Tuesday, 12 July 2016


Three things prompted me to write this post.

1. An article about a recent song which is ‘inspired’ from a Carnatic varNam and a Thiruppugazh.

2. An article about how TFM has warmed up unusual and unconventional voices.

3. A translation project in which I am involved. 
First of all, let me clarify that the idea behind mentioning (1.) is not to discuss, review or denigrate that song as I am very clear that other music directors will not be compared/criticised in this forum. By saying this, I am not sitting on any judgment about the song (I am sure 99% of the people here know what song I am talking about).  But I shall surely explain as to why it finds a mention here.

The author, it seems was made to listen to the song by his 12-year old daughter and was very impressed with the ‘varNam’ and mainly ‘Thiruppugazh’ inspiration. He goes on to say that he explained about the latter and that to his surprise, his daughter-who is known not to go to anything other than ‘modern’- started showing a lot of interest and got to know something about AruNagirinathar. The author concludes that it is an herculean task to make ancient literature attractive to an indifferent audience and if popular film music be the medium to attract such skeptics, one should welcome it. But not before he also makes a mention of the Hindi film songs of the ‘80s which simplified the Qawaali form and as to how the audience (listeners) lapped it up.

The second article is on how the present day music directors use very different voices – not essentially musical- to ‘enhance’ the appeal. It says the voices are used more because of the situation in movies and how novel this is.

The third one may not directly concern music but the article I translated, is on one of the traditional forms of folk arts.

Let me now go one by one.

I do not have any problem with what the author of the first article said. But what I found rather strange –and even uncomfortable- with the article was that there was no mention about ILaiyaraaja or his songs when it is a known fact(at least to the cognoscenti ) that he has done so much to bring our classical music and folk music within the reach of the common man. I am not going to list out what all he has done (I have already been doing it in my posts here) but am only going to give one example today. But how the author-who is a professor in a prestigious institution and who I am sure has a good ear- missed even making a passing reference to ILaiyaraaja, beats me.

Let me move on to the second article. This article too fails to make a mention about Raaja sir’s usage of very different and unusual voices(Samuel Grub in ANNe ANNe or Dr.Kalyan in ‘Sing Swing’).  Ad also about the fact that apart from using different voices, he also made the famous singers change and modulate the voice to suit the situation( Malaysia Vasudevan in ‘Kaadal Vandhirucchu’, SPB in ‘Nachchina foodu’ or both in ‘Engengum KaNdenamma’ are just some examples). We are going to see one more example very soon anyway.

As I said, the article which is part of my project does not have anything to do with music or ILaiyaraaja but the way it talks about a group of people involved in reviving ‘Therukkooththu’ is very inspiring and I thought a mention must be made about this fact in this post.

I said that the cognoscenti knows about what ILaiyaraaja has done in terms of bringing classical music(and even arts) close to the common man. Now, see this..
Raa ra veNu gopaala’ is a swara jati taught to all beginners in Carnatic Music. Swara jati is taught after geetam and before varNam. I can understand that all these terms sound foreign to some of you but let me assure that I shall define and explain all these forms in one of my forthcoming posts in my other blog.

But for now, let me focus on this ‘VeNugopala’ and its relevance here.

The 1981 film ‘Ellam inbamayam’(which itself is a takeoff from a very popular yesteryear song sung by MLV and P.Leela) was conceived to tickle the audience’s funny bone. That it failed in its mission is a different story altogether and since I know this is not Vintage Raaja thread( written in a group run by me in fb) where I tear the Tamizh film directors to pieces, I am not going to talk about this. But the film had some very funny songs (one was a ‘sneezing’ song!). In any case, I have always been enamoured of ‘Maaman voodu’ not least because it used the tune of ‘Raa ra veNugopaala’.

It is one thing to be inspired by a tune(or even copy a tune) and quite another to use it cleverly and brilliantly. Needless to say Raaja sir is adept in using even an inspired tune with great felicity and innovation. In fact, the dialogue which precedes the song (after the initial naiyyaaNdi meLam) throws light on what made him use a traditional song. Surely the situation demanded the usage of such a tune in a song sung in a slum with the audience comprising of people from higher echelons of society (listen to the dialogue carefully).

But what is most striking is the way the tune has been used-without in anyway deviating from Bilahari. And what steals my heart is the way the percussion goes in tisram while the vocals go in chatushram(here too, note the dialogue between the ‘percussionist’ and the singer). 

How wonderfully the voice of Malaysia Vasudevan is used is a point which has to be noted by the present day generation and most importantly the people who write articles about ‘voices’ without paying attention to the yesteryear songs.

The nagaswaram and the urumi meLam form the fulcrum of the song while the mandolin and guitar support these perfectly. The friendly banter between the instruments and the lyrics will never fail to bring a smile on anybody’s face.

And along with that smile will surely be an expression of wonderment, awe and even guilt on the faces of people who have missed this song all along and claim that it is the present day music which takes us back to our roots.

And when it happens, my face will sport a very special smile..

No comments: