Tuesday, 11 December 2012

ILaiyaraaja- The Adventurous Musician- III

காதல், காதல், காதல்,

காதல் போயிற் காதல் போயிற்

சாதல், சாதல், சாதல்.

நாதம், நாதம், நாதம்;

நாதத் தேயோர் நலிவுண் டாயின்,

சேதம், சேதம், சேதம்.

These verses are part of the ‘Kuyil Paattu’, which is considered to be one of the greatest philosophical works in Tamizh poetry.

Mahakavi Bharati –whose 130th Birth anniversary is celebrated today-, is something more than the usual terms like Poet, Visionary, Revolutionary..

He gave a new lease of life to Tamizh poetry by using very simple words and broke many conventions with courage of conviction and with a spirit of adventure.

The ‘Kuyil Paatu’ verses quoted above talks about the extreme contrasts- Love and Death, Music and Cacophony.. ..

Though it is said that ‘Kuyil Paattu’ is a kind of tribute to his idol Poet Shelly, the fact remains that ‘Kuyil Paattu’ is considered to be one of the greatest philosophical works in Tamizh poetry. But what is more important and relevant here is that this kind of structure was entirely new to Tamizh poetry then. It maybe noted that this structure and the ‘Vachana Kavita’ of Bharati set the tone for the emergence of ‘Pudhu Kavitai’ in Tamizh, a totally new form.

Bharati did it because of his adventurous spirit and mastery of Tamizh language.

In the previous two posts, we saw how ILaiyaraaja with his deep knowledge used some new scales in music with a sense of adventure.

The third part in this series too features a song which follows a new and a different scale.

In fact, the notes of the song of the day -‘Adho mega oorvalam’ (Eeramana Rojave-1991).- are almost the same as the ones used in ‘Oru Poongavanam’ and yet are used differently.

Just to recap, the latter’s scale is ‘sa ri2 ga3 dha1 ni/ ni1 dha1 ni1 pa ga3 ri2 sa.

'Adho mega..’ follows a scale that can be put like this: sa ri2 ga3 pa dha1 ga3 ni1 ni1 Sa/Sa ni1 dha1 pa ga3 ri2 sa- the swaras of the 25th melakarta ‘Maara Ranjani’ without the ‘ma’.

Note how the arohaNa is devious with ‘ga ni ni’. You will be amazed to see how this phrase adds a special colour to this song. More about this soon..

Another speciality is the ‘Hamsadhwani’ shade by using ‘ni3’- only in the prelude and the interludes and not in the Pallavi/CharaNams.

The sympathetic strings in the beginning pull the strings of our hearts with the ascending notes and the three descending notes of Hamsadhwani. The chorus along with the ennobling Veena nurses us and takes us to the Pallavi.

The Pallavi which starts with the ‘sa’ uses ‘ri’, ga’ and ‘pa’ making us believe that the song is in Hamsadhwani. But the ‘dha1’ in ‘ange’ hits us with a force. Even then, ‘it could be Vaasanti’, with the prelude in Hamsadhwani’, Or it could also be ‘TaaraLam’, like ‘Kaalam maaRalaam’’, we think.

The first part of the first interlude with the mellifluent twin flute in two different octaves is in Hamsadhwani. The zestful strings too move in this raga until the flute interjects and plays the ‘dha1’. The romance between the flute and the Veena also has the ‘dha1’. It is surely ‘TaaraLam’, we almost conclude.
We find the swaras of Vaasanti in the first two lines of the CharaNam with the ‘ga pa dha pa’, ‘ga dha pa’ phrases even giving the flavour of Bowli(common notes anyway). The defining moment arrives in the third line as the vivadi note ‘ni1’ is introduced. This note joining with ‘ga’ in the third, fourth and the fifth line and as a ‘janta swara’ once in the last line make it placid musical experience.

Time for a small clarification: The logical question in the minds of some of you is:

‘How can you call it as a new scale? Is it not Hamsadhwani/TharaLam/Vaasanti plus a vivadi note?’

Yes, it is Hamsadhwani’ in the prelude and Hamsadhwani/TharaLam/Vaasanti in the interludes.

However, the Pallavi and CharaNams do not have the ‘ni3’ at all. And the vivadi note in the CharaNam follows a certain pattern. Therefore, I feel it-that is the Pallavi and the CharaNam- is surely a new scale not hitherto used.

Continuing with the description of the song, we hear the notes of Hamsadhwani zealously played by the sympathetic strings twice. It then overlaps with the chorus that hums Hamsadhwani with the endearing flute imitating the chorus musically. The bells then move in Vaasanti with the subtle strings in the background.

It is an illuminating spectacle.

A musical procession.

ராக மேக ஊர்வலம்..

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

ILaiyaraaja-The Adventurous Musician-II

How difficult is it to tread a new path?

Very difficult since we do not know what awaits us. Questions like ‘what if it is a failure’ and ‘what will others say’ always lurch in the mind. ‘And why do we have to do this at all? Why don’t we follow what others have told us to do, taught us to do ,what we are conditioned to do or simply what others do?’, we think and nip it in the budding stage itself.

Most of us dismiss the thought itself as a chimera and go back to our comfort zones while some of us go one step ahead, venture into something new but drop it somewhere down the line. It indeed needs a steely resolve, commitment, focus and a thick skin to ignore others’ sneer, derision and scorn. But above all, it needs a firm grip and mastery over whatever we plan to do.

Thiruvalluvar had all of these and something more too. Not only did he tread and chart a new path but also was adventurous enough to innovate and improvise.

He composed 1330 couplets that follow a form called veNba (வெண்பா) and a pattern called kuRaL(குறள்). This pattern as defined in Tamizh grammar must have just 2 lines. If it is already defined, what is new about it is the logical question. The fact remains that before him no poet tried using this pattern.

‘ThirukkuRaL’ is neither a scripture nor a testament. It is a treatise on life itself. No area of human thought and behaviour has been left untouched by Thiruvalluvar. So much so that it covers even Communication skills, Administration and Management. Remember, all these more than 2000 years back.. Yet each and every kuRaL is absolutely relevant to the present day.

The verses have poetic excellence, are crisp, are musical and rhythmic and most importantly are very easy to remember.

I was also talking about his innovation and his ability to improvise. See this verse:

‘Thuppaarkku Thuppaaya Thuppaakki Thuppaarkku

Thuppaaya Thoo ummazhai’

"துப்பார்க்குத் துப்பாய துப்பாக்கித் துப்பார்க்குத்

துப்பாய தூஉம்மழை.''

It simply means that the rain (and therefore water) helps cook pleasant food and is itself food.

This verse is in the second chapter which pays obeisance to the rain. The verse itself states the obvious and this being the case, what special message does it give?

The verse not just pays obeisance to the rain but also asks us not to be selfish. But what is more significant and of interest to us is the rhythm in the verse..

It is this sense of adventure with a proclivity to innovate, that drives and motivates people who are daringly different.

In my previous post, we saw how ILaiyaraaja innovatively used the swaras to form a pattern which while sticking to the grammar of music does not find a place as a ‘raga’ in any text book. I had also mentioned that it uses ‘vivadi’ or dissonant note, note that gives a very different feel not always pleasant. But remember that he used it in a song the sequence of which is very sensual.

Today, let us look at a composition, where he has used the vivadi note yet again but this time in a romantic duet. ‘Varudu Varudu iLankaaththu..’from ‘Brahmma’(1991) follows a pattern/scale which is again not defined in any of the texts.

Let me clarify that this is different from songs that have a raga as base and has a dash of alien notes too. ‘Oru Poongavanam’ and ‘Varudu Varudu’ are different in the sense that they do follow a particular structure throughout, but this structure (arohana/avarohana) is not defined in any text. This obviously means that these are new ragas invented by the composer. Moreover, as already mentioned, vivadi notes/ragas sound very different and are at best avoided even in classical concerts. In fact, when classical compositions are sung in vivadi raga, the musician tries and conceals the vivadi note as much as possible.

But this music composer has not just dared to use it in romantic situations but has also made the vivadi note sound beautiful.

‘Varudu Varudu..’ follows sa ri2 ga3 ma1 pa dha3 ni3 Sa/Sa dha3 pa ma1 ga3 ri2 sa-with ‘dha3’ being the vivadi note. Going by the notes used, one can deduce that it is derived from of the 30th melakarta ‘Nagaanandini’. But as I said, a thorough search of raga texts indicates that no raga follows this structure-that is dropping the ‘ni3’ in the descent.

‘Varudu Varudu’ starts with the sound of the wind. The chorus backed by the very subtle strings, hums with zeal and the flute curves along giving a caressing touch. The puissant percussion plays ‘ta ki ta/ta ki ta/ta ka’ with a ‘fade’ effect leading us to the Pallavi.

The Pallavi in the voices of Janaki and SPB is laden with passion. The third and fourth lines are dominated by the ‘pa’. The ‘ma’ sandwiched between a plethora of ‘pa’ makes it more special and attractive. One more thing to be noted here is that there is no vivadi note in the pallavi and it sounds more or less like ShankarabharaNam.

The ‘ta ki ta/ta ki ta/ta ka’ pattern is beautifully followed in the pallavi- Varudu( ta ki ta) Varudu(ta ki ta) iLam(ta ka).

Imbued with elegant patterns, the first interlude is a melodic treat. First the flute moves with a willowy grace. The strings then express themselves enticing the flute which jumps and dances with unbounded enthusiasm. The pattern of staccato notes alternating between a single note is musically brilliant.

The interlude is rhythmical too following the 4-beat chatushram cycle-despite the absence of a percussion instrument.
The CharaNams see a profusion of melodic phrases. The vivadi note that appears twice in the first two lines is somewhat prominent in the next 2 lines. But rather than sounding eerie, it s zestful and romantic.

The ‘ta ki ta’ ‘ta ki ta’ by the percussion in the end says it all.

The percussion makes its presence felt in the ensuing interlude.

In the beginning, it plays ‘ta – dhi -/ ta ka – mi’ for a full avartana(cycle) of Adi talam. It is then joined by the fascinating guitar that charters a melodic territory with the flute peeping in now and then with a single note. The chorus then sings slivers of melody which too follows the ‘ta ka dhi mi’ pattern –rendered 24 times.

The short piece of flute towards the end makes an indelible impact.

இனிது இனிது இந்த பாட்டு இதயம் ரசிக்கும் என்றும் அசை போட்டு..

Saturday, 10 November 2012

ILaiyaraaja- The Adventurous Musician-I

The young poet smiled to himself. The reason for his amusement had more to do with the serene and sylvan surroundings than about the comments around him.

Being a child prodigy who composed verses in a jiffy, he was extremely popular across the Tamizh land.

But this place was slightly different. Though everyone liked him and his poems, they were also commenting that his poems became very popular mainly because of one gentleman who accompanied him on the ‘Yaazh’, a traditional musical instrument. ‘If not for NilakaNta YaazhppaNar’s music on the Yaazh, this small boy’s verses would sound mediocre’, they averred. The reason was obvious. In that beautiful place called Dharmapuram lived a lot of friends and relatives of YaazhppaNar.

But YaazhppaNar, could not take all the adulation since he was a great admirer of the ‘small boy’.

