Thursday, 31 December 2009


Poetry is a very beautiful thing indeed!

In fact, our life itself is poetic.

Coming to think of it, there is a close relationship between poetry, music, nature and life.

Sometime back I had written in my other Blog Ragaranjani
‘’Whenever we read something beautiful, we say it is poetic.
Whenever we hear something great, we say it is musical.

But we also use these expressions whenever we undergo a great experience…
We say ‘The journey was Musical’ or ‘The valley is poetic’.

At times we also say that the Music is so poetic or that the Poem is so Musical..

This is because there is a Connoisseur in all of us!’’

For some people, this ‘connoisseur’ is dominant.

They see poetry in all forms.

They feel music everywhere.

This is what Bharati was. He saw the almighty in everything. So poetic and of course philosophical was his outlook that even while touching the fire, he felt the pleasure of touching the God(‘TheekkuL viralai vaiththaal Nandalala, Ninnai TheeNdum Inbam Thondruthaiyya Nandalala’).

Another great poet Rabindranath Tagore describes a flower:

‘Pluck this little flower and take it, delay not!
I fear lest it droop and drop into the dust.

I may not find a place in thy garland, but honour it with a touch of
pain from thy hand and pluck it.

I fear lest the day end before I am
aware, and the time of offering go by.

Though its colour be not deep and its smell be faint, use this flower
in thy service and pluck it while there is time.’

Bharati and Tagore.

South and the East!
But look how poetic their approach to life was.

Such people are born to make mortals like us also feel poetic.

Another gentleman who is a living legend and who can be considered on par with Bharati and Tagore sees music everywhere.
To him even silence is musical.

Long back, he was asked as to what his most favourite instrument is.

Without any hesitation, he said the Tanpoora. Unable to comprehend what the Maestro meant, the interviewer-a cynic, who considered himself to be an authority in Carnatic Music and Dance- later ridiculed this.

There is indeed nothing to beat the drone of the Tanpoora. Only people who feel music everywhere can understand this.

At times, I have even wondered as to what makes his compositions so special.

Though there are a variety of reasons, I feel that his propensity and proclivity to appreciate nature is the main reason. And for this, we must all thank his rural upbringing.

If only he was born in Madras or even Madurai.......
He would have become a musician but I doubt if his music would have had this much of impact on all of us..

On this day as we step into a new year, let us look at one of his most beautiful compositions that sees the beauty of a village through the eyes of a city-bred young girl.

Generally,one would expect a folk melody for this situation(though this kind of a situation itself is a rarity in the present day movies!).

But the Emperor of Film Music has composed the song in a pure Carnatic Ragam, Madhyamavathi.

The song is ‘Solaikkuyile’from ‘Ponnu Oorukku Pudhusu(1979).

This was also S.P.Shailaja’s first song for Raaja.

The song starts with a beautiful humming that is deep and crisp..

The musical piece that follows make us jump from our seats. The mesmerising flute transports us to a village effortlessly. The prelude winds up with a short piece that encapsulates Madhyamavati.

Musical images of a village!

The short Pallavi is delightful and prepares us for the treat.

The first interlude makes us see the wonderful vistas of the village as the flute plays with lucidity and fluidity.
The different rhythmic patterns in Tisram show us how musical the nature is.
The guitar piece is appealing and reveals the ravenous beauty of the place.

The vibrant end piece sustains the glory of the musical village.

The CharaNam is a dexterous display.

The first two lines are tender.

The third line is moving. A word of appreciation for the lyricist M.J.Vallabhan(his first film song!) for the line ‘Asaivil Isiayil Kanni Tamizhe’(‘The movements and the music is as beautiful as the Tamizh Language’).

The lines that follow are luminous.
It is Laya Raaja in full flow as he indulges in a beautiful rhythmic pattern.
Shailaja renders this rather tough piece lines with felicity.

In the second interlude, he weaves a silken thread.

The violins take us to a beautiful river in the village.
We immerse ourselves when suddenly we see the clear blue sky and looking at this grand spectacle, we shake our heads in disbelief as the guitar resonates.

Steeped in tranquility, we begin to swim as the violins play with harmonious precision.

The shrill flute makes us feel the stillness.

Nature’s overwhelming beauty!

Poetry, Music and Nature..
…And the Living Legend!

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Darkness follows Light..and Light follows Darkness..

