Saturday, December 10, 2005

Pagal Nilavu-2: Vaidehi Raman

Pagal Nilavu

Analysis is a journey whose beginning is delight and the destination - a delightful revelation. The purpose of analysis is that revelation... a "goosebump"y feeling... which makes life livelier. The song "Vaidehi Raman" from Pagali Nilavu gives me such delight and joy that I'm already jumping in the chair just writing about it. However, some technical issues need to be mentioned upfront if I have to get through the writing and manage to convey some meaning across. In other words, imagine a bee sucking nectar from a blooming flower. The scene does not require a conscious being to think about it to make it beautiful... it is beautiful already... consciousness just recognizes it - but put an observer in the scene and he/she will enjoy the nectar vicariously. I hope the talk on tech issues will serve this purpose - as a conscious observer to be a guide to enjoy the beauty of this song.

Sa Ri Ga Ma Pa Da Ni Sa constitute the notes of any melakartha scale (chromatic scale in the Indian system akin to do re mi fa so la ti do in WCM using all seven notes). Each raaga therefore takes different pitches for Ri, Ga, Ma, Dha, Ni to establish its scale (scale only not its essence). Raagam Kalyaani follows the scale - Sa Ri2 Ga3 Ma2 Pa Dha2 Ni3 Sa (refer to Carnatic Ragalist)(in WCM notation, in the scale of C, that translates to - C D E F# G A B C). Sa is called the aadhara shruthi or the root note of a scale (which plays on in the tanpura along with the fifth note Pa and higher octave Sa). From this elementary concept we jump to a relatively advanced idea. If the root note of a scale is changed, for example from C to G or Sa to Pa in the above Kalyaani scale, while still playing the same keys/notes- it sometimes becomes another Raaga (not always the case- in some cases it might not be any raaga at all). That is if the root note is changed from C to G/Sa to Pa (hence making G/Pa the aadhara shruthi or the root droning note but still using the exact same notes of Kalyaani), Kalyaani changes into a different raaga (in this case Shankaraabharanam). In fact, this exercise can be done to each note of a scale to see what raaga results from it. This is called Sruthi bhedam in the classical circle. Kalyaani is one of those wonderful scales which produces a different Melakartha raaga on sruthi bhedam with almost every note. Almost. In fact, Kalyaani (Melakartha number -abbr. as M#- 65); Hari Kambhoji (change shruthi to Ri or D; M# 28); Nata Bhairavi (to Ga/E; M# 20); ( change of shruthi to the 4th note F# or Ma2 does not produce a melakartha raaga); Shankaraabharanam (change to Pa/G; M# 29); Kharaharapriya (change to Dha/A; M# 22); and Hanuma Thodi (Ni/B; M# 08) form this set of raagas which can be derived from each other just by Shruthi Bhedam . With this knowledge let's proceed fearlessly into magical "Vaidehi Raman".

The song Vaidehi Raman is in the scale of D# (also represented as Eb). It just means that the Sa is D#. That's all. We shall talk about the song in the Indian Classical System notation, i.e., sa ri ga etc.

The song begins with the sound of Ghungroo (Gajjalu/dancer's anklets) and Bells/Xylophone leading to an orchestral string section piece. The delight has already begun to take shape. We know here that the harmonically sound piece is pointing to the development of the Raaga Kalyaani. A mridangam solo follows the orchestral piece. This idea of using mridangam next to an orchestral piece might sound ridiculous. But the execution in the song's intro is almost unbelievable. The idea is simple - use the rhythm of the orchestral piece. Follow it and build it up to a crescendo with the Mridangam. The genius is in that simplicity. From melody to rhythm and viceversa. If Kalyani didn't spring up in the mind of the listener yet, IR plays the scale in bells immediately following the mridangam solo. Sa ri ga ma pa da ni sa on bells and then vocals begin "Vaidehi Raaman"... and we definitely know now that it is the blissful Kalyaani beyond all doubt. IR uses all the instruments that are most perfectly suited to bring out the joyous flavor of Kalyaani - Bells and Bass combo, the ecstatic pair of mridangam and tabla, Sitar, Flute, Violin Orchestra, and a female voice! So we bask in Kalyaani's divine beauty and the images of brightly lit huge temple alleys suggest themselves to my mind (I donno how Mani picturized it! never seen the song). A beautiful Kalyaani interlude follows the pallavi on Sitar and flute (mainly) leading to the charanam.

