Thursday, 6 December 2012

Solicited.. or Unsolicited?

Giving advice is one of the easiest things to do in this world.

Tell me one person who does not indulge in this act. I am saying ‘indulge’ because we all with our bloated egos, have the ‘I know it all’ attitude and start ‘advising’ others without even for a moment stopping to think how we are, what we are and if our stepping in is indeed required. We see everything with coloured eyes without even bothering to get into any details. We go by how we are conditioned by somebody or by our own thoughts. Thus, most of the advices are unsolicited.

The most recent episode is the one involving one of the greatest cricketers. People from 6 to 60 – including some who wouldn’t have even touched a cricket bat in their life- keep talking, chatting, sharing, tweeting and status updating that the cricketer concerned should retire. The so called ‘cognoscenti’ advise the cricketer on what step he should take and when.

At least this is understandable in a cricket crazy nation. But I have come across instances of people attacking others in the name of advice. What matters to them is not the welfare of a person (or persons). Their objective is to insult others directly and indirectly by brandishing their pseudo weapon.

But thankfully, such people are only a minority and it is best to ignore them.

At the same time, I am surely not saying advices are not needed-either giving or taking. What is of paramount importance is how we distinguish between genuine advices and advices given with mala fide intentions. This we learn over a period of time. And if we have been at the receiving end, we too should learn as to when and to whom we should give our advice. If we know for sure that a person close to us is in the wrong, is it not our duty to set things right?

In the rare gem of the day, the lady- who is the friend of the heroine- is trying tp advise her friend rather indirectly by chiding somebody else- who in any case happens to be the culprit behind the ‘misdeeds’ of her friend.

Mahendran’s film ‘Pootaatha PoottukkaL’(1980) revolved around a childless couple, and a stranger who visits their village as a guest and how he manages to seduce the lady, who falls in the trap because she loves children and would like to have her own child at any cost(underline the word ‘at any cost’).

This song sequence appears when the Heroine’s friend who is aware of the entire episode but still is helpless, advises the stranger to mend his ways.

Very simple but catchy folksy tune, meaningful lyrics(Panchu Arunachalam) and wonderful rendering(Janaki) make this song a gem.

The song set in the Kharaharapriya scale starts without a prelude.

The first interlude starts after a brilliant pause. One of Raaja’s most favourite instruments (the one which sounds almost like a santoor ) during that period takes over and moves with beguiling simplicity. The lucid flute and the reverberating santoor nod their heads with a very different sounding instrument (synthesiser) smiling sardonically.

The Shehnai in the second part of the second interlude is soothing while it is the luminous flute which shines with sylvan charm along with the -santoor and that lovely instrument. The cuckoo sound towards the end of the interlude is a class act.

If Phrases like ‘paana vaavana’ show sarcasm and intended derision, lines like ‘mogam vandhu theeNdumpothile, paaradhathai paakka chellume’ ‘un maanam sandhaiyile viththu pogume’ ‘ezhuthinavan yettai keduththan, padichavano paattai keduththan’ say the story in just a few seconds. (how beautifully Janaki sings ‘ezhuthinaven’- a typical Madurai way of giving the ‘yekaaram’ sound!).

The last charaNam simply echoes the helplessness of the friend.

An advice worth listening to..

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Energy sapping or Energy giving?

Bringing up a child is a great challenge.

Sometimes I wonder as to how people managed to bring up so many children those days. One of my oft-repeated questions to my father even now is this-‘How did your parents manage to bring up 8 children’? With FP being an unknown word those days, it is not surprising that the families were big (at least 3 times bigger than what a normal family is now).

There was also no particular pattern in terms of the gap between 2 children. The gap varied between 10 months (?) and 4years.Therefore, the age difference between the first child and the last one will be 18 plus years-almost one generation. The generation gap that we talk about between the parents and the children now must have existed between the eldest son/daughter and the youngest one!

There are a lot of questions in my mind.

There will be a lot of excitement when the first child is born. Was the level of excitement and happiness same when the last one was born?

How did the lady manage so many deliveries? Don’t we all know what labour pain is? How did she manage to stand this?

What kind of attention was given to the elder ones when they started going to the school?

Did the parents even remember the classes their children were in?

Was any quality time spent to teach them the beauties of life-for example music, books?

What happened when the children reached adolescence? Were they given proper guidance?