The small boy then started singing:

மாதர் மடப்பிடியும் மட வன்னமும் அன்னதோர்

நடையுடைம் மலைமகள் துணையென மகிழ்வர்

பூதவினப்படை நின்றிசை பாடவும் ஆடுவர்

அவர் படர் சடை நெடு முடியதொர் புனலர்

வேதமொடேழிசை பாடுவர் ஆழ்கடல் வெண்டிரை

இரைந் நுரை கரை பொருது விம்மி நின்றயலே

தாதவிழ் புன்னை தயங்கு மலர்ச்சிறை வண்டறை

எழில் பொழில் குயில் பயில் தருமபுரம்பதியே.

The foamy waves dance, touch the shore and retreat. Arrested by the nectarine Punnai flowers, the bees buzz musically. The cuckoos learn and practise their singing in the beautiful garden. This is Dharmapuram,the abode of the Lord, who sings and recites the Vedas, who dances to the music of his Bhoota army, who carries the River on his matted hair and whose consort’s gait is as majestic as an elephant’s and as graceful as a swan’s.’

The musician was stunned as he could not play this song on the yaazh. Heart broken, he wanted to break the yaazh itself. But the small boy stopped him, and explained that the composition itself was beyond the scope of the instrument. The people then realised their folly and realised the real value of the ‘small boy’ whose name was Thirugnanasambandar.

It must be understood that ego played little role here and the point the young prodigy wanted to prove was that everyone is equal in front of the Supreme. This is obvious even if one looks at the meaning of the poem at a deeper level. Note his mention of the Lord as a singer and dancer and his mention about the ‘arrested bees’ and the cuckoos ‘learning and practising singing’. One can interpret that however great you are in music and dance, you are nothing in front of the greatest musician. Please also note the ‘big river’ residing on his head and the gait of his consort being compared with that of an elephant (a huge creature) and that of a swan (a small creature).

Most importantly, we also see the adventure of a young poet who, when challenged, chose an uncharted path, hitherto not covered by anybody.

Now, let us take a more recent example. ILaiyaraaja was asked to compose a song for a situation which involved a lot of sensuality. Though unlike Gnanasambandar, this Gnanadesikan was not challenged by anybody, he decided to challenge himself. ‘Why compose a fast beat sensuous song’ thought he. For quite sometime, he had been wanting to compose in a particular raga- sa ri2 ga3 pa dha1 Sa. This is not a very rare raga and I shall come to the nomenclature soon.

He went a step ahead and added a vivadi note ni1. He did not stop with that. He completely omitted the upper ‘Sa’(called as Taara Shadjam). But the story is not over yet.

He formulated a structure skipping the ‘pa’ in the ascent and adding a devious ‘ni dha ni’ phrase in the descent.

This is how the structure looked now:

sa ri2 ga3 dha1 ni/ ni1 dha1 ni1 pa ga3 ri2 sa.

There are a lot of very interesting facts and points and let me try and explain one by one:

1.The structure sa ri2 ga3 pa dha1 Sa is defined as a raga called Vaasanti. Though this is obtained by changing the ‘dha’ variant of Mohanam, the feel of this raga is totally different as it gives a sense of poignancy.

2. I mentioned that ‘ni1’ is a vivadi note.I had already explained the concept of vivadi in some of my posts here. ‘Vivadi’ itself means dissonance.

3.There are very few ragas in the carnatic system that omits the upper ‘Sa’. A classic example is ‘Chitta Ranjani’. But I cannot think of any film song that has totally avoided this note.

4. The structure of this raga is not given in any raga text. Going by the swaras used, one can say that it is a janya of the 25th melakarta Maararanjani or the 61st melakarta KantamaNi(since there is no ‘ma’).

Now, let us collate these details- Poignancy, Dissonance, Lower/middle octave notes, a newly defined structure.

Go back to what he was asked for by the Director- A song rendered by the female character dressed in a swim suit with the male character watching clandestinely from a distance.

Tell me if any other composer would have conceived a tune that has the 4 factors listed.

Having a sense of adventure with a proclivity for innovation is fine. But here is a composer who also has the courage of conviction. To top it all, it is an outstanding tune backed by excellent orchestration and arrangement.

‘Oru Poongaavanam’ from ‘Agni Nakshatram’(1988) starts rather symbolically with a sweet tweet. To me, the chirping of birds suggests that music after all, is in the nature and we mortals try to arrest it by giving different forms and structure to it. The birds then flap the wings giving way to the drums, which almost imitates the action of the birds. The strings and the keys meld together to give beguilingly facile movements.

The Pallavi with the ‘Ateeta eduppu’ is sung with melodic finesse by Janaki. Intriguingly, the first 2 lines have only the three notes-sa ri2 ga3- giving an illusory Mohanam. The following lines go in the descent-‘ni1dha1ni1 pa ga’. The repetition of ‘dha ni’ phrase thrice in the second half of the third and the fourth lines gives a soft and silken touch.

The water splashes in the beginning of the first interlude as if there was a pre-destined rendezvous. The brass flute plays the vivadi note with a palpable lilt.The keys just amble across even as the strings float on the vivadi and samvadi notes.
The CharaNams have melodically sequenced phrases. The first 4 lines have the same 3 notes-sa rig a- as that of the pallavi, but sound differently from the Pallavi because of the permutations and combinations. In the following 2 lines, we see the other 2 notes-including the vivadi note- peeping in with flamboyance and fidelity. The second half of the Pallavi is repeated but it does not sound redundant at all, maybe because of the structure and combination of the notes.

The second interlude is a gracious exposition. The strings move placidly leaving a pause for 1 and half cycles of Tisram in between. It then arches beautifully with the drums playing 3 Tisrams, ta ki ta/ta ki ta/ta - - .The keys and the strings then give caressing touch with harmony with the former moving with nonchalance and the latter dancing like the waves. The short piece of strings towards the end with repartee by the birds says it all.

This new musical forest gives us eternal Goosebumps.

இது ஒரு புது இசைவனம்.இதில் ரோமாஞ்சனம் தினம் தினம்.

PS:Adventurous Musician..

This is a new series and plan to take up compositions in some 'undefined' ragas..

Watch this space!

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

ILaiyaraaja - The Artistic Musician

The imagination of the Sangam poets is something that has always amazed me. In this poem, the man drunk with love looks at the water lily that blooms with its mouth widely open, and says ‘This is nothing compared to the blooming eyes of my beautiful girl.’ He then looks at the beautiful peacock dancing on the hill, becomes ecstatic and says,’ Oh! Even this peacock cannot match the graceful beauty of my girl’.

குன்ற நாடன் குன்றத்துக் கவாஅன்

பைஞ்சுனைப் பூத்த பகுவாய்க் குவளையும்

அம் சில் ஓதி அசை நடைக் கொடிச்சி

கண் போல் மலர்தலும் அரிது இவள்

தன் போல் சாயல் மஞ்ஞைக்கும் அரிதே.

What is to be noted in this poem from ‘Ainguru nooru’, written by Kapilar, is the description. As we read the first line, we begin to see the picturesque hilly terrain. In the second line, we see the natural spring and the water lilies. The girl appears in the third line with a beautiful, fine hair while her blooming eyes pierce our hearts in the following line. The last line smiles sarcastically at the peacock.

Note how the sangam tamizh words dance- அம்(beautiful), சில் (fine), ஓதி(hair).
Truly artistic!

I was reminded of a romantic song, ‘Rojaavai Thaalaattum Thendral’(Ninaivellam Nitya-1982) scored by ILaiyaraaja as I read this poem. This song based on Pantuvarali is poetically romantic and artistically musical.

Pantuvarali is the 51st melakarta whose structure is: sa ri1 ga3 ma2 pa dha1 ni3 Sa/Sa ni3 dha1 pa ma2 ga3 ri1 sa. It is the pratimadhyama counterpart of Mayamalavagowla and generally is used in songs that radiate Bhakti.
The radical that he is, ILaiyaraaja has used this raga for romance without in anyway deviating from classicism.

The beginning of the composition itself is very interesting with a wealth of rhythmic variations. The percussion plays in Chatushram- ta – dhi - / ta ka dhi mi. Exactly after 12 cycles-that is after 48 beats- the synth melody starts in Tisram,the 3-beat cycle. The rhythmic nuggets continue to delight with the melody playing in Tisram and the percussion in Chatushram. To add to the beauty, chatushram is played in ‘mel kaalam’(fast pace) and the Tisram in ‘keezh kaalam’(slow pace). The cross-rhythms continue for another 12 cycles of Chatushrams or 8 cycles of Tisram.

Here 48(12x4) = 24(3x8) since the former is in fast pace and the latter is in exactly half the speed.
The composition follows the Tisram pattern from now on.

The melodic instrument, the subtle bass guitar, the santoor and the akaaram towards the end show the vignettes of raga.

The Pallavi rendered with exactitude by Janaki and SPB is a flowery musical expression with the oscillation of the nishada(ni) and with the pairing of the rishabha(ri) with shadjam(sa) and the gandharam(ga).

The first interlude has three parts-the first one is quick and powerful with the tonally smooth santoor and the deft bass guitar while the second one is sober with the stupendous flute and the breathtaking strings. The third part gives the intrinsic beauty of the raga with the astounding akaara of Janaki.

The serried swaras shine with beauty in the CharaNams with the oscillation of the ‘ni’ in the phrase –‘ sani sani..’ – in the first line, and in the skipping of ‘pa’(called as varjya proyogas) in the second line. The following two lines are tempered with sensitivity with the sangatis when repeated the second time. The last line is enticing with the ‘ga ma da’ proyoga.

The second interlude sparkles with brilliance of patterns. It starts with the aesthetic flourishes of the flute, santoor and the guitar. The cool and heady guitar then charts a wonderful path before the affable strings playing the descending swaras.

It is an atmosphere of tranquility as the caressing long flute and the scintillatingly brilliant santoor join together to give a distinct mix of colours.

As beautiful as the water lily and the peacock and as artistic as the rose and the breeze…

ரோஜாவையும் தாலாட்டும் ராஜ இசை..

Monday, 27 August 2012

ILaiyaraaja's Music is Empyreal!

Absorbed in the beauty of the Divine, the great Tamizh poet Thirugnanasambandar sings,

‘You are the flaw/blemish. You are the good virtues/qualities.

You are the family/kinship. You are the Lord, You are the ever-glowing light,

You are the scriptures, You are the Joy, You are the wealth,

You are everything, How can I even praise You?’

The poet attributes everything to the Divine and means to say, ‘Without Him, nothing is possible. Therefore, how much ever we praise Him, will it be enough?’

குற்றம் நீ குணங்கள் நீ கூடல் ஆலவாயிலாய்

சுற்றம் நீ பிரானும் நீ தொடர்ந்திலங்கு சோதி நீ

கற்ற நூல் கருத்தும் நீ அருத்தம் இன்பம் என்றிவை

முற்றும் நீ புகழ்ந்து முன் உரைப்பதென் முகம்மனே.

It may be noted that the poem itself starts with the word ‘kuRRam’ (flaw/blemish) and ends with ‘You are everything’ clearly pointing to the fact that everything in this world starts with a blemish..

Another great poet Nammazhwar sang, ‘Us, He, She, Me, That, This, What, Unwanted things, Good, Bad and the Ugly- Everything is Him’.

நாம் அவன் இவன் உவன்,அவள் இவள் உவள் எவள்,

தாம் அவர் இவர் உவர்,அது இது உது எது,

வீம் அவை இவை உவை,அவை நலம், தீங்கு அவை,

ஆம் அவை, ஆயவை, ஆய் நின்ற அவரே.

Both the verses no doubt have great poetic value but apart from this, there is something that makes these great. Both are soaked in divinity..

