Friday, March 16, 2007

Music Talk (Copying, Shruthi, Suddha Saveri, Hindolam, Aandholika, Madhyamaavathi, Bowli, Sriraagam)

A.R.Rahman is the number one copier in the world. My friend is very much convinced on this matter. He called A.R.Rahman as a mammoth recycling bin that takes its own previously tuned songs and polishes it and presents it in a different form. Is it correct to call the flute interlude in "margazhi poovae" as a copy of kausalya supraja? A.R. Rahman has tuned his margazhi poovae in the ragam Hindholam. Subbulakshmi's Kausalya supraja is in the ragam Sudha Saveri. If Rahman indeed copied willfully, how could he present a Sudha Saveri tune in a Hindholam song?

The concept of Sruthi is very illusory. We know that if we sounded a note with any frequency (X) and another note twice its frequency (2X), then there is an entire octave between these two notes. Be X = 1 hertz, and 2X = 2 hertz, or be X = 100,000 hertz and 2X = 200,000 Hz, there is one and only one octave inbetween these two respective sets of notes. Thus we will have an entire Sa Ri Ga Ma Pa Da Ni Sa between these notes. So, you can take any frequency (Sa) and play the 2X frequency of that fundamental frequency (upper Sa) and make a shruthi. Additionally if you played X x 2 * 7/12 (read this as X times 2 to the power 7/12) with X and 2X, then, you are adding the panchamam to the two Sa's and you get panchama shruthi. Instead, if you played X x 2 * 5/12 (X times 2 to the power 5/12), you are adding madhyamam to the two Sa's and it is called as the madhyama shruthi.

Shruthi forms the territorial boundaries in music. Any swara derives its identity only with reference to the shruthi. A single note when played alone is probably meaningless in classical music without the Shruthi. Shruthi by itself is pleasant music. In katcheris you may often see somebody sitting on the stage and playing the thambura. The thambura just gives the Sa Pa Sa notes to the Katcheri. That is the SHRUTHI!! Ilaiyaraaja has many times just used the Sa Pa Sa shruthi as the background score in cinemas and lilted the audience by the magical effect of the SHRUTHI! Rahman also has used the drone of the Shruthi conspicously in many of his songs and added great melody to the songs (eg: the panthuvarali song in Rangeela sung by Swarana Latha and Udit Narayan. What a classical piece!!)

The swaras of Sudha Saveri are: Sa Ri2 Ma1 Pa Da2 Sa; Sa Da2 Pa Ma1 Ri2 Sa. If we played Kausalya Supraja the tune goes like this: Sa Ri Ri (kausalya) Sa Ri Ri (supraja), Sa Ri Sa Ri (Rama poorva), Sa Ri Sa Ri Sa Sa (Sandhya pravarthadhae). The above swaras have meanings only within their respective Shruthi. If you viewed these notes from within the boundaries of a different musical territory, then it might have a different meaning. What if you viewed these notes from the reference shruthi of "Ri2-Da2-Ri2"?! The ragam might change totally. It is like Pandiyarajan and S.V.Sekhar travelling overnight and going to Kerala in Kadhanayakan!! Though Thamizhnadu and Kerala are adjacent states, words might have totally opposite meanings there! If a Thamizh doctor prescribed a sleeping pill to a Malayalee and told him "ee guligai ravilae kazhicho!", he will be in trouble. Because, "ravilae" means night in Thamizh and morning in Malayalam! See how different the meanings are?!

What A.R.Rahman has done is, he has skillfully "copied" the Sudha Saveri swaras and transliterated it into Hindholam as Ga2 Ma1 Ma1, Ga2 Ma1 Ga2 Ma1 and so on. We don't know if he purported to copy or if it was a strange co-incidence. But, the fact is that a Coke can got recycled and came back to us as a Pepsi can! Sometimes, Coke cans can get a new sticker on its face (with no shruthi change and stuff!) and can be sold as Goli soda locally. That has happened in the background rhythm guitar score in "kuluvaliyae" (Muthu) song. The same piece comes in Sister Act. Ilaiyaraaja too has got incriminated many times for such blatant similarity of his songs to other popular songs ("en purushan thaan enaku mattum thaan" in some movie was called as a copy of "dham maerae dham").

