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..

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