Divinity. The very mention of this word will make a non-believer laugh.

But what exactly is divinity?

Is it the preserve of the so-called theists? Don’t all of us have it too?

Let us think for a moment.

All of us experience certain moments in life that cannot be explained. Moments when we forget ourselves, moments when we feel the time ceases to exist, moments when we feel ecstatic, moments where we experience vibrations, moments that give us peace and tranquility.

When does this happen?

When we listen to melodious music.

Is it then wrong to call this as a divine experience?
One of the greatest things about Music is that it appeals universally to believers, atheists and agnostics.

Music can never be seen. It can only be experienced. That is why, it is considered to be divine whether one is a believer, atheist or an agnostic.

Though Music to a great extent is subjective, any form of music that gives us joy, peace, and happiness is great music.

The world has seen some great music composers whose compositions have stood the time and whose music has influenced our life.
ILaiyaraaja is one such composer. Though his compositions are mainly for films, the depth, the breadth, the height, and the range in the compositions make us discover new dimensions in music and in our life. His music reverberates within us making us resonate with it. That is why, his music is equally appreciated by pundits and the common man.

The composition we are going to see on this special day talks about the greatness of divinity. It is also very special musically.

A single composition having different ragas is not very uncommon in classical music and in film music and these are called as Ragamaalika. The song of the day is also a ragamaalika. There are 8 ragas in total, out of which 3 fall in the same chakra in the melakarta system.

Without getting too technical, let me tell you that there are 72 melakaratas, which are called as the parent ragas and these 72 are divided into 12 chakras, with 6 ragas-which have the same variant of the notes ‘ri’, ga’ and ‘ma’- grouped in one chakra. These ragas have the same ‘sa ri ga ma’ while the variants of ‘dha’ and ‘ni’ are different. I shall explain this when I describe the composition.

Such a composition is very rare and as far as I know the only composition that has ragas in the same chakra is Koteeswara Iyer’s Mela ragamalika.

What is this special song of the special day?

It is ‘Aayiram kodi kaalangaLaaga’ from ‘Kavikkuyil’(1977).

It starts with the sublime Jalatarangam accompanied by the robust pakhawaj giving a sensitively refined musical expression in Mayamalavagowla. Rustling with beauty, the evocative flute continues with a spiritual fervour. The delectable veena nods its head to mark the beginning of a divine experience.

The Pallavi has the ‘anaagata eduppu’ with the song starting after the TaLa begins ( 3/4th place to be precise). Classic depth mingles with the sweetness of expression with Dr.Balamuralikrishna rendering ‘Aayiram kodi kaalangaLa’. The raga changes to VakuLabharaNam in the next phrase ‘Aananda leelaiyin’.

Mayamalavagowla is the 15th melakarta and VakulabharaNam is the 14th. Both are part of the Agni Chakra and only the variant of ‘ni’ separates the two.

The resplendent Jalatarangam beams spiritually and a magic happens. The Flute plays in the next Shruti. It is a completely different ragam called Vagadheeshwari which is the 34th melakarta. Two things are to be noted here. One- It is not a graha bedam. Two- only some swaras of Vagadheeshwari are played.

The flute throbs with devotion and glows ethereally. The dainty Veena brings Mayamalavagowla leading us to the first charaNam.

The first part of the CharaNam shimmers with elegance.. The raga changes to VakulabharaNam in the line ‘Margazhi maada..’.

Marvellously seamless!

The second interlude sees another dramatic change. The flute plays Valaji, a pentatonic raga which does not have the swaras ‘ri’ and ‘ma’. On paper it is derived from the 28th melakarta Harikambhoji. As the flute shows the melodic dimensions of the raga, another surprise is in store.

The Veena plays Chakravaagam, the 16th melakarta. This is a Master stroke in two aspects. On paper, Valaji is derived from the 28th melakarata Harikambhoji. However, the 5 swaras that are inherent in the raga- sa, antara gandharam, panchamam, chatushruti dhaivatam, and kaisiki nishadam- are also part of Chakravagam. Secondly, Chakravagam is the melam next to Mayamalavagowla. So, we have the third ragam from the same ‘agni’ chakram in the same composition.

The additional attraction in the flute piece is the use of Kanjira, a percussion instrument not normally used in a film composition.

The second charaNam shows the different facets of Chakravagam. Apart from the poetically musical phrases, it also has the exhilarating akaaras with a pensive appeal for two tala cycles. We feel the characteristic fragrance of the raga in the line ‘Paarkadal amudaaga..’.

The third interlude starts with the flute playing Mohanam in the first half and Mohana Kalyani in the second half. The Veena that follows with melodic finesse has strains of Mohana Kalyani. The Kanjira appears again and smiles along with Mohana Kalyani.

The third charaNam that starts in Mohanam takes us to a supreme spiritual plane.

Mohanam changes to Charukesi with poise from ‘aruL kaakkum..’

It is back to VakuLabharaNam from ‘Margazhi maada’..

The flute bit that follows in Mayamalavagowla is intense, profound and delicate.

It is a composition that takes us on a journey into the realms of divinity making us feel the core of spirituality..

This aananda leelai will continue for thousand million years!

ps: This post and the previous post in Tamizh were read out to an exclusive audience in Chennai on the 26th of Aug 2012.

இளையராஜாவின் இசை- சுவர்க்க பூமி

தெய்வீகத்தில் மூழ்கி, லயித்த திருஞானசம்பந்தர் இவ்வாறு பாடுகிறார்:

'குற்றம் நீ குணங்கள் நீ கூடல் ஆலவாயிலாய்

சுற்றம் நீ பிரானும் நீ தொடர்ந்திலங்கு சோதி நீ

கற்ற நூல் கருத்தும் நீ அருத்தம் இன்பம் என்றிவை

முற்றும் நீ புகழ்ந்து முன் உரைப்பதென் முகம்மனே.’

‘அழுக்காறும் நீயே. இனிய குணமும் நீயே. உறவும் நீயே. எப்பொழுதும் கனன்று கொண்டிருக்கும் ஜோதியும் நீயே. நான் படித்த, கற்றுணர்ந்த நூல்கள் யாவையும் நீயே. செல்வ வளமும் நீயே. இன்பமும் நீயே. அனைத்தும் நீயே. உன்னை நான் என்ன புகழ்வது?’

என்பது இதன் பொருள்.

அழுக்காறில் தொடங்கி, இறுதியில் ‘அனைத்தும் நீயே’ என்று கூறியதும், ‘உன்னை என்ன புகழ்ந்தாலும் அது போதுமா’ என்றும் பாடியிருப்பது தெய்வீகத்தில் மெய்மறந்த நிலை எனலாம்.

இன்னொரு கவிஞராகிய நம்மாழ்வார்,

'நாம் அவன் இவன் உவன், அவள் இவள் உவள் எவள்,

தாம் அவர் இவர் உவர், அது இது உது எது,

வீம் அவை இவை உவை,அவை நலம், தீங்கு அவை,

ஆம் அவை, ஆயவை, ஆய் நின்ற அவரே’

என்று பாடுகிறார்.

‘'நாம்' என்ற பெயர்ப்பொருளும், ஆண்பால் பெயர்ப்பொருள்களும், பெண்பால் பெயர்ப்பொருள்களும், ஒன்றன்பால் பெயர்ப்பொருள்களும், பலர்பால் பெயர்ப் பொருள்களும், அழிகின்ற பொருள்களும், நல்ல பொருள்களும், தீய பொருள்களும், உண்டான பொருள்களும், உண்டாகும் பொருள்களும், ஆகி நிற்கின்ற எல்லாப் பொருள்களும் அவனே’, என்பதே இதன் பொருள்.

இது மெய்மறத்தலில் இன்னொரு நிலை.

இரண்டு பாடல்களிலும் கவி நயம் இருப்பதோடு, தமிழின் அழகு மிளிர்வதோடு இன்னொரு விஷயமும் இருக்கிறது.தெய்வீகம் அல்லது இறைமை என்பதே அது.

இந்த தெய்வீகம் என்பது என்ன?

இறைமறுப்புக் கொள்கையுடையவர்களுக்கு, இந்த சொல்லைக்கேட்டால் நகைச்சுவையாக இருக்கும்.

இந்த உணர்வு என்ன இறை நம்பிக்கை இருப்பவர்களுக்குத் தான் சொந்தமானதா?மற்றவர்களுக்கு அறவே இல்லையா?

மனிதனாகப் பிறந்த அனைவருக்கும் இவ்வுணர்வு உண்டு. எப்படி?

சற்று யோசிக்கலாம்.

நமது வாழ்வில், சில அல்லது பல தருணங்கள் மிகச் சிறப்பு வாய்ந்தவைகளாக இருக்கின்றன.அந்தத் தருணங்களில் நமக்கு நிகழ்வது என்ன என்பதை நம்மால் கண்டிப்பாக விவரிக்க இயலாது. அந்தத் தருணங்களில், நம்மை நாமே மறந்து விடுவோம். அதிர்வுகள் ஏற்படும். காலம் நின்று போனது போல் தோன்றும். ஆனந்த பரவசம் தோன்றும் அப்பொழுது. மனம் அமைதி பெறும். எங்கும் சாந்தி நிலவும்.

இவையெல்லாம் நிகழ்வது எப்பொழுது? இனிமையான இசை நம் செவிகளில் பாயும்போது.
இசையை நாம் காண முடியாது. அனுபவிக்க மட்டுமே முடியும்.இப்படி நம்மை மெய்மறக்கச் செய்யும் இசையனுபவத்தை தெய்வீக அனுபவம் என்று கூறுவதில் தவறேதும் இருக்க முடியுமா?

இசை, அக‌ உண‌ர்வு, அக‌ எண்ண‌ம் சார்ந்த‌தாக‌ இருந்தாலும், எந்த‌ இசை ந‌ம‌க்கு ம‌கிழ்ச்சி ம‌ற்றும் அமைதி த‌ந்து ந‌ம்மை ல‌யிக்க‌ வைக்கிற‌தோ, அதுவே சிற‌ந்த‌ இசை என்று க‌ருத‌ப்ப‌டுகிற‌து.

கால‌த்தைக் க‌ட‌ந்து, கால‌த்தையும் வென்ற‌ ப‌டைப்புக‌ளை அளித்த‌ ப‌ல‌ சிற‌ந்த‌ இசை வ‌ல்லுன‌ர்க‌ளை இந்த‌ உல‌க‌ம் க‌ண்டிருக்கிற‌து.அவ‌ர்க‌ள‌து இசையின் தாக்க‌ம் ந‌ம் வாழ்வில் ஏற்ப‌டுத்திய‌, ஏற்ப‌டுத்தி வ‌ரும் பாதிப்பு அள‌விட‌முடியாத‌து.

இந்த மிகச் சிறந்த வல்லுனர்களுள் ஒருவர் திரு.இளையராஜா அவர்கள். அவரது படைப்புகள், பெரும்பாலும் திரைப்படங்களுக்காகவே இருந்தாலும், அவற்றின் ஆழம், அகலம், உயரம், அளவெல்லை இவை யாவும், இசையின் புதிய பரிமாணங்களை நமக்கு அறிமுகப்படுத்துகின்றன. கண்டுகொள்ள வைக்கின்றன. நமக்குள்ளே அதிர்வுகளை ஏற்படுத்தி, நம்மை ஒத்திசைக்க வைக்கின்றன.

