Monday, 9 December 2013

Right or Wrong?

Wrong information, wrong notions, misconception, perception, mindset….
Of late I come across all of these in the social media and needless to say that it leaves me annoyed, perplexed, irritated and even embarrassed. While I do not need to care for such things and can choose to ignore-which is what precisely I do by not commenting or reacting- it does affect me because it is about a thing very close to my heart. Since what is close to my heart needs no further explanation or elucidation, let me move on and share with you some examples of what I have mentioned in the first line of the post.
Wrong information- Giving wrong year of release can be excused and getting the names   of singers can be pardoned. But mentioning the name of Music Director wrong can neither be excused nor pardoned. I had mentioned about this in my post on ‘Thedum deivam’ in this Blog ).
Wrong notions - Recently in a ‘post’ in which musicians who have played in his orchestra were also tagged, it was mentioned by the author that ‘ILaiyaraaja who started his ‘empire’ in 1980 started showing his dominance over the guitar since then.
Two facts are presented wrong here. He started his Empire in May 1976 and had already scored for 100 films by 1980. Secondly, his mastery/artistry of guitar started right from ‘AnnakkiLi’. Wonder if these people would have even listened to the TMS version of ‘AnnakkiLi unnai theduthe’, ‘oru vaanavil pole’, ‘kuiyile kavikkuyile, ‘iyaRkai rathangaLe’, ‘naane naana’, ‘ore naaL unai naan’ just to name a few of the hundreds of songs where guitar spoke in a special language. Even if they have, I doubt if they know these are of course the compositions of the Master!
Misconception- Almost related to this is a comment about one of his songs from a film released during Deepaval-1983. It read ‘His Younger day Music’. I am still scratching my head to find out what exactly is meant by this. Forgetting the grammatical error, what the comment tries to convey is ‘he was still a child in TFM’.  7 years, 200+ movies and still a child? That too in an industry where longevity is short and where many Music Directors haven’t yet crossed the 100 mark? Of course, in all his innocence the gentleman who made this comment would have also thought Raaja sir made his debut only in 1980!
Perception- This varies from his ‘inability’ to score ‘fast-beats’ songs to compositions in Hindutani raags. The latter point was touched upon and explanations with examples were given to break this myth during the Geetanjali-2013 Event but still many(and this includes his ‘fans’ as well as his detractors) continue to believe that he is conversant only with Carnatic Music and WCM.
Mindset- Even people who call themselves as ‘hardcore fans’ say that they do not like his ‘70s music. Maybe this partly answers why some do not even know many of his great compositions and his mastery over guitar. But the funniest part is that these people hardly know many gems of his ‘80s, ‘90s and even the 21st century compositions.
Well, the objective of this post is not to find fault with anyone nor is the intention to make fun of anybody’s ignorance. At the same time, I feel people will have to be extra careful while writing or talking about a legend and as far as possible try to be objective. But this is also too much to expect in these days of ‘google aaya namaha’ and ‘youtube saraNam’ where one just has to type something in the search box and cut and paste what appear(s) on the screen.
While I know I can’t do much about this in this democratic world, I also know that I can spread genuine information and break the myths about the genius by writing more and more about his works.
One of the many rare gems of his is ‘Poo enbatha’ from the unreleased film ‘Uyire unakkaaga’(1984) which of course should not be confused with the 1986 film by the same title, music for which was scored by Lakshmikant-Pyarelal.
The mouthorgan in the beginning sets the tone while the alternate repetition of the same sets of notes-Janaki/mouthorgan, chorus/guitar- shows the innovative brilliance of the composer. The unmistakable shades of Sindhu Bhairavi being shown in the prelude is of course the mark of the Genius!
The repetition mode continues in the Pallavi with the mouthorgan yet again following SPB’s first line.
The mouthorgan makes a brief appearance towards the end of the first interlude but not before, there are question-answer sessions between the chorus and the flute, between the shehnai and the guitar and between the guitar and the flute.
The structure of the CharaNams with three parts- the third part touching the higher octave notes and ending with the humming shows yet again his logical mind.
If the first interlude is interplay of different instruments, the major part of the second interlude uses only the voices. Janaki in upper octave, SPB in lower octave, upper, lower, upper, lower, lower, upper… followed by the chorus. Is this what is called as creative innovation? The Shehnai and the keys then take over the musical romance..
The title of the song is apt. And if people fail to notice the gold and forget to enjoy the fragrance of the flowers, whose loss is it anyway?

