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’?


Venkat said...

Hi Raj,

I am impressed by your blogs. Would like to meet when i come to india next time in Chennai.

Would please send me your email contact ?


Raj said...

Thanks Venkat.
My id is-

Pl. send yours too..

sundar said...

Appreciate your detailed write-up and it's really pathetic that such gems of yester years are just neglected by the so-called FM channels. In Twitter, our friend REX ARUL is conducting Rajaquiz 365 and every day he is digging out old gems of IR and participating and searching and listening old songs is a really awesome experience.

Raj said...

Thanks. That news about the Quiz is interesting!

Pl. go through all the posts in the blog whenever possible. Many more gems are waiting!