Friday, 8 August 2014

Laya Raaja - 5

தாளம் தாளம் தாளம்

தாளம் போனால் தாளம் போனால் தாளம் போனால்

கூளம் கூளம் கூளம்!

TaaLam TaaLam TaaLam

TaaLam ponaal TaaLam ponaal

KooLam KooLam KooLam!

Thus sang the Mahakavi. KooLam’ literally means garbage. As always, he hits the nail on its head by saying if the rhythm goes, it is nothing but garbage. This applies to the rhythm in music and in life too.

About a couple of days back, I was watching the webcast of a TaaLa ensemble. The two young vidwans announced that they were going to play a taaLam which by all means will be unique. Unique because it had the 5 nadais/gatis (refer Laya Raaja-1 for more information on nadais) in the same taaLam and went like this:

Ta ki ta/ ta ka dhi mi/ta ka ta ki ta/ ta ka dhi mi ta ki ta /ta ka dhi mi ta ka ta ki ta/ ta ka dhi mi/ta ka dhi mi/ta ka dhi mi/ta ka dhi mi.

After reading the 4 earlier posts, I am sure you must now be familiar with the aforementioned syllables. In any case, let me define those again.

First part: Tisram(3)/Chatushram(4)/Khandam(5)/Misram(7)/SankeerNam(9)

Second Part: Chatushram(4)/Chatushram(4)/Chatushram(4)/Chatushram(4)

Therefore a total of 44 aksharaas which is again sub divided as 88 maatras.

The two youngsters played a korvai and teermanam based on this TaaLam for about 15 minutes with the TaaLam being kept by another vidwan whose responsibility was twice than that of the vidwans who were performing. Now, if only the vidwan keeping the TaaLam had slipped even once somewhere, the entire exercise would have fallen flat. And the ‘TaaLa Gopuram’ would have become  KooLa Gopuram’. Thankfully, this did not happen.

If you-especially people not that familiar with carnatic music or the TaaLas- ask me an obvious question- ‘As vidwans, are they not expected to keep TaaLam perfectly, what is the big deal about this’, here is my answer. ‘Yes, they are vidwans but the difference between a set taaLam(as per text book) and this innovative novel taaLam is that thing called familiarity. Putting one after the other (3,4,5,7,9) is like walking on a well oiled rope holding a balance with both the hands’.

In the previous 4 posts, we saw as to how ILaiyaraaja has played with the TaaLas with each composition being different with varied patterns and concepts. Today’s composition is unique too. The previous two compositions (Laya Raaja - 3 and 4)  followed  a particular TaaLa though the way the maatraas were divided to construct the Pallavi and CharaNams was different while the first one(Laya Raaja- 1) had cross-rhythm and the second one(Laya Raaja- 2) followed two different gatis in the CharaNams.

The song of the day does not fall under any of the aforementioned categories. It does follow a taaLa pattern but is free flowing mainly in the vocals section and in the end (of the Pallavi and the CharaNams), the TaaLa cycle gets completed. No, this is not a TaaLa like what was conceived by the vidwans but is just a simple Chatushra Ekam with 4-beats/cycle. But the difference is that the vocals are not restricted by the aavartana since it flows freely. Added to this is the percussion which draws a different pattern in chatushram and does not follow the pattern of the vocals.

There are more features too in this song Kottunga Kottunga from Raajavin Paarvaiyile(1995) and let us see these one by one. It requires a brilliant mind to conceive the idea alone. And a very firm grip over taaLa and of course mathematics to implement it. Let me tell you that he has walked wearing a pair of skating shoes on the oiled rope which is tied between two buildings and is hung in mid air.

The beginning (if one can call this as prelude) is in ateeta eduppu. Generally in his compositions, the Pallavi will be in ateeta/anaagata eduppu and not the prelude itself. The clapping of hands (kummi) indicates the samam. For 15 aavartanas, only this-the clapping of hands- acts as the percussion. The percussion starts in the third beat of the 16th aavartana-kottunga kottunga kottunga kummi kummi- and the vocals follow 3, 3, 4, 3, 3 (the third kottunga is 4 because of the extension of ‘ga’ in kottunga). This goes on for 5 aavartanaas and then the real Pallavi starts.

The Pallavi starts in the third beat of the aavartanam and the entire Pallavi is like this:

Kummi(2) Kottunga(3) Kottunga(3) Kottungadi(6) Kaadalukku(6) Vaazhthu Cholli(6) Paadungadi(12)

KaigaL(2) thattunga(3) thattunga(3) thattungadi(6)kaN kuLirum(6)

 poo paRiththu(6) podungadi(12)

irusiRu(4) idhayangaL(4) siRagai(3) virikkave(5)

kottunga(3) kottunga(3) kummigaL(3) kottunga(3) diii(4)

kanavilum(4)ninaivilum(4) kavithai(3) padikkave(5)

kottunga(3) kottunga(3) kummigaL(3) kottunga(3) diii(4)

kathaikathaiyaam(6) karaNamaam(6) kaaraNaththil(6) kaadhalaraam(6)


A total of 176 maatras.

The total no. of aavartanaas  of Chatushra ekam is 22. So, when we multiply this by 4, we get 88(aksharaas) which is exactly half of 176. Please also note that Vaazhga ends exactly on the second beat of the 22nd cycle.

The difference between a normal composition  and this is that while the lines in the former will follow the aavartana, the latter does not follow that with lines starting in samam/after 2 beats/after 1 beat. And yet, it is set to a TaaLa.

Disobediently obedient!

Next feature is the pattern of the percussion.

Throughout the Pallavi, the percussion follows

 ta ki ta/ta ki ta/ta ka/ta ka dhi mi/ ta ka dhi mi 

This of course is in Chatushram but gives a totally different feel because of the variance in pattern between the vocals and this.

These two features- free flowing vocals and percussion drawing a different pattern- are seen in the entire composition

The first interlude follows ta ka dhi mi ta ka dhi mi/ta ki  ta ta ki  ta ta ka while the Tabla shows the different tekkaas in ta ka dhi mi sounding different in each and every ta ka dhi mi.

Let us now focus on the melody part where again there are some unique features.

The composition is based on Kalyani. .

The prelude sans instruments is very different. The third time ‘Kottunga kottunga..’ is repeated, another set of chorus sings a typical folksy humming simultaneously. Melody and Harmony go together as we hear the ‘ta na naa naa’ and ‘Kummi Kummi’ together. The pleasant flute now and then make the folksy experience complete. The strings going up and down energetically in the next part when the percussion joins is entrancing.

The first interlude shines with manifold beauties not the least because of the sustenance of notes. In the first part, we have only the percussion. In the next part, first we have the affable keys. This is followed by the subtle bass. Then it is the turn of the resplendent flute. The note from the keys is sustained throughout the flute bit too. In the third part, we have different keys with the subtle bass.

The Harmony continues in the CharNams too with the voice superimposed even as the line is extended with a ‘yekaaram’. Upper octave notes are touched in the lines that follow and finally the CharaNam is wound up with the ‘okaaram’

Classical KalyaNi comes to the fore in the second interlude as the flute plays with a rich tone. It moves, coils and winds up with a smile.

 The entire composition is a combination of melodic/harmonic delicacies and rhythmic intricacies..

Doesn’t it deserve a million kummies!!

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