Sunday, 14 February 2016

ILaiyaraaja - The Prepossessing Musician

However subjective this may sound, it is an irrefutable fact that we have positive and great feelings towards some people, many times without any reason and at times with a lot of reasons.

The last part is questionable though. Can we like somebody without any reason? Are their things in this world which defy logic and reasoning? But generally it is said that Love happens and one cannot and need not analyse the causes. This might sound strange but people in love find even minute things about the other person interesting and also interpret things the way they want to interpret.

Take this verse for example:

பாண்டிலின் வைத்த ஓர் பாவை தன்னோடும்
ஈண்டிய அன்பினன் ஏகுவான், இடைக்
காண்டலும்,நோக்கிய கடைக்கண் அஞ்சனம்
ஆண்டகைக்கு இனியதோர் அமுத மாயதே.

The man follows his lady love who, from a vehicle (probably a bullock cart) darts fleeting glances at him. But can you guess what makes him feel ecstatic?

It is the ‘kaajal’ which decorates her eyes. He feels the ‘kaajal’ is nectar because it is this which makes her glances special. It is this which gives that loving expression. It is this which ‘confirms’ her love!

I wouldn’t be surprised if some found this silly. But in my opinion, it is the height of poetic expression. A tiny dark paste which occupies very little space, gives the lover uncontrollable joy and makes him give it a colour -literally and figuratively.

Kaajal as a metaphor!

Who else other than Kamban could have thought like this and also used such beautiful and apt words (  ஈண்டிய அன்பினன் for example, meaning ‘full of love’)?

That is why, Kamban is liked by many.

So now, we have two extreme cases. One, the lover, who likes somebody without any reason and two, the poet who created this character and is loved by many with a lot of reasons.

Is there a contradiction here?

Rather than answering this now, let me ask a simple question. 

What makes us love ILaiyaraaja and his music?

This too will not be answered by me now and I would rather look at the song of the day first.

Thangachangili minnum paingiLi’ from ‘Thooral Ninnu Pochchu’(1982) oozes with romance. Based on that grand raaga called KiravANi, the composition has many intricately carved patterns both in the Pallavi and CharaNams and also is full of amazing sounds from traditional and modern instruments.. Most importantly, the bass guitar which seems imperceptible and yet is perceptible.

What strikes one the most is the different structure of the Prelude/Pallavi. The song starts with the rendering of the first line by Janaki. And what a rendering it is-not just here but throughout the song. It is somewhere between a whisper and a mid-tone. The voice of Malaysia Vasudevan too is slightly different and is full of romantic passion.

The music which follows, weaves a stimulating web. The caressing and mellifluent strings respond to the gentle and firm guitar in a unique way.This beguilingly beautiful piece is followed by the keys which show some beauteous niches of KiravaNi to the backing of percussion in chatushram. What follows is even more beautiful, with the dainty flute and the smooth strings flirt with each other with disdain.

The Pallavi starts now and what is intriguing here is the presence of only one swara ‘sa’ in the first four phrases. However, the next two phrases with the ‘ri’, ‘ga’ and the mandra stayee ‘ni’ are enough to establish KiravANi. The last line is a clincher-though the other two lines are great as well- with the first three phrases moving in a group of 3 and going like a curve. The ‘group of 3’ follows a pattern too with one swara appearing twice in each group. Just see this patternpadhadha mapapa gamama’ and you will know what I saying. The last phrase reminds one of a typical carnatic concert as it goes descending –ga ri sa

Aesthetic creativity!

Water gushing out from the opened sluices.. This is how I can describe the first interlude. The strings soothe and stir. The expressive flute traverses deeply showing some glorious colours of the raaga in the process. The keys follow with precision outlining some poignant shades, with the subtle strings backing them. The special sound keys coruscate and take us to the first charaNam.

The CharaNams are full of chiseled phrases but what lends it the magical quality is the first phrase where the taara Sa(higher octave sa) appears suddenly after the ‘pa’.  The third and the last lines are special too with the former having swaras in groups of 3(yet again) and the latter having a sangati in the first phrase extending the swara ‘dha’ and goes descending in the last phrase touching mandra stayee swaras.

It is Laya Raaja in the second interlude. It first starts with a percussive fusillade of a folk percussion which plays the chatushram as

Ta- ki- ta – /ta –/ dhi taa – ta/ ta ka dhi mi
6               / 2    /  4              /   4

After two avartanaas, the special sounding keys join the percussion  and take rapid strides. The graciously charming keys join after two aavartanas and nodding their heads in appreciation, play the rhythmic pattern melodically and meticulously. Not to be left behind this in this rhapsody, the imperious flute enters smoothly and repeats the pattern. The keys are joined by the strings and both shine with an iridescent glow.

Is there a reason for liking ILaiyaraaja and his music?

Yes and No..

Yes because of the unparalleled melody and intricacies. No, because there is something more than that which cannot be described... the kaajal on the eyes.

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