Aandholika is a pleasant janyam of Harikaambodi ragam. Its arohanam and avarohanam are Sa Ri2 Ma1 Pa Ni2 Sa; Sa Ni2 Da2 Ma1 Ri2 Sa. Thyagaraja swamy has got a terrific krithi in this ragam, which is mostly sung as a thukkada in Katcheris. The krithi is "raga sudha rasa". I have heard a story long ago. That Padma Subramaniam had a song tuned for her dance performance in this Ragam. At that time Ilaiyaraaja was in someway conected with Padma's troup to earn his daily bread (probably as a "mike" boy or something!). Then, later he became picked up by "Ms. Luck" after he made his debut in film "Annakili". He had lot of chances flowing in his way then. Mullum malarum is a terrific movie. It must be within first 50 films of Ilaiyaraaja tuning few totally unheard kinds of lilting tunes then. But, he also got his name spoiled in that movie because of "copying" Padma's Aandolika ragam tune.

The song is "raaman aandalum raavanan aandalum". The song is actually a tappanguthu but, in the interlude of the song the chorus sings a bit which goes like "samiyai kumbitta namaku nalladhu thaan varumae". The tune is supposed to be in pure Aandholika (the same tune that Padma used in her Dance performance earlier). Reportedly she complained in some interview about how Ilaiyaraaja had "copied" her tune. We know that music directors like Ilaiyaraaja and Rahman have got very fertile mind and they have proved it by generation of wonderful tunes. The judgement that these eminant people copied other people's work cannot be passed so easily. It is in the innermost conscience of these personalities that the secret dwells if they are felon or not. Perhaps, it can never be known to the outside world unless they frankly admit like Anand ("yes, we are fans of Ilaiyaraaja, we do use his tunes in our songs")!

Madhyamaavathi is a grand janya ragam of Karaharapriya. Perhaps it is the greatest of the pentatonic ragas (oudhuva oudhuva ragam). Its arohanam and avarohanam are: Sa Ri2 Ma1 Pa Ni2 Sa; Sa Ni2 Pa Ma1 Ri2 Sa. Ilaiyaraaja liked this ragam so much that he has atleast tuned 40 to 50 songs in this great ragam. Madhyamavathi is distinct among other pentatonic ragas. It is a very much gamaka oriented ragam. It is like the Thodi of janya ragas. You can just play the notes of the 45 melam (subhapanthuvarali) in the harmonium and make the ragam evident. Similarly you can just play Sa Ri2 Ma2 Pa Ni3 Sa in the harmonium and make Hamsanadham ragam evident, but, you cannot get Madhyamavathi by just playing the notes in a plain "bland" way. You have to make the notes spicy! Gently make the Rishabham and Nishadham oscillate above their baseline frequency, there comes the unparalled beauty, Ms. Madhyamaavathi!!

Ilaiyaraaja has tuned a great Madhyamavathi ("adipaennae"). Each time I listen to this song it creates an inexplicable feeling in my mind. The song is so romantic, so well sung that it directly stimulates some unknown erogenous zones in the psyche. Ilaiyaraaja has reasonably used the gamakas well. This was probably his second Madhyamavathi, the first one being "solaikuyilae". Solaikuyilae starts like Pa Pa Ri Sa Ri.... A lofty jump from madhyama sthayi Pa to tharasthayi Rishabam. Maalaikadhirae goes like Sa Sa Ni Sa Ni.....Pa, such a prolonged nishadham. Most of the melody of this ragam resides with the Ri and Ni. The gamakam is absolutely important, period! Look at the beauty of Papanasam Sivan's opening in Madhyamavathi in "karpagamae kadai kann paarai" - Sa Ri Sa Ri.... Actually the gamakam of Ri encompasses the sadharana gandharam too. It is like RiGa, RiGa...! Ilaiyaraaja's use of impeccable gamaka adorned Rishabam at the very opening of the song is too classic. It is like Krishnamachari Srikanth sending the first opening ball to the boundary!

