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.

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