Friday, 29 November 2013


The ball turned, bounced, clipped the top of the pads and went to the slips. The fielder caught it and the entire fielding team-including the substitutes sitting inside the pavilion appealed for the ‘catch’. The umpire raised his finger. The batsman, on 96 had to go. Without any protest, with a wry smile adorning his face, he walked. An era came to an end.
This happened on the 17th of March 1987. The batsman under reference is Sunil Manohar Gavaskar, who was also called as the ‘Run machine’.
Exactly 25 years after this, on the 16th of March 2012, an Indian batsman scored his 100th 100 in International Cricket. His name is Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar.
Though both belonged to two different eras, the similarities between the two are striking.
Both are short and are (were) called as ‘Little Masters’.
Records tumbled almost every time they batted.
Both were the scourge of the opposition bowlers- who were shivering in their shoes just at the sight of these two taking guard.
The senior’s last innings was against Pakistan while his debut was against the West Indies. The younger one’s debut was against Pakistan and his last innings against the West Indies.
If only we choose to observe closely, we will know that there is always a link between different things in the world and that everything happens with a purpose.
In this case, it looked as though it was a Divine wish that Indian Cricket be bestowed with geniuses.
Though comparisons are odious and serve no purpose, it must be accepted that the younger one, achieved much more than what the senior achieved.
Leave alone the records. Consider the batting style. The younger one had an attacking style going after the bowling with will and had a near-perfect technique too while the senior was an epitome of patience and perseverance with a very solid defence.  
Much has of course been written about Sachin Tendulkar in the last one month or so and therefore I am not going to say anything more. All I can say is that he was an artiste of a totally different kind and watching him play was like listening to great music or watching a beautiful performance of classical dance.
Whether it was the sand storm innings or the knock fighting a severe back pain or the literal massacre of the world renowned leg spinner or the blitzkrieg against world’s fastest bowlers, Sachin has been a  the connoisseurs’ delight and the darling of the masses. This feature alone makes him one of the greatest cricketers the world has seen.
No doubt he had the natural ability but what set him are his hard work, and a willingness to always learn. That is why it pains whenever I see the word ‘God of cricket’ for if at all he is God, then  does it not take away all the credit? Will it be a surprise if God ‘performs’ well? After all, that is what he is expected to do.
Sachin Tendulkar is a man in flesh and blood just like you and me. Only difference is he is a genius par excellence.
By the same reasoning, ILaiyaraaja is not (in fact no human is) God of Music. He is a man, who despite his humble upbringing and background rose to the pinnacle by sheer hard work and perseverance.
Their rare genius maybe because of the ‘puNyaa’ of previous births but their greatness lies in the fact that they never rested on their laurels. That is why they are Maestros in their own way.
It will be not out of place to dedicate a song of the music Maestro to the other Maestro. The rare gem of today, Ponvaanile from Anbin Mugavari(1985) maybe a love duet but the wordings surely suit the genius and the very different tune and interludes are the musical expressions of his batting.
The song starts with the soft but dynamic guitar followed by the keys, the solo violin, the whistle, keys. A beautiful stroke on the offside with the strings pulling it to the fence..
The Pallavi in the voices of SPB and Suseela is a wristy flick to the legside with the ball travelling in ‘ta ka dhi mi ta ka’.
The guitar in the first interlude is a lofted drive while the violin is a straight drive with a still head. We see the neat, clean and a mesmerising cover drive in the piped instrument even as the drums change the pattern sounding ‘ta ki ta’ 8 times. The perfect square cut is on view as the strings ooze with melody.
The first part of the CharaNam interspersed with the flute is a wonderful on drive and the next part is a gentle push to the off side.
The second interlude makes us see the upper cut and the hook (strings), subtle and gentle off drive(guitar and piano), reverse sweep( solo violin), perfect defensive stroke( violin plus piano) and cheeky singles( piano keys).
The different pieces of violins in between the lines as the Pallavi is rendered in the end are innovative strokes possible only by Maestros- one a Cricketer and the other a Musician!

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

On Eroticism..