எனவேதான், பண்டிதர்களையும், பாமரர்களையும் ஒருங்கே கட்டிப்போடுகிறது அவருடைய இசை.

இன்றைய தினம் நாம் காணப்போகும் அவரது பாடல் மிகவும் சிறந்த ஒன்று. இந்தப் பாடல், இறைத்தன்மையை புகழ்வதோடு மட்டுமன்றி, இசையின் பல நுணுக்கங்களும் கொண்டிருக்கிறது. இதில் யாருமே இதுவரை செய்யாத ஒரு புதுமையும் இருக்கிறது.

ஒரே பாடல், பல ராகங்களைக் கொண்டு அமைந்திருப்பது புதிது அல்ல.கர்னாடக இசையில், இந்த வகையினை 'ராகமாலிகா' என்று அழைப்பார்கள். இந்தப் பாடலிலும் மொத்தம் 8 ராகங்கள் இருக்கின்றன. ஆனால், அதில் 3, மேளகர்த்தா முறைப்படி, ஒரே சக்கரத்தில் அமைந்திருக்கிறது. அதிக நுணுக்கங்களுக்குச் செல்லாமல், மேலெழுந்தவாரியாக இதனை விளக்குகிறேன்.

மொத்தம் இருக்கும் 72 மேளகர்த்தா ராகங்கள், 12 சக்கரங்களாக பிரிக்கப்பட்டு, ஆறு மேளங்கள் அதாவது ராகங்கள் ஒரு சக்கரத்தில் இருக்கின்றன.இந்த 6 ராகங்களிலும் 'ரி', 'க,' 'ம' என்ற 3 ஸ்வரங்களும் ஒரே வகையைச் சார்ந்தவை. 'த' மற்றும் 'நி' மட்டும் மாறுபடும். இதைப் பற்றி இன்னும் சற்றே விரிவாக பாடல் பற்றி விளக்கும்பொழுது காணலாம்.
இது போல் ஒரே சக்கரத்தில் அமைந்த ராகங்கள் ஒரே பாடலில் வருவது இதுவே முதல்முறை. திரு.கோடீஸ்வர ஐயர் இயற்றிய மேள ராக மாலிகாவில் மட்டுமே எனக்குத் தெரிந்து இவ்வாறு அமைந்திருக்கிறது.

இவ்வளவு சிறப்புகள் வாய்ந்த அந்தப் பாடல்தான் என்ன?

'கவிக்குயில்' என்ற திரைப்படத்தில் இடம்பெற்ற‌

'ஆயிரம் கோடி காலங்களாக..' என்னும் பாடலே அது.

உன்னதமான ஜலதரங்கத்திற்கு, திடமான பகாவஜ் பக்கபலமாக அமைய கூர் உண‌ர்வுடன் பண்பட்ட இசை மாயாமாளவகெளள ராகத்தில் ஒலிக்க, ஆரம்பிக்கிறது பாடல். உணர்ச்சி பொங்க எழும் குழலோசை, சுடரொளி விட்டுவரும் ஆன்மீகத்தன்மையுடனும், சலசலக்கும் அழகுடனும் ஒலிக்கிறது. இனிய இன்பமூட்டும் வீணை தனது தலையை அசைத்து, தெய்வீக அனுபவத்திற்கு முகமன் கூறுகிறது.

பல்லவி, அனாகத எடுப்பு, அதாவது தாளம் ஆரம்பித்த பிறகு - இந்தப் பாடலில் குறிப்பாகச் சொல்வதானால் முக்கால் இடம்- தள்ளி ஆரம்பிக்கிறது. திரு.பாலமுரளிகிருஷ்ணாவின் இனிமையான குரல், ஆழ்ந்த செவ்விசையுடன் ஒன்று கலந்து, 'ஆயிரம் கோடி காலங்களாக' என்று ஒலிக்கிறது. 'ஆனந்த லீலையின்' என்ற சிறுதொடர் வரும்பொழுது, வகுளாபரணம் என்னும் ராகமாக மாறிவிடுகிறது.

வகுளாபரணம் 14 ஆவது மேளம், மாயாமாளவகெளள, அதன் அடுத்த, அதாவது 15ஆவது மேளம். இரண்டையும் வேறுபடுத்துவது, 'நி' என்ற ஸ்வரம். முன்னதில் உள்ளது கைசிகி நிஷாதம், பின்னதில் உள்ளது காகலி நிஷாதம்.

முதலாவது இடையிசையில், முதலில் பிறங்கொளியுடன் ஜலதரங்கம் மின்னுகின்றது. இப்பொழுது ஒரு மாயம் நிகழ்கின்றது. அடுத்த சுருதியில், குழல் வாசிக்கிறது.இப்பொழுது ராகம் 34ஆம் மேளகர்த்தாவாகிய வாகதீஸ்வரியாக மாறுகிறது.இதில், இரண்டு விஷயங்களைக் கவனத்தில் கொள்ள வேண்டும். 1.இது கிரஹ பேதம் அல்ல. 2.வாகதீஸ்வரியின் சில சுவரங்களே வாசிக்கப்படுகின்றன.

பக்தியுடன் துடிக்கும் குழ‌ல், புல‌ன்க‌ட‌ந்த‌ த‌ன்மையுட‌ன் சுட‌ர்விடுகிற‌து.

வீணை ஒயிலுட‌ன் மாயாமாள‌வ‌கொள‌ள ராக‌த்தை அழைத்து வ‌ருகிற‌து.

முத‌லாவ‌து ச‌ர‌ண‌த்தின் முத‌ல் ப‌குதி, நேர்த்தியுட‌ன் மினுமினுக்கிற‌து. 'மார்க‌ழி மாத‌' என்ற‌ வ‌ரியிலிருந்து வ‌குளாப‌ர‌ண‌ம் ம‌றுப‌டி வ‌ருகிற‌து.

இடைவெளியில்லாத‌ அற்புத‌ம்!

இர‌ண்டாவ‌து இடையிசையில், இன்னொரு திடீர் திருப்ப‌ம். வ‌ல‌ஜி என்னும் ராக‌த்தை குழ‌ல் இசைக்கிற‌து. ஐந்தே சுவ‌ர‌ங்க‌ளைக் கொண்ட‌ இந்த‌ ராக‌ம் மிக‌வும் இத‌மான‌தொரு ராக‌ம்.இந்த‌ ராக‌த்தின் ப‌ண்சார்ந்த‌ ப‌ல‌ ப‌ரிமாண‌ங்க‌ளை குழ‌ல் இசைக்க‌, இன்னொரு அதிச‌ய‌ம் ந‌மக்காக‌க் காத்திருக்கிற‌து.

தொட‌ர்ந்து வ‌ரும் வீணை, ச‌க்க‌ர‌வாக‌ம் என்னும் ராக‌த்தை வாசிக்கிற‌து. இது இரண்டு வித‌ங்க‌ளில் த‌லைசிற‌ந்த‌ வ‌ரைக்கீற்று.வ‌ல‌ஜி என்னும் ராக‌ம் இசைக்கோட்பாட்டின்ப‌டி, 28ஆவ‌து மேள‌மாகிய‌ ஹ‌ரிகாம்போஜியில் உத‌ய‌மாகும் ஒரு ராக‌ம். என்றாலும், இதில் உள்ள‌ சுவ‌ர‌ங்க‌ளாகிய ஷட்ஜமம், அந்த‌ர‌ காந்தார‌ம், பஞ்சமம்,ச‌துஸ்ருதி தைவ‌த‌ம், கைசிகி நிஷாத‌ம் என்ற‌ சுவ‌ர‌ங்க‌ள், ச‌க்க‌ர‌வாக‌த்திலும் இருக்கின்ற‌ன‌.அதாவ‌து இவ‌ற்றுட‌ன், சுத்த‌ ரிஷ‌ப‌ம் ம‌ற்றும் சுத்த‌ ம‌த்திய‌ம‌ம் என்னும் சுவ‌ரங்க‌ளைச் சேர்த்தால், ச‌க்க‌ர‌வாக‌ம் ஆகும்.

மேலும், சக்கரவாகம் மாயாமாளவகொளள மேளத்திற்கு அடுத்த மேளமாகும்.எனவே, அக்னி சக்கரத்திலிருக்கும் அடுத்த ராகம் ஒரே பாடலில் வருகிறது.

குழலோசை இசைத்துண்டின் இன்னொரு சிறப்பு, கஞ்சிரா என்னும் கர்னாடக இசைக்கச்சேரிகளில் மட்டுமே பெரும்பாலும் காணப்படும் தாள இசைக்கருவி உடன் ஒலிப்பதாகும்.

இரண்டாவது சரணம், இந்த ராகத்தின் பலமுகங்களைக் காட்டுகிறது. இசைக்கவிதை சொற்றொடர்களைத் தவிர, ஆழ்ந்த விசாரமுள்ள உயிர்ப்பூட்டும் அகாரங்களும், இரண்டு ஆவர்த்தனங்களுக்கு இருக்கின்றன. இந்த ராகத்திற்கே உரித்தான வாசத்தை 'பாற்கடல் அமுதாக' என்னும் வரியில் உணர்கிறோம்.

மூன்றாவது இடையிசையில், குழல் முதலில் மோஹன ராகத்தையும், தொடர்ந்து மோஹன கல்யாணி ராகத்தையும் இசைக்கிறது. இனிமையான நுட்பத்துடன் வீணையும் மோஹன கல்யாணியை இசைக்கிறது. வலஜி ராகத்தின் பொழுது ஒலித்த கஞ்சிரா, இப்பொழுது மறுபடி ஒலித்து, மோஹன கல்யாணியோடு சேர்ந்து புன்னகைக்கிறது.

மோஹனத்தில் ஆரம்பிக்கும் மூன்றாவது சரணம், நம்மை உச்சநிலைக்குறிய ஆன்மீக தளத்திற்கு அழைத்துச் செல்கிறது. 'அருள் காக்கும்' என்னும் வரியில், மோஹனம் சாருகேசி என்னும் ராகத்திற்கு மாறுகிறது. 'மார்கழி மாத' என்ற வரியிலிருந்து வகுளாபரணம் மீண்டும் வருகிறது.

இறுதியில் வரும் குழலோசை மாயாமளவகொளளயை முனைப்புடன், தீவிரத்துடன், ஆழமாக, மென்மையாக இசைக்கிறது.

இது, தெய்வீக மண்டலத்திற்கு நம்மை அழைத்துச் சென்று, ஆன்மீகத்தின் மையத்தை நமக்கு உணர்த்தும் பயணம்.

ஆயிரம் கோடி காலங்களுக்கு நிலைக்கும் இந்த ஆனந்த லீலை...

Sunday, 5 August 2012

ILaiyaraaja's Music- White and Black..

Mahakavi Bharati was not only a visionary but was also a pioneer of sorts. While most of us know that his poems covered a whole gamut of subjects and that he revilutionised tamizh language with his simple and powerful words, only a few know that he was the first one to compose ‘vachana kavitai’ which is considered to be the father of ‘Pudhu Kavitai’- a very unique form of poetry very much in vogue now.

The poems that are part of the Vachana Kavitai are generally about the natural elements and have philosophical overtones.

Following is an extract of his vachana kavitai about the wind:

'காற்றே உயிர்.அவன் உயிர்களை அழிப்பவன்.

காற்றே உயிர்.எனவே உயிர்கள் அழிவதில்லை.

சிற்றுயிர் பேருயிரோடு சேர்கிறது.எனவே மரணம் இல்லை.

