Friday, 14 February 2014

ILaiyaraaja's Music and Emotions-IV- Love

The white jasmine buds which are as bright as the moonlight eagerly wait and yearn for the rains even as they gently embrace the green tendrils of the red jasmine. The Lady Love looks at this sight and says ‘Like these jasmine buds which will blossom as the rain drops kiss them, my ‘black beauty’ too will blossom as soon as the sound of the chariot of my Man is heard’.

தளவின் பைங்கொடி தழீஇப் பையென
நிலவின் அன்ன நேர் அரும்பு பேணிக்
கார் நயந்து எய்தும் முல்லை அவர்
தேர் நயந்து உறையும் என் மாமைக் கவினே

This love-drenched  poem  from ‘AinkuRunooRu’ which is part of the 2500 year old Sangam literature is beautiful in terms of the similes used - Jasmine buds and the moon light-,  comparison- Jasmine Buds and the Lady, Rain and her Man,and the contrast- Moonlight and Black beauty. But what I like the most about this poem  written by Peyanaar is the fact that rather than artificially glorifying fair skin, it honestly talks about the natural dark complexion of the Lady thus breaking the myth surrounding the colour of the skin.

Generally tamizh poets love to depict the Heroine as being ‘fair and lovely’. The Hero can be dark complexioned and this does not really matter because a Man is expected to show valour while the woman should invariably be beautiful and beauty here means the complexion. In fact, this traditional typecasting continues in the 21st Century too, the ads and movies being some classic examples.
The bold Heroine in this poem takes pride in her complexion and calls herself as ‘Maamai kavin’.

The poem also tells us a true Love Story in a matter of 4 lines. He is away and has been away for quite a while. Steadfast in her love, and exuding positivity, she waits for his return. Separation, Expectation, Trust and Belief- are these not the ingredients of Love?

I find Love (literally and figuratively) at its best in many compositions of ILaiyaraaja.

Kaadal kavitaigaL padiththidum neram from Gopura Vaasalile(1991) is one such compositions  and according to me is one of the best Love songs in Indian Film Music. What set the song apart are the ragam, the way it is used, the orchestration, arrangement and the voices of SPB and Chitra.

Based on Mayamalavagowla, a very classical raga known for Bhakti and poingnancy, the song make us float in mid air and most importantly make us fall in love. Though Raaja sir has used this raga ubiquitously and with ease, ‘Kaadal kavithaigaL’ is a classic.

With melody and aesthetics permeating the atmosphere, the composition starts with two sets of strings playing two different sets of notes zestfully and with zeal.If only we do a small exercise of focusing one set and shutting off the other one and then do the same process but this time concentrating on the other one alone, an aural treat is surely guaranteed.

Silk braced with steel. That is what I should say as the Recorder, a wind instrument that sounds like a shrill flute takes over and plays the notes of Mayamalavagowla deftly. The melodically comely flute follows and here too there is a second subtle flute playing a different set of notes simultaneously. The musical equation is amazing indeed! Finally, the euphonic bells smile and give the signal of love leading us to the Pallavi.

The Pallavi starts with the upper ‘Sa’ which itself is rather unusual. The brilliant repetition of ‘dha pa’ in the third and the fourth line(idayam, iLamai, amudam,azhagil) is nectarine and straightaway steals our hearts. The last line speaks volumes of the brilliance of the composer. In Carnatic Music, during the ‘kalpana swara’segment, a trained musician weaves a beautiful pattern whereby the ending swara matches with the first swara in the korvai. This is called as ‘poruththam’. The Carnatic Musician in ILaiyaraaja comes to the fore here as the swaras of the last line are ‘ma pa dha ni’ continuing with ‘Sa ni’the swaras of the first phrase (kaadal).

Isn’t musician a painter too? ILaiyaraaja, the artist sketches the interludes with an unbelievable and yet impeccable dexterity. The outline is drawn first with the keys in the beginning of the first interlude. The lustrous flute follows to the backing of the subtle flute which plays the staccato notes. The guitar responds to the romantic call of the Flute. Moving with a striking melodic force and following a wavy pattern, the strings show the quietistic ripeness of love.The Flute that interjects in the end cries in ecstasy.

