Tuesday, October 18, 2005

An unedited discussion on Tam Tana

Thanks are due to Sketchy AKA Chandu for hosting the song.

Kottha Jeevithalu: All I know about this movie is that it was made by Bharatirajaa and Ilaiyaraja scored music for it. I guess it’s a remake or dub of the Tamil movie “Pudhiya Vaarpugal” from preliminary searches on the web. From the start to the finish this song is packed with elements of interest for every kind of listener (to listen to the song go to the post below by Sketchy). We’ll look at it from a composition POV.
The voices: Chimes, veena, tabla, chorus, bass guitar, chamber and vocals with touches of mridangam. The beginning of the song might as well have been the ending, but IR uses it to build up ‘tension’ right from the word go. Shanmukhapriya is established right by the time the intro finishes. The “Tam Tana” chorus starts after a very brief and effective use of silence, and the chorus in the intro also ends with a brief silence before the song begins (symmetry). The main tune starts as a further improvement of the already established intro. Prominently visible additions are a bass guitar backing and a mridangam touch. Bass embellishments for the lines fall exactly at the ½ beat before the count.

One of the interesting elements is the Tala scheme. If you start counting from the beginning (assuming it is adi tala or 8 beat cycle) the song’s pallavi starts exactly in the middle of the tala (precisely the 5th beat) and each line takes up exactly 12 beats. Which makes one wonder if the tala scheme is indeed 12. But wait till the first interlude – it has 8 cycles of 8 beats which is 64 (64 is indivisible by 12). Mm hmm. So if you start to count the total number of 8 beat cycles for the song – it is 50 (which is a space of 400 (=50*8) individual beats). Which are divided as Intro (7 ½ cycles = 60), Pallavi (5 ½ cycles = 44), Interlude 1 (8 cycles = 64) Charanam 1 (8 ½ cycles = 68) Interlude 2 ( 8 ½ cycles = 68) Charanam 2 (7 cycles = 56) and pallavi repeat to ending (5 cycles = 40) (which is 60+44+64+68+68+56+40 = 400). This 400 number of beats therefore cannot be a 12 beat cycle (12 doesn’t divide 400). So it is an eight beat cycle tala but the division of each part of the composition follows a different order. This opens a whole set of possibilities with the 8 beat cycle (lyrics need not start or end on the exact starting of the count – but the song should).

That aside, at every moment in the composition there is a carnatic classical-influenced element and a western classical-influenced element in almost equal proportion. To elucidate, the tune in general is in the shanmukha priya scale (although this must not be confused with shanmukhapriya raga itself – think of it like lego blocks to make up your dream (kiddy) home – just the lego blocks don’t give you the exact feel of the structure – one has to add cornices, friezes, etc to give it the aesthetically pleasing look – IR however manages to sketch some of broader ideas of the raga through this song) and the harmony part of the song is in the western classical mode (you might say what’s so great about this? every other Indian movie song follows and takes elements from a variety of systems – the answer lies in how much justice the composer does to both the systems – what I am driving at is the transition from one system to the other system is completely fluid not discrete which cannot be said for a lot of other south Indian composers) the tabla and mridangam do both Indian and Western beat patterns, there is a brush kit involved somewhere all merged smoothly.

Another blog can be started just to describe the usage of harmonical elements in the song. All I will say here is that the way the bass lines are laid with respect to the song lines, change their character as being supportive to both the Indian classical as well as the western classical elements of the song. One superb feature which is probably IRs pet subject is Sruthi Bhedam. He uses the idea in the second interlude before the second charanam. Shanmukha priya becomes dhenuka if the sruthi is changed to pa. By leaving some swaras, and application of proper gamakas, one could get gambheera nattai/nata (to be technically correct it is the janya of Chala Nata) which occurs in the interlude for a very brief period of time and is used to brilliant effect.

After all this, the song ends after the 400th count. Just as a reminder to folks that count and bash your head any way you like its still an 8 beat cycle…


Gandaragolaka said...

is there a site that teaches talas?? Its quite an annoying hindrance when like music but u cant understand the timing part.

Gandaragolaka said...

and by the way, are the lyrics by veturi??

Aakarsh said...

now this is what i call as dissected-review.this is why i urge you guys, who are more knpwledgeable(compared to me..) to write..

actually, i have a huuuge bank of ilaiyaraaja songs, each of which needs a separate write-up..that i need a sperate blog for his music actually..

Padmasani said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Padmasani said...

G.G., tala is a subject which can be explained at length on paper. No problem. But just like music, tala also needs personal teaching. Go to the nearest possible percussion player and tell him that you would like to learn to just keep the basic seven rhythmic beats on hand. If nobody is available, meet me when you come next to chennai. The job will be done.

In the mean while keep chanting the word 'takita ' for one week. The takita should fall approximately within one second. Continue the same with an unbroken chain.

Next week we can take the mantra of four. :)

Padmasani said...

Its an excellent song Aakarsh :)

Arvind said...

Nice post here - Tala and me go as well as politics and integrity :P

S.priya treatment as a scale seems to be the preference for IR as opposed to ragam as such. Take his work on Nothing But Wind - even there you can find notes from the scale but not the ragam

Fully understand that it is too much generalization - but for all a lay-man like me knows, it could some janya of the scale :-)