Friday, June 11, 2004

Ilayaraja -7 ( kanakangi, Sudha Saveri, Rasikapriya )

By DR. Lakshminarayanan Srirangam Ramakrishnan

Kanakangi is the first melakartha ragam. It is also called as kanakaambari(what a wonderful name!). While man's aesthetic sense gave birth to ragaslike mohanam, sudha saveri etc, his increasing scientific knowledge aboutthe structure of music over a period of many centuries gave birth to ragas such as kanakangi. In the days of yore, when man began exploring the musicworld, there was no kanakangi. All he knew were those tunes or ragas that were immediately appealing to his mind. No wonder, simple pentatonic ragas like mohanam made their genesis during that early period of man's irresistable pursuit for melody. Later, as is usual, science took over the aesthetic sense. The dominance of MOOD, which often served the purpose of being the mighty commander of raga creation, was pulled down by the even mightier science. That the central theorm governing the whole of music was only simple mathematics became evident. The tip of the iceberg eventually lead to the unearthing of the whole of the rest! String instruments like the veenai and gottu vadyam etc., helped the 'music thirsty' thathas of yesteryears apply some good logic and figure out the progenitor ragas of the already existingragas and narrow it down to the 72 melakartha system. It became a relativelysimple task like filling in the unknown elements in the periodic table once you knew the general structure of the atom in various elments! The first melakartha became christened as kanakangi.

There are not many keerthanais in kanakangi. There is a Thyagaraja keerthanaion lord Ganesha (who seems to have decided to rock the whole hindu communityby resurrecting from his idolhood to drink vitamin D fortified milk!) in kanakangi. Thats all. I know of no other kanakangi keerthanais. There are fewshort pieces like the one in M.Subulakshmi's cassette in all the melakartharagas. If you want to listen to pure kanakangi in cinema go to KB's sindhubhairavi movie. Ilaiyaraaja scored a marvellous kanakangi in that movie. The situation is: Sivakumar (called as JKB in that movie) is a famous vocal musician. His wife Sulakshana is a carnatic music ag-gnani. Hence, to quenchhis music thirst at home too, Sivakumar falls in love with Suhasini, who is a great gnani in carnatic music! This dual love creates problems in his publicperformance. He tries to forget Suhasini, but not able to do so. He is hauntedby her thoughts all the time. In that situation he sings a song 'mogam ennumtheeyil en manam vendhu vendhu urugum'. It is this song that gave the first and last kanakangi to Thamizh cinema music.

Kanakangi is a difficult ragam to handle properly. The reason is that it has got vivadhi swarams at two levels. Sa Ri1 Ga1 and Pa Da1 Ni1. The transitionfrom one note to its immediate adjacent note is discernable by human ear. Butwhen you get such transitions consecutively like in Sa Ri1 Ga1 and Pa Da1 Ni1,it becomes jarring to the mind! Often, to score background music to eerie situations, cine-musicians press immediately adjacent keys in the harmonium ina row, say, Sa Ri1 Ga1 Ga2 Ga3 Ma1; or if the music director doesn't have any knowledge about musical grammer or a taste for melody, he may even press allthe above said keys together to startle the audience by his unpleasant music, than by the situation per se! So, that's the only use for ragas like kanakangiin cinema! But, Ilaiyaraaja made a fantastic song out of this raga. The tonal quality of that song appropriately suits that situation. He has handled that raga in a very intelligent way. Nowhere in that song does he travels the entire octave. Because if you travel like that, it will be very jarring and unmelodious. He has divided the raga into bits, delivering sancharas around Sa Ri Ga first, and then going over to Pa Da Ni later, carefully avoiding the sancharas of both the vivadhi levels in the same stretch! Only at the very end, while he goes to the climactic thara sthayi panchamam, he travels frommadhyama sthayi panchamam in a single stretch, covering all the notes in between. K.J.Yesudoss has sung that in a wonderful manner. Nobody else couldhave sung that song as he did, because it needs lot of 'akara' practice. Oneshould be a carnatic musician himself and be well versed with such vivadhi sancharas to do justice to the ragam.

Kanakangi is one example that proves the old saying 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder'. The concept of a ragam and mood is only in the mind of the beholder! Because, look what happens to kanakangi, when you change the reference shruthi from Sa-Pa-Sa to Ri-Da-Ri. This jarring, inharmoniousvivadhi raga becomes Panthuvarali, a superb meloncholy! The same vivadhi swaras exist in panthuvarali too, but because of the change in reference shruthi the quality of the mood changes! Similarly, if you knock off the Ri and Da in kanakangi, you get sudha saveri, a superb melody! These are all wonders in our perceptual system, the beholder's mind!