I have often wondered at the beauty of the Raga system.A simple permutation and combination of same set of swaras give us what is called as Raga.This set pattern gives us various patterns and the probability of the same pattern getting repeated is very low.

Let us take just three compositions of Saint Thyagaraja- ‘Amma Raavamma’, ‘Nidhi Chaala Sukhama’, ‘Ethaa Unaraa’.All these are in Kalyani but still each one evokes a different kind of emotion.

‘Amma Raavamma’ extols Tulasi,’Nidhi Chaala Sukhama’ridicules the materialistic world and ‘Ethaa Unaraa’has philosophical contours.

While it is a fact that each Raga is unique, the mood of the raga also depends on how the composer conceives the composition and importantly how successful he is in terms of communicating this to the listener.

Hindustani music is very strict in even the time of a raga.For example, a Raag like Yaman(Kalyani in Carnatic music) can be sung only in the night while a Raag like Bhairav(Mayamalawagowla in CM) must be sung in the morning only. It is considered sacrilegious if these rules are broken. This is because it is believed that certain ragas evoke certain emotions and these are directly related to our biorhythms.

Carnatic Music does not have such strict rules though it does have morning ragas(Bhoopalam, Bowli, Bilahari), afternoon ragas(Madhyamavathi,Sriragam,Manirangu),evening Ragas(Vasanta, Lalita).There are also ragas for each rasa.

But the greatness of Carnatic music lies in its ability to be flexible and at the same time adhering to the rules.

That is why great composers like Thyagaraja, Dikshithar, and Shyama Sastry have been very successful in bringing out the emotions so subtly.

Long back, the great G.Ramanathan broke a rule.Mukhari, a raga considered to bring tears in our eyes was used by him in a romantic duet in a movie called Ambikapathi.Of course, there was a reason behind this as well.The movie was based on a (supposed)romance between Kamban’s son Ambikapathi and the King’s daughter Amaravathi with the Hero meeting a tragic end. GR sir brilliantly used Mukhari to foretell what was to come later.

Musicians are great indeed!

The Genius whose other name is ILaiyaraaja has used ragas so differently that at times it is difficult to believe that such ragas are also capable of evoking such emotions.

Mohanam was used in a pathos song-Oru Raagam Paadalodu Kaadhil Kettatho.
Kalyani in ‘Alai meethu Thadumaaruthe siru odam’.

Subhapantuvarali in a humourous song-‘Kandu Pidichchen’
Chakravaagam in a love duet-‘Nee Paathi Naan paathi’
VakulabharaNam as a philosopher-‘Aarum Athu Aaazham illai’.

These are just some examples.More examples will be shown in my 'Ragaranjani' Blog.

But I have always been intrigued by his use of one particular raga. Not a single human emotion has he left out using this raga. Not a single facet of this raga has he left uncovered in this raga.

In ‘Madha Un Kovilil’, the raga prays.

In ‘Mani Osai Kettu Ezhunthu’, the raga cries with the lover.

In ‘Shenbagame’, it waits patiently for her husband.

In ‘Enna Saththam intha neram’,it cries,laughs,dances,walks,runs,sits,meditates.

In ‘Enna solli naan ezhutha’, it writes a letter.

In ‘Aaatama Therottama’,it is a cabaret dancer.

In ‘Aasai Adhikam Vaichchu’, it is a tribal dancer.

In ‘Poongaatru Puthithaanathu’, the raga jumps with joy totally oblivious to the uncertain future.

In ‘VaLai Osai ‘, it is the naughty love.

In ‘Muththu Mani Maalai’ it is the newly married couple.

One can go on and on…

The rare gem of today is also based on the same raga.

It is ‘Hey Masthana..’ from ‘Azhage Unnai Aaradhikkiren’(1979).

The sequence is somewhat interesting.Two young lovers travel to Goa and dance with the hippies in the evening.The girl’s aunt- ditched by a man(villain!)-and a man totally devoted to this lady accompany the couple.

Listen to the prelude.The long flute slowly takes us away from the hustle-bustle of city life while the guitar and the chorus leave us in the midst of hippies.
A short interlude with the strings and the trumpet and we start dancing to the voices of Jayachandran and Jency.

The next interlude is what shows us the genius.

The western fast –paced beats suddenly give way to the violin evoking a totally different and contrasting emotion.

