Monday, 14 July 2014

Goal..


It was a quiet night.

Or was it? Quiet outside but the entire family was watching something on the television. And we were not alone. Millions of people across the globe were watching the same programme at the same time. Suddenly, my son got up saying ‘oh….’. Even as we were looking at him quizzically, he said, ‘Ronaldo’s free kick pa. See now, he will stand with his legs spread like this and look straight’. He demonstrated that and within a few seconds, we saw a replica on our screen with that great player from Portugal, doing exactly like how Viraj demonstrated!

It is a different issue that he couldn’t score in that free kick and also his team ended up as a losing side. But that moment is an unforgettable one for me.  I looked at my son with a sense of pride (though he did not know this and even now I am afraid is oblivious to this). Feeling of a father when he comes to know that his son after all knows certain details and nuances which he himself doesn’t know. This feeling I am sure cannot be matched and is unique.

Unique is that Event too which occurs once in 4 years around this time. No singular Event is viewed with so much of passion by people. It also has the maximum viewership. That beautiful game called as Foot Ball is a way of life for many. Coming to think of it, this game is like our life itself. We all move towards a goal in life. There are many impediments and obstacles in our way. But we keep moving; moving fast. In the process, if we commit a mistake, we are penalized. At times we are penalized even if we don’t do anything wrong.  In any case, the rules of the game must strictly be followed. Once we achieve a goal, we don’t stop and keep looking for more. The only major difference between a game of foot ball and life is while in the former, we don’t let the opponents achieve the goal, in the latter, we cannot afford to do that.

Foot Ball also provides non-stop action, entertainment and excitement.  Most importantly, it involves a lot of team work and spirit and also inculcates a sense of discipline.

The 31 day rendezvous has come to an end and deservingly the Title of World Champions has gone to the most consistent and exciting Team in the World. I can empathise fully with the entire nation of Germany (remember how we Indians were on the 25th June, 1983 and on 2nd Apr, 2011?). Let us congratulate the team from Deutschland and thank them for providing such great entertainment!!

Let us celebrate the victory with a German song set to tune by our Maestro!

Issh le from Pudhu Paattu(1990)  is yet another gem from the Treasure Trove. Rendered with passion by Janaki, the song is as romantic as the game of foot ball.

The song starts with the exquisite strumming of the guitar. It pulls the chords in our hearts. As we close our eyes and begin to immerse ourselves in the Major scale, Janaki with her inimitable voice starts singing in pure German. The glistening rhythm guitar sounds now and then in the first two lines enhancing the experience.

Lo and behold! We hear Tamizh superimposed on German. The rhythm pads join now making us nod our heads. The guitar continues its journey but this time in the minor scale. We see the beautiful Danube and Rhine as the higher octave strings which back the vocals transport us to the Deutschland.

Exotic and Exhilarating!

It is spiritual too as the chorus renders ‘Lead, kindly light’.

Work towards a goal with sincerity, dedication and focus. Sky is the limit!!

This is what Foot Ball teaches us… And Life too..


Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Boon..


Yesterday I was listening to ‘Oru vaanavil pole..’ in the car.Of course, I have lost count on the number of times I would have listened to the song in which the guitar and the flute are extraordinary, but this post is not about this song anyway. As I was listening to the CharaNam, I closed my eyes and immersed myself in Janaki’s voice. 

‘What a voice’, thought I. At the same time I did a H G Wells and travelled back to my childhood. The first time I came to know the existence of a singer called Janaki was in a cinema hall during a song sequence. My mother asked my father ‘Isn’t it Janaki’ and he said ‘Yes, seems like..’ I turned back and asked y father,’ Who is Janaki?’ He said ‘She is a singer’. That came as a rude shock to me. Can there be any other singer than Suseela? What is this Janaki?

Let me tell you that the song was ‘Unnidaththil ennai koduththen’ from AvaLukkendRu or manam. There is a reason behind my mentioning the name of the song and I shall say that a little later.

After this experience, I hardly came across that voice (even if I had, I paid scant attention). After about 4 years, a movie created ripples in the Tamizh cinema circuit mainly because of music and 3 songs-including a super hit song- were rendered by Janaki. As mentioned in some of my posts, the first exposure to ‘machchanai paartheengaLa’ did not have much impact on me.Added to this was the fact was this was sung by Janaki, an ‘alien’. For at least the next 2 years, though I became a full- fledged fan of the Master, I would wonder as to why he was giving so many songs to Janaki.

