Monday, 15 April 2013

ILaiyaraaja-The Instinctive Musician..

One of the many virtues a genius possesses is spontaneity.
A genius does not waste time in breaking his/her head. Yet, the output is something unimaginable.

ThoNdaradipodiyaazhwar, one of the 12 great Vaishnavite saints, looks at the reclining posture of Lord Ranganatha and decided to sing ‘PaLLi ezhucchi ’to ‘wake him up from sleep’.
‘Blowing gently from the East, the wind embraces the jasmine creeper spreading the fragrance. Flapping the dew-soaked wings the swans get up from their flower beds. Oh, the one who saved the elephant(Gajendra) from the poisonous and gory teeth of the crocodile! Please wake up’.
கொழுங்கொடி  முல்லையின்  கொழு மலர்  அணவிக்
      கூர்ந்தது  குண-திசை  மாருதம்   இதுவோ
எழுந்தன  மலர்  அணைப்  பள்ளிகொள்  அன்னம்
        ஈன்பனி  நனைந்த  தம்  இருஞ் சிறகு  உதறி;
விழுங்கிய  முதலையின்  பிலம்  புரை  பேழ்வாய்
        வெள்  எயிறு  உற, அதன்  விடத்தனுக்கு  அனுங்கி,
அழுங்கிய  ஆனையின்  அருந்துயர்  கெடுத்த
        அரங்கத்தம்மா!  பள்ளி   எழுந்தருளாயே.
This is one of the 10 ‘ThiruppaLLi ezhucchi’ verses sung by the Aazhwar and is part of the ‘Naalaayira Divya Prabhandam’.
‘Waking up the Divine’ is of course symbolic as the Divine is always awake. But what should be noted here and appreciated is the description done with fertile imagination. We feel the aroma of the ‘mullai’ flowers, we watch and listen to the flapping of wings of the swans feeling the wetness of the dew, we experience the excruciating pain of the elephant as the wily crocodile holds its leg and finally we feel the compassion and love of the divine.
The contrast-pleasant fragrance/ dew against poisonous teeth/sorrow- cannot be missed. Nor can the poetic usage and description be not appreciated.
It is said that the Azhwar sang these verses in the sanctum sanctorum even as he was looking at the Lord.In other words, he did not sit down, think, refer any tamizh dictionary and then wrote. Words flew from him instinctively.
And yet, the entire verse is a poetic beauty.
‘Arjuna mantram’ from ‘Sitara’(1984) is a musical beauty.
Composed spontaneously by ILaiyaraaja and rendered by SPB and Shailaja, the composition is classical, is folksy shows the contrast, shows the similarities and is melodically superior.
We see a pentatonic raga changing to a sampoorNa raga, a native Andhra folksy tune followed by a rare raga, all seamlessly done.
The composition starts with the divine Omkara.  The sloka is set in AmritavarshiNi, and the omkara being rendered as the ‘Shadja’ at the end of each line ( upper ‘Sa’ before the sloka, and after the first and third line and lower ‘sa’ at the end of second line) symbolically suggests that the PraNava mantra is the basis for everything in the Universe.
With aesthetic spontaneity, the Pallavi moves in Pantuvarali(AmritavarshiNi plus ‘ri1’ and ‘dha1’).The Veena that appears between the two lines shows flashes of brilliance as it shows the ‘chaaya swaras’ of the raga.
The Veena continues its journey in the first interlude as the zestful Jalatarangam joins it with splendour.The dainty flute takes over and the musical spectacle is rounded off with a ‘saval-jawab’ of Veena and Jalatarangam.
The first CharaNam has some enlivening patterns. The first two lines are felicitously fluid while the following lines move like a beautiful breeze.
The raga’s resplendent domain is shown in the akaaram that lasts two full avartanams. The beauty of this segment is the superimposing of the female voice over the male voice with each singing a different set of swaras.
The charming swaras alternate with the dance jatis towards the end.
The song now acquires and aromatic flavour. Andhra folksy tune in Tisram beats. The dainty Shehnai and the dexterous Flute are followed by the vocals. Fertilely imaginative!
The Veena now gives a classical touch playing ‘Karnataka Khamas’. It is a janya of Harikhamboji and avoids ‘ri’ totally. It may be noted that this is different the more popular raga ‘Khamas’ which has some very distinct phrases.
The Veena and the flute have a brief conversation in Karnataka Khamas before the beginning of the next CharaNam.
The CharaNam rendered by SPB gives a soft veneer and is fascinatingly attractive.
With a classical comeliness, the flute moves daintily and the veena nods with awe.
The last CharaNam is invested with considerable ardour with the male voice singing the sahitya while the female voice singing the swaras.
It is astonishingly beautiful!
Music of the ‘Omkara’.
Apuroopa sangeetam..


Tuesday, 2 April 2013

ILaiyaraaja-The Divine Alchemist..

Enraptured by the beauty of Kaveri, the young poet sings, 

‘Adorned by the aromatic herbs, colourful shrubs, ivories and the pearls, Kaveri looks like a golden river. And on its northern bank resides the Lord of Manthurai. Let us pray at his feet’.

