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?

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