I don’t remember how-just like I don’t know why I did not have a special liking for this voice until then- but the turning point happened after our shifting to a town in Tamizh Nadu. Even then, I wouldn’t say I became a great fan like how I am now, but at least the opinion started changing. I now started liking the voice, and enjoying the voice. It was then a gradual process and when ILaiyaraaja mentioned in an interview to a Tamizh magazine in 1982 that Janaki is the greatest singer in Asia and that she was way ahead of Lata Mangeshkar, I couldn’t agree more. ‘Yes, of course!’ I thought.

In my humble opinion, no voice in film music is as versatile as Janaki’s. She can sing a disco song with a quiver and render a classical raga song with gamakams and brigas. She can sing like a child; can sing like a old woman; can sing like a boy. She can touch the taara sthayi panchamam and immediately go to a mandara sthayi shadjam with consummate ease. She can make us dance, smile,cry, laugh and be erotic too.

Janaki- the magician!

PraNaams to my most favourite female singer in film music on her birthday!  

The rare gem of the day shows the sensuous Janaki(can any voice be more sensuous than hers?). In one of the recent shows, ILaiyaraaja mentioned this song to be the precursor to ‘Nila kayudhu’ and said he felt inspired by the way she handled this song. By the way, the combo organ in ‘Unnidaththil..’ was played none other than the young Raaja

Andha aattorama’ from ‘Nalladhu Nadanthe theerum’(1981)starts with the strumming of guitar giving shades of Kaapi. The ankle bells-4 beats- are followed by the ghatam-4 beats again- and the Pallavi starts in ‘ateeta eduppu’. The ankle bells sound again. With the ‘chenda’ like percussion giving the impetus, the Pallavi is surely romantic- I would say softly romantic.

The long flute and the bass guitar continue this romantic feel before the ‘chenda’ percussion takes over. ‘But when I have the voice of Janaki, why any instrument at all..’  the composer seems to think and lets her voice do the rest.

The CharaNams with the backing of that resonant percussion are pleasing.

The second interlude is another marvel with the electronic instruments dominating. The different violin sound is echoed (he used this instrument prolifically during early ‘80s). It is then the turn of electric guitar to take us on a short trip with the flute responding with a smile. All these happen without any percussion with the bass guitar providing the rhythm. The sharp percussion joins only towards the end of the interlude to guide us to the second charaNam.

The postlude speaks volumes of Janaki’s talent and capability..

Janaki- The Banyan tree!

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Space


The Academy mini hall was bursting at the seams. People were jostling each other and there was hardly any space left. The erudite scholar from the North was making a presentation on Gita Govinda as part of the Lecture/Demonstration series during the Music Season. Even as this was on, a senior citizen got up from his seat and walked towards the passage. Nonchalantly taking his camera out, he focused it on a gentleman sitting in the extreme corner. The gentleman- a young but a senior musician known for his radical views- turned back and with a frown and a grimace, shooed away the senior citizen. The latter did not  budge and was bent on using his contraption. The musician had to raise his voice and say  ‘NO, PLEASE GO AWAY’ with a very stern voice. The senior citizen finally retreated but I am sure his objective was achieved.

 The gentleman with the gadget wanted to take a picture of the musician-in all probability to show off to the entire world that after all he was also present in the same hall where the great musician was sitting as part of the audience. Going by the present day trend, he would have wanted it to post it in one of the social media sites to get most number of ‘likes’.  Is there anything wrong in this?

 I feel ‘Yes’.

A presentation cum lecture was on and by moving around and indulging in something, he was showing disrespect to the person who was lecturing, the audience and also the great poet Jayadeva . This very act smacks of indecency and very bad manners.  But what hurt me the most was the Senior Citizen’s total disregard to the musician’s privacy. After all, the musician is a human being in flesh and blood and is a rasika as well.  By trying to take a picture of his, wasn’t the senior man conveying that ‘Oh this is something special’ when in reality there was nothing special about it? Most importantly, he was intruding into the private space of the musician.

How many of us even realise that each living being on the earth has a space of its own- a space very personal and the denial of which makes the living beings very uncomfortable, gives them jitters which is and make them suffocate?

All of us yearn for this personal space but when it comes to giving that space to others, we look the other way. By having our own space where we do things we are comfortable with and things we enjoy the most-though this is subjective, all I meant was a ‘legitimate space’- and respecting others’ space, our lives become more meaningful and the world itself will be a better place to live.

 Today is ‘World Sparrow Day’. The sparrow, that beautiful creature is now almost extinct and is likely to be declared as an endangered species soon. The same digital world where Apples and Berries are no longer associated only with fruits is the culprit. It is of course very easy to argue that if not for technology, we would not even be sharing such thoughts just at the click of a button. Agreed to a certain extent but let us also lean back and think if we have ever felt that this world is not just for us but also to millions of other living creatures. Let us start questioning ourselves as to what can be done to restore such extinct creatures and decide to allow these creatures their space which itself will be a first step towards recognising the ‘space’ of all our fellow humans apart from our own space.