From the father’s point of view, how did he manage to get new clothes/toys/books, how did he manage to pay the fees, how did he even run the family?(I am saying ‘father’s point of view’, because it is a known fact that there were no working women those days).

Though I have not got satisfactory answers, all I know is that all the children grew up, studied well, got well-placed and settled down well in life. Of course, I am speaking from my observation of the big families I know.

In any case, isn’t this amazing?

Now-a-days, despite a plethora of services available to us thanks to the modern-age technology, we find it difficult to manage even two children (at times ONE child).

‘Feeding’ them food, looking for the right kind of school, making them ‘do’ the home work, trying in vain to strike a balance between their demands and our commands, answering all their questions and asking them to shut up if we ourselves do not know the answers, forcing them to do things that they may not have an inclination for…
..and ah!yes, ‘monitoring’ them.

The last mentioned-according to me- is one of the toughest to accomplish. If we do not monitor their activities, we fear that they will be misguided. If we overdo our monitoring, we will be branded as people fit to join the Scotland Yard. How do we manage this?

While monitoring during formative years needs some tact, doing the same in the early years is a tough ask. How many times have we handled cases of breaking window/car panes, breaking somebody’s head (at times even ours…or is it most of the times?), and of course breaking things in our own place itself.. Really wonder how parents during that era managed this..
The father in today’s rare gem also seems to have had the same problem. The song-‘Peththaalum Peththeada..’ from ‘Anbe Sangeeta’(1980) echoes the thoughts and sentiments of the father of a ‘under-12’.

The father (in the voice of Jayachandran) says ‘Making you do the morning activities and sending you to the school sap my energy. To top it all, you cut the nose and break the heads of other children with your kite and the cricket ball. You notorious one! How is it that the God forgot to keep a tail behind you?’

The mother defends the son in the end saying a mother understands a child better and asking the father to mind his business.

The song, beautifully tuned in the minor scale (Nata Bhairavi+Kiravani) with the prelude and the three interludes reflecting the emotions.

I have not seen the visuals of the song(thankfully), but I can easily visualise the sequence thanks to the Master’s orchestration.

The prelude is full of energy with the strings and the electric guitar making us see a sketch of the notorious boy.
The dialogue between the flute and the strings in two octaves in the first interlude shows how the boy manages to escape from his father while brushing the teeth, bathing and while going to the school even as the father keeps pleading with him and chasing him. The strings and the electric guitar towards the end reflect the travails of the father.

The organ in the second interlude shows the notorious boy in full flow while the short string pieces in the higher octave show how the boy indulges in many activities.
The humming of the mother (Shailaja) and the dainty flute that follows symbolises motherhood.

The pieces after the ‘nose-cutting’, ‘head-breaking’ and the ‘victorious’ whistle at the end after the mother’s defence show the sense of humour of the composer.

What stands out finally is the fact that bringing up children is a pleasurable pain. Do you agree?

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Music Messenger..

What were the different modes of communication of love-struck folks those days?

If one digs up literature, it is amazing to see the various messengers.

Friends(mainly the lady’s) acted as a via-media.They also went a step ahead to console the Heroine whenever she felt the pangs of separation or whenever she felt cheated by her man. In fact, there are also poems in sangam literature that talk about a friend cursing and abusing the Hero who commits debauchery or is away from the Heroine out of compulsion.

There is a danger too. The friend who carries the message, herself falling in love with the Hero. One of the ‘padams’(padam is an item performed in a Bharatanatyam recital) in Tamizh-‘Unnai thoothanippinen..’ describes the woes of the Heroine , who suspects her friend because of her demeanor after she returns from her Hero(who ironically happens to be Lord Muruga), having gone there carrying a message from her. Though this can be considered as an exception and even a form of perversion, it also shows the fickle mindedness of humans (now don’t ask me if Muruga is human).

The Bhagawatam beautifully talks about how Rukmini wrote a letter to Krishna and sent it through a brahmin. In this case, the latter happened to be an ardent devotee of Krishna and so the job was easily done.

There are also lovers who trusted the other living beings and non-living beings too.One of the greatest works of Kalidasa, ‘Megadootam’ revolves around an ‘yaksha’ who is cursed to spend sometime on the Earth, using the cloud as a messenger.

Kamban brilliantly describes how a parrot was used as a messenger by a girl. I had quoted this verse in my other blog while writing about the song ‘Manmada RaagangaLe’.