There are many questions in my mind for which I don’t find convincing answers.
Why are politicians always mean and cunning?
What is the relation between acting and politics?
Are actors clever politicians or are politicians great actors?
Why do we Indians behave so well and disciplined, care for environment, follow traffic rules strictly and be good when we go abroad (or live there) but when we visit our country we go to our old ways?
Why do we get up and go when a concert is still on?
Why do we still consider sexuality and eroticism as taboos?
The list of my questions is somewhat huge and since this is not the forum for listing them all, let me stop lest I be accused of defaming my own countrymen. Moreover, of the 7 questions listed, the first 6 are not relevant at least to my today’s post. So, let us focus on the 7th question alone for the time being.
The replies-if at all some people bother to reply- may vary from ‘Our culture does not permit discussing these aspects openly’ to ‘We Indians are hypocrites’.  But is it true that our culture is rigid and does in no way encourage open discussion or even for that matter views sex as a very personal thing and has refrained from open exhibition?
People who say ‘Yes’ to this question must visit Khajuraho, Konark and also many temples in India and look at the sculptures. If indeed it is a fact that our ancestors considered it as something very personal why would such sculptures exist and that too in places of worship?
Our ancestors had an aesthetic view of everything including sexuality, but somehow it lost its value over a period of time. What is strange is that there are extreme views about this subject. Either it borders(many times even crosses the border) on vulgarity or there is hushed silence.This is very obvious if one watches the so called ‘comedy sequences’ in the present day movies where all the ‘popular comedians’ thrive only on vulgarising sex corrupting our minds and making us believe that sex means vulgarity and obscenity or even the other way around.
Continuing with eroticism, some of the great works in Indian literature are erotic. By great works, I mean even the Bhakti literature. Take the Azhwars for example. AandaL pines for the Lord Ranganatha and some of the verses ooze with eroticism. In one of the Tiruppavais, she describes the private part of a friend. In her Naachiyar Thirumozhi, there have been references to the ‘fiery bosoms’. Thirumangaiyaazhwar, assuming the role of a naayika has penned down the sufferings of a beloved separated from her Hero and his descriptions include the way the organs of the naayika’s body is affected because of the separation.
Jayadeva’s Geeta Govindam which talks about the love between Radha and Krishna is full of erotic descriptions. So are Annamacharya’s many kritis, with some kritis even talking about the nuptials. As you know Annamayya was a great devotee of Lord Venkateswara who is the Naayaka in his kritis with the naayika being Padmavathy alias Goddess Lakshmi.
AruNagirinathar, who ‘saw it all’ before becoming a devotee of Lord Muruga describes the act itself in many of his Thiruppugazhs at the same time spewing venom on all the women in the world!
I have mentioned all these not with any intention to degrade the gods (as many of you know, I am a Believer and atheism is no longer part of my system); nor is it my intention to show all the great poet-devotees in poor light. I love all their poems. I am only trying to show that the subject under reference was never a taboo in our culture as widely believed. Of course I do not want to get into the deeper meanings of the poems at this juncture. All I can say is that these poets did not have any qualms in mentioning or describing these things and they even found it a way to reach higher and sublime plane.
This in fact answers my question which I raised long back in some of my posts about ILaiyaraaja. I had asked as to how it was possible for this gentleman known for his spiritual leanings to compose erotic songs. In fact, one of the accusations against him has been that he was instrumental in bringing in and infusing vulgarity in film songs. People who make such comments without doubt miss the wood for tree. They do not understand the compulsions of a film music composer. Of course, there have been songs that surely border on vulgarity(Madani Madani in Kadal MeengaL for example) but what can a composer do when the lyricist, director and the producer are convinced about certain things. ‘Nila Kaayudhu’(Sakalakalavallavan) and a few other songs too fall under this category.
But what is great about this gentleman is that not only does he compose such songs like a true karma yogi and like the water drops on lotus leaf but also brings out the subtle emotions. It maybe because he acts more like a catalyst while composing such songs or even maybe it does not attract him as much as it attracts a majority of us and it is just another day in office for him.
Even his ‘just another day’ produces some great compositions and that is where the beauty lies. ‘Enge enge’ from ‘Iniya uRavu pooththadhu’( 1987) is a classic example.
This erotic song in the voice of Janaki’s shows how beautiful eroticism could be.
The humming, bass instruments, beats and of course the tune make it a complete composition. But there is one amazing thing about this song which makes it a song par excellence. I have heard devotional songs, romantic duets, pathos songs, lullabies in KalyaNi but have ever across an erotic song in this raga. Probably this is the only one in that genre.
I have also often found that he liberally uses a host of Bass instruments in such songs and also in the BGM for such sequences. In the prelude of ‘Enge’, we find a horn like instrument as bass while the interlude has an instrument almost sounding like the one in the prelude but is more ‘guitarish’.  When both these meet and mingle in the second interlude, it is pure bliss.
Yet another highlight of this composition is the way percussion is used to depict the emotions.In the Pallavi-which is in ateeta eduppu- there is Bass guitar, Rhythm guitar and the drums all sounding in Tisram. The first interlude has yet another new instrument, some kind of a S.E.Asian percussion instrument that accompanies the guitar. It is the Tabla in the CharaNams that creates the mood with some subtle variations in Tisram, sounding  ‘ta ta ta  ki ta ta’ with a gap of 3 beats before the next ‘ta ta ki ta ta’ in the first two lines and playing without any gap in the following lines.
The same Tabla sounds ‘ta ta taangu ta ki ta taangu’ in the second interlude along with the guitar.Goes to show how even rhythm can be exploited to give the erotic feel.
The melodic instruments are not far behind.The flute in the first interlude playing staccato notes first and then cooing like a bird and the guitar in both the interludes jump with a twinkle in their eyes.
The last lines in the CharaNams tell us what this composition is all about..
Or do they convey more?