அகில உலகமும் உயிர் நிலையே. '

Wind is life. He destroys all living beings.

Wind is life. Therefore, living beings are not destroyed.

The little soul merges with the bigger soul. Therefore, there is no such thing as Death.

The entire Universe is the vital life force.’

Life giver, destroyer and one who is the life itself!

The concept of Duality-can it be defined or explained in a better way?

ILaiyaraaja, who is also a great philosopher, has also shown duality and contrast in many of his compositions. While it would take a detailed analysis and would require a series of posts to explain this, it will be prudent on my part if confine myself to taking up an out standing composition, which according to me is a classic example of Duality.

The composition is ‘Sandana kaatre’ from ‘Thanikkattu Raja’(1982).This composition based on Gowrimanohari is a study in contrast.

Gowrimanohari is the 23rd melakarta whose structure is

Sa ri2 ga2 ma1 pa dha2 ni3 Sa/Sa ni3 dha2 pa ma1 ga2 ri2 sa.

The composition starts with the guitar strumming vivaciously with the percussion smiles with glee. A stately edifice indeed!

With a spontaneous spirit, the cello and viola play in lower octave with the flute playing the same notes in the higher octave. Contrast no.1.

The guitar and violins play and dance with exuberance and carry us to the Pallavi.

The Pallavi in the melodious voices of SPB and Janaki has some elegant passages, touching the higher octave notes towards the end of the second line, in the third line (where it even touches the upper ‘Ma’ and in the podi sangatis in the last line.

Mesmerised by the tune, the flute sounds ‘vaa vaa’ at the end of second line.

The first interlude is designed perspicaciously.

The powerful guitar moves with felicity and invites the percussion.

The percussion that plays only the ‘ta’ and ‘dhi’ in ‘ta ka dhi mi’ in the Pallavi, now plays ‘ta ki ta ta ki ta dhi mi / ta ka dhi mi ta ka dhi mi’ in ‘mel kaalam’ with the second part being played by a different percussion instrument. Contrast no.2.

The illuminating phrases continue with a kind of dialogue between the guitar and the strings and the flute playing poetic phrases.

 Laya Raaja comes to the fore again with the guitar and the strings playing the same syllables as the percussion (ta ki ta ta ki ta dhi mi) separately.

The CharaNams are perceptively deep.

The first line shines with radiance with the ‘podi sangatis’in the middle towards the end.

The second phrase in the second line shows the tints of musical imagery of the composer.

Let me explain how.

The ‘ga3’, a variant of the gandhara not present in Gowrimanohari is introduced and this changes the entire complexion. The raga is now transformed and it becomes ShankarabharaNam and this continues in the next 2 lines. Of course, in a film music composition, accidental notes are quite common.But this is not an accidental note as the structure is followed in 2 and 3/4th lines.

It should also be noted that Gowrimanohari scale is one of the minor scales in western music while ShankarabharaNam is a major scale. Contrast no.3.

The structure of the 3rd and the 4th line are very interesting in other aspects too.

The 4th line is an expansion of the 3rd line.

In the 3rd line, what we have after the first phrase is a flute piece in lieu of vocals and this pattern is repeated twice.

The voice is substituted for the flute in the 4th line, but with a totally different set of notes.(the flute piece is ‘ma dha2 sa ma1 ga3 Sa’ while the voice sings ‘Ma1 ga3 Sa’ Ma1 ga3 Sa’).
Gowrimanohari is back in the last line but there is more in store.

What we have is a humming in two different octaves with notes moving in sets of two. Contrast no.4.

The last ‘vaa vaa’ in the Pallavi-which is rendered after the humming- gives the lead to the second interlude.

The rousing strings move with exuberance in higher octave with the cello giving the bass sound as a repartee. Contrast no.5.

The piped instrument and the strings are then indulged in a ‘question – answer’ session with both emerging victorious-the former with its exemplary display and the latter with the disciplined smoothness.
The lively guitar and the enticing strings complete the colourful sketch.

சந்தனக் காற்றில் வந்து செந்தமிழ் போல் இனிக்கும் இந்த இசையினைக் கேட்க என்றென்றும் ஆசை..

Saturday, 14 July 2012

ILaiyaraaja-The Effulgent Sun..

‘The cuckoos get married. The peacocks dance. The bees sing a beautiful tune to wake up the royal swan which is sleeping on a bed of flowers.’

குயிலினம் வதுவை செய்யக் கொம்பிடைக் குனிக்கும் மஞ்சை,

அயில்விழி மகளிர் ஆடும் அரங்கினுக்கு அழகு செய்யப்

பயில்சிறை அரச அன்னம் பன்மலர்ப் பள்ளி நின்றும்

துயில் எழத் தும்பி காலைச் செவ்வழி முரல்வ சோலை.

This is the description of a forest in the Kosala Kingdom by Kamban. Kamban was a Master of descriptions and we have seen some very beautiful and interesting verses of ‘Kavi Chakravarti in this blog.

Look at the aforementioned verse.

How many can even imagine cuckoos getting married and peacocks dancing to celebrate the occasion? Or the bees singing a Sevvazhi paN( raga) to wake up the swan?(‘sevvazhi paN is the equivalent of the Yadukulakambodhi ragam)?

Most importantly, the verse conveys the harmony between the living creatures in the Kingdom of Kosalam.

The ability to interweave some beautiful stories in each of the verses, the choice of meaningful shimmering words, creative imagination, making the readers literally visualise the scene-these are some of the things that set Kamban apart.

That is why, his poems smile with effulgence even centuries after these have been composed.

If Kamban was an Emperor of Poetry, ILaiyaraaja is the Emperor of Film music.The works of both these geniuses shine like the effulgent sun.

What makes his compositions great is not just the choice of ragas but also the way he has handled these.

As we have been seeing in this blog, he has used very popular ragas, not so popular ragas, and relatively unknown ragas. Some of these ragas had hardly been used in film music while some had not been used even in classical music.

The song of the day falls under the former category.

The name of the raga is ‘Deva Manohari’ and the song is ‘Suga raagame’ from the film ‘Kanni Rasi’(1985).

The structure of Devamanohari is very interesting:

sa ri2 ma1 pa dha2 ni2 Sa/Sa ni2 dha2 ni2 pa ma1 ri2 sa.
If one looks at the scale, it is nothing but Madhyamavati plus ‘dha’.

However, the raga sounds different from Madhyamavati because of the way it is sung.

In fact, that is he basic difference between a scale and a raga. While the plain notes combine to give a scale, the notes are full of life in a raga.Moreover, some notes acquire special status in some ragas making the respective ragas unique.

For example, in Madhymavati, the swaras ‘ri and ‘ni’ are very special and are called as the ‘jiva swaras’. In Devamanohari, these swaras are not that special.

Devamanohari’s structure is also very similar to Narayani-the only difference being the absence of ‘ni’ in the arohaNam of the latter.

The other raga close to this is ‘MaNirangu’ whose structure is ‘sa ri ma pa ni Sa/Sa ni pa ma ga ri sa.

I have come across some sites that classify ‘Suga ragame’ under MaNirangu but I differ from this view because the ‘dha’-which is totally absent in MaNirangu- is somewhat prominent in the composition and ‘ga’ which is present in MaNirangu is not found except of course once towards the end of the pallavi.But since this appears as an accidental note and never occurs again, the composition is based on Devamanohari only and not in MaNirangu.

There are many compositions in Devamanohari in Classical music.

Some of these are- ‘Evarikai avataaram’, ‘Kanna tandri naapai’-both of Saint Tyagaraja and ‘Yaarukkuthaan theriyum’ of Gopalakrishna Bharati.

‘Sugaraagame..’ starts with the mirudangam sounding ‘ta ka dhi mi’ twice completing 8 beats. This sharp and sustained percussion sets the tone for the marvel that is to follow.The Veena plays with comely grace and it is joined by the enlivening flute after exactly 8 beats. They coalesce to present a dexterous delineation of the raga.

There is a pause for 4 beats and the Pallavi starts in a very different voice of Malaysia Vasudevan-who mimics the voice of yester-year singer and legend Chidambaram Jayaraman.

The Pallavi is lucid and is rendered with zeal by Vasudevan and VaNi Jayaram. The Veena piece that appears between the lines gives a touch of serenity.

In the first interlude, the Veena gives a brief spell of shiny phrases in the beginning.The Jalatarangam and the Tabla play with each other with glee first in different variations of 4 beats producing some colourful patterns. The flute combines with a bass instrument showing the beauteous facets of the raga. The Jalatarangam and Tabla join again continuing the colourful sequence.

The CharaNam is peppered with lovely phrases.
The first part gives succinct expressions while the second part is steeped in classical canons. The last part is scintillatingly brilliant.

The second interlude shows the nuances of the raga beautifully.

The sympathetic/resonance strings nod their heads and the flute sparkles. The chorus sings the syllables with the Tabla moving with the micro count of 6-ta ka dhi mi ta ka. This tuneful rhythmic pattern that creates kinetic images lasts for 4 cycles.The flute takes over with an aesthetic flourish.

Scintillatingly brilliant!

The second charaNam sees the original voice of Malaysia Vasudevan and a variation of the Chatusram pattern.

Suga raagams always emanate from Isai Raaja’s veena..

Sunday, 3 June 2012

ILaiyaraaja- The Metaphysical Musician..

Who or what is God?

To some, it is a form. To some, it is without a form. To some it is definite. To some it is indefinite. To some it is finite. To some, it is infinite. To some it is non-existent. To some it exists in the form of Love.

Well, the argument or debate continues and will continue forever.
Whether God exists or does not exist, the very fact that there is always a debate about Him speaks volumes about Him and finally He emerges victorious.(can there be victory or defeat for God?-point to ponder).

Let us look at this verse written by Appar (also called as Thirunaavukkarasar which literally means the one who is the King of the Tongue or Words)

விரிகதிர் ஞாயிறல்லர் மதியல்லர் வேத விதியல்லர் விண்ணு நிலனுந்
திரிதரு வாயுவல்லர் செறுதீயு மல்லர் தெளிநீரு மல்லர் தெரியில்
அரிதரு கண்ணியாளை ஒருபாக மாக அருள்கார ணத்தில் வருவார்
எரியர வாரமார்பர் இமையாரு மல்லர் இமைப்பாரு மல்லர் இவரே.

viri kadhir nyaayiRallar madhiyallar vedha vidhiyallar vinnm nilanum
thiritharu vaayuvallar cheRutheeyumallar theLi neerumallar theriyil
aritharu kanniyaaLai oru baagamaaga aruL kaaNaththil varuvAr
eriyara vaara maarbar imaiyaarumallar imaippaarumallar ivare

He is not the radiant sun nor is He the moon; He does not rule the Vedas; He is not the earth, He is not the sky, He is not the wind that moves around; He is not the glowing fire nor is He the water. He- whose garland is the fierce snake, appears with His consort on one side of his body- is neither a Deva nor a man.

This is one of the beautiful verses that gives the meaning of God in just four lines.

He is not the elements, the poet conveys that He cannot be measured or defined. At the same time, He can take any form-Man or a Woman or both(in fact this particular concept or form of the Masculine and Feminine is called as the Ardhanareeshvara. He was not born. He does not die.

Divine-The one with a form and without a form.

The essence of spirituality.

ILaiyaraaja’s spiritual outlook is well-known. His compositions exude divinity.His music is an external dimension of his spirituality.