But one of the most widely used birds happens to be the pigeon. People not only used it for exchanging Love letters but also for sending all kinds of messages/letters. Pigeons were considered to be the most reliable creatures and they travelled quite a distance. It is indeed amazing to know that they knew their route perfectly and could reach the destination without the help of google maps.

Pigeons and their ‘cousins’ Doves are still in existence and since the modern day has brought in many other modes of communication- the Morse code, post, telegram, telephone, courier, e mail, SMS- mankind has stopped using these creatures rendering them jobless.

However, the poets-starting from the Sangam age- have never failed to describe the beauty of these creatures. Film lyricists are no exception and I can think of many Tamizh film songs that at least have the word ‘puRa’.

Today’s gem, ‘PuRakkaLe’ from ‘Kaadal Parisu’(1987) also has a mention about the pigeons. No, it does not praise them nor does it talk about their uniqueness. The lovers address the bird and ask them ‘to wear golden garlands, to swim on the moon and greet the lovers’. This of course stops with the Pallavi. The charaNams completely ignore these beautiful birds.

But again one cannot fault the lyricist since knowing Tamizh Cinema well, there is every likelihood of his having being told that the ‘duet’ will be shot close to a pond where the birds ( I did not mean the ‘love birds’) will be present. A clear instruction to the effect that there should be no room for any literary description and that all mundane things will have to appear in the song involving a ‘top’ hero and heroine’. Luckily, such instructions can be given only to lyricists and not to music composers. At the most, it can be said that it is a Love Duet. How many directors even have the sense of music to ask what exactly they want?

Therefore, our Maestro has gone on his musical trip while composing the tune and mainly while writing the notes for the orchestra.

The percussion in the beginning-in Tisram- shows us the short jumps of the bird while the musical piece that follows in the keys makes us imagine the flapping of the wings. The chorus symbolises the ‘group song’ of the birds, with the keys depicting their movements close to the pond.. The very brief strings take us directly to the musical pond.

The first part of the first interlude that has the strings and the flute shows the flight of the birds, the middle part with the keys shows playfulness and the last part that has a very short piece of S.E.Asian music tells us that after all music and birds are universal.

The chorus, the male voice (SPB) and the flute in the second interlude make us see the Pigeon of a typical Tamizh Nadu village.

The Pallavi in the melodious voices of SPB and Chitra is powerful while the CharaNams with a dose of alien notes, traverse some unknown beautiful territories.

The musical value of the composition should not be lost sight of. It is set in Raag Pahaadi and the Pallavi has the ateeta eduppu (with the song starting before the tala cycle).
When we have his music, do we need any other messenger now?

Monday, 10 September 2012


‘It is elementary Watson’ is one of the most popular quotes in English. Though this quote itself would sound elementary to some, I feel it conveys a lot to us. In fact, it guides me to do things in a better and efficient way.

To solve anything, one needs to understand the basics. Even the most complex things in this world are simple if we make it simpler.

The song I am going to take up today ‘En KalayaaNa Vaibhogam Unnoduthaan’ from ‘Azhage unnai aaradhikkiRen’(1979) in my all-time favourite list simply because it is a very simple song. Simple in terms of the way it sounds. But there are of course a lot of intricacies and nuanced beauties in the composition and I would prefer to mention these later..

When I was a school-going boy, one of the most fascinating things for me was the sound coming out of that instrument called Flute. I was so mesmerized by this instrument that when any flute concert was played on the radio, I would listen to the entire concert despite the fact that I was not a great lover of classical music then. It did not matter to me whether I knew the name of the ragam or if the composition was by Tyagaraja or by Dikshithar.

Therefore, any film song with a flute piece was my favourite. That Raaja sir gave a new dimension to flute is a well-known fact. Most of his compositions during his early years had a flute bit.

Is it then a surprise that ‘En KalyaNa’ with the rather elaborate Flute piece in the first interlude, the lucid bit in the second interlude (though I would have given a blank expression if somebody had mentioned these terms word to me then) and the sizzling piece after the first line in the CharaNam(s) instantly attracted me?

Next is the beginning of the song. The first line is sung straight without any prelude (again a term which I learnt much later) and the next line is sung after a host of instruments play the ‘welcome notes’..

VaNi Jayaram’s honey-soaked voice with clear diction was another reason for me to rush to the radio whenever the song was played.

Then, the tune. ‘How simple it sounds’, I used to wonder.