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Ragas and Moods..

Is it true that each raga has a mood of its own?

Long back, I had written about ‘moods and ragas’. I had also asked as to what determines the mood of a raga-is it the perceived inherent quality or is it the way it is used in a composition. If one goes by the ‘inherent perceived quality’, then Mukhari is a ‘crying raga’ and is more apt for sad situations.But then how is it that ‘aanandam aananadam aanandame’ played on the nagaswaram  immediately after the ‘maangalyadharaNam, is in Mukhari? Saint Tyagaraja’s ‘Enta ninne’ in the same Mukhari, talks about the ‘bhagya’ of Sabhari and does not cry for Sabhari.Many more examples –about some other ragas too-can be given but I shall give that in some of my forthcoming posts whenever required.

So, what is my verdict on the mood of the raga? Is it just a perception or is it a fact?

Considering that music or for that matter appreciating music is subjective, it is somewhat difficult to say what emotions or feelings a particular raga evokes. In fact, how many of us can even express the emotions we undergo while listening to music? At the same time, I feel some ragas do have specific moods. This is particularly true in classical music. By saying this, I don’t mean to say that ragas in film music do not have any mood. All said and done, film music has a grammar of its own. This grammar of film music cannot be defined or structured. It all depends on the composer.

That brings us to the next point. If the composer is the authority and if the tune is ‘owned’ by him, why is it that he/she chooses a particular raga for a sequence? Just 3 months ago, I raised this point in my post in a forum in social media. First of all, does a composer decide about the raga before starting to compose or does it ‘just happen’?  Geniuses like ILaiyaraaja and MSV say that ‘it just happens’. But being a person who has listened to a majority of their compositions, I would slightly disagree here.  For example, before ‘PaadaiRiyen’ was composed the former was clear that he would compose in Saramati. ‘Gowrimanohariyai kaNden’(MazhalappattaLam) cannot be a case of ‘just happening’ as far as MSV is concerned.

However, having composed for nearly 1000 films, both the veterans surely knew what they were talking and would have meant it.

If that is the case, is it also not a fact that they have composed in many classical ragas and would they have done this unknowingly? Certainly not.  It is just that because of their knowledge, the tune  follows a raga pattern and they are very much aware of it. After all, does not music flow from their veins and not from computers?

In my most recent special post written exclusively for ‘Geetanjali-2013’, I had written about how a classical raga like Shanmukhapriya has been used by ILaiyaraaja to suit different occasions. Using this raga in humorous situations is surely ‘out of the box’ thinking. Music composers before him would have shuddered to even think of having Shanmukhapriya as the base of any ‘kiNdal’ or ‘NaiyyaaNdi’ song.

But if one has really listened to his ‘kuththu’ songs in this ragam,  one can’t help not appreciating the genius-that is if one has an open mind.

Needless to say that the rare gem of the day is a composition in this ragam.

The situation in the movie(Anne Anne-1983) is somewhat interesting. A rich man who has come up in life by ‘cycling’ his way to the top wants to go back to his roots as he hates the hypocritical and the snobbishness of the upper crest. A youngman from a poor background wants to be rich. They exchange places. This song is rendered to welcome the rich man to the slum.

‘Vettu Vedippom’ starts with a typical ‘Band vaadhya’ beginning with the trumpets and the clarinet playing the tune of an old song( Ulagam piRanthathu enakkaaga). But exactly after 25 seconds, the first time listeners are in for a huge surprise. The drums play with vigour and the keys sound different sets of swaras in pure Shanmukhapriya!

Malaysia  Vasudevan starts bursting the crackers with the chorus following him and what a colourful spectacle it is.. The line ‘Vandirukkum’ gives all the shades of Shanmukhapriya in a matter of 8 seconds.

The Nagaswaram goes on a trip in the first half of the first interlude while the second half is peppered with ‘naiyyaaNdi’ with the bass guitar and a host of instruments literally showing a kuththu dance.

The versatility of Malaysia Vasudevan comes to the fore in the first CharaNam as he first sings like a old man, goes back to normal and even sings a nice ‘akaaram’ for two full cycles, finally singing like another character who cannot pronounce the letters ‘pa’ and ‘ta’(both pronounced as ‘fa’!).

