Wednesday, 30 December 2015

ILaiyaraaja - The Humanist

Oh! The all pervasive Supreme!! Grant me the Divine Grace to consider all souls as my own.
Oh! The all pervasive Supreme!! When will I serve those who serve others with compassion? 
Oh! The all pervasive Supreme!!Wherever I see, is it not You who is there in each and every soul?
Oh! The all pervasive Supreme!! All I wish is everyone in this world should be happy and blissful; and nothing else do I know other than this.

எவ்வுயிரும் என்னுயிர்போல் எண்ணி யிரங்கவும்நின்
தெய்வ அருட்கருணை செய்யாய் பராபரமே.
தம்முயிர்போல் எவ்வுயிருந் தானென்று தண்ணருள்கூர்
செம்மையருக் கேவலென்று செய்வேன் பராபரமே.
எங்கெங்கே பார்த்தாலும் எவ்வுயிர்க்கும் அவ்வுயிராய்
அங்கங் கிருப்பதுநீ அன்றோ பராபரமே.
எல்லாரும் இன்புற் றிருக்க நினைப்பதுவே
அல்லாமல் வேறொன் றறியேன் பராபரமே.

These are some of the hymns of ThAyumAnavar, one of the great scholars who lived during the 18th Century. Though his verses are part of the Saiva Siddhanta, the very fact that these ooze with compassion shows that he was a human being in the truest sense. He was one of those who believed that Love is God.

I got reminded of his verses recently not while visiting any temple but during the recent infamous rains and floods in Chennai and most parts of Tamizh Nadu. Cutting across caste, religion, class, creed, people braved the monstrous rain and treacherous ‘roads’ to help others in need. In fact, these people were affected too but little did they mind that. What was uppermost in their minds was to ‘see others happy’. I doubt if these people have read ThAyumAnavar or were even aware of the existence of such a human being/scholar/poet. But the synergy between them and ThAymAnavar is striking and deserves to be saluted.

ThAyumAnavar’s wishes were fulfilled because there was a selfless purpose in these. And this is what should be a major objective of literature and any form of fine arts.
There is no disputing the fact that Music-one of the forms of fine arts- not only elevates people to reach the Divine State but also acts s a unifying force. Music calms the mind. Music helps us in seeing things in the right perspective. Music makes us compassionate. Music makes us love others.

That is why, genuine musicians have that social responsibility. No better proof is needed for this than ILaiyaraaja himself. With his compositions -which flow into him and through him spontaneously, he has made us all calm and has also given us all a sense of responsibility. Is this enough?

No’ said the citizen in him. ‘I want to follow what I preach’, he told himself and went around the city to help the needy. What was great in this gesture was the fact that he chose to stay away from limelight- even shooing the media away. After all, does he not know the real meaning of selflessness and true relationships?
Incidentally, the song of the day talks about relationships not just between human beings but also between nature and the human beings. Set in pure Harikambhoji, the composition is yet another marvel from the genius. The most significant aspect of the composition is that it stays loyal to the grammar of the ragam. Here it must be noted that handling Harikambhoji-the 28th meLa ragam- is not very easy even in classical concerts simply because it has many derived ragas and a slip here or there could lead to any of its more popular ‘janya ragas’(for example, Khamas and Kambhoji). It is surely akin to walking on a tight rope.

But Raaja sir comes up trumps here. Let me also tell you that Harikambhoji is found in folk music and also in ‘Tamizhisai’-where it is known by the name SempAlai PaN. There have been a lot of film songs too in this scale composed by MSV sir too. But what sets ‘Pazhamudir cholai’ from ‘Varusham 16’(1989) apart is the way one sees the classical contours almost throughout. The use of ‘mandra stayee’(lower octave) swaras in the first CharaNam and the two CharaNams being structured differently are some of the highlights of this song which has not too many instruments in the prelude and interludes.

The composition starts with the humming of Yesudass which in fact reflects the happy state of a young man in love with nature. This continues for 5 cycles of chatushra ekam-with a beautiful lower octave rendering in the 5th cycle. The strings join in the 6th cycle even as Yesudass continues to hum.  With majestic grace, the guitar enters in the 7th cycle and plays the notes of the Pallavi with an uncanny ease. As this happens, the strings play a counter melody in higher octave making the experience rather enticing.

The Pallavi in anaahata eduppu-starting after ½ mAtrA- is a composer’s delight with higher octave swarasSa and Ri- sandwiched between the mid octave swaras in the first two lines and the repetition of one swara(s) in the second part of the third and fourth lines-ma in the former and ga in the latter. The podi sangati in the last line glimmers like a diamond going Ga Ri Sa ni dha pa ma ga.

Classical treat!

The first interlude sounds simple but it has a lot of melodic intricacies with the felicitous harmonium and the flute-which joins later- traversing the length and breadth of the raga and creating sensitive impulses. The banter between the melodic instruments and the percussion (tabla) is a musical treat.

The prayogas in the first CharaNam ennoble the raga itself. If the sudden appearance of the lower octave in the third and the sixth line is charming, the ga pa Sa Sa phrases in the seventh and the eighth lines add that dash of romance. 
The use of same swaras for the last phrase in the Pallavi(OrAyiram) and the last phrase in the first CharaNam(KoNdAduthe) shows the organised and logical mind of the composer.

There is a touch of tenderness in the whistle-like instrument and in the bass guitar in the beginning of the second interlude. The strings then lay a royal path with a red carpet with a soft, delicate and caressing melody. The mridangam which appears along with the tabla towards the end gives us an indication as to what lies in store.

Classical Harikambhoji is in full flow with beautiful prayogas like ga ma pa dha ni dha ni pa in mid-octave and Ga Ma Ga Ri Sa in upper octave. Laya Raaja is in full flow too dividing the chatushram as 4, 5, 3, 2, 2 in the beginning and also breaking it into 32 mAtrAs in the end-in ati mel kaalam. A beautiful relationship between the raga and the tALA.

True relationships can never be broken because the Sky will never tear..
..even if it water pours down ceaselessly!