Sunday, 22 March 2015

Reverse Sweep

Reverse Sweep

Being unconventional is both good and bad depending on how we see it. 

I for one never encourage or like gimmickry or 'circus work' in a pure classical concert and I surely frown upon people who indulge in it. It is not so much because I hate experimentation but because I believe in certain values. Any classical art-as the name suggests- should adhere to the norms strictly and maintain thesanctity. By saying this, if I am branded as a 'puritan' so be it. I love being one. 

That is why, I do not like some of the artistes who in the garb of 'janaranjakam' play to the gallery and earn encomiums from the 'masses'. But at what cost this is done is surely debatable. 'Simplifying music' is a broad term and what this simply means is questionable. 

At the same time, I am not against creativity or innovation in classical music. The most beautiful aspect ofCarnatic Music is 'manodharma' and the creativity of the artiste comes bubbling out with energy in the 'aalaapana' or the 'swara singing' segments. But it is indeed tantalising as the temptation to go overboard and showcase all that they know about the raga and the taaLa will be more and therefore classicism and virtuosity will in likelihood take a back seat. But the saving grace here is that classical music has seen (and been seeing) some great legends who respect the art form as the Divine Force and immerse themselves in it. They know to strike the right balance with the result that both the artiste and the listeners  undergo a unique experience in a totally different plane.

If you all wonder as to why I am writing this here, let me tell you that this is very relevant here. The logical question in your mind will now be 'This person is talking about 'dilution of classical music'. Then why is he a fan/follower of a 'cine-musician'?' Yes, your question is justified to a great extent. 

Note the key words 'pure classical music concert'. Film music is a different cup of tea altogether. While a classical music concert is attended by people who have the interest/inclination, films are watched by one and all. Therefore, the songs are composed keeping this in mind. There was of course a time when film music was dominated purely by classical music. My father used to say that even a rickshaw puller would be singing a MKT or a P.U.Chinnappa song with the same sangatis. However, the scenario changed over a period of time and one saw lighter shades more than the classical shades. Different forms of music were also melded together. This gave an opportunity for all to listen to different melodies and the songs along with some meaningful lyrics, became part of life for a majority.

As has been mentioned ad nauseam, Tamizh Film Music underwent a complete transformation post-1976.This gentleman found the right mix of all major world music forms and gave it as a 4 and half minute package. What is amazing is the fact that he was able to bring out the emotions of the character(s) with his tunes and the instruments. Wherever required, he used a raga and showed its full magnitude.At the same time, he also used the raga as just a scale depending on the sequence (I would say even depending on what came to him at that moment). 

Wait..Am I contradicting myself? Calling myself a puritan, I said I despised vidwans who diluted the ragas on stage while at the same time praising someone- from film industry - to the sky?

Far from it. 

As mentioned earlier, film music is a genre by itself. Though I said I don't like dilution of classical music on a classical platform, I never said I don't like other forms of music. Good music is good music in whatever form it takes. So, when a Vidwan on the stage sings a ShankarabharaNam or a Todi, as a classicist, I expect him/her to sing it with the requisite bhava. At the same time, I enjoy a melodious film song  when it is played. After all, there are certain rules of the game.

The fact that I started enjoying and appreciating classical music only because of the gentleman who changed the way music was composed in films, has been said many times and I shall elaborate on this again soon in some other post. Let me go back to what he did and what he has been doing in terms of the raga or a scale. Classical ragas assumed new meanings and saw new dimensions in the way he handled those. I was talking about the rules of the game. A medium like Cinema has certain unwritten rules and one was expected to stick to the rules. But this gentleman questioned the rules in a positive way. One of the classic examples is the rare gem of the day.

A Club Dance sequence invariably had a western tinge what with the electric guitars, trumpets sounding in high decibels with the drums/bongos in full throttle. How did this Master change this thinking?

'Yaar maamano' from VetRikku Oruvan(1980) is supposedly a song in such a sequence. The Maestro first based the tune in a classical ragam, Gowrimanohari. Next, he predominantly used the Tabla. Result? ADisco song with classical undercurrents. Wouldn't this make Edward de Bono proud?

The song starts with a sustained sound of the Keys. The Bass Guitar moves with its unique elegance and one hears a very subtle sound of the drums. The Guitar appears now and pauses after playing a very brief melody to give way to the Tabla. What a beautiful Chatushram pattern the latter plays! This pattern itself can be called as the leit motif. The Electric Guitar follows now and both the Tabla and the Drums back it. The Raga is now beautifully narrated by the Twin-Violin with a sound which can at best be described as 'out of the world'. The single Violin finally shows the western contours very briefly and along with a couple of melodic instruments leads us to the Pallavi.

The Pallavi in the graceful voice of Janaki shows the distinct colours of the raga. The percussive treat of the combination of the Tabla and Drums together with the Bass Guitar should not be missed here.

After a brief sketch by the Keys and the Bass Guitar, the Piper and the Guitar evoke a focussed ambience in the first interlude. But what steals the show is the Saxophone which hops, skips, jumps and makes liquid glides. Jazzy to the core! The Guitar in higher octave gives moments of beauty.

The CharaNams start with a 'ta naa naa' humming and ends with a 'mmm kaaram' in the sensuous voice of Janaki. The second segment where it touches the higher octave is awe-inspiring.

The second interlude is a rendezvous of sorts. It starts with the Laya conversation between the Tabla and theDrums. The Tabla first plays Ta ka dhi mi four times for two cycles. The Drums reply for one cycle. TheTabla again plays for two cycles and this time the Drums reply in two cycles.

After this 'Laya Vinyaasa', the single Violin plays in higher-octave with an unmatched elegance. It is inHindustani style first and then in Western Classical style. A couple of western instruments follow and play the same melody. The Piano Keys then woo us playing with a mesmerising and a magnetic style. Finally, the interlude ends with a Carnatic style of a brief 'kuraippu'.

All major forms in a matter of 4 and half minutes in a Film Club-Dance sequence.

Yes, any shot can be played within the rules of the game...

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