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..


Suresh S said...

Outstanding song. Just last week, I had put up a playlist on youtube of Raja's Malayalam songs. I had split them into the 80s, 90s and the 2000s.

In his Malayalam works, Raja seems to add the extra spoon of honey, for they sound so very sweet. In Malayalam Raja's works are more biased towards melody. And if you are a melody lover, you are bound to be addicted to Raja's Malayalam works.

"Sandhyaku Virinja Pookal' has 3 lovely songs. 'mizhiyil' is probably the most famous of the lot. The Kalyani in that being sublime. 'Manjum Kulirum' is another beauty. Krishnachandar was a lucky fellow to get such outstanding songs as this and 'Alliyilam Poovo'. Thanks for the song.

Raj said...

Thanks Suresh!