As a matter of fact, if one scratches the surface of many of his compositions, one can discover many hidden gems not just in terms of musical value but also in terms of spirituality.

On this very special day as he steps into his 70th year, I am taking up a composition of his that symbolises the Saiva Siddhanta( or the concept of Shiva).

As per Saiva Siddhanta, the Supreme in constantly involved in 5 deeds:

1.Srushti- Creation
2.Stiti- Protection
3.Tirobhava-To obscure/hide (also test)
4.Samhaara- Dissolution
5.Anugraha-To grace

The song ‘Andela Ravamidi’ from the Telugu movie ‘SwarNa Kamalam’(1988) symbolises Saiva Siddhanta.


‘My Salutation to such a Guru, who is the Supreme Being’.

The sloka gives an introspective touch and raises our level of consciousness. The raga is Lataangi whose structure is sa ri2 ga3 ma2 pa dha1 ni3 Sa/Sa ni3 dha1 pa ma2 ga3 ri2 sa. The akaaram at the end of each phrase in the clear voice of VaNi Jayaram adds sobriety.

The veena flows like a clear stream. The tabla tarang(melodic percussion) that appears for exactly 4 beats at the end of each avartanam symbolises the smiling buds ready to blossom.

There is a pause.

It is then a panoramic sweep as the raga changes to Dharmavati-whose structure is sa ri2 ga2 ma2 pa dha2 ni3 Sa/Sa ni3 dha2 pa ma2 ga2 ri2 sa- and the TaLa pattern changes to the 3-beat cycle Tisram.

It is Creation as the sloka on Shiva is rendered with clarity and coherence by SPB and VaNi Jayaram. The sloka as well as the percussion follows ‘ta ka/ta ka dhi mi’.

The Tala pattern now changes to Chatushram as we see the beauty of Creation in the Veena that plays the silken strands of Dharmavati.

The ‘ta ta/ ta ri ki ta ta aam’ is played by the mridangam and the ghatam leading us to the Pallavi that has a ‘anaagata eduppu’ with the song starting after the Tala (at 3/4th place).

‘The melodious music from my anklets-is it from my dance steps or is it from the heightened state of my mind’?

‘Does this divine song emanate from my lips or is it just the natural flow of happiness’?

‘This is the fruition of yaagas and the yoga’.

‘PraNava Naadam- the Life’.

Though these are the words of the lyricist( Shri.Sitarama Sastry), the swara patterns themselves convey the meanings.

The entire world reverberates and jumps with joy as the flute and the veena gleefully show a myriad of melodic phrases. The violins move with delicacy and dexterity.

The solo flute shows vivid vistas and the percussion leads to the first charaNam.

Ta ta ri ki ta thom ta ka ta thom thom ta ki ta


‘Ankle bells sound like the thunder and the movements are like the lightning’

‘I am like the cloud that brings the rains happily, I move like the wind’

‘It is the flow of the Ganga River, expressions like the myriad hues of the sky, True meanings to the art (of life)

‘It is the Dance of the Universe, Song of the water-falls, greenery all around. It is Parvati Devi’

The swara structure in the first line is majestic and beautiful.

The swaras amble across in the second line while the third line shows flexible movements-breezy and reposeful.

The last line shows the classical depth of the raga.

3. Tirobhava:

The chorus sings with an yearning with the sitar going around looking for answers. The search for the ‘hidden’ continues with the flute and the violins tugging at the heart strings.


The percussion plays the korvai
Ta ka ta ki ta/ ta ka ta ki ta/ ta ka dhi mi ta ka dhi mi ta ka dhi mi( twice with the one shown in bold played in ‘mel kaalam’)

Ta taangu (5)/ta ka tham(4)/ta ki ta thaam(5)/ta ka dhi mi thaam(6)/ta ka ta ki ta thaam(7)/ta ta thaam(4)/

/ta ta thaam (4)/

ta ka ta ki ta (5)/ ta ri ki ta ta ri ki ta thom (5 in keezh kaalam)/

ta ka ta ki ta(5)/ ta ri ki ta ta ri ki ta/thom (5 in keezh kaalam)/

ta ka ta ki ta(5)/ta ri ki ta ta ri ki ta thom((5 in keezh kaalam).

5.Realisation and Grace:

The glowing eyes -Na
Determination of mind- -Ma
Movement of Breath -Shi
Desire -Va
Thought -Ya

Naadam, Mantram, Stotram,Vedam, Yagyam-


At the basic level, meaning of Namashivaya
At the next level, the range of Dharmavati ragam.
At the highest level, salvation.

It is the TaaNdava, Ananda TaaNdava.
It transcends Time, Space, and Form.

It is the Ultimate Truth!

Brathuku pranavamai mrogu kadha..

PS: This is my 100th post in this Blog.I thank all the people who have been supporting and encouraging me.My aim is to make at least 500 posts and I am sure it will be possible with His blessigs!

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

ILaiyaraaja- The Preternatural Musician..

Tirumoolar, one of the 18 Siddhars was a great ascetic.

He is believed to have lived for nearly 3000 years with his mystical and yogic powers. Some may believe this and many may not. But what one cannot deny is the wealth of information in his work called ‘Tirumandiram’. The 3000 verses contain the essence of Indian philosophy that includes Yoga and Tantra. Most importantly, it shows him as a rationalist and a rebel who shunned rituals, Idol worship and all kinds of hypocrisies.

Each of his verse is said to be esoteric and can be interpreted in many ways.At the same time, his work can be enjoyed by agnostics/atheists for the sheer beauty of the language.

Look at this verse:

மண்ணகத்தான் ஒக்கும் வானகத்தான் ஒக்கும்
விண்ணகத்தான் ஒக்கும் வேதகத்தான் ஒக்கும்
பண்ணகத்து இன்னிசை பாடலுற்றானுக்கே
கண்ணகத்தே நின்று காதலித்தேனே.

Mannagaththaan okkum, vaanagaththaan okkum
Vinnagaththaan okkum, vedaththaan okkum
Pannagaththu innisai paadaluRaanukke
Kannagaththe ninRu kaathaliththene.

A very simple meaning is that the Divine force is the same for people living on the Earth, for the Celestials, for the Space, for people who look for salvation. He himself is Music.I love him.

Look at the logical build-up. Starting with the Earth, it goes to the Sky, then Space, Vedas and Music.
The Earth and the Sky can be seen with our naked eyes while Space, Vedas and Music can only be felt.

Music is the last to affirm the fact that it is best way to salvation and also that it is the Ultimate.

The word ‘Kannagaththe’ (literal translation-from inside the eyes) can be interpreted as from ‘my’ eyes or from ‘His’ eyes. I would go with the latter meaning since it also means the ‘inner eye’ (agakkaN) and we feel the Divine within us if only we shed all our ignorance. And loving Him from the inside of His eyes sounds not only esoteric but also very poetic!

No doubt Tirumoolar is considered to be preternatural.

I consider ILaiyaraaja as preternatural since his music is extraordinary transcending the natural order. It is simple as well as esoteric. Most importantly, it makes us all feel the Divine force.

The song of the day is yet another extraordinary composition of his.

‘Mouna ragam mana veeNai meettuginRa maalaiyil’ from the Tamizh film ‘KolangaL’ (1995) follows a unique pattern and the grammatical structure of the raga is this:

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

The Hindustani system has a raag that follows this scale and it is called as ‘Gunkali’. Derived from the ‘Bhairav’ thaat (carnatic equivalent of the Mayamalavagowla melam), this pentatonic raag is essentially a morning raag. The notes ‘ri’ and ‘dha’ are very prominent. The ‘chalan’ (normal movement) is somewhat devious towards the end since it slides from ‘ma’ to ‘sa’ and only then does it touch the ‘ri’ (sa dha pa ma sa ri sa).

Surprisingly enough, this scale is present in the Japanese traditional music.

Certain interesting facts emerge if one looks at this scale in Carnatic system.

The arohanam is the same as that of ‘Malahari’ and ‘Saaveri’, two popular ragas.

While Malahari (raga of the popular geetam ‘Lambodhara’) has ‘ga’ in the avarohaNam (descending), Saaveri has both ‘ga’ and ‘ni’-and therefore all the seven notes- in the avarohaNam.

Now, this pentatonic scale finds mention under two different melas in two different names:

1.Kanakangi- the 1st melakarta as ‘Latantapriya’ (as per ‘Sangeeta swaraprastaara saagaram)
2.Mayamalavagowla- the 15th melakarta as ‘Hamsa’ (as per ‘Paalaiyaazhi).

Please recall that ‘Lavangi’, a raga invented by Dr.Balamuralikrtishna and used by ILaiyaraaja in ‘KaNkaLukkuL unnai ezhudhu’ ( see my post on this in ‘ILaiyaraaja-The Mystic’) is derived from Kanakangi as per Dr.BMK. So, logically should this scale also be derived from the same melam and therefore the name of the raga should be ‘Latantapriya’?

I don’t agree with this logic because the composition has the contours of Mayamalavagowla and not Kanakangi.

Moreover, ‘Hamsa’ seems an apt name for this raga that a evokes meditative feel.

For simplicity, we can even call this raga as ‘Gunkali’. Beyond a point does nomenclature really matter? I can take refuge in the Bard of Avon and his immortal classic ‘Romeo and Juliet’!

Let us look at the composition.

The drone of the tanpoora fills the air spreading divinity.

The brief alaapana in the crystal clear voice of Janaki provides the melodic precursor.

The first two movements go on the ascent while the last movement goes on the ascent and climbs down finally touching the lower ‘sa’.

The Pallavi is a copious expanse melody and classicism.

First, the percussion( mrudangam) starts half way through the first avartanam(taLa cycle) that is exactly after 4 beats in the 8-beat aadi tala. Apart from being beautiful, this also symbolises ‘mounam’ (silence).

Secondly, the repetition of ‘maalaiyil andhi maalaiyil’ with a sangati gives it a touch of finesse.

Thirdly, the sojourn at ‘di’ in ‘ketkumadi’ for one full avartanam in the following line is like a meditative abstraction.

The last line with the subtle sangati at ‘sivan kovilil’ and the short akaara towards the end give the varied shades of the raga.

The first interlude is profusely fascinating with the sitar providing the emotional depth.The Veena joins the Sitar and these two sets of strings glow aesthetically showing the lurking beauty of the raga.

The first CharaNam has beautiful classical ingredients.

The sangati in ‘thendral’, the higher octave notes in ‘Veda Shatthiramum’ show the Raaja of Raga while the beautiful landing with ‘ta ka dhi mi’ twice in ‘keezh kaalam’(slow tempo) followed by ‘ta ka dhi mi’ four times in the ‘mel kaalam’(fast tempo) show the Raaja of Laya.

The repartee between the stringed instrument and the sitar apposite to the colour of the raga sounds absolutely like a Veda ghosham with the flute at the end giving a melting portrayal harping on ‘dha’ ‘sa’ ‘ri’ Sa’.

The structure of the second CharaNam is different from that of the first, another unique feature of this composition.

‘Aalaya poojaiyum..’ and ‘aadavan minnudum..’ are sedate with the ‘asaivu’(oscillation) at ‘saayankaalam’ and ‘paadum’ showing the colours of the sky at dusk.

‘AruL tharum sangeetam..’ is a steady stream while ‘neeRu poosuginRa..’ is steeped in classical canons.

The atmosphere is tranquil as the akaaram at the end of the Pallavi enters our ears,mind and the soul.