The CharaNam has 4 parts. The first and the second parts are sung by the ‘old man’ with a brief sangati in ‘veNum’. The next part is rendered by the chorus with a beautiful shade of the raga in ‘kaNakkule’.

The fourth part is more classical with the ‘akaaram’ and the reverberating mridangam.

The second interlude is a mélange of sorts. The ‘Band’ first twists and twirls. The  Nagaswaram joins to the subtle accompaniment of the trumpets with the keys giving a funny sound. The Nagaswaram then dances on the street rather nonchalantly.The great sight comes to an end with the drums saying,’ o k no w’ ‘o k no w’.

The subtle changes in the fourth line of second charaNam and the differently sounding ‘ekaaram’ in the last part instead of the ‘akaaram’ in the corresponding line in the first charaNam make the song more attractive.

‘A sacrilege’!  This is how a ‘purist’ would have commented when told that a ‘kuththu’ song is in Shanmukhapriya.

Is it really?

Monday, 24 June 2013

On relationships..

Relationships are always special. In an Indian milieu, these acquire more meanings since ours is one of the few cultures in the world where the term nuclear family has not yet become a passé and where respect to elders is given a lot of importance.

It is not that other cultures do not care for relationships but the way we treat the concept of family is entirely different. By nature we are also more emotional and many a times let the heart rule over the head. Whether this is good or not, one doesn’t really know and it surely depends on the situation, how far these emotions are carried.

Today’s rare gem revolves around a lady perfectionist to the core and therefore emotional to the hilt and who parts ways with her husband because he had hidden his dark past to her. The son is brought up by the father. Over a period of time she mellows down (isn’t that what a woman is supposed to be in tamizh movies?) and has a yearning to see her grown up son.

What will she do now?

Well, if it is real life, overridden with emotions, she would either write a letter to her son or try to speak to him at least on the phone. But in movies, the lady would sing and dance. This again is a debatable topic. Though this part-a song and dance sequence – is the most artificial part in an Indian movie, it is still the most enjoyable. If only this was not there in a movie, how would we have got some great songs and listened to some great music? Blessing in disguise!!

Nowhere do I find artificial elements interesting than in a song sequence in our movies. But again, let me hasten to add that this applies to not all the songs. For a song to be great, it must have a nice tune, melodious but sensible orchestration, good voice and lyrics that are unforgettable.

At least 95% of songs in ILaiyaraaja’s music have the first two aspects. I do not want to comment on the third aspect now and maybe write a separate post on that. The last mentioned aspect is surely found wanting now. That is why, I keep wondering how it would have been if only one lyricist was alive and had not had a premature death.Nothing is in our hands. I would like to leave it at that.

Though it would surprise many, the fact remains that I started paying attention to KaNNadasan’s lyrics only after he left this world. The more I listened, the more I liked. The more I liked, the more I learnt. The writings in this community are never complete without a post on the 2nd June and on the 24th June. On this day-which I would like to call as ‘Poets’ Day’- I yet again offer my praNaams to the genius.

Let me go back to the sequence we saw in the beginning. The sequence I was referring to is from the movie ‘Rishimoolam’(1980). Though I have not yet watched the sequence (thankfully!), the song ‘Mazhai varuvadhu’ has always been one of my most favourites.

All the aspects-tune, orchestration, voice and lyrics- are great to say the least.

The tune is in Nata Bhairavi. There are innumerable number of songs in Tamizh Film Music in this ‘scale’ but not all follow the classical Nata Bhairavi. As some of you know, Nata Bhairavi is one of the minor scales in WCM. But ‘Mazhai varuvadhu’ gives the shades of the raga so beautifully.

The Pallavi is in ‘ateeta eduppu’. However, more than all these, there are certain aspects in this song that makes it one of the best.

Tamizh Film Music has hardly had the kind of structure that this song has.

 Take the second part of the Pallavi-‘ini avaLathu ulagaththil pagalenna irvenna magane kathiravanaam avaL ninaivinil avane pudhu nilavaam’. This line which runs for 1 1/4th avartanam,  is sung in single breath. Secondly, the line appears to be flat but it is sung with a rolling voice.

The line of the charaNam flows smoothly with the violins galloping for a full cycle of taLam. However, what makes the charaNams unique and beautiful is the way the lines take an ascent slowly and steadily.

Mid octave>lower octave>higher octave.

The ‘akaaram’ at the end,  that again runs for one cycle is simply out of the world.

Can’t imagine anybody else apart from Janaki singing this song with such a great felicity..

In terms of the lyrics, the Pallavi itself gives the gist.

‘Like the peacock which knows about the rain, a mother knows her son’.