The next CharaNam is slow in keeping with the mental state of the senior couple.Vani Jayaram and SPB do full justice to the situation.

As the CharaNam ends, we start jumping with joy with the young lovers.

We continue to dance in the next interlude as the Shehnai and the other instruments stare at us with glee.

This continues in the CharaNam as well.

Now comes the beauty.
The flute and the violin making us close our eyes and just relax.
We become sober in the following CharaNam.

Contrasting emotions depicted so musically.

Well..after all what is life?
Darkness after light..and Light after Darkness..

Just like the Ragam-Sindhu Bhairavi!

Friday, 18 December 2009

It is raining music...

It is raining in Chennai..
Yes..natural rain and musical rain(isaivizha).

Now talking about the rain,

Most of us have had the experience of watching a Drizzle..

Many of us have run out of the house to get drenched..

Some of us have danced to the beats of the rain drops..

Here is a song that makes us do all these!

This is a song for the 1977 film 'AaLukkoru Aasai'.

What makes this song great?

Is it the base voice rendering ?

Is it the very different tune ?

Is it the orchestration ?

Is it the modulation ?

Is it the acoustic Guitar that appears now and then?

Is it the Bass Guitar?

Is it the Spanish Flavour?

Is it Yesudass?

Is it Suseela?

Listen and tell me if you can find the answer..

If I was asked to describe this song in two different words,I would say


This is the real "Isaimazhai"!

Rain of Music!

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Musical Hatari..


This is what Hatari means in Sawhili language.Swahili is one of the many dialects of Africa.’Hatari!’ is also the name of a 1962 film directed by Howard Hawks and John Wayne.The film was very popular in the ‘60s and the ‘70s because of many reasons.

It had some breathtaking live wildlife chases never seen before on the screen.

It was shot near the picturesque Mount Meru, a dormant volcano near Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

The actors (and therefore the characters) were from different parts of the world like the USA, Mexico, Germany, France, Italy.

One of the most popular tunes in the world , the ‘Baby Elephant Walk’ was composed for this film by the world renowned composer Henry Mancini. Mancini was the winner of Academy and Grammy awards and has also scored music for the ‘Pink Panther’ theme- a beautiful piece in Jazz.

Another world- class composer, who hails from India and who has given many excellent songs over the last 33 years gave a song that according to me is a Musical Hatari!

And that is today’s Rare Gem.

The song is ‘Nandavanaththil Vandha Kuyile’ from the film ‘Annai Oru Aalayam’(1979).

The Hero takes the Heroine for a ride(literally and metaphorically!).

Hunting is his hobby and the Heroine- as usual- is scared of animals and the forest.
He takes her on his jeep to show her the myriad hues of the forest.

The entire song is very fast and moves aesthetically like a Cheetah!

The opening itself is very beautiful and prepares us for the Ride.

The Pallavi in the magnificent voice of SPB is an incredible combination of power and elegance.

In fact, the entire song brings out the subtleties and the contrast. For example, the beginning of the first interlude is westernised with the electric guitar and the allied instruments and suddenly the flute appears from nowhere.

It gives traces of the Raag Jog. The beats then change when the trumpets take over.

The CharaNam is also astonishingly beautiful and we feel like being in KaLakkad forest.

We get to see the lions, tigers,antelopes,jackals, elephants in the second interlude.

The Bass work is so wonderfully conceived to give us the feel of the forest, the animals and the ride.

Truly a musical Hatari!

Friday, 11 December 2009

Immortal Poems..Immortal Music..

Subramaniya Bharati is one of the greatest poets of all times.

A very radical personality,he simplified Tamizh language. His poems covered a gamut
of subjects.

India, Tamizh Naadu, Tamizh languge,Freedom movement,Patriotism,National leaders,Other Countries,Bhakthi,Philosophy,Society, Feminism, Nature, Love,Kannan songs..well the list is endless.

What is amazing is that he was able to visualize India’s independence as early as 1910 and was able to sing ‘Aaduvome PaLlup Paaduvome..Aananda Suthanthiram Adainthu vittom Endru’(Let us sing and dance!We have attained freedom).

His clairvoyance is shown in another song where he says ‘Kaasi nagar Pulavar pesum Uraithaan Kaanchiyil Ketpatharkkor karuvi Seivom’(We shall invent an instrument that will make people in Kanchipuram listen to the speech of a poet in Kaasi).

