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Ilaiyaraja:Raja of Raagas-I

21 Jan

One of many reasons why Ilaiyaraja is considered a genius is because his songs are a perfect example for showcasing the beauty of a raaga. Take any song in a raaga, we can see that the song explores all the dimensions within a raaga within the 5 minutes of the song. Also, multiple songs in the same raaga do not sound same at all! It takes God-gifted genius to do this repeatedly for 3 decades! Many other great composers have also done this but the sheer number of raagas used by Raja (more than 120) places him in a higher pedestal. One of the seeds for this post was that I had a raaga-obsession every week when I felt like listening to specific raagas and invariably Raja’s song’s satiated my thirst the most.

Let’s see some raagas where the song composed by Raja is THE perfect demonstration of the essence of that raaga. I have also included a few raagas where other composers’ songs stand out as they too have done a wonderful job. Read it as Raaga-Song-Movie.

  1. HAMSADHWANI-Poo Mudithu-En Purushandhaan Enakku Mattumdhaan-Not a simple song (a relatively common raaga) as the notes touched by Raja are as usual complex but P.Jayachandran has sung it with alarming ease!
  2. KEERAVANI-Malaiyoram Veesum-Paadu Nilave-A very tough choice as Raja has composed a zillion Keeravani’s but according to me this one beats all. The maestro uses minimal orchestration in the charanams to show the genius of SPB. What a rendition!
  3. DHARMAVATHY-Meendum Meendum Vaa-Vikram-When I first heard this song a few years ago, I dismissed it as another love song but recently I went back to this and started loving it. This song is a sheer beauty oozing Dharmavathy.
  4. PANTHUVARALI-Enna Varam Vendum-Nandavana Theru-Panthuvarali is a very intense raaga and this song with a great tune and greater backing vocals presents Panthuvarali in all its splendour.
  5. CHARUKESI-Thaiyatha Thaiyatha-Thiruttu Payale-Composed beautifully by Bharadwaj and sung very well by Sadhna Sargam. Another equally good Charukesi is Aahista Aahista by A.R.Rahman from Swades.
  6. MADHYAMAVATHY-Kuyile Kuyile-Aan Paavam-A nectarine song that makes you imagine the countryside!
  7. SHANMUGAPRIYA-Thakita Thakita-Saagara Sangamam-A legendary song showing why SPB is one of the greatest singers ever.
  8. AMRUTHAVARSHINI-Thoongaadha Vizhigal-Agni Nakshathram-This song has become synonymous with the Amruthavarshini raaga. Raja has composed a few more in this raaga, KaathirundhaMalli and Vaanin Devi both of which are also very good. Not many composers have not touched this raaga as its quite complex.
  9. VASANTHA-Minsaara Kanna-Padayappa-The one song that shows that Rahman CAN compose classical tunes and do it very well too. This song is unique also because the 2 tunes in the charanams are different. If you don’t get goosebumps after hearing this song then there should be something wrong with you!

I will take up more songs in the next part of this post.


Raagas in Films:Kalyani

4 Aug

Kalyani or Yaman (in Hindustani) is probably the most commonly used raaga in Indian film music. There are thousands of songs (if not more) in this raaga and all composers would have composed at least a few songs in this raaga. The uniqueness of this raaga is that it sounds very melodious and is instantly likeable, the reason being it is very common. But nevertheless, Kalyani is a very elegant raaga and it is considered one of the best raagas for aalapanas or expositions. Listening to this raaga is supposed to destroy fear and increase our self-confidence, a perfect prescription for exam fever!

You can be sure that many of your favourite songs will be in this raaga. Below are some of my favourite songs in this raaga, I have omitted MANY other good songs because of the sheer number of songs in this raaga.

