Wednesday, 3 August 2016

ILaiyaraaja- The Playful Musician

Of all the senses humans have (and this includes the perceived sixth sense), the most significant and effective sense is Sense of Humour.

People can wriggle out of a tough situation just because of this sense. A very tense situation can be made to look very simple using this sense. This sense not only makes us laugh at ourselves without any inhibitions but also makes others laugh (at themselves/at the situation). Humour acts at the physical, mental and emotional level and therefore at the spiritual level too. If this statement sounds funny, think. What is spirituality without the body, mind and emotions being in coordination? Most importantly, what is spirituality without positive feelings? In fact, one who is not positive can never be spiritual and one who is spiritual is always positive. What better way to get positive feeling than that sense of humour? So, next time you come across a person who calls himself/herself as spiritual, check if that person has this sense.

Unlike popularly believed, poets and artistes too have sense of humour, though the degree and the way they express this, varies. For some, it pours out as sarcasm. For example, Mahakavi used sarcasm in some of his poems, especially the ones where he derided the British rule. For example - Oi thilkare namma jaathikku adukkumo- in the same style as ‘Oi nandanaare namma jaathikkadukkumo’..

 In my earlier posts here 2 years back, I covered Humour as an emotion in two different posts and quoted two poems –one by Avvaiyar and the other by Kavi KALamegam. It is one more poem of the latter that I am quoting now. He was called as ‘sledai kavi’(சிலேடை ) because of his natural ability to compose poems  with words which give two or more meanings(all poems can be interpreted in more than two ways but this is different).

Look at this poem:

காக்கைக்கா காகூகை கூகைக்கா காகாக்கை
கோக்குக்கூ காக்கைக்குக் கொக்கொக்க - கைக்கைக்குக்
காக்கைக்குக் கைக்கைக்கா கா.

For the benefit of people who cannot read Tamizh, I am giving it in English:

Kaakkaikaa Kaakoogai Koogaikka Kaakaakkai
Kokkukkoo Kaakkaikku Kokkokka-KaiKaikku
Kaakkaikku Kaikkaaikkaa Kaa.

I can already sense the smile on your faces. So, is this some kind of a blabber written just for fun?

Let us see the meaning:

Kaakkai’ means Crow and ‘Koogai’ means Owl. The crow cannot defeat the owl nor can the owl defeat the crow. This is because a crow cannot see in the night while an owl’s vision is zero during the day. Likewise, a smart king should be like the crane (kokku) which relentlessly and patiently waits for the fish. Otherwise, even if he is strong, he cannot save his kingdom.

This verse shows the sense of humour of the poet, but it also shows his brilliance. Note that he has used only variants of the letter ‘க‌ ‘(ka).

Just an example of a genius with a great sense of humour..

That the musical genius ILaiyaraaja is also endowed with a great sense of humour is not known to many-especially people who criticize him at the drop of a hat. As mentioned earlier, I discussed two different songs in the year 2014 , though there are many more.

Isn’t it time then to take up yet another song which has one in splits even if he/she does not understand Tamizh?

There are many reasons for ‘Kaadal Kasakkudaiah’ from ‘AaN Paavam’(1985) sounding humorous. The wordings seem to have a dig at what is called as ‘Love’ but in reality it only praises Love after marriage. The way the entire song is rendered by the Master himself and the way he has done the arrangement and orchestration speak volumes of his humourous sense. But what the most striking aspect the raga on which the tune  is based.

In Carnatic Music, though all ragas are classical, some are more classical. If I sound Orwellian, it maybe because of the reason that I like Animal Farm, but this is immaterial and irrelevant now. .What is relevant however is the fact that Shanmukhapriya is one such raga which falls under the ‘more classical’ category. Somehow, the Maestro has always been very fascinated by this raga. Yes, many ragas fascinate him but the reason for my saying this is because he has composed many ‘kiNdal’ songs in this raga.  ‘PoNNu Paarkka’(AvaL Oru pachchikuzhandai), ‘Vengaaya Saambarum’(Panneer PushpangaL), ‘Ammaadi chinnapaappa’(IndRu Poi NaaLai Vaa), ‘Vettu Vedippom’(ANNe ANNe), ‘Ooru Vittu Ooru Vandhu’(Karakattakkaran) are some examples of this. But what is more amazing is the fact that the classicism of the raga was never compromised.

Kaadal kasakkudiah’ is probably doubly special because it was he who rendered it.

The prelude is a collage of rhythm. In fact, it has only the different percussion instruments playing variegated patterns in chatushram. The mridangam with its unique resonance plays the 16 micro beats for one cycle with kaarvai in the beginning. The unique sound of mugarsing(or morsing as it is popularly known) follows in the next cycle. The kanjira breaks the 4 into 16 as ta ki ta/ ta ki ta/ta ka/ta ki ta/ta ki ta/ ta ka(3, 3, 2/3, 3, 2).

The following cycle sees the wondrous combination of the synth sound and the drums with the former striking only the first syllable and the latter playing the chatushram in mel kaalam. The mridangam and tabla play all the syllables in the next cycle. But what follows is interesting again. These play as ta ka ta ki ta/ta ka ta ki ta/ta ka dhi mi/ta- 5/5/4/2. Two khandams, one chatushram and one two.. After all, this is what one expects from ‘L’ Raaja(if you think ‘L’ is for love, you are thoroughly mistaken).

So, with the rhythm setting the right tone, the Pallavi bubbles with energy..

The gliding gracefulness cannot be missed. It starts with the upper ‘Ga’ and goes down like ‘Ga Ri Sa ni dha pa dha ma’. A beautiful innovation indeed!

The swaras-pa dha ni- give the signature of the raga, and the sangati in the last line and the descent/ascent in the last phrase show the beautiful facets of the raga. The raga’s name itself suggests it is multifaceted and if it is handled by a multi faceted musician, do we need to say that the experience will be exhilarating?
Another wonderful aspect of the Pallavi is the use of jaalra and a subtle violin backing the vocals. It is ‘L’ Raaja again when the percussion thunders with the third syllable of chatushram in every cycle.

The shehnai plays with ecstasy in the first interlude weaving tassels of swaras of Shanmukhapriya in the process. In between, the guitar responds briefly. It takes over after the shehnai-which by now has drawn a lovely sketch of the raga- and moves with an impish giggle. The shrill flute like sound guides us to the first CharaNam.

The lines in the first CharaNam move with humourous gait albeit classically. The most classical lines are the ones which start with ‘Theatreile..’ and the last two lines. In fact, the last line is like a typical classical swaraprastaram.

Contrast this with the way ‘Kaadal Kasakkudaiah’ is rendered after this and before the second interlude. Marvellously humourous!

The second interlude sees some nice exchanges between the various instruments. First the guitar along with the bass guitar chortles. It does this 4 times and each time, a different set gives repartee. To start with, it is the mridangam. Next is the synth percussion. And finally it is the flute twice, playing different sets of swaras each time. Yet another guitar titters now. It is then the turn of the shehnai. This very classical instrument simpers with the guitar and the flute sniggering and guffawing.

The momentum is maintained in the second CharaNam whose structure is different from that of the first one. Each line(starting with the 5th line) parodies an old song mentioning the respective name of the hero each time. The genius shows his class here too by using the same swaras of the originals songs(‘Manmada leelaiyai’, ‘Nadaiya’,’Hello Hello Sugama’) though each one is based on a different raga. After all, music is universal.

Music is lighter too…
..or is it?

Check this out on Chirbit