Is the composition that simple?

It is based on Madhyamavati, a very deep and classical ragam. It is set in Misram, the 7-beat cycle. It has the ateeta eduppu with the taLa cycle starting before the Pallavi

In the first interlude during the flute bit, the Misram beats ‘ta ki ta ta’ is played by one instrument, there is a gap for one beat and then the ‘dhi mi’ is palyed by another percussion instrument. No percussion is used in the piece before this or after this. In the one that follows this piece, the strings show the western contours of Madhyamavati with the guitar in the background. The very brief solo violin piece in the end draws a beautiful sketch of the raga.
The strings and the sitar, and the strings and the flute play with each other in the second interlude while the gleeful keys play the same set of notes twice- after the first flute piece and then just before the end of interlude.

The CharaNam ends in ‘Sa ni pa’ with the Pallavi starting with ‘pa Sa’ adhering to the concept of ‘poruththam’ in Carnatic music.

The meaningful lyrics that typify the thoughts of a young girl in love, too need a special mention- ‘Malar kooottam edhir paarkkum iLavenil kaalam, poovaiyum oru poovinam adhai naan sollavo’ , uRangaamal nenjam uruvaakkum ragam unakkallavo ketpayo maattayo’.

Now these 5 paragraphs that have gone some what into the depth of the composition would not have been possible without what I have described in the paragraphs before that.

As a boy, I was not interested in any of the technical details. I liked the song because it sounded good to me. As simple as that.. When I started exploring more, I started understanding the details.

I don’t want to get into the debate of which is better. All I can say is that I have always been like Watson trying to understand the mysteries while Raaja sir- the Sherlock Holmes- smiles and says ‘It is elementary Watson. Can’t you understand even this?”

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Gems and the Search..

Sometime back, in a programme ‘dedicated’ to Raaja sir on a FM channel, 2 songs from the ‘80s era were played one after the other. What is so special about this? Nothing, except that the Music Director of both the songs is not ILaiyaraaja though his name was announced!

Recently, there was a talk-show on a TV channel about the music of the ‘80s.Invariably, the participants mentioned, discussed and also ‘sang’ very popular songs-songs that are constantly played and recycled on the FM channels every night. When ‘yours sincerely’-who was also part of the show unfortunately- mentioned about a rare song and briefly explained its intricacies and gave reasons as to why that song melts his heart, the channel did not like it and chopped off that entire portion.

While I do not have any problem in my portion being cut, what bothers me really is the fact that people identify ILaiyaraaja only with a miniscule percentage of his works and that they cannot even distinguish between the works of the other MDs and ILaiyaraaja. At the same time, they do not make an effort to listen to a major part of his works just because it does not give them a familiar ring.

Such a trend is very unhealthy because the songs which were popular during those days are being totally ignored despite these songs being great gems. It speaks volumes of the ignorance and the conditioning of the people. An entire generation has grown up with false perceptions and wrong ideas about his music. For example, many fans of the present generation do not even seem to be aware that there used to be 3 stanzas in the songs and that each (of the 3 interludes) was different. A majority thinks that 3-stanza songs were an exception while the contrary is true.

I would rather blame the media for this sorry state of affairs. There is a plethora of channels and at least 3 channels run dedicated programmes on his music during the ‘prime time’ slot at 9pm. But what do these channels play? The so-called ‘hit songs’! Many a time, I have noticed that the same song will be played in 2-3 different channels on the same day as if he has scored music for just a few songs in these 36 years. Added to this, is the tendency to provide wrong information without checking the veracity(ex-what I have narrated in the first para).

This phenomenon is common to the older generation as well as the present generation. In fact, it is the attitude of the former attitude that baffles me because having lived during those days and having been exposed to at least some of the gems during those days, how could they ignore or forget those songs? The ‘talk-show’ experience quoted by me in the second paragraph is a clear example of these people’s attitude. I am not sure if it is an attitudinal problem or if these people had not listened to or appreciated those songs even during those days.

But what is encouraging is that many in the present generation do appreciate these gems when they get exposed to it. The comments/feedback in this thread itself stands testimony to this. This applies to some who are part of the previous generation too-who for some reason or the other did not have the opportunity to listen to such gems those days.

Let us all realise that ILaiyaraaja is like an ocean and that it is absolutely unjustifiable to brand him and confine our understanding to just a few of his ‘hits’. The quest for search and the thirst to know more about his music must begin before it becomes too late.

