharaNam. The first two lines give a vibrant hue while the following lines lit up a quiet niche.

The second interlude is inundated with rich, imaginative, innovative ideas.

It starts with a ‘flutter’ (symbolizing the Heart!) followed by the Flute and the stringed instrument. The harmony between the instruments assumes a mantle of mirth as they sway in resonance.The Raga now changes to Mohanam with the vivacious Violins and the enchanting Flute taking swirls and flights.

What happens now is what makes him the Emperor of Film Music.

A musical piece in Violin moves with unfettered imagination. The piece has sa ri2 ga2 pa dha2 ni2 –Shivaranjani plus ‘ni’- and as per the ‘Sangeeta Raga Kadal’, this raga is called as ‘Madhima VaraLi’, a raga derived from Karaharapriya and a raga not used by any musician so far!

The group of violins and the VeeNa accompanied by the ghatam move languorously lending both majesty and poise.

More surprise awaits us as the raga changes again, this time to Vasanta with the Flute providing soulful touches.

We see an organic progression in the second CharaNam that continues in Vasanta.

The first two melody-steeped lines are followed by lines that have classical fervour and flavour.

The lines ‘Mazhai mugil..’and ‘Nilavenum..’ have spectacular passages with the energetic percussion jumping with joy.

The following line ‘Paruvameni..’ has 4 Tisram counts in vocal followed by 4 counts by the percussion and the violins.

The ‘nadai’(gait) changes in the next line- ‘Sevvari..’with the percussion playing ‘ta ki ta’in ‘Keezh kaalam’(slow) while in the following line the percussion plays in the ‘Mel Kaalam’(fast). Very subtle variation but shows the mastery of the composer aesthetically!

The last line meanders meaningfully with the creative flourishes structured around wonderful permutations.

It is a musical conversation between the rhythm and the melody..

All his tunes are ‘Manmada Raagas’ that make us fall in love(with his music)..

அவர் இசைக்கும் ராகங்கள் எல்லாமே நம்மைக் காதல்வயப்படுத்தும் மன்மத ராகங்கள்.


Suresh S said...


How in the world did I miss this song? The only song of 'Balanagamma' is ofcourse the famous Bilahari one. This one is a revelation. What crisp phrases and what precision!! The hallmark of Raja.

Very well written article. Ofcourse when you get Kamban along with you, you do have a great advantage isnt it :)

Raj said...

'The only song of Balanagamma is of course the Bilahari one' :).

Suresh-There are some amazing songs apart from the popular Bilahari. There is one in Chitrambari, one in VaukhlabharaNam and a beautiful but short Amritavarshini.

Coming to think of it, I have discussed 4 songs from 'Bala Nagamma' in this blog, a record because no other album has had that privilege so far :).

This is the Chirambari discussion:

and this one is Vakulabharanam:

Bala Nagamma is a special movie not just in terms of the songs but in terms of the BGM as well..He used a lot of synthesisers for the first time in the BGM.

Thanks for your comments about the write-up..Yes when we have Kamban, do we have to worry about anything?(but the same thing applies to the aazhwars,sangam poets...:)).

Aakarsh said...

This is a classic composition! I heard it some 6 years ago I think, for the first time. One of his best raaga maalikas ever. Those brisk string section movements, the way he handled the percussions. Brilliance! If only he re-records this song again - on latest equipment. I am sure, some remastering would accentuate its beauty further.

This movie is there in Telugu also.

I am surprised - or say Shocked - that Suresh S hasn't listened to this before.

Raj said...

Yes Kamal..A great composition though I wouldnt want the modern instruments/recording techniques to disturb the beauty of th e song..

By the way, I have mentioned this before too- We came to know each other because of this album.In the year 2007, you posted in one of the communities in Orkut about a radio programme in which the music of Bala Nagamma was discussed.You mentioned that your friend had just then listened to the programme.

I replied in the community mentioning the songs/ragas..Hope you remember that :).

Thanks for your comments!

Vijay said...

Speechless! What to say. You have dissected to the core. Brilliant article!! Yes, a great Raagamaalika ever, with a new and never heard before raagam, 'Madhima VaraLi'. Without you, I would not have known this raagam at all. Excellently dissected the thaalam aspect too, especially towards the end (mel kaalam and keezh kaalam).

Great treat from Maestro through you!

Raj said...

Thanks Vijay!It is his music that makes me do all this :)

Spock said...

Just a minor correction - the raaagam is not 'Madhima Varali' but 'Madimaravali'. Another being the Vasantha in the interlude part - if you notice, there is a hint of a dwi-madhyama in the second interlude, which makes it sound like Maand instead, and then moves on to the actual Vasantha in the Charanam. The interlude has a haunting sense to the ears!

Raj said...

Thanks for the correction!

And yes..that MaaNd feel is special and I missed out mentioning this in the post.

Pl. do go through the other posts too and give your valuable feedback..