Tuesday, 26 May 2015

ILaiyaraaja- The Ingenious Musician

Are creativity and inventiveness mutually inclusive?

They are not mutually exclusive surely, but is it true that all creative people are inventive as well?

Sometime back, I described the differences between creativity and innovation. Let us now see all the three together.

Creativity is seeing what everyone sees and thinking what no one else has thought before. Invention is putting these thoughts into tangible ideas. Innovation is introducing these ideas to others by different means.

All genuine artistes are creative. But are they inventive too? Isn’t inventiveness a trait of a select few?

Being creative does not necessarily mean being inventive or innovative. On the other hand, to be inventive or innovative, one necessarily has to be creative. A person having all the three in abundance is a great artiste. These three in fact very well apply to management as well and I used the word ‘artiste’ because management is an art.

Now, having these in abundance is one thing. But having these in equal proportions (though these are not tangible and one cannot measure these) is the mark of a genius. Not many can boast of this though.

Bharati was one such genius. If his poetic ability came to him almost naturally, he had the uncanny knack of channelising it and also presenting it. To start with, he simplified poetic Tamizh so that even a common man could understand it. Then, he composed poems in a wide variety of subjects presenting these very differently and in the process gave a new dimension to each and every subject.

As an example, let us take his ‘KaNNan Paattu’. Until then, Aazhwars have had treated KaNNan as their child, guru, lover and god. As ‘lover’ they considered KaNNan as male only and they assumed the role of a ‘nayika’(AandaL anyway was a girl but others like Nammazhwar and Thirumangaiyaazhwar considered themselves as a Heroine pining for the Lord).

Bharati considered KaNNan as his friend, his mother, his father, his servant, his king, his disciple, his guru, his child and his lover. The last two mentioned needs special attention. The child was a girl child –KaNNamma- and the ‘Lover’ was KaNNan first and then ‘KaNNamma’-the female version of KaNNan.

Now, tell me if any poet had thought like this before?

Not only did he think differently but also presented it differently and beautifully.

I am just giving a sample here - some lines from one his very popular KaNNamma poems:

வெண்ணிலவு நீ எனக்கு, மேவு கடல் நான் உனக்கு;

பண்ணு சுதி நீ எனக்கு,பாட்டினிமை நான் உனக்கு; 

வீசுகமழ் நீ எனக்கு, விரியும் மலர் நான் உனக்கு;

பேசுபொருள் நீ எனக்கு, பேணும் மொழி நான் உனக்கு; 

காதடி நீ எனக்கு, காந்தடி நான் உனக்கு;

வேதமடி நீ எனக்கு வித்தையடி நான் உனக்கு; 

You are my Moon, I am your Sea.

You are my Shruti, I am your melody.

You are my fragrance, I am your blossoming flower.

You are my speech, I am your language.

You are my love, I am your magnet.

You are my Vedas, I am your art.’

Can love get better than this? Can a poem be more beautiful than this?

I doubt!           

We have been seeing as to how another genius by name ILaiyaraaja has been enthralling us with his magnificent compositions that shine with creativity, sparkle with inventiveness and smile with innovation. Like Bharati who simplified poetic Tamizh, ILaiyaraaja simplified classical music so that it reached even the common man. But it was done without in anyway compromising on the classicism or the quality of music. That is why, Tamizh writer Jayakanthan, who passed away recently remarked in his documentary that ‘We all respect ILaiyaraaja because he made classical music accessible to all. In a way, Raaja is a socialist’.

This ‘simplified music’ has a lot of complex intricacies too and that is where the inventiveness and innovation come into play.

The song of the day ‘Kalise prati sandhyalo..’ from the Telugu film ‘Aalapana’(1986) is another perfect example. Based on the classical raga Mayamalavagowla, the composition n gives the essence of the raga and also shows its deep beauteous shades in a matter of 4 and a quarter minutes. Apart from inventing new designs in orchestration and presenting the designs innovatively, he has also played with the Laya in his inimitable style keeping the tradition alive.

