Sunday, 1 April 2012

ILaiyaraaja-The Ultra-sensitive Musician..

It is generally said that creative people are highly sensitive.

It may sound a little odd but the fact is though all creative people are sensitive, most of them are selectively sensitive-that is they are sensitive only to certain issues that appeal to their sensibilities. Here too, the degree of sensitivity may vary from person to person.

But the focus, empathy and most importantly the ability to make us empathise with the work separate the great from the ordinary.

Look at this poem from ‘PuRanaanooRu’, part of the Sangam Tamizh literature.
It is supposedly sung by a young widow:

‘Oh poor little white lilies!
I wore their tender leaves as my dress when I was young
Now my husband is dead
And I eat at very odd hours..
The seeds of the same little lily flowers.’

‘அளிய தாமே சிறுவெள்ளாம்பல்!
இளையம் ஆகத் தழையாயினவே; இனியே,
பெருவளக் கொழுநன் மாய்ந்தெனப், பொழுது மறுத்து,
இன்னா வைகல் உண்ணும்
அல்லிப் படுஉம் புல் ஆயினவே.’

This poem written by ‘Okkoor Maasaaththanaar’ conveys a lot.
Apart from the status of women, and the tribulations of a young widow those days(not that things have changed much in the last 2000 years), what is to be appreciated is the way white lily has been used as a symbol.

White denotes purity. Lily flower also denotes purity and enlightenment.

Within her heart the young girl cries. She also feels for the little lilies-her only companion- as the life cycles seem to be similar. But at the same time she is mature enough to take things in her stride.

But what is striking is the way the poet empathises and makes us all empathise with the character(s).

This ability to be ultra sensitive to things that happen around us is what separates the greatest from the greats.

ILaiyaraaja has composed music more than 4000 songs and these songs pierce our hearts and become one with the soul.

Why? It is because he is ultra-sensitive and goes deep into all the characters and situations. He does this with precision but like the water drops on the lily leaves, he does not get involved. Might sound mystical but it is the fact.

A ‘Amma Endrazhikkatha’ or a ‘Janani..’ is composed with the same mental state as ‘Nila Kaayudhu’ or ‘Neththu Raathiri’ though he empathises fully with the characters.

That is why, we cry, laugh, fall in love, feel sad, feel happy, romance, be devout.. when we listen to his compositions.

The song of the day- ‘Vaazhkkai odam sella’from ‘AvaL Appadiththaan’(1978) set in the Hindustani Raag Lalit- too gives us a very different feeling.

Raag Lalit is a raag with a unique structure:

ni3 ri1 ga3 ma2 ma1 ma2 ga3 ma2 dha2 ni3 Sa/ Sa ni3 ri1 ni3 dha2 ma2 dha2 ma2 ma1 ga3 ma2 ga3 ri1 sa.

It is unique not just because of the devious structure but also because of the consecutive use of both ma2 and ma1 making it chromatic.

Some schools use ‘dha1’ instead of ‘dha2’-the former being derived from the ‘Poorvi’ that and the latter from ‘Maarwa’ that.

The ‘pakad’- which is what gives the raag its flavour is ‘ni3 ri1 ga ma2 ma1 ma2 ga3 ma2 ga3 ri1 sa.

The prelude of ‘Vaazhkkai odam’ itself gives the essence of the raag.

The uniquely textured guitar is followed by the succulent bass flute with the sarod giving a melancholic melody. The poetically expressive bass flute moves like a soft breeze.

Beguilingly beautiful portrait of Raag Lalit.

The Pallavi starts before the TaaLam with ‘kai’ in ‘Vaazhkkai’ being the Samam(start).Such a start is called as ‘Atheeta Eduppu’.

We see the superb array of the swaras-ma1 and ma2 in particular- in the first two lines.
The lines that follow give us an ineffable mixture of emotions and feelings.

The first interlude is full of melodic phrases.

The finely distilled sound from the Santoor is tantalizing while the bass flute moves with verve and vigour with the percussion playing the Tisram pattern in ‘mel kaalam’ as ta ka ta ka dhi mi. It is intense and piercing.

The Sarod gives the import and intrinsic emotional beauty of the raag while the Santoor at the end enunciates the happy face of the raag.

The CharaNams have well aligned phrases.

The first two lines are serene and meditative.

The line that follows is magical. The Shruti undergoes a shift..Please note that there is no graha bedam here. Though the 3 swaras Sa, ni3 and ri1 are used, it somehow gives a feel of SubhapantuvaraLi.

There is more to follow.The last line, which is in the same Shruti as the previous line has alien swaras ri2 and ga2.Since it has pa, dha2 and ma2, the raga can be called as ‘Vijayanagari’.

The second interlude is punctuated with phrases of exceptional quality.

The sympathetic strings and the bass flute swirl.
The violin glides with sensitivity.

It is repeated but this time the violin plays in the next octave.
The guitar gives the western contours.
The bass flute finally leads us to the next CharaNam.

Aesthetic and educative!

நமது வாழ்க்கை ஒடம் செல்ல, இந்த இசையாற்றின் நீரோட்டம் எப்பொழுதும் உண்டு.

It is this musical river that guides us in our life..


Suresh S said...

Fantastic. What else can you say of this song!!! Sun Music used to screen this sometimes late in the night.

I did note the Hindustani feel but didn't know it was Lalit. Honestly I don't have a feel for Lalit yet but this song, as you rightly say, is full of feeling!!! Janaki is terrific as usual. A master composition indeed.

Raj said...

It is of course Lalit Suresh! :).