இசை நீறு பூசுகின்ற ஞானதேசிகனின் மனவீணை மீட்டுகின்ற அருள் தரும் சங்கீதம் அனைத்திலும் தெய்வீகம்..

Smeared with the ‘vibhuti’ of melody, the music from this Gnanadesikan’s mind is always pure and Divine.

Friday, 25 May 2012

ILaiyaraaja-The Musical Ecologist!

The place I live is surrounded by trees.

No.. I don’t live in a forest nor do I live in a village. I am a resident of Chennai, a Metropolitan City.

Then, isn’t it surprising that trees do exist in residential colonies in a metro city?

I must indeed thank my stars for this because somehow the building where I live, has managed to escape the onslaught of some of the insensitive residents who care more for their cars and parking space and little for the environment.

Thanks to these trees, there is often music all around.

Early morning, we are greeted by the birds whose songs in the Major scale drive away the laziness.

Come dusk and we hear the chatter of the birds, that include the crows. But even the chatter is musical.

During the night, the call of the birds is somewhat intermittent. It becomes musically eerie around midnight. Just three hours after this, is the beginning of the Brahmma Muhurtam and the little birds sing the Vedas.

I hardly get to see these birds. In fact, I am not Salim Ali and have never succeeded in identifying the birds-except a few. But the fact remains that their music inspires me so much everyday.

I am not a poet nor am I a musician. But I have often wondered at the sheer brilliance of some of the poets and musicians who with their enchanting compositions make us ‘feel’ the nature. We get transported to that world experiencing the beauty ourselves.

And how great that experience would be, if only we read the poems/listen to the music in the kind of environs similar to the one described by me?

I am sure such poets/musicians were (are) great lovers of nature. That is why, they are able to make us feel, enjoy and appreciate the beauty. They also have an uncanny knack of using Nature as an allegory of human emotions.

Almost all Sangam Tamizh poets had this ability.

See this poem from ‘AinkuRu nooRu’, a collection of 500 poems written by 5 different poets-100 by each poet. This one was written by ‘Peyanaar’ and it is about a warrior who thinks of his home (and obviously about his beloved) as the war gets over:

He sings in his mind,

‘Time to return home
This is winter and the red jasmine buds that look like the kingfisher bird
Are opened by the honey-bees that have fluttering wings
I shall see my poetic beauty whose forehead is as sharp as the sword’.

பிணிவீடு பெறுக மன்னவன் தொழிலே
பனிவளர் தளவின் சிரல்வாய்ச் செம்முகை
யாடு சிறைவண்டு அவிழ்ப்பப்
பாடல் சான்ற காண்கம்வாள் நுதலே.

Look how the poet has used similes to depict the emotions.

Fluttering honey-bee- Restlessness of the warrior
Red jasmine buds- His lover’s forehead
Kingfisher- Warrior
Winter- His somber mind (due to separation)
Honey-bees opening the buds-Union

Poetic ecology!

Now, let us turn our attention on the Musical ecologist, who with his sheer love for Nature, has been giving us some immortal compositions that make us appreciate Nature’s beauty more.

The song of the day is one such composition.

‘Manjum KuLirum’ from the Malayalam movie ‘Sandhyakku Virinja Poovu’ (1983) is based on Suddha Saveri, a pentatonic raga with classical overtones.

The structure of the raga is: sa ri2 ma1 pa dha2 Sa/Sa dha2 pa ma1 ri2 sa.

On paper, the raga is very similar to Mohanam and Madhyamavati. Substituting ‘ga’ for ‘ma’, we get the former while the latter is obtained by substituting ‘dha’ by ni2.

However, Suddha Saveri has a unique flavour and has a classical beauty of its own.

‘Manjum kuLirum..’ starts with the musical depiction of the blossoming buds. With a striking clarity of intonation, Janaki hums in the higher octave. We hear the cuckoo’s call as the flute responds to the aalaap. The akaaram continues with an intrinsic charm and ends with the makaaram .The raga is sketched in a matter of seconds. The santoor smiles in appreciation while the flute takes a trip with felicitous fluidity. The guitar repeats the ‘makaara’ swaras and the strings lead us to the Pallavi.

The Pallavi in the voice of Krishnachandran and Janaki has nuggets of grace embedded in it with the Flute following the first two lines. The pause for 4 Tisram cycles-embellished by the melodic instrument that plays only the second syllable ‘ki’ in ‘ta ki ta’is exquisitely tender.

The first interlude is etched with melody.

The strings scoot in western classical style and the single synth violin responds in style. Unobtrusively, this enticing pattern is repeated four times.

The string of the violin is now plucked with the fingers-without bowing- exactly at ‘Ta’ in ‘Ta ki ta’. After 4 cycles, all the three syllables-ta ki ta- are played. Even as this colourful sequence is on, the flute takes a spirited gait giving the burnished form of the raga. The piece is musically nuanced and rhythmically engaging.

The short and sweet strings at the end of the interlude blow like a gentle breeze.

The first line of the CharaNam gives the essence of the raga.

The following lines show the contrast, beautifully mixing the alien swaras with the flute echoing with passion. It also gives a ‘Pahaadi touch’ to Suddha Saveri.

The last line is placid with both the voices joining together towards the end.

The second interlude sees a profusion of very interesting patterns.

There is counterpoint with two sets of strings- one dazzling and the other musingly melodic-playing different sets of notes.

Suddenly, we see vignettes of a coastal Kerala village. It is a spell of elegant melodic passages as the voice echoes.

The profusely fascinating flute glows aesthetically.

Natural beauty at its best!

His music is as charming and cool as the early morning mist..

Sunday, 20 May 2012

ILaiyaraaja-The Aesthetically Flamboyant Musician..

All are geniuses flamboyant?

In fact, some are geniuses solely because of their flamboyance and since my objective is not to get into this and stir up a Hornet’s nest, let me focus on some other geniuses who generally have a subdued flamboyance. But what happens when this flamboyance raises its hood (with or without their being aware) at times?

Among other things, it shows yet another dimension of the Genius. But most importantly, ‘aesthetics’ -that runs as an undercurrent in the works of the geniuses - combines with Flamboyance resulting in a veritable fare.

Take the great AruNagirinathar whose works include the Tiruppugazh, Kandar Alankaaram, Kandar Anubhooti,Kandar Andathi.. and many more. Some of his verses have been quoted in my earlier posts ‘ILaiyaraaja-The Beautiful Musician’, ‘ILaiyaraaja-The Spontaneous Musician’, ‘Natana Raaja-Part 1’, ‘ILaiyaraaja-The Effervescent Musician’.

Now, let us look at this verse (people who cannot follow Tamizh, pl. note that the first two words in each line are the same.:

‘சித்தத் தரங்கத்தர் சித்தியெய் தத்திரி கின்றதென்னர்ச்
சித்தத் தரங்கத்தர் சந்ததி யேசெந்தி லாய்சலரா
சித்தத் தரங்கத்தர் ரக்கரைச் செற்றகந் தாதிங்களிஞ்
சித்தத் தரங்கத்தர் சேயா ரணத்தந் திகிரியையே’

‘Sidhdha tarangaththar sidhdhiyey thaththiri ginRathennar
Sidhdha tarangaththar santathi yesenthi laaysalaraa
Sidhdha tarangaththar rakkarai seRRakan thaathingaLinj
Sidhdha tarangaththar seyaa raNaththan thigiriyaiye’

Now, let me split the words to convey the proper meanings:

சித்த தரங்கத்தர் சித்தி எய்த திரிகின்றது ஏன்(அர்ச்ச)
சித்து, அத்தர், அங்கத்தர் சந்ததியே செந்திலாய்(சலரா)
சி தத்தரம் கத்து அரக்கரைச் செற்ற கந்தா திங்கள்,(இஞ்)
சி தத்து அரங்கத்தர் சேய் ஆரண தந்தி கிரி ஐ ஏ.
I can give the word by word meaning for people who are interested. For now, let me give the gist:

‘Oh Lord who is the son of Parameswara ; the One who destroyed the Asuras; the One who is worshipped by the Vedas; the one whose abode is the ‘Sengottu Hill’- Tell me this: Why do people who cannot control their wavering minds, perform pooja and pray to you just to while away their time?’

Though this is just the summary, there are a lot of beautiful things about this poem.

First and foremost is the way the (same) two words are used in all the four lines, conveying different meanings in each line.

Second is the way Lord Muruga is described.

He is called as the one whose father wears the garland of bones and is worshipped by one and all (second line).

Then to describe His virtue of destructing the evil forces, AuNagiri says, ‘You killed the Asuras who with their bloated egos came running and shouting from the seas’ (third line).

We see the poetic beauty in the next line as he describes the tower of Sri Rangam. The poet says ‘The Moon crawls on the wall of the temple(to show how tall it is..).’

Now, where did the Lord of Sri Rangam come into picture here?

He brilliantly gives a link here. ’The Vedas recited by Brahma, who is the son of the Lord of Sri Rangam, worship You!’

The first line is a marvel.

‘Why do people whose minds are as wavering as the waves of the sea look for salvation just by doing Pooja without realizing the value and roam around?’

In fact, he conveys what he wants to convey in the first line itself-unlike most of the poems where the last line is a clincher. The other three lines are just ornate.

But look how beautifully the words dance in those lines.

Most importantly, he conceals the words and leaves it for us to split and understand the real meaning.There is a deep philosophy in this itself, but I leave it to you to decipher..

What is of utmost interest to even non-tamizhs is the way the entire poem has been constructed.

Is this not what we call as ‘aesthetically flamboyant’?

The Emperor of Film Music is flamboyant at times. But just like the great AruNagirinaathar, his flamboyance too is aesthetic.
The song of the day is a popular composition, ‘Aasai nooRu vagai’ from the 1983 film ‘Aduththa Vaarisu’.

If one says it is based on VakulabharaNam,-the 14th melakarta- he/she is not way off the mark. However, a very close look suggests that the composition avoids/skips the swara ‘ga’ completely.
The Raga text ‘Sangeeta Swaraprastara Saagaram’ of Naadamuni PaNditar calls this raga-that is VakulabharaNam sans ‘ga’ as ‘Nandini’.As far as I know, nobody else has used this raga so far.

As some of you know, VakulabharaNam has a lot of Arabic flavour. What is to be noted is that Nandini too retains that flavour and is in fact slightly more zestful than the parent raga.

This is the structure of Nandini:
Sa ri1 ma1 pa dha1 ni2 Sa/Sa ni2 dha1 pa ma1 ri1 sa.

‘Aasai nooRu vagai’ has some more hidden beauties and let us look at those.

The Trumpets blow in the higher octave. The Bass bursts into melody. The Trumpets and the Guitars now dance with flamboyantly and gracefully. It is an enthralling dance with vibrant intensity.

Spontaneous elegance!

The percussion plays ‘ta ka dhi mi ta ka’ twice and takes us to the Pallavi.

The first two lines of the Pallavi is conceived brilliantly. I am saying this essentially for three reasons. Let us see the first and the second one now and the third one a little later.

The swaras are ‘sa ni2 sa ni2 sa ri1/ sa ni2 sa ni2 sa ri1/sa . . . . .’

1.Note that these are lower octave notes while the prelude is dominated by the higher octave notes.

2.These swaras and the pattern sound like ‘Saama veda’.

The following line is full of vibratos rendered with zeal by Malaysia Vasudevan.

The higher octave notes ‘Ri1 and Sa’ sandwiched between the lower octave ‘pa dha1 ’ and ‘ni2 dha1 pa dha1’ make the last line a pleasant rendezvous.