  1. Ghar Se Nikalte Hi—Rajesh Roshan—Papa Kehte Hain—A superhit song with great lyrics. Almost all the songs of this movie were good and they were in this raaga.
  2. Kabhi Kabhi—Khayyam—Kabhi Kabhi—A legendary song.
  3. Hamesha Tumko/Woh Chaand Jaisi—Ismail Darbar—Devdas—Fantastic tunes in a fantastic soundtrack.
  4. Malaiyoram Mayile—Ilaiyaraja—Oruvar Vaazhum Aalayam—A folksy Kalyani usage.
  5. Siru Kootula—Ilaiyaraja—Periya Veetu Pannakkaran
  6. Amma Endru Azhaikkatha—Ilaiyaraja—Mannan—Ilaiyaraja & Yesudas praise the mother using this raaga. Can lyrics get better than this, courtesy lyricist Vaali!
  7. Janani Janani—Ilaiyaraja—Thaai Mookambikai—Music for meditation.
  8. Kaatril Varum Geethame—Ilaiyaraja—Oru Naal Oru Kanavu—Ilaiyaraja confuses his fans as we can’t choose which is a better Kalyani!
  9. Azhagu Nilave—A.R.Rahman—Pavithra—Lullaby in Kalyani
  10. Ponmulam—Vidyasagar—Chandrolsavam (Malayalam)
  11. Pulariyil—Suresh Peters—Runway(Malayalam)—A must-listen!

Raagas in Films:Vasantha

2 Jul

Vasantha is one of my favourite raagas. It is an evening raaga and probably the most intense raaga alongwith Pantuvarali. Whenever I listen to any composition in this raaga I get goosebumps, such is its effect. Though there are only a handful of songs in this raaga that I know, all of them have their unique magic. That’s the beauty of Indian music.

  1. Andhi Mazhai-Ilaiyaraja-Raaja Paarvai-A classic song, one of the greatest hits of Ilaiyaraja. I feel this song would have sounded great, had the recording quality been better.
  2. Minsaara Kanna-A.R.Rahman-Padaiyappa-My favourite Vasantha of all time, sends me into a trance, sung with gusto by Nithyashree and Sreenivas. A.R.Rahman surprises you every time by treading the path where you think he may not go.
  3. Kandaen Kandaen-Vidyasagar-Pirivom Sandhippom-A very good song, Vidyasagar has used the raaga beautifully especially in the charanam ending.
  4. Guruvayur Unnikannan-Jaison J Nair-Aanachandham-A great attempt by debutant music composer Jaison sung by Madhu Balakrishnan with superb off-beat percussion.

Raagas in Films: Sindhu Bhairavi

17 Apr

It is quite a task to write about one of the most loved raagas in Indian music, the versatile Sindhu Bhairavi. It is versatile because it gives a lot of scope for music composers to experiment. There have been innumerable tunes in this raaga but the beauty is all of them sound different! Another feature of this raaga is that it can be used for a variety of situations. Here is a list of the immortal tunes in this raaga. As always I have only posted some of my favourite Sindhu Bhairavi songs here, which showcased its beauty.

  1. Unnakenna Mele-MSV-Simla Special-Composing at its best, a very unique song with a varying tempo.
  2. Enna Satham-Ilaiyaraja-Punnagai Mannan
  3. Muthu Mani Maala-Ilaiyaraja-Chinna Kounder-Happy Sindhu Bhairavi, A case study on Sindhu Bhairavi composing. Period.
  4. Nilave Mugam Kaattu-Ilaiyaraja-Ejaman-This is Sad Sindhu Bhairavi for you. How many raagas will this man, Ilaiyaraja, play with?
  5. Maargazhi Thingal-A.R.Rahman-Sangaman-Brilliant song, very well sung, the pathos in the raaga rises to the fore!
  6. Nilavu Paattu-Ilaiyaraja-Kannukul Nilavu-Sindhu Bhairavi+Jazzy interludes, an unusual but captivating concoction!
  7. Ovvoru Pookalume-Bharadwaj-Autograph-Great tune+Inspiring lyrics+soulful singing
  8. Soll Soll En Nenje-Vidyasagar-Pirivom Sandippom-You will not imagine a song like this, especially the chords in the charanam.
  9. En Uyirukkul-Vidyasagar-Mahesh Sharanya Mattrum Palar-One of my recent favourites, splendid orchestration.

Raagas in Films: Hamsadhwani

8 Feb

Hamsadhwani is a very auspicious raaga, we refer to it as a “mangalakara” raagam i.e. its heralds happiness and prosperity. It is a raaga which is generally used to begin the proceedings (as in concerts, prayer meets, and even other functions).  The famous prayer to Lord Ganesha- Vakrathunda Mahaakaya is generally sung in Hamsadhwani. Hamsadhwani gives a lot of scope for music composers to experiment. There have been so many scintillating tunes in this raaga that its impossible to list all of them here. So I am listing the popular ones here, the more recent ones which I know, where the beauty of the raaga has been fully demonstrated. Read it as Song-Composer-Movie.