Comparison that stumps us!

And to convey that from now on her son is her world, the poet says ‘ he is the sun, he is the full moon’.

The first charaNam talk about her outspokenness ,her tendency to make hasty decision s and her transformation while those in the second talks about the past, the present and her eagerness to announce to the world that ‘yes, I am his mother’.

The orchestration and arrangement prove yet again as to why he is considered to be one of the greatest ever.

The opening itself is dazzling. The guitar is vibrant with the Tabla tarang first giving a very short sketch of the first phrase of the Pallavi. The strings trundle, the sublime flute takes a flight, the veena replies with a serene smile, the strings play a part of the Pallavi and the flute like instrument jump.

So many variations in a matter of 52 sec!

The first interlude sees the single violin first, playing in western style. The flute then charts its own journey followed by the pristine veena . The guitar repeats the notes of the veena .It seems like  micro composition by itself. The strings then move with vigour with the table tarang jumping once every two beats.

We see myriad images in the second interlude with the Tabla tarang which is joined by the piano. It is ripples of melody for a while and then it is a fountain of western classical music played by the strings. The flute joins again in Indian classical style backed by the veena.. The keys follow and the strings complete the proceedings.

This relationship between the swaras, words,instruments and voice-isn’t it very special? 

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

When the swaras spoke and the violin sang..

It was a Saturday morning in the year 1986. With so many thoughts and expectations in my mind, I was rushing to catch a bus. Where was I rushing and what kind of expectations were there in my mind?

Cut back to the year 1980 when I started listening to Classical Music seriously (thanks to one gentleman!) and was getting exposed to names like Maharajapuram, D.K.Jayaraman, Ravi Shankar, Amjad Ali Khan, Ramani, MSG, Lalgudi… Over a period of time, I was able to identify and discern the various styles not only in vocal music but also in instrumental music.

Of all the instruments, the violin caught my eye (or is it the ear? perhaps the heart!) and the reason is not very difficult to understand. The violin always played a very important role in ILaiyaraaja’s music and it was natural for me to like the sound from this particular instrument. Moreover, no carnatic music concert is complete without the violin as an accompaniment.

As I listened to concert after concert-thanks to the radio and Madras ‘A’- the sound from the violins of two artistes was surely very different. One artiste was Shri.M.S.Gopalakrishnan. My exposure to Hindustani Music through a programme called ‘Sangeet sarita’ on Vividh Bharati every morning at 7.30 am made me a great fan of Hindustani form too and I found the Hindustani style predominant in Shri.MSG’s playing. That was the time when I was also listening to songs like ‘Jyan Jyan’(PoonthaLir) and ‘Yaar maamano’(Vetrikku oruvan) and I was able to relate to the Hindustani style of bowing very easily.

The sound from the other artiste was somewhat different. I could hear the violin speak(please note that I am not talking about ‘gimmicks’ in violin where some people imitate the human voice in violin throwing all classicism to the wind!). It was obvious that the musician was in love with each swara and the raga and caressed them with affection. It was almost like listening to vocal music. For the first time in my life, I felt the meaning of meditation, though I learnt meditation only 9 years after this.

The name of the musician is Lalgudi Jayaraman and I became instantly attached to his music.

It was to this great musician’s lecture/demonstration session that I was heading to on that Saturday morning in 1986 with excitement. I would be watching him for the first time and hearing him talk about music. Could there have been a better moment?

His talk was as sweet as his music and he touched various aspects of life itself. My respect for him grew by leaps and bounds when he said ‘If I say something that might hurt somebody, then it is ‘apaswara’ in real life’. I knew here was a man who respected life and enjoyed life to the fullest.

After this, I attended many of his lec/dems and concerts and each and every lecture/concert was an experience by itself. He would quote Bharati and go on to describe the beauty in a cuckoo’s call. His childlike enthusiasm while explaining the intricacies of a particular raga had to be seen to be believed.

As a person who appreciated all forms of music, it was not surprising that he loved ILaiyaraaja’s music. Once he said that this kind of music is surely the result of ‘puNyas’ from seven janmas. He was also very appreciative of Raaja sir’s orchestration and his ability to write music in a jiffy. In fact, the admiration was mutual. Raaja sir was a special guest in the audio release function of ‘Sringaram’, the music of which was scored by Lalgudi sir himself and remarked that he was a great fan of Lalgudi’s and that he simply loved the Thillanas of his composed in Hindustani raags with western style orchestration in the preludes and the interludes.

Today’s rare gem from the movie ‘Isai Paadum ThendRal’ is dedicated to this great legend. The speciality of this composition is that it has only the ‘swara korvais’.