The CharaNams are musically very sound with the lines composed with a firmness of purpose. The phrases in the second and the third lines are structured in such a way that the swara in the middle of each phrase starting from the second phrase becomes the beginning swara in the following phrase. It goes like ‘ga ma pa/ma pa dha/pa dha ni/dha ni Sa Ri Sa’.

A close observation suggests that the same set of swaras appear in the end too(the penultimate line has the first three sets only) but it does not sound redundant. The last phrase in the last line ‘dha ni Sa Ri Sa’ matches again with the first phrase of the Pallavi-‘Sa ni’.

The CharaNams are festooned with the alternating strings and flute that complete the taaLa cycle after the second and the fourth lines.

The second interlude glows beautifully like love. It starts with a rhythmically rousing sequence with the percussion sounding ‘taangu taangu tataangu taangu taangu’ which is ta ki ta/ta ki ta/ta ka dhi mi/ta ki ta/ ta ki ta- 3/3/4/3/3, a total of 16 maatraas. Only the first syllable in the tisram(group of three) and the first two syllables in chatushram(group of four) are sounded enhancing the beauty. Even as this goes on for a taaLa cycle of 5 and half, the recorder shines with resplendence giving some mesmeric touches. The half cycle is then completed with the melodic guitar.

The Strings that follow show the lively and leisurely facets of the raga with emotional grandeur. In a way, this by itself typifies the entire composition.

Dimensions of Music..Dimensions of Love..

Friday, 7 February 2014

ILaiyaraaja's Music and Emotions- III-Anger

‘Anger-It is just one letter short of Danger’.

I remember reading this line about 20 years back. Anger numbs our system. The rush of blood during that time has been scientifically and medically proved to be detrimental to our health. Voice becomes shrill,  breath is heavier and body becomes tight. There is no control over what one speaks too.

But is it not natural for a human to get angry and in that case, is it wrong to express oneself? Was it not Mahakavi who said ‘Roudram pazhagu’(loosely translated as ‘Practise aggression’)? Anger is an emotion which when channelized well will lead to positive outcomes. How one uses this is what will distinguish men and the beasts.

History is replete with such instances. Instances where anger, a negative emotion was used as a vehicle to transform the world. If the young lawyer after being thrown out of the first class compartment at the Pietermaritzburg station had chosen to react by attacking, the world would have never seen a Mahatma. If the small boy hailing from Ambavade in Maharashtra had given into the chidings of his peers for being born as a ‘untouchable’ and had stopped going to school, India would have lost a strong leader to speak for the oppressed. If the gentleman born in Hooghly in Bengal had remained immune to the atrocities committed in the name of religion, Brahmo Samaj would not have been formed and that atrocious practice/ritual called Sati would not have been abolished.

These are just some of the happenings where anger was used to bring about positive changes. There have also been exceptions where anger was used as a destructive force but still is not considered negative. On the other hand, we cherish it.

Am I contradicting myself?

Look at this:

The lady throngs the King’s court and shouts with anger. She throws one of her anklets on the floor with venom to prove that her husband-who was hanged to death by the King- was innocent. Does her anger stop here? No. She wants the entire city to pay for it.

My beloved was killed by this city. So, my anger is not unjustified and I will not be a sinner’ saying this  she circumambulates  the city of Madurai thrice, prays and throws her left breast to burn the city’(there is also a version that she threw her left eye and not the breast).

யானமர் காதலன் தன்னைத் தவறிழைத்த
கோநகர் சீறினேன் குற்றமிலேன் யானென்று
இடமுலை கையால் திருகி மதுரை
வலமுறை மும்முறை வாரா அலமந்து
மட்டார் மறுகின் மணிமுலையை வட்டித்து
விட்டாள் எறிந்தாள் விளங்கு இழையாள்

Was this justified? Well, this is not a debating forum and what matters here is the literary value. If not for this incident, would we have got one of the greatest works in world literature ‘Silappadikaaram’?