The song of the day ‘Thaedum Deivam neril vandhadhu’ from ‘Kazhugu’(1981) is yet another gem that shines despite being buried under the ground.

Why do I consider this song as a gem? Is it just because one does not get to hear this song nowadays? Not really. Reasons are many. The excellent and justified use of the voice synthesiser (as early as 1981), mind boggling orchestration, Janaki’s enticing voice, Malaysia Vasudevan’s nonchalant rendering, and most importantly the use of Raga Kiravani.

This song-as one can make out- is a kind of sensuous song appearing in a sequence where the ‘enchanted bhaktas’ sing and dance in a kind of trance in an ashram(yes, such ‘ashrams’ and ‘gurus’ existed even in 1980!). Using a raga as classical as Kiravani for this kind of a sequence calls for a lot of boldness on the part of the composer. I would say it is even a kind of adventure. But the best part is that Kiravani remains chaste throughout and not a single alien note is used.

What is amazing is the way the raga has been used. One finds an unmistakable tinge of Arabian music throughout the song. How did he make it possible? If you are a follower of my other Blog, you will know that the rag that generally gives an Arabic flavour is ‘VakulabharaNam’. Without getting too technical, let me tell you that both Kiravani and VakulabharaNam are in the same ‘Graha Bedam’ group. He has chosen the Shruti in such a way that though Kiravani remains intact, it also gives the feel of VakulabharaNam. It requires a separate write-up in that blog to explain this concept and I shall do it soon.

The prelude has the synthesizers- both voice as well as instrumental. The sensuous voice of Janaki sings a very brief ‘akaaram’. The impish beats of Mridangam accentuate the feel.
We all become the ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ as we hear the Guitar plays that with palpable joy and blithe with ‘claps’ to back it up in the first interlude. The vibrant Shehnai that follows makes it a wholesome experience. The ‘Om Shanti’ in the voice synthesizer accompanied by the Mridangam gives some special resonances.

Magic is weaved in the second interlude with the Sitar-Mridangam-Bass Guitar-Drums combination. The Shehnai gallops passionately wooing us all. The use of Mridangam for 3 complete TaLa cycles(of 8 beats each) needs a special mention. It plays the ‘ta ka dha mi’ in different styles- from playing all the syllables to playing just the first and the third syllables and producing some dynamic sounds unique to the Mridangam.

The Arabic feel is complete in the CharaNams that have powerful passages with the ‘akaarams’, ‘sangatis’ and coaxing phrases dipped in sensuality., this shining gem-like many other gems- has been taken out and kept for display. Are ‘they’ still burying their heads ‘ostrich-like’?

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Aadi Breeze..

The Tamizh Month Aadi-that started just a few days back- is considered to be very auspicious. It is believed that if seeds are sown on the first day of Aadi, the plants/trees/paddy will be very healthy and the yield will be good.

I remember how I used to sow the seeds along with my friends in my school-an institution that sowed the seeds of Love for Nature in me- on Aadi 1.

Aadi is considered to be the month of Amman and lot of functions take place in the temples.
Astrologically, the Sun enters the Kataka Rasi. It turns towards the South and the next six months are part of ‘Dakshinaayanam’.If we look up at the sky, we can see that the sun is oriented towards the south.

The breeze in the month of Aadi is very special. In Tamizh, there is a saying that ‘even a huge stone will fly in the breeze of Aadi.

Today, we are going to see a song that is as breezy as the month of Aadi.

It is ‘Aadi Maasa Kaththaadikka’ from ‘Paayum Puli’(1982).

This song is also as special as Aadi.


First - the orchestration and the arrangement.

In the prelude section, we first hear the trumpets and the other wind instruments and suddenly, we hear a folk instrument.And then…Bass Guitar, Synthesiser!

The first interlude is humour personified.The folk instruments in combination with western instruments bring smiles to even a morose face.

The second interlude is jazzy and just towards the end, there is a folk element.
The third interlude can be called as the reverse of the second interlude. It is dominated by the folk instruments and suddenly we hear the western instruments in the end.The change of rhythm here is typical of the Master.There is one more speciality here and we will see that soon.

But one really wonders what makes him choose instruments so perfectly..

Second-The Tune.

Long back, while discussing about ‘Hey Mastana..’ I had mentioned that Sindhu Bhairavi is a multi dimensional Raga.