The incandescent brass flute in the first interlude brings in romance.As the subtle bass guitar and the Bells mingle with the flute, we are in for another surprise. Shehnoy, considered (by film music directors) to be an instrument for pathos, jumps with joy vivifying the atmosphere.
The trumpet now moderates the proceedings, at the same time goading the Bass Guitar which moves with gusto.

The first two lines of the CharaNam is dominated by the ‘panchamam’(pa) which pairs with the ‘sa’, ‘ma’ and ‘dha’. Makes us wonder yet again at the intuitive conception of the composer.

Before I go to the third line, it is now time to explain ‘Reason no.3’.
I had mentioned that the first two lines of the Pallavi follow ‘sa ni2 sa ni2 sa ri1..’.

The third line of the CharaNam-‘Ingu sorgam mannil varum sontam mannil varum..’
follows ‘ pa dha1/ Sa ni2 Sa ni2 Sa Ri1/ Sa ni2 Sa ni2 Sa Ri1 Sa’- that is the lower ‘sa’ and the lower ‘ri1’ are substituted by the upper octave notes.

To understand what this means, sing the Pallavi(2 lines) and then sing ‘Sorgam mannil varum..’.Do you find the similarity and the difference?

Similarity is in the notes and difference is in the octave!

One more beauty is that the Pallavi and the CharaNams that start in the lower ‘sa’ end with the upper ‘Sa’.

In the second interlude, the Bass Guitar pulls our heart strings. We see a confetti of beautiful fireworks as the flute sizzles. The chorus gives out an ecstatic cry and the brass flute takes over bringing a sense of plenitude. The brass section continues with the torrential pour from the trumpets, trampoline and other wind instruments.The mandolin at the end bows in Arabian style!

A multitude of desires.. But our desire is to listen to his music forever.

ஆசை நூறு வகைகள் இருந்தாலும், நமது ஒரே ஆசை அவரது இசையை எப்பொழுதும் கேட்டுக்கொண்டே இருப்பது!

Monday, 14 May 2012

ILaiyaraaja-The Vivacious Musician..

AndaL was a great boon to Tamizh language.

The mastery of the little girl, who was just around 10-12 years when she composed 143 verses- which is now called as ‘Naachiyaar Tirumozhi’- and 30 verses of ‘Tiruppaavai’ ruled the language of Tamizh.

What makes her poems great are her choice of words, her creativity, innovation and most importantly her vivaciousness. Though these were composed around the 8th Century, the poems can be easily interpreted, understood, appreciated and enjoyed. At the same time, the poems have esoteric value too.

Look at this verse taken from her ‘Naachiyaar Tirumozhi’ (5th verse in the 9th Tirumozhi) where she describes the Lord of Tirumal-irum-solai (a place near Madurai):

‘Oh..Bees that hang in each bloom of fragrant flowers
At the Floral park that surrounds Tirumaal-irum-solai,
The springs, and the Red lotuses that toss their heads from the springs,
You remind me of Lord’s cerulean hue and his beautifully shaped eyes,
Please lead me to Him..’

துங்க மலர் பொழில் சூழ் திருமாலிருஞ்சோலை நின்ற
செங்கண் கட்டுமுகிலின் திருவுருப்போல் மலர்மேல்
தொங்கிய வண்டினங்காள்!தொகு பூஞ்சுனைகாள்!சுனையில்
தங்குசெந்தாமரைகாள்!எனக்கு ஒரு சரண் சாற்றுமினே!

Enamoured with the beauty of the place, the little girl jumps.Each and every creature in that place reminds her of the Lord. She addresses the creatures (bees,lotuses and other flowers, springs ) requesting those to show her the way to see the Lord.

True..the poem shows her unflinching and unimpeachable devotion to the Lord. But what it also does is that it transports us to that very place making us feel lively, joyful and vivacious..

After all, the vivaciousness of the geniuses is contagious…Right?

That is why, we all enjoy the music of this gentleman whose vivaciousness and energy levels are incredibly true.

On this special day when we all celebrate 36 years of his entry into film music, let us look at a composition of his which is as charming and lively as AandaL’s poems.

It is based on one of his favourite ragas (I am saying ‘favourite’ because he has composed hundreds of songs in this raga alone!).

This raag Pahaadi has already been discussed in my posts on ‘Mounamana Neram’(ILaiyaraaja- The Spontaneous Musician )and on ‘Ennaththil Edho’ (ILaiyaraaja-The Enlightened Musician).

This Hindustani raag is believed to have originated from the Tribes and it will be not be fair (I would say even a sacrilege) to mention a aroh/avaroh structure since it is not bound by any formal structure and is identified more by the feel than anything else.

However, this is one of the structures:

Pa Dha2 Sa Ri2 Ga3 Pa Dha2 Sa/Sa Ni3 Dha2 Pa ma1 Ga3 ri2 sa ni3 dha2 pa dha2 Sa.

The raag shines beautifully when alien notes are added to it.

The song of the day is ‘Pudhu VannangaL pongidum solai’ from the 1981 film ‘MurattukkaaLai’.

The composition starts without a prelude with the first two lines in the honey-soaked voice of Janaki moving with fluidity.
The alien notes are added precisely in the 3rd and the 4th line making it poetically beautiful.

The last line jumps with joy.

This composition in the Tisra pattern(3-beat cycle) also has the ‘ateeta eduppu’-that is the songs starts before the Tala cycle. The ‘samam’(beginning of the Tala cycle) is in ‘VannangaL’.

The first interlude is full of verve.

The Flute sings like a cuckoo daintily without any percussion.
The piped instruments join the flute now with the percussion nodding its head in Tisram. The strings follow suit.

The sprightly flute sings again. Mesmerised by this the birds start singing.
The strings dance and the Santoor swaggers gleefully.

The keys resonate with the strings playing single notes in the background.

As if this is not enough, the strings play in higher octave with the santoor swaying wondrously.

The CharaNam is beautifully structured and gives a rich imagery of Pahaadi.

Interspersed with the santoor, the first two lines saunter.

If the santoor for exactly 4 Tisrams at the end of the simple and beautiful 3rd line is stately, the next line that has elongated phrases is benign while the last line with the alien notes gives ineffable joy!

The anomalous second interlude is an aural treat.

It starts with the vocals-Janaki and chorus- singing joyously in folk style.

Though it is free flowing without any percussion, it follows the Tisram pattern. Exactly after 36 Tisrams, smiling santoor plays for 4 Tisrams giving way to the luscious flute that sails musically. We are transported to a village and we see the green fields, flowing water and a spotless sky.

A vicarious experience!

The colourfully plumaged strings now eddy against the guitar playfully and finally playing the same notes as the guitar.

Is this not what we call as vivacious?

புது வண்ணங்கள் பொங்கிடும் இசைச்சோலை!

Saturday, 5 May 2012

ILaiyaraaja-Musician with a Radiance..

Awestruck by the radiance of the Lord, Nammazhvar bombards him with questions.

He asks,

‘Is the radiance of Your Face because of the radiance of Your Crown (head) ?
Has the Lotus under You blossomed out of the radiance of Your Feet?
Has the radiance from your waist blended with the radiance of Your ornaments?
Oh Lord Please tell me!’

முடிச்சோதியாய் உனது முகச்சோதி மலந்ததுவோ?

அடிச்சோதி நீ நின்ற தாமரையாய் அலர்ந்ததுவோ?

படிச்சோதி ஆடையொடும் பல்கலனாய், நின் பைம்பொன்

கடிச்சோதி கலந்ததுவோ? திருமாலே! கட்டுரையே.

Though he raises these questions the great Nammazhvar knew the answer.
Put in very simple words, the Lord himself is radiance personified. But he saw different dimensions to the Divine Radiance and the poet in him wouldn’t stop.

Don’t we all feel the radiance in each and every word?

In a similar way, we see and feel the radiance in the compositions of the Master.

We start asking, ‘Is the radiance of your music because of the tune?
Is the radiance of the songs because of the orchestration?
Is the radiance of your compositions because of the usage of ragas and
other classical techniques?’

We know the answer and we don’t know the answer.

Let us look at the composition of the day-‘Maharaajanodu RaNi Vandu Serum..’ from the film ‘Sati Lilavati’(1995).

It is based on Sarasangi, the 27th melakarata.

Its structure is: sa ri2 ga3 ma1 pa dha1 ni3 Sa/Sa ni3 dha1 pa ma1 ga3 ri2 sa.

It is the Shuddha madhyama counterpart of Latangi-that is if we substitute ‘ma1’ with ‘ma2’, we get Latangi.

It is also very closely related to some of the most popular ragas.

Change the ‘ri2’ to ‘ri1’ and we get Mayamalavagowla.

Change the ‘ga3’ to ‘ga2’ and we get KiravaNi.

Apart from this, it is also in the graham bedam group of Dharmavati and Chakravagam.
More about this soon..

ILaiyaraaja has used this raga in some of the greatest compositions-one of these being ‘Endrendrum Aanandame’. Please read my post ‘Laya Raaja’ to know more.

‘Maharaajanodu..’ has a very soft beginning. The Keys and the Bells announce the arrival of the spring season (and of course the romance). The guitar wafts fragrance and the second guitar that enjoys it. The finely textured Sax enters with the passionate percussion playing the ‘ta ka dhi mi’ in its own style.

It is a rhapsody of sorts.

The Pallavi in the voices of Unnikrishnan and Chitra is lively with the resonant Bass guitar and the sweet electric guitar following them very closely. Even as the third and the fourth lines are rendered, the strings skate on thick ice.

Icing on the cake!

The Raga flows gently in the first interlude.

The synth violins move with poise with the Sax holding their hands, warming the cockles of our hearts. The Bass Guitar starts singing as if it is in a trance. The eloquent flute sketches the raga in style in its own inimitable way.

The CharaNams are very aesthetically structured.

The first two lines are followed by the exquisite flute taking short freewheeling flights.

The next line is feisty with a gap for the guitar for a whole avartanam(cycle).

The following two lines exude the beauty of the Raga while the last line has some leisurely oscillations.

The second interlude has innovative, inspirational and intelligent splashes.

Let us now go back to what I said about the Graha Bedam group earlier in the post.

I have already discussed about the technique of Graha Bedam in some of my posts here.

If any swara-apart from the ‘sa’- is kept as the base, it yields different ragas, some valid and some not valid.

As per the theory, if the ‘pa’ of Sarasangi is made as the ‘sa’, it becomes Chakravagam.

The Master does this first.

Now, please read this carefully.

The structure of Chakravagam is sa ri1 ga3 ma1 pa dha2 ni2 Sa/Sa ni2 dha2 pa ma1 ga3 ri1 sa.

Therefore the Raga should logically be Chakravagam..But the Master Innovator goes one step further.

He uses the same six swaras- sa ri1 ma1 pa dha2 ni2- but instead of ‘ga3’, he uses the vivadi swara ‘ga1’ and the raga we get to hear is Vanaspati, the 4th melakarta.

Doing the unthinkable- Is it not the Hallmark of a Genius.

The Keys and the guitar move with finesse in Vanaspati with the Sax providing the melodic charm in Sarasangi.

It is the romance between the Emperor and The Queen(Music). Raaja yoga for us in yugas to follow..

மஹாராஜனோடு இசை ராணி கை கோர்த்தால்,பலப்பல யுகங்களிலும் ராஜ யோகம்தான்!