The gandhrava voice of Yesudass sings only the Shadjamam and we hear only this swara for two cycles of Roopaka taaLam. The swaras ‘ri’, ‘ga’ and ‘ni’ join now and with the gamakams we clearly get to see the sketch of Kharaharapriya. The mridangam follows suit and plays a brief korvai of four avartanams in roopakam. It is 3 avartanams then and the mridangam starting at the ‘dha’ in the third avaratanam with the ‘dha’ being given the ‘kaarvai’ is a master stroke..

The violin joins the vocals rather subtly and from then on, the swaras move in single avartanam. Kharaharapriya smiles, caresses, fondles and dances. The ‘teermanam’ in the end is a connoisseur’s delight. The composition ends with the akaaram of Yesudass.

And we start humming ‘Samaanam evaru..(Jaya)Raama nee samaanamevru..Raaja nee samaanameveru..

Sunday, 31 March 2013

Gospel of Love..

Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do’ said that great soul. What was great was that He said this when people were ‘nailing’ him literally on the Cross. How many of us can even dream of saying this at any point of time?
The greatness of Jesus Christ lay in his spreading the Gospel of Love. Love which is unconditional and without any expectations.
He strongly believed that Love alone can get rid of negativities, Love alone can stop calamities, Love alone can bring joy, Love alone can bring peace. Not only did he preach this but also practised it.
That is why, He was able to even love his enemy. In fact, inspired by this Bharati sang ‘PagaivanukkaruLvai nannenje pagaivanukkaruLvai’.
On this Easter Sunday, the day when Christ rose from the death, let us all take a vow to love not just our neighbours but also our enemies.
Like Love, Music is powerful too. Today’s Rare Gem is a song from the film ‘Avar Enakke Sontham’(1977). Many are familiar with ‘Devan Thiruchchabhai MalargaLe’ sung by PooraNi and Indira. But not many are aware of the Yesudass version which is not there in the album.
There is also a small story regarding the guitar piece which appears now and then and can be called as the leitmotif in the song. It clearly reminds one of the ‘Sholay’ theme music and Raaja was accused of plagiarism those days. Though he never clarified publicly, he revealed a fact-until then unknown- to a fan in reply to his letter.He mentioned in the letter that he composed that piece for a Kannada song as early as 1972 while working as an assistant for G.K.Venkatesh. Whether RDB copied from him or if it was a case of two geniuses thinking alike, one does not know. And one need not bother about this too.
The Yesudass version is more dynamic in terms of the rendering and in terms of the orchestration.Though the Pallavi and CharaNams in both the songs follow the same pattern, the arrangement and orchestration are totally different.
  The prelude is longer in this version with an extended guitar piece that takes us to an ethereal world.
‘Devan Thiruchchabhai malar idhu’ sings the majestically sweet voice.The Brass flue in between the lines is tender.
The Saxophone in the first interlude goes deep into our hearts while the guitar pulls the strings of our hearts.
The Sitar in the CharaNams and in the second interlude is scintillatingly brilliant while the whistle and the brass flute that romance each other are exhilarating.
A very different Harikambhoji in western classical style..
Music that makes us love everything.
Happy Easter!

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Waves of Music..Waves of Strokes..