The rare gem of the day, Nattu vaiccha rosa chedi from AraNmanai kiLi (1993) may not have anything to do with sparrow as such. However, I feel a breath of fresh air whenever I listen to this song which is based on the Hindustani raag Durga. It could be because of the exuding cheerfulness and joy. Or even simply because of the folksy tune.

The chorus, the percussion and the beats in Tisram in the prelude take us to a typical village in Tamizh Nadu. The sweet voice of Suseela amma in the Pallavi-which itself flows like a tributary of Cauvery.

Almost throughout the song, the bass guitar gives a very special sound-something like a ‘uRumi meLam’

The mid octave and higher octave notes are played together by the piped folk instruments in the first interlude making us take a walk alongside the spacious garden with the branches and the flowers nodding their heads to the tune of the flute.

The lines in the charaNams ooze with energy with the chorus and the piped instruments in the second half giving the impetus.

The second interlude dominated yet again by the chorus, percussion and the flute give the genuine flavour of our villages.

Surely a breath of fresh air permeating our personal space with music. Let us cherish this space and make others cherish their respective space as well..



Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Longevity


Recently,  I was having  a telephonic  conversation with a close friend of mine and invariably the talk was on music in general and his music in particular. In fact the fulcrum of the topic was ‘longevity of music’. Here, ‘music’ should be understood as a particular form and also music by specific composers in that form.

Let me elaborate.  Though music is universal, the undeniable fact is that it has many forms (or should I say genre?)- Classical, Folk, Pop, Jazz.. Film Music.  The one mentioned first and the one mentioned last are more relevant to this post and needless to say that the conversation focussed on these two.

‘Will his music last forever? What is your opinion’, asked my friend. I instantly spoke about the music of yesteryears-say of MKT- and how it still attracts people. But my friend’s contention was that it is a miniscule percentage. Well, in the absence of a scientific survey it will be difficult to prove, but the very fact that the name rings a bell and that people still listen to/ hum these songs proves that those songs are not dead. Though I did not say this to my friend, I have seen posts in the social media raving about such songs. Now, how relevant is this to Raaja’s music? I shall come to that soon but before that I must also say something about the classical music scenario. I am confining myself to carnatic music now and shall quote examples from Hindustani and Western Classical, maybe in some of the future posts.

I told my friend-who unfortunately claims to have no liking for this form- that kritis composed more than 150 years back are sung with great fervour by the artistes. ‘If different artistes sing the same kriti(s) in various concerts, how ‘different’ is it? Is it not the same stuff?’ asked my friend. ‘Here is where the ‘differential’ in terms of voice, style and creativity’ come into picture was my refrain. How can there be creativity if one performs the same song?  A logical question in the minds of people who are not exposed to this form.

A typical rendering of the kriti starts with a raga elaboration called as ‘aalapana’, followed by the rendering which will have some lines repeated with a subtle variation each time it is sung called as sangatis, followed next by focusing on one particular line and singing only this line several times during which multiple dimensions of the raga will be touched-called as ‘niraval’ and finally the swara segment where the artiste renders ‘kalpana swaras’ spontaneously while at the same time drawing some patterns with mathematical calculations in line with the taaLa of the song. Though the process remains the same, the way an artiste handles the various segments in the process will be different from artiste to artiste. In fact, the same artiste while singing the same kriti will sing a different aalapana, a different niraval and a different kalpana swaras(adhering of course to the grammar of the raga). Kritis can also be sung without aalapana, niraval and kalpana swaras, but even then there will be difference-ranging from subtle to highly pronounced- differences in the way various artistes render the same kriti.

In a nutshell, Carnatic Music is not rigid. It has the creativity factor , has enough scope for innovation within some parameters and most importantly it shows the spontaneity of the artistes. It has lasted many years now (some of the ragas like ShankarabharaNam, Kambhodi and Bhairavi have been in vogue for centuries and there are even references to these ragas in the Hindu mythology). That is why, one is not surprised to read news items like ‘Music concert running to full house’ and ‘people throng sabhas early morning braving the cold to book tickets for the evening concert’. Carnatic Music has survived many onslaughts and will continue to last forever.

Now, the next logical question in the minds and lips of skeptics and believers is ‘Ok, this is fine as far as classical music goes. But tell me how can this apply to film music? Can this be a bench mark for a form of music which is light, purely commercial and composed for man-made sequences?’