செம்பொன் ஆர்தரு வேங்கையும் ஞாழலுஞ் செருந்தி செண்பகம் ஆனைக்

கொம்பும் ஆரமும் மாதவி சுரபுன்னை குருந்தலர் பரந்துந்தி

அம்பொன் நேர் வரு காவிரி வடகரை மாந்துறை உறைகின்ற

எம்பிரான் இமையோர் தொழு பைங்கழல் ஏத்துதல் செய்வோமே.

That he was so attracted to the river is known by the fact that nearly 3/4th of the verse is dedicated to the description while only 1/4th is devoted to his favorite Lord.

Thirugnansambandar, the child prodigy is capable of converting a river with white foams to gold with his poetic description. We also see the hand of the divine here which chose to bestow this golden poetic power to a child-just around 3 years old- by giving white milk of knowledge.

It is a fact that some are chosen by the Divine with a reason. These chosen few utilise it fully and not content with what is already given to them, explore, discover and innovate. With their ‘Hand of Gold’, they turn even a small tiny thing to gold.

Who should we, the mortals thank- the Divine which gave them these powers or the chosen ones for delighting us with this power and acquired knowledge?

If Tamizh acquired new meanings in the words of Thirugnanasambandar, Film Music acquired a new dimension in the swaras of ILaiyaraaja.

We have been seeing his use of popular, familiar ragas and very rare ragas in film music.

The song of the day-‘Neelakkuyile’ (Magudi-1984), is based on a raga which falls under the latter category.

The ‘sa ri ga pa dha Sa’ scale is one of the most popular in Carnatic Music. The different combinations of the variants of these swaras give us ragas like Mohanam, Shivaranjani, BhoopaLam, Vaasanti and Revagupti.

In the year 1981, ILaiyaraaja came up with a composition that had the same combination but with a new permutation- sa ri1 ga3 pa dha2 Sa. Let me clarify that this was new only in the Carnatic System as the Hindustani System has a raag pertaining to this scale called Vibhas (which again has two versions).As far as Carnatic Music or Tamizh Film music is concerned, this raga was never used until then.

Some texts define the name of this raga as ‘VarNa RoopiNi’ while some others call it as Rasika Ranjani. But since the Maestro himself has very recently clarified that it is Rasika Ranjani, let us stick to this name. Thus ‘Amude Tamizhe’ from Kovil PuRa happens to be the first composition in Tamizh Film Music based on this ragam.

He again composed a song in the same raga three years later and this is the song I am taking up now. While ‘Amude Tamizhe’ more or less stuck to Rasika Ranjani (excepting for the use of ‘ni’ in a couple of lines in the charaNams), ‘Neelakuile..’ follows Rasika Ranjani scale completely.

Did I say completely? Yes, but there is a hidden magic in the second interlude and we shall see that soon.

The composition starts with a great delicacy of feeling as the swaras are rendered with mellow tonal depth by Janaki and SPB. With energetic briskness, the Violins enter the fray as the upper Sa is touched by the male voice. The Sitar soothes the heart while the radiant Veena highlights the beauty of the raga with finesse.

The composition is set in Chatushra ekam tisra gati(cycle of 4 with a speed of 3)taaLam and has the ‘anaagata eduppu’ with the Pallavi starting after 2 aksharaas.

The Pallavi is crisp and is dominated by the mid-octave notes (it starts with the ‘sa’ just like ‘Amude Tamizhe’).The last line is a beauty with the phrase ‘paamaalai’ consisting of the combination of swaras in the arohaNam( dhaSa padha gapa).Note that the first swara in the preceding group becomes the second in the one that follows.

The higher octave violins that back the lines rise like the huge waves with the sitar that says ‘dhapa dhapa dhapa dhapa dhapa dhapa’ moving like a small wave.

Swaras blossom again with a fragrance in the first interlude as the Sitar and the Violin smile at each other with ‘ga pa dha pa’. The lilting flute joins and pairs with Sitar. There is more to follow after the strings flow like a stream.

Basic and advanced lessons in Violin plucking, fingering and bowing are on display. Harmony at its best!

The CharaNams have succinct but powerful phrases. The first half is dominated by the higher octave swaras like the ‘Sa, Ri and Ga with the last line have all the ascending notes. It is rounded off with a short and sweet akaaram.

The second interlude (remember the hidden magic I mentioned in the beginning?) shines with manifold beauties.

First the ‘dha2’ is substituted by ‘dha1’ and the raga becomes Revagupti. The strings play this and during the course of the journey adds two more swaras- ma2 and ni3- making it Pantuvarali. The Master then drops the ‘ri’ and ‘pa’ and substitutes ‘dha1’ with ‘dha2’ making it Sunaadavinodini, a pentatonic raga called as Hindol in  the Hindustani system. The flute and the Veena have a rendevouz with ‘dha ma ni’ with the former fondling ‘dha ma dha ni Sa’ and the latter caressing ‘ma ga ma ga Sa’. The magic happens yet again in the second time the Veena plays. It plays chromatic notes-ma2 ma1 ma2 ma1 ga3. Though it has only 2 swaras, the chromaticism and the contours suggest Lalit, another Hindustani raga.

The strings then play Hamsanandi( Sunaadavinodhini plus ri1) with the Lalit pattern peeping in again at the end.

Illuminating spectacle!

நாதப்புனலில் என்றென்றும் நாம் நீராடுவோம்..

Makes us bathe in the fountain of Naada forever..