Tuesday, 20 November 2012

ILaiyaraaja-The Adventurous Musician-II

How difficult is it to tread a new path?

Very difficult since we do not know what awaits us. Questions like ‘what if it is a failure’ and ‘what will others say’ always lurch in the mind. ‘And why do we have to do this at all? Why don’t we follow what others have told us to do, taught us to do ,what we are conditioned to do or simply what others do?’, we think and nip it in the budding stage itself.

Most of us dismiss the thought itself as a chimera and go back to our comfort zones while some of us go one step ahead, venture into something new but drop it somewhere down the line. It indeed needs a steely resolve, commitment, focus and a thick skin to ignore others’ sneer, derision and scorn. But above all, it needs a firm grip and mastery over whatever we plan to do.

Thiruvalluvar had all of these and something more too. Not only did he tread and chart a new path but also was adventurous enough to innovate and improvise.

He composed 1330 couplets that follow a form called veNba (வெண்பா) and a pattern called kuRaL(குறள்). This pattern as defined in Tamizh grammar must have just 2 lines. If it is already defined, what is new about it is the logical question. The fact remains that before him no poet tried using this pattern.

‘ThirukkuRaL’ is neither a scripture nor a testament. It is a treatise on life itself. No area of human thought and behaviour has been left untouched by Thiruvalluvar. So much so that it covers even Communication skills, Administration and Management. Remember, all these more than 2000 years back.. Yet each and every kuRaL is absolutely relevant to the present day.

The verses have poetic excellence, are crisp, are musical and rhythmic and most importantly are very easy to remember.

I was also talking about his innovation and his ability to improvise. See this verse:

‘Thuppaarkku Thuppaaya Thuppaakki Thuppaarkku

Thuppaaya Thoo ummazhai’

"துப்பார்க்குத் துப்பாய துப்பாக்கித் துப்பார்க்குத்

துப்பாய தூஉம்மழை.''

It simply means that the rain (and therefore water) helps cook pleasant food and is itself food.

This verse is in the second chapter which pays obeisance to the rain. The verse itself states the obvious and this being the case, what special message does it give?

The verse not just pays obeisance to the rain but also asks us not to be selfish. But what is more significant and of interest to us is the rhythm in the verse..

It is this sense of adventure with a proclivity to innovate, that drives and motivates people who are daringly different.

In my previous post, we saw how ILaiyaraaja innovatively used the swaras to form a pattern which while sticking to the grammar of music does not find a place as a ‘raga’ in any text book. I had also mentioned that it uses ‘vivadi’ or dissonant note, note that gives a very different feel not always pleasant. But remember that he used it in a song the sequence of which is very sensual.

Today, let us look at a composition, where he has used the vivadi note yet again but this time in a romantic duet. ‘Varudu Varudu iLankaaththu..’from ‘Brahmma’(1991) follows a pattern/scale which is again not defined in any of the texts.

Let me clarify that this is different from songs that have a raga as base and has a dash of alien notes too. ‘Oru Poongavanam’ and ‘Varudu Varudu’ are different in the sense that they do follow a particular structure throughout, but this structure (arohana/avarohana) is not defined in any text. This obviously means that these are new ragas invented by the composer. Moreover, as already mentioned, vivadi notes/ragas sound very different and are at best avoided even in classical concerts. In fact, when classical compositions are sung in vivadi raga, the musician tries and conceals the vivadi note as much as possible.

But this music composer has not just dared to use it in romantic situations but has also made the vivadi note sound beautiful.

‘Varudu Varudu..’ follows sa ri2 ga3 ma1 pa dha3 ni3 Sa/Sa dha3 pa ma1 ga3 ri2 sa-with ‘dha3’ being the vivadi note. Going by the notes used, one can deduce that it is derived from of the 30th melakarta ‘Nagaanandini’. But as I said, a thorough search of raga texts indicates that no raga follows this structure-that is dropping the ‘ni3’ in the descent.