  1. Vaa Vaa Vaa–Ilaiyaraja-Velaikkaaran-The charanams are mindblowing with piano backings!
  2. Poo Mudithu-Ilaiyaraja-En Purushanthaan Enakku Mattumthaan
  3. Sri Ranga Ranga-Ilaiyaraja-Mahanadhi
  4. Unnodu Vaazhaatha-Bharadwaj-Amarrkalam-Wonderful tune set in westernized orchestration!
  5. Vellai Pookal-A.R.Rahman-Kannathil Muthamittaal-a serene tune.
  6. Theekuruvi-A.R.Rahman-Kangalal Kaidhu Sei-Whoa! what fusion-Hamsadhwani laced with bass guitar backgrounds and Hindustani-styled ghatkaas!
  7. Natta Nadu-Vijay Antony-A Aa E  Ee-Composed so beautifully that I could not recognize that it was Hamsadhwani, during the initial listens.

Raagas in film music: Amruthavarshini

21 Jan

There is no better way to begin enjoying the usage of different raagas in films, than by starting with the nectarine intense raaga Amruthavarshini. The name itself shows how beautiful the raaga is. This raaga has a wonderful anecdote behind it. [I heard this in a raaga series CD called ISAI PAYANAM, which is a series of discussions on different raagas done by Smt.Charulatha Mani, a Carnatic vocalist. It is a wonderful collection to have as it covers most of the major raagas, dwelling on their unique attributes, the major classical compositions in them and their usage in film music.]
Shri Muthuswamy Dikshithar, one of the greatest classical musicians of India, a member of the Trinity was going for his brother’s marriage from Tiruvaiyar. On the way, he was passing thro’ a village called Ettaiyapuram, which was at that time experiencing severe drought. The land was dry and parched and the people were suffering. Overcome by compassion for the villagers, Shri. Dikshithar started singing the masterpiece krithi and praying, “Aanandamruthakarshini Amruthavarshini” to Goddess to bring rain to the village and lo! it started to rain heavily. It poured so much that he had to ask the Goddess to stop the torrential downpour. What a wonderful demonstration of the power of music!
Coming back to film music, these are the famous songs composed in this raaga:

  1. Sivakami Aadavandhaal-Paatum Bhaarathamum-MSV
  2. Thoongaatha Vizhigal-Agni Nakshathram-Ilaiyaraja-The most famous film song in this raaga, a masterpiece traversing the entire swaras in this raaga.
  3. Kaathirundha Malli-Malluvetti Minor-Ilaiyaraja-a fantastic song.
  4. Naandhana-Ninaithaale-Vijay Antony

One thing to note here, is that in some cases, the composers may not be within the raaga throughout the song, there may be minor deviations from the raaga. This is fine as in films, composers can take liberties to make the song sound better.

Raagas—the treasure chest of Indian Music

10 Jan

The purpose of this post is not to analyze the raaga concept technically (though it is fun to do so, as the concept is very scientific) but to see how it enriches our music. Raagas are the epitome of the astounding variety in music that we see today. Just imagine, with just 7 swaras/notes, we are able to have so many zillions of tunes! There are about 300 or more known raagas though it is believed that there were about 800 of them originally but many have been lost. The credit for preserving, propagating raagas should go to the classical music stalwarts of India, especially the trinity. The utility of the raaga concept is manifold:

  1. It serves as a starting point for composing. It is NOT necessary that a tune must be in the same raaga throughout, so we have raagamaalikas (compositions comprising of many raagas). But a tune in a raaga has a unique charm as it showcases the essence of that raaga fully.
  2. It is a guide to compose in many situations, for e.g. if its a sad situation, raagas like Shubhapantuvarali could be used. If its an auspicious moment, then Anandabhairavi could be used. This is why we find in marriages, the compositions played would consist of these raagas. Raagas personify the situation and create a grandeur in that situation. Imagine a marriage without any live music!
  3. Each raaga is a world by itself, a world of melody. As discussed here before, raagas do have medicinal benefits and they heal us, if we have faith. Hence we say music HEALS. They are being extensively used in promoting well-being and as a curative for many diseases.

I will be taking up individual raagas and their usage in film music in the ensuing posts. Whatever I know is purely because of my interest/passion in this concept. I am learning to even appreciate the technical nuances so as to have a holistic view. Its going to be a wonderful journey to examine specific raagas, because for me they are pure bliss! This is what makes Indian music special!