Ilaiyaraaja has given few more Madhyamavathi's in quite pure form. En kalyana vaibhogam is one early number. Sridhar's first venture with Ilaiyaraaja. Vani Jayaram has sung this song. Then, aagaya gangai, nee thaanae endhan ponvasantham, thulli thulli nee padamma, thalattu pillai ena thaalaatu, malargalil aadum illamai, nee kaeta naan mataen etc.
A.R. Rahman has used small bits of Madhyamavathi in the interlude of his song "then then thithikkum then" (Thiruda thiruda). Some singer called Jadhiraja has sung some fast swaras with pungent electric guitar sending shocks of Madhyamavathi vibrations with his voice! (I heard that Mr.Jadhiraja is none other than Rahman himself!) Madhyamaavathi by earlier music directors include Ponnondru kandaen, Muthukkalo kangal, aagaya pandhalilae, etc. Can we forget the great presentation of Devarajan in Swamy Iyyapan "hariharatmajam viswamasrayae" sung by Jesudoss. It is a divine feast to listen to this slow song.

Madhyamavathi is supposed to be a Mangalakaramaana ragam. Tradionally when we end the katcheri, it is customary to end the katcheri in one of the three ragas: Madhyamavathi, Suruti, or Sowrashtram. Ilaiyaraaja used Madhyamavathi to end the song in one of his ragamaalika songs! enna samayalo in "Unnal Mudiyum Thambi". The song starts with mohanam and ends with Madhyamaavathi. When SPB sings "illayai podadi", Madhyamavathi starts. Ofcourse, each of the raga change in that ragamalikai is made by the accompanying nadhaswaram.

If we change the kaisiki nishadham (Ni2) of madhyamavathi in the arohanam to kaakali nishadham (Ni3) then the raga form changes drastically. It is Brindhavana Saranga. It is a bhashangam because of double Nishadham. Sa Ri2 Ma1 Pa Ni3 Sa; Sa Ni2 Pa Ma1 Ri2 Sa. Some of Ilaiyaraaja's song in this ragam are fantastic. Poongatrae poongatrae, kannukullae anbin eeram enna are both enthralling songs. These Brindhavana Saranga's are as captivating as Subulakshmi's "Sriranga Pura Vihara" or Balamurali's "kamalaptakula". The later songs that he tuned in this raga are Penn onru thai aanadhu and indha jilla muzhuka nalla theriyum. In the latter song MSV has used double Nishadham in the arohanam itself (like Pa Ni2 Ni3 Sa)! It is one of the best songs that he has ever tuned, sung by Vani Jayaram.

Mullum Malarum has another fantastic song. Senthazham poovil is a kinda try in Bowli ragam (with lot of foreign notes in the interlude). Bowli is one of the early morning ragas. Other early morning ragas are Boopaalam, Revagupti, Malayamaarudham etc. When your cousin is getting married, you are very tired during the night of Janavaasam. coming back to the Kalyana chathiram only at 4 AM to sleep. You have hardly slept for 30 mts, and you hear the irritating Nadhaswaram vidhwan playing "pee pee" to wake up everybody. He is playing one of the above ragams! Boopalam is Thodi janyam: Sa Ri1 Ga2 Pa Da1 Sa; Sa Da1 Pa Ga2 Ri1 Sa. Bowli is Mayamalava Gowlai Janyam with Ga3 instead of Ga2 in Boopalam. I don't know who is the music director.