The same Sindhu Bhairavi that gives us mixed emotions in ‘Mastana..’ makes us laugh in ‘Aadi Maasa..’

Beauty of the Raga?

Yes..intelligence of the composer as well..

And look how the tune starts with a Qawwali style humming and changes wonderfully as a Kuththu song!

Third (in fact this is the first)-The one and only SPB.

What kind of a voice is this?As per the sequence in the movie(I have not seen it but I have read about it), the Hero disguises himself as a Bearer in a Hotel and SPB modulates his voice. Is it just modulation?It is something more than that..Listen to the ‘podi sangathis’ in between.

Possible only by one gentleman!

And this is the 'speciality' I was talking about in the paragraph describing the third interlude..


It is difficult not to get affected/influenced by the other singer especially when that singer is singing very differently.Mind you..There was no track system those days and both the singers will be present during recording.

But Janaki sings so nonchalantly..

Whether it is the Aadi Breeze or even the Tsunami, the Citadel of the Emperor of Music is impregnable!

Listen to this beauty and enjoy!

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Poetic Lions..

The young lady describes her meeting with her beloved- ‘Aththaan, en aththaan avar enniththaan..eppadi solvenadi!’(it is very difficult to translate this in English since the subtle nuances will be lost, but still this is the gist: ‘Man, My dearest Man, he came to me and…how can I say what happened after that’!).

These days-when ‘Daddy Mummy Veettil Illai’ and ‘EvaNdi Unnai Peththan’ are sung with pride by small kids in gaudy attire in ‘Super’ singing shows(in the presence of shameless parents)- ‘Aththaan..’ may not appeal to the senses of couch potatoes.

However, thankfully, there are still a lot of people around, who with their aesthetic sense appreciate the finer elements in life.There are also people who are like the Cat on the Wall.Unable to decide which side to go, they take the easy way out.The reasons could be many-upbringing, lack of opportunities, ignorance..

I am sure if such people are exposed to the songs of Kannadasan constantly, their life itself will be transformed.

What is it that it makes Kannadasan so special?

1. Simplicity- He never decorated his poems with needless adjectives and superlatives.The words were very simple which can be easily understood not just by the cognoscenti but also by the uninitiated.

2. Versatility: There is not a single subject which has been left untouched by the ‘Kaviyarasar’- Love, Compassion, Affection, Philosophy, Spirituality, Motherhood, Fine arts..

3. Depth: Since he had an in-depth knowledge of all the subjects-including practical knowledge in all aspects of Love-, he was able to go deep into any subject resulting in meaningful words.

4. Brevity: No long winding words despite having the liberty to do so-since those days tunes were set to the songs and not the other way round.He was able to bring out the essence of the subject with just few words.

5. Spontaneity: He hardly racked his brain.Words came in torrents and it was up to the Music Director/Film maker to use what they felt suited the situation. Please recall that in my last year’s special post, I had mentioned about 20 plus charaNams for the song ‘Yezhu SwarangaLukkuL’ putting MSV sir and KB in a quandary.

6.Openness: His life was like a open-book. His songs too have that honesty and openness but again not at the cost of aesthetics.

These are just some of the aspects of that great poet called Kannadasan.

This Blog bows to the genius of this poet on his birthday.

The various aspects mentioned by me equally apply to another gentleman  whose songs are being discussed in this Blog.

 ILaiyaraaja and Kannadasan had a very special relationship. Though the association ran just for about 5 years, the combination brought out some immortal songs.

Let us now look at one of the songs, which by all means is a rare gem.

The film ‘Pattakkaththi Bhairavan’, remade from the Telugu film ‘Katakatala Rudraiah’ flopped miserably at the box office and not without reasons.However, the film had some immortal songs always cherished by Yours Sincerely. Today’s gem is also from this album.

The song sung by two friends describes about their new found love.Not surprisingly, a kind of rustic innocence runs as an undercurrent in the song. But what is surprising is the ‘North Indian flavour’ in the song.

The song set in Sindhu Bhairavi- one of the most favourite ragas of the composer- starts with the flute that pierces our hearts. It then gives an impish smile even as the arabesque Mandolin gives the impetus.

‘Nenjukkulle singakkutti nikkuthu ammaadi ennadi seiven’ sings Suseela.
‘What did he do to you to cast a spell’ asks Janaki.