In this world which is full of superstitions, it would be hard to believe that some of the greatest things have started with an anti climax.
Amitabh Bacchan- whose baritone voice charms even a kid now- was rejected by AIR way back in late ‘60s when he applied for the post of Newsreader. Reason? ‘Your voice is not good and not suitable for this position’.
Albert Einstein was branded as a slow learner and a boy with low IQ in school.
When Rajinikanth  first appeared on the screen, the sub-title card carried the words ‘Shruti Bedam’.
I can quote many more from history but let me stop here and focus on what happened today.
The batsman, who was making his debut was at the non-striker’s end.As the bowler delivered the ball, the shining red cherry slipped from his hand and disturbed the bails with the non-striker being out of the crease. Technically, he was out. But the ‘sportive’ Aussies did not appeal and all the players on the field had a hearty laugh. What a ominous start to a career of an opening batsman!
This young lad then massacred the bowling striking the ball to all the corners and making the Aussies chase leather. At the end of the day (literally and figuratively), Stark and Clarke must be really wondering as to why they did not appeal when ‘technically’ he was run out.
All left handers have an innate grace and elegance. In fact, that is why I love left handers. Shikhar Dhawan is no exception. All his shots today were classic cricketing shots. What one liked the most was the way he fearlessly stepped out showing absolutely no signs of any nervousness. The single he took to complete his hundred showed his adventurous streak.
No doubt it is a great day for Indian cricket and I, on behalf of this community congratulate Dhawan on his stupendous achievement and  wish that he surpasses the 287 scored by the Englishman Reginald Foster and even records his triple century, a record which will surely remain undisturbed for centuries to come (pun intended!).
  Now, go back to the first line in the post. Most of you know that the career of the greatest film music composer too also started with anti climax with power going off the moment recording started and to top it all, nothing getting recorded on the tape even after the power was restored due to a technical snag. Therefore, I find it appropriate to dedicate a song of his to Shikhar Dhawan. I am sure he too will like the song, though he may not understand the language for music has no boundaries.
This rare gem ‘Alai alaiyaai’ from ‘NaaLai unadu naaL’(1984) is another beauty in Pahaadi by the Pahaadi Master.
It starts with the guitar and the claps with the keys jumping with joy. Dhawan walks to the crease.The Pallavi-in the voice of Uma RamaNan- sings about the aspiration, desire and the dream of the young lad even as he proudly wears the India Cap.
The Trumpets blow.It is like his exquisite cover drive. The bass guitar smiles.It is like his on- drive. The stringed instrument sings.It is like his leg glance.
Each and every line in CharaNam flows like the clear stream denoting his fluent straight drives.
The unusual sounds from a new instrument in the second interlude are like the reverse sweep while the shrill flute and the strings symbolise the occasional edge and the lofted shots. The sudden change in the rhythmic pattern, with chatushram changing to Tisram and playing exactly 28 Tistams, typifies the grace, elegance, class, beauty and above all the guts of the young lads.
Yes, two young lads, one who as a 32 year old made his debut in 1976 breaking all conventions and shattering all records and winning the hearts of millions of people and  the other, a 27 year old who made his debut today and who will surely break record after record and make all cricket lovers love him!


Thursday, 31 January 2013


About 4 years back when I was on an official tour to a city where I spent my formative years, I took a stroll after my dinner. Since the hotel was not very far from the place I lived nearly 3 decades back, I decided to go and see the house, and the school where I studied for 4 years. As I was walking by the side of the road, my heart rate increased. Just before the ‘gully’, something caught my instant attention. That object seemed so familiar to me. It was a huge tamarind tree. It was old now but surely seemed to recognise me. I went near that and gave it a caressing touch. The feeling I had then, is very difficult to express.

Nostalgia is a very special feeling. Though Eckhart Tolle may not agree, the past also has its own power. We are what we are because of our past. It is the past that has guided us to the present which in turn will take us to the future as the present becomes the past in future.

Show me one person who does not indulge in nostalgic trips now and then and does not enjoy it.

School, favourite teacher, dearest friend(s), objects, cycle, neighbours, pranks, games, music, radio…
The last two are the most relevant here.

Let me go back to the first paragraph. The house that I referred to was the place where I got my first transistor radio. Of course, I had an old valve set radio too which would receive Radio Australia, BBC and ah yes.. Radio Ceylon. If the first two introduced me to the finer nuances of the game called cricket through the voices of some great legendary commentators, the last mentioned introduced me to the world of music. The ‘Binaca Geetmala’ on Wednesday nights between 8 and 9 pm was one programme which I would never miss. The Hindi film songs attracted me so much that I became addicted to it.

Since the city I was living that time was about 750 kms from Tamizh Nadu, my exposure to Tamizh songs at that time was through Vividh Bharati during a 15 minute slot between 4.30 and 5.30 pm, and the Sri Lankan Broadcasting Corporation Asian Service between 4pm and 6pm.

Post-1976, I would be glued to the radio during this time for reasons that are obvious and I am sure this needs no elaboration.

I vividly remember the first time I listened to each and every song of his not just during this period but also post-1978 when we moved to a place in Tamizh Nadu about 150kms away from Madras.

Even very recently he himself has said in an interview about how people recall various incidents in their life through his songs and also how they always remember the first time they listened to the songs.

The rare gem of the day also talks about nostalgia.

Rendered beautifully by Deepan Chakravarthy, ‘Paaduthamma Aatrin alaigaL’ from the film ‘NaNdu(1980) moves like a gentle breeze.

The prelude starts with his favourite instrument during early ‘80s(refer my previous post) followed by the soft humming of Deepan. The Pallavi in ShankarabharaNam is breathtakingly fresh.

The eloquent flute dominates the interlude. The one- stringed instrument that nods its head in the first part gives a folksy feel while the keys towards the end gives that western touch with the dilruba in the middle kindling our deepest emotions.

The CharaNam is mellow and tranquil with some meaningful melodic lines.

The first two lines are graceful and the next two lines move like a gentle stream.
The lines that follow are resplendent with the alien note at the end giving a diffused glow.

Glow of nostalgia..