Madhyamaavathi is closely related Sriragam (Sa Ri2 Ma1 Pa Ni2 Sa; Sa Ni2 Pa Ma1 Ri2 Ga2 Ri2 Sa) and Manirangu (Sa Ri2 Ma1 Pa Ni2 Sa; Sa Ni2 Pa Ma1 Ga2 Ri2 Sa). There is one film song in Sriragam. Thoda thoda vaa mella has been tuned by Malayalam music director Ravindran. I think the movie is Rasikan oru rasikai. Two years ago, I heard another Sriragam song (andhi maalai) that has been exactly tuned in the tune of Thyagraja krithi Entharo mahaanu bavulu. That song was in a music album. I don't know who realised it. But do know that it was someway connected with Rahman.
Now, coming to the original discussion about shruthi, look what happens to our Madhyamavathi when you start viewing it from different angles. Increase the reference shruthi by two notes, ie., Ri2-Da2-Ri2, then the raga changes to Hindholam. Increase by 5 notes, ie., Ma1-Sa-Ma1, then the raga changes to Sudha Saveri, by 7 notes, ie., Pa-Ri2-Pa, the raga changes to Sudha Dhanyasi, by 10 notes, ie., Ni2-Ma1-Ni2, then you get Mohanam from the same swaras!! Is it not wonderful! It is like the same man being a son, brother, father, and as uncle to different people by virtue of different relationship.

Mohanam is a nice, melodious ragam. Ilaiyaraaja is a real Mohanapriyan. No other music director in India would have given so many Mohanam as him. Among his hundreds of Mohanam hits we have kannan oru kai kuzhandhai vaan polae vannam (Salangai oli), kanmaniyae kaadhal enbadhu, poovil vandu, abc nee vaasi, oru thanga radhathil, kasthoori manae, ninnukori varnam, idhayam oru kovil, kukku koo koovum (Valli) etc. Some of the recent music directors seem to be handling Mohanam very well.

In katcheris, the shruthi is constantly vibrated either by the thamboora artist or the electronic shruthi. This reminds us the reference shruthi for that concert and we can identify a ragam with respect to that shruthi. But, in film music, where there is no background reminder of the shruthi, how can we identify the ragam correctly? As discussed above, it could be Madhyamavathi, Mohanam, Sudha Saveri, Hindholam, or Sudha Dhanyasi for the same swaras. And now comes the "nuances" or "ragalakshanam" issue! We can still identify by figuring out the kind of treatment that has been given to the swaras.

While you are singing in one particular shruthi, if you suddenly assume a different shruthi and sing the same swaras implying a different ragam, then it is called as shruthi-bedham. It is a highly scientific game that some muscians like T.N.Seshagopalan relish playing on the dais. He could sing Thodi and do a 1/2 kattai shruthi-bedham and make it sound like Kalyani. The Maestro has ingeniously tuned a song recently in which he suddenly assumes a different shruthi in the middle of the song. This is in vandhaal vandhal rajakumaari. In the Piano prelude he clearly indicates the shruthi initially . He starts the song like Ga3 Ma1 Pa, Pa Pa, Pa Da2 Pa, Pa Da2 Pa, Pa Da2 Pa Da2 Pa Ma1 Ga3 Ri2 Ga3 Ma1 Ga3 Ri.....If you were to call this pallavi as a ragam you can call it as Sankarabharanam. It is pukka! In the interlude he follows the same opening shruthi. But, when the charanam starts, he suddenly raises the shruthi by 4 notes and assumes the previous Ga3 as the Pa and develops a wonderful Charukesi from there on. It is ectastic to listen to this song again and again. Charukesi is the 26th melam with Sa Ri2 Ga3 Ma1 Pa Da1 Ni2 Sa. His other Charukesi are: amma nee sumandha, siriya paravai, aadal kalayae, thoodhu selvadhaaradi & chakkarakattiku chakkarakattiku.

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