The strings flow like a river with the Shehnaiswaying like a boat. It meets the accordion on the way and the two are involved in a small question-answer session.The Mandolin appears as like the playful fish.

The first CharaNam says ‘Love is blind’.

In the second interlude, the flute glides, swirls and spirals.The western instruments like the accordion, electric guitar, and trumpet gallop while the strings move with a flourish.

The second CharaNam says ‘Talk as much as you like with him and then take a breath’.

The virulent Shehnai, the lightning Strings and the speedy Guitar, in the third interlude make us see the intermingling of all major genres- folk, western classical, pop.

The erotic third CharaNam says ‘The honey is ready to gush out from the flower’.

Subtle emotions, feelings expressed aesthetically with spontaneity.

Does this not typify the two geniuses whose compositions will continue to be etched in the memory as long as the Sun and the Moon exist?

Saturday, 23 June 2012


One of the most amazing things in this world is Time.

It is a fact that the entire world revolves around Time (literally and figuratively).
Despite our abusing, wasting, killing, passing, Time moves with the same precision. It is also a silent observer and knows every bit of us. One can cheat others; they can cheat themselves; but nobody can cheat Time.

There are different dimensions to Time. We can look back. We can look ahead. We can look now. If understood and utilized well, it is our best friend. If not, it is our worst enemy.

It also gives us a lot of opportunities to learn. It tells us what we know, what we think we know, what we do not know, what we know that we do not know and what we do not know that we do not know.

In other words, if we are wise enough we mature with Time.

Let us now look back.. Exactly 4 years ago, on this very day, this community was started with just one member whose only asset was his having listened to and grown up with the music of one of the greatest musicians.

One of the many specialities of Indian Music (Carnatic music in particular) is the concept of Tala. Each Tala has a unique cyclic pattern in terms of the number of beats. On the face of it, it may appear to be very rigid and therefore monotonous. But because of the possibilities of various permutations and combinations, the Talas embellish a composition and make it more vibrant.

 Needless to say that Time is an integral part of any Tala. It is no surprise that ILaiyaraaja who is known for his sense of Time always loves playing with the Talas.

In this rare gem ‘Vaan Sivanthathu.. Poo Malarnthathu…’ from ‘Anbin Mugavari’(1985), the Talas dance to his tune.

The song that follows the Tisram pattern(3 beats/cycle) starts with the resonant Mridangam that plays 1234 three times in the faster mode.That is each 3 beat cycle in the slower mode(keezh kaalam) equals the 12 beats of Mridangam in the faster mode(mel kaalam played thrice the speed).To make it more vibrant, there is more stress on the 1st beat in the third 1234.

The Pallavi-rendered by Krishnachandran and Janaki- starts as the Tala is already on or in other words the Tala starts before the Pallavi.Such a start is known as ‘Anaagata Eduppu’ in Caranatic music parlance.

In the first interlude the percussion instrument itself is changed and it plays the 123 pattern twice in the faster mode but not continuously. First when the trumpets start playing, there is no percussion. Exactly after a gap of 24 beats (8 Tisrams) in the faster mode, the bongos start playing 123.But here again, there is magic. The bongos play 123 twice, there is a gap of 6 beats and the bongos start again. This pattern continues 10 times.

Now the soulful guitar takes over to the accompaniment of the reverberating Mridangam which plays the same pattern of the prelude and the Pallavi (1234 thrice in the faster mode).Exactly after 8 rounds, the percussion stops and the electric guitar plays to a count of 24 beats(8 tisrams or 6 chatushrams).

In the first CharaNam, the pattern in the first part of the interlude is followed.

The first part of the second interlude has the drums again following the 1234 1234 1234 in the faster mode.

The magic happens in the second CharaNam this time in a new form. The 1234 pattern is now played in the ‘keezh kaalam’(slower pace).

‘KaalapramaaNam’ at its best!

Pace, Tempo, Tala…. Time-aren’t these amazing-just like his music?

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Virtuous Innovation..

Raaja sir’s firm grip over the concepts of classical music is well known. But what is amazing is his innovative skill.

His compositions can be broadly classified as:

1.Compositions in pure classical ragas in classical style.

2.Compositions in pure classical ragas in a lighter style-without in anyway diluting the ragas.

3.Compositions in classical ragas but mixing alien notes.

He has excelled in all the three categories giving us many gems which cannot be forgotten for generations to come.