Ilaiyaraaja has got many songs in sudha saveri, a very melodious, 'desiya'ragam (Sa Ri2 Ma1 Pa Da2 Sa). His first sudha saveri probably came in Bharithiraja's 'kizhakae pogum rail'. Kovil mani osai thannai has been sungby Jayachandran and Janaki. His other sudha saveri are maanada thenaada in mudhal vasantham, kadal mayakam (AVMin pudhumai penn), radha radha (meendumkokila), manamagalae manamagalae (thevar magan). In manamagalae, he has given a sad quality to sudha saveri. The shanai interlude evokes a gloomy mood. Ilaiyaraaja's latest sudha saveri came in Prathap Pothan's recentmovie (aathma). That song has been sung by T.N.Seshagopalan. The songis 'nin arul tharum annapurani'. Even this song has wonderful shanai interlude. T.N.Seshagopalan has done a good job in this song (his first songwith Ilaiyaraaja). However, the best of TNS's voice has not been brought out. Perhaps just ordinary cinema vocalists would have been enough for this song! I am sure Ilaiyaraaja has got a lot more numbers in sudha saveri. Onlything is my senescent mememory seems to be failing!

Rasikapriya is the last melakartha ragam. Hence, Sa Ri3 Ga3 Ma2 Pa Da3 Ni3 Sa.I don't know of any keerthanai in rasikapriya. Ilaiyaraaja has tried this raga in his early days. It seems like a daring venture at that time. The first and last rasikapriya in cinema came in 'kovil pura'. The three songs in that movie became very famous even before the movie was released. The movie starred'oru thalai ragam' shanker as the hero and saritha as the heroine. But, alas!Despite the wonderful songs, the movie was a big flop. The rasikapriya songwas 'sangithamae en jeevanae'. I vaguely remember the tune of that song. It has been sung by S.Janaki. It starts like Pa Da Ni Sa; Sa Ri Sa Ni Sa and so on.The tune in the charanam is fantastic. Unlike the first melakartha, the last melakartha sounds melodious to me. Ilaiyaraaja himself had told in one of his early interviews that he expected national award for this song. But, he did not get it.

With Love,

Lakshminarayanan Srirangam Ramakrishnan,


Anonymous said...

Hi one of your posts, you have written a translation of a particular verse in Vairamuthu's panivizhum malarvanam as:

as our fingers play on each other,
as the distance between us decreases,
the glowing light would dim and our
eyes would close (in the ecstasy of love)

The actual meaning is (this has the real kick !!!)

As the fingers twist and twirl around the hip
As the gap between the two reduces
The glowing light will giggle and close the eyes

(what a poetic extravaganza of a simple switching off the light and making love !!!!...the LIGHT here brings to my mind a small graamathu open simni vilakku....viramuthu would have imagined it, as the flame has shakes due to wind...which he refers as a giggle)

---anyway...after writing this it reminds me of Idam sutti porul vilakkuga question in tamil exams during school days !!!

Also, in some other post, Bharathiay'r Periya Kadavul could be ALMIGHTY or figuratively...even Pillayar !!!!

By the way...u r notes on music are fantastic buddy. Keep up the goodwork

Anonymous said...

In another info about mogamul, the hero you mentioned is Rajam. the hero's name is Babu. His friend is Rajam. The whole scene is SONDHA SARAKKU by the director to add masala to the story (not there in Thi.Ja's original novel)

Anonymous said...

In another info about mogamul, the hero you mentioned is Rajam. the hero's name is Babu. His friend is Rajam. The whole scene is SONDHA SARAKKU by the director to add masala to the story (not there in Thi.Ja's original novel)

Anonymous said...




















Anonymous said...

Just chanced upon your stuff.Thoroughly enjoyed reading and laughing and learning..... Sincere Thanks.

Anonymous said...

hey one more song...
chitha gathi from rajakumaran..
though in second charana music there is a lot of variation. but for the charana songs, everything is sudda saveri.. what an usage

Anonymous said...

Out of curiosity, I browsed the raaga of this song ( oru naal iravu - kaviya thalavi )

My knowledge on raagas is superficial. So, I would request you to listen this song. And if this song's notes are same as Rasikapriya, you may want to edit your blog to correct the statement below. Thanks

"The first and last rasikapriya in cinema came in 'kovil pura'."

The first and last rasikapriya in cinema came in 'kovil pura'.