Wednesday, November 02, 2005


IR worships Thyagaraja. Idolizes Bach. Is enslaved by the compositions of Mozart and Beethoven. Let me dispel any doubts that you may have regarding IR's inspirations through "Naguva Nayana" from Pallavi Anupallavi. This one showing the connection between IR and Bach. (If we are lucky we'll get to his other inspirations soon)

Listen (and very keenly so) to the beginning of the song. Janaki (pronounced Jana'gee' ;)) hums the tune to chords played on the guitar. After a successful digestion of that tune, remember J.S. Bach's "Bourree" (everyone knows this piece - one only has to hear it to remember). I believe Bourree (go to the link and search for the name) has inspired IR so much that I find traces of it in almost all my fav songs of his. Compare the lines of main voice with those of bass in the beginning lines of "Aakasam enatidho" from Nireekshana; "Ennulle Ennulle" from Valli - to illustrate, the main voice's notes are played in the reverse order for the bass--ah! the genius of Bach. The beginning notes are all the same as that for Bourree but the time values are different.
Then SPB sings/hums the second part of the tune. Then a small silence- a rest (read 'arrest'). A full blown orchestra follows. To understand the Bach connection one has to listen to the bass lines (remember this mantra!). Each instrument's notes in this beginning orchestral piece can be separated and played as a distinct musical piece in itself. Not a big deal right? Wrong. To be able to conceive four distinct tunes (and in this case with different timing) and mesh them together in the mind is nothing short of mindblowing. The only connection between them is they are all harmonic siblings. A trait J.S. Bach nurtured to its pinnacle which IR embraced and preserved. The leading violins are complemented by a second set of violins (requires some selective hearing). There is a bass following in it's own time scheme (like 1234-1234-12345678). And you will have no doubt that each of them can be a main voice in itself. OK that's just the stuff even before the song has actually started (atleast for most people).

SPB starts the part that Janaki hummed and Janaki sings the part that SPB hummed in the prelude. This is the acid test for Bach's influence on IR. In Bach's canons - instruments change their roles from main voices to supporting ones. Tunes complement each other. It's so symmetric that if you write down the notes and code it into a different alien language and give it to an intelligent decoder, he might not be able to come up with Bach's canon- but he would have definitely decoded a beautiful theorem on symmetry. In fact, Bach's Crab Canon is the nth orbital state a musical piece can achieve in symmetry and beauty. The simple switching of voices by IR is an illustration that the seeds of his musical thoughts were planted by Bach (for an unbelievable discussion on symmetry in Bach's music read Douglas Hofstadter's "Godel, Escher, Bach - The eternal golden braid").

In the interlude that follows, IR takes you from Germany to Mohana with such flair that one might wonder how a geographical location could end up in a raga? The charanams are similar in format. Mohana ending with a touch of kalyani. This song has such an evolution in its development and concept! He starts with harmony and ends up in melody. He starts with a few notes well placed with respect to other notes, and goes to touching a classical raga (if you have to name five most important ragas in carnatic I bet Kalyani will be one of them in the list).

A final note on the ending. The humming of SPB is hemmed by a faster one by Janaki. This is another of Bach's ideas. The main voice complemented by bass or other voice lines are used in recursively evolving ways. One of such ways is to separate the main voice lines and the complementing voice lines by a specific time gap. And second, using the secondary lines in a faster pace, both of which are employed to finish the song. Does one need to say more?

I hope we can get to Thyagaraja very soon. The next post will about "Nagu enthithe" (hopefully by Aakarsh).

- Ravi Chandra (randomwalker)

And to add my part :

This tune is being used as the theme music(or Logo-music) for the brand "Tata-Idea cellular". i am not sure if they have paid any royalty to IR but i learnt that the CEO of "LOWE", (one of the top ad-agencies in the country), Balakrishnan or "Balki' -as he is famously known, uses/used many IR tunes for his Jingles. When enquired, he confessed to be a very big die-hard fan of IR.( see this page) So, next time if u see a IR tune in a jingle, remember, its by Balki.



Padmasani said...

Hmm. Beginning to understand how diehard you folks are of Raja Sir. :)

Good post.

Sketchy Self said...

Reading review posts such as this one confirms the truth of the idea that the appreciation of an artist's greatness depends on the level of the admirer...I'm glad i'm in worthy hands to be initiated into the fathomless world of IR.

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

Is it just me or the lines "oka bhaasha idu, rasa kaavya idu.... " of the song sound very similar to "ishvar allah tero naam, sab ko sanmathi de bhagvan" of "Raghupati raghava raja ram"???

Ramesh said...

This is the first time I am listening to the songs from this film. I liked this song, especially the pallavi. It seems have to some shades of kaapi raag. (Gandaragolaka/kedar, radhupati raghav raja ram is in kaapi I believe)

I was also reminded of the Orchestra (Mood Kapi) sample track from IR's Live in Italy show. It is a recomposition of Sangathil song from Autoraja film (also by IR). It is a very simple tune in Kaapi, but wait listen to the bass and chord progressions when the tune repeats after the 2nd line. I was just stumped ! The pallavi is a short tune but listen to the chord progression which doesn't stop and keeps flowing. Simply Amazing.

yadbhavishya said...

Incisive commentary!

great song, but I think i need first hand guidance...

Random Walker said...


Aakasam enatidho (mentioned in the post) is the same as "orchestra mood kapi"!