Wednesday, 14 January 2015

ILaiyaraaja- The Persipicacious Musician

Everything in this world is meaningful. If we cannot find the meaning, there is surely something wrong somewhere. No, I am not talking about difficult words and dictionaries. It is about each and every happening in the world and concomitantly in our life. The link between a happening and why it is happening is hidden most of the times resulting in our cursing everything and everybody-mainly things and people we don’t like.

But Nature’s Law is such that any effect is because of a cause. I don’t want to list out things here and just quote one example from Nature and move on.

In fact, in my post on ‘Aa KaNulalo’  (ILaiyaraaja-The Perspicacious Musician posted on the 3rd of March ), I had said about the formation of clouds and subsequently quoted a Thiruppaavai.

Now, let me go to the next step in the process and ask ‘why does it rain?

Even a school boy or girl will be able to say the answer: ‘Warm air turns the water from rivers, lakes, and oceans into water vapour that rises into the air forming clouds. As these clouds rise higher, the air gets colder, the water vapour in the clouds becomes very heavy  and therefore falls back to the earth as rain.’

This is of course basic science but can one miss the philosophy in this?

Water from the Earth comes back to the Earth after undergoing a process.

Now, for a moment let us see what happens if the law/rule is flouted (isn’t this common in our country anyway?) and the clouds decide to hold back the water?

The great poet ThiruvaLLuvar thought about this 2000 years back and said ‘ If only this happened, even the mighty ocean would lose its value’

நெடுங்கடலும் தன்நீர்மை குன்றும் தடிந்து எழிலி

தான் நல்காது ஆகி விடின்.

Though it appears to be a verse on the rain in general, there is more to it than meets the eye. Consider the Ocean as the Universe, the water vapour as great virtues and the clouds as people who have these virtues. 

If people who have, fail to share it with the ones who need it, the Universe begins to lose its riches and value. Then why blame the Nature for the calamities when the fault lies with us.

Here too, doesn’t one see the Cause and Effect?

People like ThiruvaLLuvar were however like the natural cloud which never fails to give back. ThiruvaLLuvar had talent in abundance. He channelised his talent and energy and composed 1330 verses solely in the interest of mankind. Since it was done with a determination and with a disciplined focus, the verses are still alive and are being quoted by people across the globe.

Though he did keep the verses short, he never compromised on the poetic beauty. He was flamboyant too and occasionally indulged in word play. But here too, he did it meaningfully with the result that not only was the verse meaningful but also it was beautiful.  The verseதுப்பார்க்கு துப்பாய துப்பாக்கித் துப்பார்க்குத் துப்பாய தூஉமழை’ is an example. Since I had already explained this verse in one of my old My Journey posts in the previous community, I am not getting into this now. All I can say is that whatever he did, he did it with a basis and for a cause.

Same is the case with ILaiyaraaja. With his abundant knowledge and natural talent, he has been consistently giving us some extra ordinary compositions and taking us to greater heights. At the same time, he has experimented with some new ragas- ragas not used by any musician- and has mesmerised us too. What is great about this is that he has done this with sound reasoning and with an objective.

For example, take the case of ‘Thogai ILamayil aadi varugudhu’ from ‘PayaNangaL Mudivathillai’ (1982). Most of you know the sequence in the movie. The lead character, a person with a great voice but without any recognition at last gets an opportunity to showcase his talent. Now, how should the tune be? In a raga considered to be auspicious? That is what ILaiyaraaja does. The prelude and the Pallavi are in Hamsadhwani. But hang on. What is that alien swaradha1’ in the last line of the Pallavi? Is it an accidental note? Doesn’t it appear in the interludes and in the CharaNams as well? Then how can it be a case of the rather usual ‘alien note creeping in in a film song’?

What ILaiyaraaja has done here is something unique. The raga which has ‘sa ri2 ga3 pa dha1 ni3’ is a raga called TharaLam and is a janya of Sarasangi. There are no known classical compositions in this raga. The Master wanted to welcome the singer with the traditional Hamsadhwani first. He found his story to be unique (in a way reminiscent of his own). ‘So, why not use an unknown raga’, he must have thought and must have added the ‘dha1’. This in effect gives a mystic feel to the composition as a whole. He does not stop with this alone. He conceals some swaras in a piece in the first interlude and in a segment in the CharaNams to make it sound like another raga, a morning raga at that. After all, is it not a new dawn for the singer?

Let us look at all these now one by one .

The soft, sedate and the subtle Flute sounds like a cuckoo. The Guitar and the Bass Guitar move with pulsating weight giving a short pause for two beats in between before leading to the Pallavi.

The Pallavi is finely etched with the mandra sthayi(lower octave) ni3. and ‘pa.’ mingling beautifully with madhyama sthayi(mid-octave) swaras of Hamsadhwani. The Guitar piece appearing for just one beat at the end of the first and the second lines, sounds refreshingly beautiful. The change in the Chatushram pattern in the third line with the percussion sounding only the ‘ta ka’ gives it a different shade while the introduction of ‘dha1’ in the last line (kalyaaNam) changes the complexion totally.

The first interlude sees a melodic progression. The specially sounding Guitar sounds with precision. The percussion sounds ‘ta ka dhi mi’ in mel kaalam. Yet another Guitar sounds sustained notes with panache. And this rather funny sound appears four times-first as response to the powerful phrasings of Electric Guitar and later as a reply to the melodic Keys. The Keys then go on a trip with intuitive impulses.

A kind of magic awaits us then. The Flute plays the swaras ‘pa dha1 pa’ and have the contours of Bowli, the morning raga. The intense Bass Guitar welcomes this new dawn and then combines with the Guitar to guide us to the first CharaNam.

The CharaNams are inundated with rich, imaginative and innovative ideas.

The first and the third lines have the swaras of Hamsadhwani only while the second and the fourth lines go to TharaLam after the Hamsadhwani trademark ‘pnSGR’ appearing in the beginning..The first four lines are adorned with the stately Sitar. The fifth line is rather long but what follows then is magical again.

The following line has mainly the ‘pa dha1 pa’ ‘ga pa dha pa’ and ‘ga pa’ giving it the Bowli flavour yet again. The laya pattern is interesting too (as ever) with the Chatushram going in mel kaalam as

4 - - 4  6  4  4  4  4’ with the ‘-‘ indicating a gap.

The last line has 4ta ka dhi mi’ s in keezh kaalam with the swaras going as janta(two) in the first twota ka dhi mi’ s and as three in the following twota ka dhi mi’s.

The rhythmic mobility continues in the second interlude as well with the percussion alternating between mel kaalam and keezh kaalam first and then alternating between playing  and keeping quiet even as the rapturous Sitar plays some intricate phrases. The percussion maintains a stoic silence again when the Strings dazzle in Western Classical mode and shows up when the Sitar is back with the Strings playing just for one beat. It is mel kaala chatushram in full flow for 2 cycles. It suddenly changes to Tisram first in keezh kaalam (4 Tisrams-one per each beat) and then in keezh kaalam (8 Tisrams-two per beats). The Flute plays some leisurely oscillations to provide a contrast.

Cause and Effect- Is it melodic or philosophical?

It is for you to decide…