Anger used destructively and yet earn appreciation and encomiums.

This has happened in music as well. Angered by not attaining salvation, Saint Tyagaraja composed many songs chiding and scolding Rama. He attained salvation and the music world became richer by some outstanding compositions in popular as well as rare ragas.

ILaiyaraaja was given a situation of a lover showing his anger on the Goddess for losing his beloved (who did not die but was taken away by her people). How did Raaja sir depict that anger? First, he chose a raga considered to be soft-in its name as well as in the sound! Next, he used some stupendous swara combinations. The character does not shout.But the swaras seethe with anger.

Poojaikkaaga vaazhum poovai from Kaadal Oviyam (1982) is based on Malayamaarutam(which literally means breeze from the mountain). We not only see the radical but also the musical genius. Let me explain. There are essentially three stayees(octaves) in music, mandra staayee(lower),madhyama staayee(middle) and taara staayee(upper). Generally, songs (classical and film) are composed in the  madhyama staayee and higher octave notes are used by the composer during the course of the composition. However, the mandra staayee is reached by some classical musicians during the ‘aalaap’ and this gives a special colour and flavour to the raga being rendered. It also needs a superb control over the voice, a firm grip on the raga and of course rigorous practice.

If not used wisely, there are chances of its sounding cacophonic. Precisely because of this reason, there are just handful compositions with mandra staayee swaras in film music. It also needs a highly talented singer .In Poojaikkaaga, the mandra staayee swaras are used wisely and also brilliantly made to combine with madhyama stayee and taara staayee swaras to show the anger of the character. Deepan Chakravarty, one of the dynamic and melodious voices in Tamizh Film Music does a fabulous job and renders it with consummate ease.

The speciality of the first line is that except for the starting notes-dha Sa- all other notes are descending(avarohaNam).  And what a beautiful descent it is! Saninidhadhapa twice followed by nidhadhapapaga twice and dhapapagagari once, brilliantly ending with ri sa sa.
The second line is a marvel too with the swara ‘ni’ is juxtaposed between the madhyama stayee sa and the mandra stayee sa. in the beginning after which it is the ascent(avarohaNam) with the swaras starting with the sa either following a beautiful pattern like sa ri ri ga/sa ri ga/ri ga pa/ga pa dha/pa dha dha ni.

The mridangam starting just towards the end of the first aavratanam and the subtle variations in the chatushram pattern in the two lines are hallmarks of the Laya genius. We shall of course see more about Laya Raaja in the interlude and the CharaNams.
Even the graceful Veena is ebullient while the vibrant strings are aggressive in the first interlude. The Flute dazzles and we see a very different Malayamarutam. The strings then move with verve and also mathematically play with the mridangam as
1 2 - -/1 2 - -/1 2 – 4  5  6 7 8.

The first two lines of the CharaNam are full of vim and vigour.The Strings and the Veena follow exuberantly for a full aavartanam.  The following two lines are virtuous with sangatis. The magic starts after this.

The second part of the next two lines-ragasiya raNam and unadarpanam - is in the lower octave with the swara dha. repeating itself 5 times after the ni. .
This is slightly modified in the following line with the lower octave adhu and iru alternating between the two mid octave phrases ponnezhil silai and en vasam ilai..

The toughest and yet most musical part is the next line where the lower octave notes in a group of four are followed by the same notes in mid octave yet again in a group of four –

dha.dha.dha.dha./dha dha dha dha/ ni ni ni

It takes an ascent as it is followed by the mid-octave sa(4 times) and the upper Sa(4 times).

We see a beautiful pattern in the last line too, but this time a laya pattern- ta kit a/ta ka dhi mi ta/ta ki ta/ta ka dhi mi ta/ta kit a/ta ka dhi mi ta/ta ka dhi mi/ta ka dhi mi.

Melodious and Rhythmic anger!