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..