But as mentioned in the beginning, his innovative skill-not just in the tunes but also in the orchestration- is what bowls me over.

How he takes a very classical raga and mix alien notes without in anyway sounding jarring, remains a mystery to me.

Today’s gem is one such composition.

‘NaRumaNa malargaLin..’ from ‘URangaatha ninaivugaL’(1983) is full of innovation and improvisations .It starts with a musical question-answer session.First it is between the gorgeous violin and the mesmerising flute followed by the one between the guitar and the sitar.

The violin and the flute follow the Jog raag while the guitar and the sitar use the alien notes rather liberally.

The rhythmic cycle needs a special mention. The instruments follow the 6-beat rupaka taLam while the Tabla plays the 4-beat chatushram.

The Pallavi initially gives shades of Kedaram touching the notes of Jog in the last two lines. The sharp Tabla now follows the 6-beat cycle.What happens here is that the percussion plays 1234 thrice in the faster mode(mel kaalam) while the instruments follows 1 2 3 4 5 6.

12(fast) = 6 (slow).

The first part of the first interlude sees the romance between the lead guitar and the bass guitar.

In the second part, the silken flute oozes with melody.The Tabla follows the 4-beat cycle again.

The CharaNam is a mélange of sorts with the first 2 lines having shades of Khamaj, the 3rd line giving the contours of Jog, the 4th line Khamaj and the last line clearly establishing Jog.The improvisatory sangati after ‘oorvalamo..’ carries the stamp of the Master.

The ‘nadai’(gait) also undergoes a change here as the vocals and the percussion now follow the 3-beat Tisram.

The second interlude is imbued with energy.

The buoyant bass guitar and the enticing lead guitar jump with joy.
The flute then romances with the bass guitar albeit very briefly in the 3-beat cycle.
The breezy violin gushes on followed by the galloping guitar.

The notes alternate between Jog and Khamaj but rather than sounding cacophonic, it sounds astonishingly beautiful.

That is the power of virtuous innovation..

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Melodic wrap..

At times while listening to his songs, I imagine as to what would have transpired during the composing sessions.

The Director gives him a situation. He takes his harmonium and hums a tune. What happens after that?

Knowing the musical sense of a majority of the directors, I wonder what their reaction would be if he hums a tune in a very rare raga. It is not that they would know it is a rare raga (for that matter even if it is something called a ‘raga’), but they would surely know it is sounding very different.

Now, as he moves to the CharaNam, what happens if he does Graha Bedam? Will the Director be all at sea?

What about tunes that follow western classical patterns? Will they scratch their heads?

If the tune does not appeal to them, how do they put it across? Just blink?

Finally when do they approve the tunes at all? And on what basis?

I request all of you to visualize such scenes and have fun!

But jokes apart, we must appreciate the Directors for their ignorance. For only that gave the Maestro a lot of freedom to do what he wanted in obscure movies.

Today’s song is from yet another obscure movie ‘Devi Sridevi’(1983) which ran for approximately 2 weeks.

‘Vaalibam Vaazhga..’ starts with the fluttering keys. The strings wallow in and what we experience is a micro symphony.

The golden voice of SPB now hums the tune and here we get ready for yet another WCM treat.

Note that no percussion is used in the entire prelude that follows the 3-beat Tisram cycle.

The Pallavi in the voices of SPB and Janaki, is haunting with the strings following each line. The second part touches the higher notes gradually is splendorous. The percussion is very interesting with the drums playing 6 beats in the faster tempo throughout while a folksy instrument peeps and beeps out from the second line.

The first interlude is full of conversations between the instruments. A very different instrument(is it keyboard?) speaks musically with Sitar. After a while, the two, smiling at each other go on different tracks. The guitar and the violins take over giving lissome touches.

The first four lines of the CharaNam reminds one of a Tumri in Hindustani music).
The following lines in the higher octave are outlandish.

The CharaNams sound so different from the Pallavi but the change is seamless and is absolutely innocuous. Most importantly not jarring!

The strings in the second interlude move with languorous charm even as the brass flute sails in its own musical world playing a totally different set of notes. The guitar scales new heights resonating in a different scale.

Exquisite phrases in WCM follow with strings and the brass flute giving many allusive images. It is a melodic wrap..

‘When music gives us so much of joy, peace and tranquility, do we have to know about ragas, talas, scale, counterpoint, trills..’ the Directors ask us.

And we are left speechless!