Sunday, 22 November 2015


I read something today and I found it to be very interesting.

The bird species, it seems knew about the impending rains in TN much before. That they knew this without Mr.RamaNan and the advancedequipments is amazing. About 3000 flamingoes which were spotted near Pulicat lake a couple of weeks back are totally missing now. Sensing what was coming, they have moved to SHAR road in Sriharikota away from the sea. The Great frigatebird-a sea bird- was spotted in a place away from the sea recently. Reason for this unusual activity? Cyclonic currents are felt by these pelagic birds much ahead. The Dark-sided Flycatcher was spotted in a suburb in Chennai some 4 days back. These species were spotted exactly 4 years ago when the city had similar kind of heavy rains. And this sixth sense is not restricted to the avian friends alone. Even the insects (‘puzhu’ in tamizh) can sense the heavy rains.Beetles and red velvet mites wriggle from beneath the soil onto the surface because they know that the water table goes beyond the considered safe limits.

Apart from this of course we have our own beautiful peacock which dances the moment it sees the dark clouds..

Ah..This reminds me of a song.

As a matter of fact, I have been humming many rain songs since two days(recall that I have already discussed some rain songs in the group). And the moment I read about our avian friends today, this song crossed my mind.

Mazhai Varuvadhu Mayilukku Theriyum’ from ‘Rishimoolam’(1980) may not be a typical rain song. But it does give me a feeling of getting drenched in a drizzle (an act which enjoy a lot). Just like many of his compositions, it is great melodically and technically. And when we haveKaNNadasan, aren’t we assured of a poetic treat as well?

First of all, it is not an easy song to sing. Many phrases in the Pallavi and the CharaNams demand a lot of breath control and who else can one think of except Janaki? The present day singers must listen to this song repeatedly to understand the importance of breathtraversing from higher octave to lower octave and most importantly, the diction.

So, what makes this composition great and why do I call it a tough song to render?

Look at the Pallavi. It starts with the lower octave ‘pa.’ and ascends from there on up to ‘ga’ ( ri ga). After a ‘sa ga ri’, in between, it climbs down as ‘sa’ That is, it starts from the lower ‘panchamam’, climbs up, climbs down and ends with the lower panchamam. To put it simply, the last phrase is the reverse of the first phrase. I am not aware of any other first line in the Pallavi following this kind of a pattern.

The third line has a smattering of lower octave notes but the following two lines clearly show the ‘Gnani’ to the world. The lines have only oneswara-‘ma’ which occurs continuously 22 times!

The third, fourth and the fifth lines are rendered in single breath!

If Pallavi is like this, can CharaNams be quiet and sober?

In the first line, we see the repetition of the gandharam(ga) in the first half while in the second line, the swaras go on the ascent-up to thedhaivatam(dha). The third line is another beauty with the lower octavenishadammandara stayee ni.) occurring suddenly after the mid-octave ‘ni’and this continues in the fourth line as well.

What can one say about the ‘akaaram’ at the end where swaras pair up and go descending as Sani nidha dhapa pama maga gari sani. Note that it goes up to the lower octave ‘ni’ after starting with the higher octave ‘Sa’. The humming ‘lalaa lalaa..’ sees the repetition of the rishabham(13 times) and finally end with the ‘pa’.
Hope by now you all know as to why I said it is beautiful technically as well as melodically. Before we look at the orchestration, I want to mention one more feature.

Generally, many film songs are based on Natabhairavi and this is because of this combination of notes being the minor scale in western classical music. However, almost all these songs(99%) can be said to be in Natabhairavi scale(and not raga). ‘Mazhai Varuvuvadhu’ is an exception as one finds clear elements of the raga with brigAs and even the gamakAs.

Let us now look at the orchestration and arrangement.

The initial sound with the keys shows us the drizzle in a matter of few seconds. After cycles of chatushra ekam, the guitar plays a short melody with the bass guitar supporting it-albeit with different sets of notes. The tabla tarang plays the tune of the first two phrases of thePallavi with the violins responding with another melody. After a while, theviolins tread a beautiful path of western classical. The flute takes over and plays an undistilled Natabhairavi and the  veeNa responds with élan. The violins enter again, play the tune of the first two phrases of the Pallavi with the keys nodding their heads. The final flute piece which goes in a circular motion, shows us the dance of the peacock!

The higher octave strings appear after the two lines in the Pallaviadding a special colour to the entire Pallavi.
Western Classical Music and Carnatic Music alternate in the first interlude. The solo violin plays a piece in the minor scale with anotherinstrument appearing now and then. The bass guitar and the rhythm guitar act as percussion here. The flute then enters with a smile and brings along the tabla too, charting a melodic course in natabhairavi.The veena which first responds to the flute, now plays its own melody (again in natabhairavi). The guitar-which by all means can be said to be the western counterpart of the veena- repeats the notes of the veena with an unmatched resonance. The strings appear again but this time to the accompaniment of the tabla tarang which sounds after every beats.

The strings play in western style for 2 cycles after the first two lines like how they do in the Pallavi. But note that the notes are entirely different here. That is ILaiyaraaja for you!

One sees the rain drops jumping, flying, dancing and singing in the firsthalf of the second interlude. It starts with the tabla tarang which playsnatabhiravi/chatushram. The piano follows with the strings backing it. The tabla tarang joins again playing the same melody which it plays in the beginning of the interlude. Heavenly music indeed!

The flute and its friend veena then flow like a river with the higher octavestrings adding that golden tinge.
Is it Saraswati or Vaitarani?

Whatever it is, it doesn’t overflow like the floods in Chennai.
The flamingoes, the flycatchers and the frigate birds watch this spectacle with glee. After all, they are all well prepared unlike theauthorities who ‘govern’ us, and therefore enjoy the Rains and also Lifebetter than us humans!

Ps: When I started writing this post, I wanted to be as short as possible. However, as I went along it got expanded.This post has a lot of technical details almost like a post in my other blog and nothing was intentional. Probably, the weather made me go berserk!!

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