‘Varudu Varudu’ starts with the sound of the wind. The chorus backed by the very subtle strings, hums with zeal and the flute curves along giving a caressing touch. The puissant percussion plays ‘ta ki ta/ta ki ta/ta ka’ with a ‘fade’ effect leading us to the Pallavi.

The Pallavi in the voices of Janaki and SPB is laden with passion. The third and fourth lines are dominated by the ‘pa’. The ‘ma’ sandwiched between a plethora of ‘pa’ makes it more special and attractive. One more thing to be noted here is that there is no vivadi note in the pallavi and it sounds more or less like ShankarabharaNam.

The ‘ta ki ta/ta ki ta/ta ka’ pattern is beautifully followed in the pallavi- Varudu( ta ki ta) Varudu(ta ki ta) iLam(ta ka).

Imbued with elegant patterns, the first interlude is a melodic treat. First the flute moves with a willowy grace. The strings then express themselves enticing the flute which jumps and dances with unbounded enthusiasm. The pattern of staccato notes alternating between a single note is musically brilliant.

The interlude is rhythmical too following the 4-beat chatushram cycle-despite the absence of a percussion instrument.
The CharaNams see a profusion of melodic phrases. The vivadi note that appears twice in the first two lines is somewhat prominent in the next 2 lines. But rather than sounding eerie, it s zestful and romantic.

The ‘ta ki ta’ ‘ta ki ta’ by the percussion in the end says it all.

The percussion makes its presence felt in the ensuing interlude.

In the beginning, it plays ‘ta – dhi -/ ta ka – mi’ for a full avartana(cycle) of Adi talam. It is then joined by the fascinating guitar that charters a melodic territory with the flute peeping in now and then with a single note. The chorus then sings slivers of melody which too follows the ‘ta ka dhi mi’ pattern –rendered 24 times.

The short piece of flute towards the end makes an indelible impact.

இனிது இனிது இந்த பாட்டு இதயம் ரசிக்கும் என்றும் அசை போட்டு..


Vijay said...

Great post Raj on Varudhu Varudhu and thanks for sharing the raagam perspective.

I have a question on this quoted part:
"Going by the notes used, one can classify this under the 30th melakarta ‘Nagaanandini’. But as I said, a thorough search of raga texts indicates that no raga follows this structure-that is dropping the ‘ni3’ in the descent."

I think each raagam is uniquely identified by the notes in arohanam /avarohanam. If by this, if we are able to find Nagaanandhini raagam from the arohanam/avarohanam structure, you were also saying that from the raga texts there is no such raaga defined in this pattern. Then how and where did you find this raagam Naganandhini? Can you please explain?

Raj said...

Thanks Vijay!
Let me clarify. By 'classified under', I meant a raga derived from the 30th melakarta Nagaanandini.All melakarta ragams have a complete structure-that is all the seven notes are present.

However, 'Varudu Varudu' does not have the 'ni' in the avarohanam. Such a structure(sa ri2 ga3 ma1 pa dha3 ni3 Sa/Sa dha3 pa ma1 ga3 ri2 sa) is not defined in any raga text.

I think that 'clssified under' has created this confusion.I am changing the wordings in my post now.Thanks for pointing this out..

Suresh S said...

I am happy to see one more song here that I know (Ofcourse I am happier to see a song that I don't know :) )

This song is a wonderful combination of melody and rhythm. Not to mention the superb singing. I always think that Raja has something beyond the ragam when he uses a particular scale. My feeling is that he is dealing with a Carnatic raga in a western classical way. In the sense of choosing the swaras so that he can set the chords etc.

Raj said...

// My feeling is that he is dealing with a Carnatic raga in a western classical way. In the sense of choosing the swaras so that he can set the chords etc. //

Maybe true for some songs like 'Oh butterfly', but I feel he is more oriented towards Indian Classical music.Pl. note that both 'Poongavanam' and 'Varudu Varudu'have the vivadi notes and that the vivadi concept is absent in WCM.

He is very clear on what he is doing.Once SPB remarked that Raaja is the only composer who can explain the concepts in detail and explain as to why he composed a song in a particular way if pundits quiz him..

Vijay said...

Thanks Raj for clarifying. Now I got it.:)