Let me take you back again to the previous to previous paragraph where I have mentioned three factors that are inherent in Carnatic Music- Creativity, Innovation and Spontaneity. Any form of art which has these three features is bound to last long.  ILaiyaraaja’s music( I have straightaway come to him now since it is pertinent to our discussion here) has all these three. Most importantly, his music has that unmistakable classical flavour.

Take the rare gem of today ‘Paarththaen..’ from Agni Paarvai (1992) rendered by Janaki. It is based on Kalyani, uses traditional instruments, has beautiful innovative orchestration, has varied laya patterns, and as we all know everything is spontaneous.

The ‘akaaram’ in the beginning draws the sketch of the Pallavi while the brilliant use of the sympathetic strings creates the right atmosphere.

 The higher octave notes in the second line shows the colours of Kalyani and the ‘hoiyaa’ after the first line gives the tribal flavour.

The chatushram pattern in the Pallavi is played alternately by the rhythm pad and the drums. However, in the first interlude he switches over to the traditional table which continues in the CharaNam too. The chatushram played by the Tabla also undergoes a subtle change in the last few phrases of the CharNams. In the second interlude, the percussion is totally eschewed in the first part though the chatushram continues.

If the strings take us to a verdant valley in the first interlude, they take us to a beautiful stream in the second interlude. The western classical style in the latter is surely not to be missed. The Flute too is used differently in the two interludes. In the first one, there is a second flute which sounds feebly but sweetly backing the more dominant one while in the second, the flute(s) play along with the strings in the second part. The sympathetic strings that appear now and then so nonchalantly make the melodic experience complete.

Now, 100 years down the line, will this Kalyani still appeal to people? Rather than using the clich├ęd phrase ‘Time alone will tell’, I can reply in the affirmative with great  positivity.

Reasons?

Already mentioned and explained in the post!!

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Celebrating Life..


The concept of New Year is very interesting.

For some, it is an excuse for socializing. For some, it is an excuse for taking new resolutions (that last for 2-3 days or at the most a week). For some, it is an excuse for roaming around.

So, what is the big point in all the celebrations and wishes? Do these carry any meaning at all? After all, is Jan 1st not just another date? Is 2014(or for that matter any year) not just a number?

Long back, I had written in my blog regarding numbers and their significance. Just for a moment, imagine as to what would happen if there were no numbers in this world. How would we then measure anything then? How do we set time? How do we know what happened and when?

Is it possible to live without numbers even for a second?

Maybe,  that is why great poets like Thirumazhisai Aazhwar and AruNagirinatharcomposed a lot of songs that revolved around numbers.

Well..all this is fine..But why do we need to celebrate the birth of a New Year?

The question itself carries the answer..

‘Birth’.. ‘Jananam’..

This brings hope and therefore radiates positive energy. The energy gives us confidence. Confidence makes us achieve. Achievement gives us self-actualisation. Self-actualisation gives us positive energy…

It is a cycle (thankfully not a vicious cycle!).

364 days from now, we will be on the last day of 2014, getting ready to celebrate the birth of 2015!

If on that day, we feel happy and content with the way we have gone about accomplishing goals and targets, then that Unit of measurement called ‘Time’ was usefully spent.If we don’t, we then hope to do it in the New Year. After all, is it not Hope that keeps us going?

Today’s special song, ‘Happy New Year’ from ‘Maane Maane’(1984) celebrates New Year. In fact, it celebrates Life itself.
Raaja sir who is very familiar with the different forms of World Music has a special liking for Sri Lankan music. 

This genre called ‘Baila’(Ilangai oliparappu koottusthapanam used to call this as ‘Pop Isai paadalgaL’ is very interesting and unique. These songs have the prominent guitar (electric and distortion), trumpets and bass guitar. One also finds the clap sound now and then. Most importantly, the tunes have a very special ethnic flavour.

‘Happy New Year..’ is one such song.

Over a period of time, I shall take up some of his other compositions composed in this style.

The prelude makes us sway, get up, and dance..

The unique voice of Malaysia Vasudevan and a very funny but different voice of Sundarrajan (not TMS!) pep up the Pallavi.

The second part of the first interlude-with the western flute- is poignant but at the same time very melodious. The way it gathers momentum later is simply magical.

The first part with the guitar and the claps is vivacious.

The second interlude is graceful, fluid, luscious and brims with energy.

The CharaNams are resplendent with the voice of Janaki adding lustre.
The alien notes in the third and fourth lines give a kind of smugness to the entire composition.

Let us celebrate the New Year.. Let us celebrate Hope..