In the days of Satellite televisions, DTH and the internet it is easy to ask ‘what is so special in this?’

But this poem was written much before a gentleman called Marconi invented Radio.

Bharati is also considered to be the father of New Poetry(Puthuk kavithai).

As we celebrate his 127th Birthday today,it is with great pride that I write about one of his songs set to music by the other genius, who is the Bharati of Film Music.

The Film Kavarimaan(1979), directed by Sp Muthuraman has some wonderful songs.It has a Thygaraja Keerthanam in Bahudari Ragam as well.We shall see this sometime later in this Blog.

The song ‘Solla Vallayo KiLiye’is very special.Sung by the veteran singer S.Varalakshmi, it is the first Bharati song set to tune by Raaja sir.

The entire song is in pure carnatic style.

The Pallavi is in Surutti, a beautiful and different raga considered to be very auspicious.In fact, it is not easy to handle Surutti since a small slip could land in Kedaragowla or at times even Madhyamavati.The sweet aalap in the beginning gives the essence of the Raga.

The first Charanam is in AtaaNa, a Raga full of valour.I am sure you all remember ‘Baala Kanakamaya’in Salangai Oli..

The brief sangathis after ‘AllikuLatharuge’ take us directly to the pond full of flowers.

The second charanam is in Shanmukhapriya and the Swara singing passages have a charm of their own and give us an exhilarating experience.

The Parrot seems to say this:

Long live the poems of Bharati! Long live the Music of Raaja!!

Get this widget |Track d|eSnips Social DNA

Saturday, 5 December 2009

I think of your Music..and it is so...sweet!

What determines the mood in music?

Is it the Raga?
Is it the Tala?
Is it the way it is sung?

If it is the raga, then the Mukhaari(considered to be a ‘crybaby’ raga) song by G Ramanathan in ‘Ambikapati’ should sound sad. But did he not do it for a romantic duet?

And what about the Mother of Pathos-Subhapantuvarali?

Raaja sir composed a song humourous peppy in this Ragam(‘Kandupidichen Kandupidichen'-Guru Sishyan’).

Maestro often says that music is nothing but a kind of ‘Sithtu Velai’(black magic).Of course, words of such geniuses should not be taken literally. They carry lot of meanings.

He has even composed a pathos song in Mohanam(Oru Raagam paadalodu-Aananda Ragam) and happy duets in Sivaranjani(Adi Aathaadi-Kadalora KavithaigaL, Vaa Vaa Anbe Anbe-Agni Nakshatram).

But I am still amazed by one of his compositions-I must say two compositions.

In 1979, he composed two different songs for two different movies.Both were based on the same Ragam, Suddha Dhanyasi.Both followed the same Tala structure,the 7 beat Mishram.

But one was a slow (somewhat sad) song and the other a romantic solo.

The slow song is ‘Aayiram MalargaLe’(Niram Maraatha PookkaL).

The peppy number is the one we are going to see today.It is ‘Ninaiththaal Inikkum’from ‘KalyaNa Raman’.

‘Ninaiththal inikkum..’ starts with a humming of Janaki.And yes’Aayiram MalargaLe’ also starts with a humming.But look at the contrast!

The subtle bell sound the violin and the flute that follow are enough to create the right mood.

Now listen to the beats.

The ‘Tha Ki Ta Tha ka Dhi Mi’ that moves our hearts in ‘Aayiram malrgaLe’ sound so sensual in ‘Ninaiththal inikkum..’

In the first interlude, the guitar at the end plays almost the same notes as the Violins..but how different it sounds! The Flute appear now adding to the beauty.

We get to hear a classical western piece in the beginning of the second interlude and suddenly it becomes folksy.

The third interlude is aggressive and sensual at the same time.Of course, this has to do with the sequence in the movie where the Hero holds and throws away at a snake ‘hurled’ at him by one of the villains while the Heroine keeps singing at her house.

One has to also notice the difference in ‘speed’ between the Pallavi and the Charanams. But are they really different? They follow the same tala.It is the pattern played in the percussion instrument that gives us such an illusion.

So, now what determines the mood?

Whether it is ‘sa ga ma pa ni Sa/Sa ni pa ma ga sa’ or ‘Tha ki ta tha ka dhi mi’, it is the composer who determines and gives us the mood.

And aren't such compositions sweet even when we think of them?

Get this widget | Track details | eSnips Social DNA