The composition starts directly without a prelude and this itself has its own attraction. The Pallavi is beautifully structured with the coaxingly gentle voices of SPB and Janaki taking us to a different plane. There are many significant features in the Pallavi itself.

1. The Vocals sing the first phrase ‘kalise’ for one beat and then the instrument play for the next 3 beats. The next phrase ‘Prati Sandhyalo’ is sung for 2 beats and this is again followed by the instrument. That is, in the Adi taaLa cycle, ‘Kalise’ is sung in the first thattu in samam,prati sandhyalo’ is sung in the first veecchu. This happens twice with the next phrases ‘kalige’ and ‘pulakintalo’ following the same pattern. The lines that follow are sung continuously up to the first veechchu (6 beats) with the last veecchu being taken over by the instruments.

2. The instrument-Keys made to sound almost like a Flute- that back the Vocals in the first four lines, go on the ascent (arohaNam) in the first instance and then come down descending (avarohaNam) in the next phrase. A very subtle Violin plays along with the Vocals in the next line ‘Naatyaalanni’ and a special sound from the Keys touches some unique sancharas in Mayamalavagowla. All along, one hears a constant bell sound too.

3.The Mridangam that accompanies plays the chatushramta ka dhi mi’ as ‘ta – dhi mi’ four times and a second Mridangam appears in the fourth ‘ta ka dhi mi’ sounding the ‘ta’ and ‘dhi’ only with a special resonant sound. The constant ‘Chaapu’ sound enhances the experience.

The First Interlude begins and ends with Laya Vinyasa, albeit with two totally different sets of patterns.

The Mridangam and Tabla move with salutary greatness and go as  5, 5, 5, 3, 3, 6, 5 in the first aavartana and then go as 5, 5, 5, 3 3, 6 in the second aavartana. The last 5 is played by the VeeNa and the Sitar. Innovatively inventive!

The combination of VeeNa and the Sitar is another beauty here as both weave tassels of swaras for the next two aavartanas. The Flute takes over and plays with felicitous fluidity for the next two aavartanas.The Santoor intercepts after every 3 beats in the first cycle and the Sitar-VeeNa combination intercepts at the same interval in the next cycle. The beauty here is that each time a different set of swaras is played showing the depth of creativity of the composer.

The second part of the Laya Vinyaasa follows now.

The Mridangam first plays a yati. Yati is a structure with arrangement of aksharaas/syllables in a specific pattern. Here it goes in the ascending order as 4, 4, 5, 7. This yati is called as the Srotas Yati. It then follows 6, 4, 5, 5, 5, 4, 5, 5, 5. A total of 64 in two cycles but following very different patterns.

The innovation continues in the CharaNam though in a different way. The first segment has Janaki singing the ‘akaaram’ for two beats after each line with each ‘akaaram’ being different.

In the next segment, the Flute plays after each line-yet again different sets of swaras.

One hears the Mridangam alone in the next segment while the last segment has the akaaram alone- first by Janaki for half aavartana followed by SPB and Janaki in the next half aavartana and need I say two different akaarams sung in perfect harmony?

The Second Interlude sees some beautiful harmonic progression. The VeeNa first glides gracefully. The succulent Sitar joins in the next aavartana. Even as this is on, the Flute joins and plays exactly the same swaras played by the VeeNa. The Santoor joins after half-aavartana and plays the swaras played by the Sitar. Like a silent observer and a karma-yogi, the ankle-bell keeps backing all the instruments throughout the interlude.  

A collage of melody indeed!

The VeeNa and Sitar continue to show the resplendent shades of the raga with vigour and vibrancy with the immaculate Flute interjecting now and then. Finally, the three join together, weave a small ‘teermaanam’ akin to the one done towards the end of a swara-singing segment in a Carnatic Music Concert.

Creativity, Innovation and Inventiveness in abundance and in right proportions..drenching us with classical melody.

Do we need anything more?

Check this out on Chirbit