Friday, 4 March 2011

Where are you now..

I heard a real life story recently in a Lec-Dem at the Music Academy.

It might sound strange but it is true.

This happened long back-say 80 years ago- when stage plays drew a lot of audience. Those days, music dominated the plays and it was mandatory for a drama artiste to have singing ability.People would throng the Halls just to listen to the artistes and they hardly cared if there was any ‘acting’ at all (even story for that matter!).

It seems one day the Hero went on and on in Kamboji ragam and the audience was spell bound. After the scene was over, the Hero rushed to the Green room where his friend was sitting and asked him ‘Pacha.. Please do me a favour. Tell me what ragam I sang now’.

The ‘friend’ was Shri.T.S.Parthasarathy, erstwhile Secretary of the Madras Music Academy and the Hero was Shri.S.G.Kittapa, known for his golden voice(many people now know his wife better. She was none other than Smt.K.B.SundarambaL).

This incident throws up a lot of questions-prominent one being ‘How can somebody sing a pure classical raga with gusto and aplomb without knowing the name of the ragam?’

Now, read the second line of this post again-It might sound strange but it is true.

I have seen many people with ‘KeLvi Gnanam’ render very tough sangatis with consummate ease but if one asks them the swaras of the sangati or the ‘eduppu’ or for that matter any technical question, blank expression will be the reply.

How many of you have seen/heard pure folk songs sung by the people in the village?
To trained ears, it might sound Ananda Bhairavi(with or without the Kakali Nishadam), Sri Ragam(without the ‘pa dha ni pa’ usage), or Nadanamkriya or Neelambari.But try and say these names to the villagers and see what happens..They would only look at us with innocence.

Which brings us to a very basic question. Is it necessary for a singer to know the intricacies of music?

It is of course a debatable issue and my objective is not to get into any debate now.

All I can say is that while a classical music singer must know the intricacies of music, it is not necessary for a cine music singer to get into too much of details.

This does not mean that the cine music or light music singers need not have knowledge. It certainly helps if the singer is knowledgeable and one can give a lot of examples.At the same time, there have also been singers who were not classically trained but still were able to make a big mark in Tamizh Film Music.
One of the classic examples is Malaysia Vasudevan.

It is a fact that he had little knowledge in classical music. It is also a fact that he was not endowed with a great voice. But what he had were determination, and dedication. These qualities more than made up for what he lacked and took him to great heights.

Though his mother tongue was Malayalam, he was more inclined towards Tamizh language and Tamizh films. With an eye on acting, he came to Madras from Malaysia during the late ‘60s and also acted in a movie called ‘Raththa Pei’.But destiny took him to singing.

Many think that his singing career in movies started only after 1976.But he had sung some songs before that (including the popular ‘Indhiya naadu en naadu’ in ‘Bharata Vilas’).

However, the fact remains that it was only after that great year 1976 that people started recognizing him. It was ILaiyaraaja who recognized the immense talent and the potential of Vasudevan. He made him sing in his third movie BadraKaaLi. He also made him sing in movies like ‘URavadum Nenjam’ and ‘ThuNai IruppaL Meenakshi’.But the biggest breakthrough came about in ’16 Vayathinile’ and there was no looking back after that(how and why he sang in this movie was discussed long back in this community!).

‘Kizhakke Pogum Rail’ revealed a new dimension of Malaysia Vasudevan. For the first time, he rendered songs based purely on carnatic ragas(though the ‘Harichandran Drama song’ in ‘ThuNai IruppaL Meenakshi’ was also in based on carnatic ragas, it did not have the‘sangatis’).The two songs-‘MalargaLe NaadaswarangaL’(Hamsadhwani) and ‘Kovil MaNi Osai’(Suddha Saveri) proved that he was adept in this genre too.

But my personal favourite in this genre is ‘MalargaLile Aardhanai’(Karumbu Vil) which is purely based on Keeravani.

He has also sung in Hindolam(Aananda Thaen Katru-MaNipur Maamiyar), Lalita(Madana Moha Roopa Sundari-Indru Poi NaaLai Vaa)- both in C.S.Jayaraman’s style.

His Laya grasp came to fore in ‘Endrendrum Aanandame’(Kadal meengaL).

And how can one forget his ‘Aasai KiLiye’(Thambikku Endha Ooru) in Aarabhi and ‘Vaazhvinil un ninaival’(Pattanam Pogalam Vaa) in Charukesi?

The year 1981 saw one more dimension-ability to sing very softly.

It was a like a pleasant summer breeze.

In fact, I can go on and on discussing the various genres (many have already been discussed/will continue to be discussed in this Blog)..

But who else except Raaja sir could have even imagined giving such wonderful songs to him.

“I studied in one music school.. and all I know is only this school as far as music is concerned. The school is called as ‘ILaiyaraaja music school’ “.
This remark of Yugendran on TV a couple of years back puts in a nutshell the respect, awe and love the singer and his family has for the Maestro and his music.

Malaysia Vasudevan was a jolly good fellow who believed in enjoying life to its brim and that is why, he was able to bring out the emotions so well..

Today, let us see a very rare song of his which is a ‘jolly song’ with a folk flavour.

It is ‘Ye en aasai vaazhai kurutthe..’ from ‘Aayiram Vaasal Idayam’(1979).

The prelude is resonant with the chorus voices wooing us. The invigorating percussion in typical folk instruments is enticing and makes us sway and vibrate to the beats.

The Pallavi has an effervescent air with Malaysia Vasudevan joined by the two female singers(Shailaja and Sasirekha).

We see the sustained vibrancy in the first interlude. The folk string instruments and the accordion move with palpable joy while the vocals with the subtle bass guitar vivify the atmosphere.

The lines in the two CharaNams are meaty, colourful, tender and gorgeous.

In the second interlude, the meticulously arranged chorus voices and the pithy flute make it a lilting experience.

What is very special about this song is the pleasant feeling and it is immaculately captured by Malaysia Vasudevan.

We need not ask him ‘Nee ippo enge irukke..’(where are you..) Don’t we all know that he is present in all his songs?


Suresh S said...

Lovely writeup Raj. Trust you to come up with such rare gems while we keep listing the oft heard songs in our blog!! Lovely song and very well sung by Malaysia. I haven't heard this earlier so thanks for posting it. I am sure not many would have heard this. I have posted this link in twitter. I am sure this song will delight a lot of people.

Raj said...

Thanks a lot Suresh..

This song used to be played regularly on Radio Ceylon during those days..(and as usual, was ignored by AIR).

A jolly folk song :).

Rajiv said...

Wonderful write up Raj.
I just love the background narration you give before posting a song.The entire flow of events from stage plays those days to people needing to be trained was very interesting to read.It is indeed a tribute to the great Malaysia Vasudevan that despite not having much knowledge in classical music,he could render songs in this genre with ease.Shows a lot about his determination.Coming to the song,this is the first time im hearing it and its an enjoyable folk number and the great Malaysia Sir truly shows his class.Thanks for the song and the write up.

Raj said...

Thanks a lot Rajiv :)