The charanams in this song are goldmines of musical information. The composer takes the leading vocal close to the note "Ni" toward the end of the charanam. Ordinary composers might have left it at that and returned to the pallavi (cuz the beginning note of Pallavi is Sa). But IR, being the maverick he is, uses this as the perfect time to change the sruthi to "Ni". But if you've observed there is no tanpura in the song. He accomplishes this Sruthi Bhedam through the use of Bass guitar and strumming the note Ni (where Janaki sings "ni sa ni ni sa sa").
So the phrases - ni sa ninisa sa - ni sa ri ninisa sa - ni sa ga ri sanidapa dapamapa;
pa da mama pa pa - pa ni damama pa pa - sagama- gamada- madani-danisa-belong to Hanumathodi scale with the Ni of Kalyaani being droned with the Bass (If you look up our Sruthi Bhedam scheme for Kalyaani above you will notice that the scale that is produced by a tonal shift to Ni is Hanuma Thodi. ) Numerous other posts on this blog have devoted themselves to the bass lines in the compositions of IR so there is no need to dwell on that subject anymore. He hints at "Hindolam" by the use of the phrases "gamada-madani-danisa" (hindolam uses the same notes in its scale sa ga ma da ni sa but is not a derivative of Hanumathodi)...and he joins back to the Pallavi via a simple phrase "ni sa ga ri" and a shift to Sa in Kalyaani. The devil of an idea! For an unintiated listener it might definitely sound like voodoo... but we know its only sruthi bhedam. Also the use of hindolam phrases is not an accident. It is a hint that he is going to use hindolam again.

After a single rendition of the pallavi, IR uses an unusual format. Swaras follow the Pallavi. The primary idea he uses to join to the Kalyaani in the second charanam is the use of pentatonics. Or ragas that use only 5 notes. Similar to melakartha ragas sruthi bhedam can also be applied to the pentatonics. Saving you much calculation and trouble, mohanam, hindolam, suddha dhanyasi, suddha saveri, madhyamavathi all form a sruthi bhedam set (all derived from the melakartha ragas mentioned previously). IR touches every one except suddha saveri in this song.

With the swaras they are -
ga ga gaga riri- ga ga gagagaga - ri gapaga ri sa ni sa ni (they still are in Kalyaani , but note the use of the swaras as if deriving a pentatonic from Kalyaani using sa ri ga pa ni which actually is hamsa dhwani but the swaras dont do justice to hamsadhwani) and conecting to a real pentatonic
ma ma mama - saga mamamama - gamadanidamadasama (in Hindolam - by sruthi change to Ni ; as mentioned earlier hindolam shares its notes with hanumathodi)
ga ri ga papapa- magamada (alternating between kalyaani and hindolam)
ga ri ga papapa - ga ma da ni ( " )
sa sasasa- ni ni sa sasasasasa - nisasa nisasa nisasa nisasa nisa nisa nisaga gagasanipa - pa ni sa sasa ni pa ga ( all of this in suddha dhanyaasi - tonal shift to Dha of Kalyaani - suddha dhanyaasi is a derivative of kharaharapriya as expected from the shruthi change to Dha -refer to the list of melakartha ragas mentioned above which are sruthi bhedam partners of kalyani)
sa ri ga papapa ri ga pa da sa gapadasaa (in mohanam - sruthi change to Ri gives HariKambhoji - Mohanam is a derivative of HariKambhoji--- end of story!) And join back to the actual second charanam in Kalyani.

So the movements in the song can be described as going from Sa (Kalyaani) to Ni (Hanumathodi/hindolam) to Dha (Suddhadhanyaasi) to Ri (Mohanam). It is the play with these movements that creates the beautiful effect which is the trademark of this jewel of a song in Kalyaani. All that is left for us is to enjoy the song in the light of this observation opening up a new world of ideas and more joy.

P.S: Apologies for the size of the post. Believe me if I could make it any shorter I would.

--Random Walker.

To add my observations(or to make it more lengthier..):

1.The blend of sitar+violins in the 1st interlude and towards the end of 1st interlude..Intermittent Usage..How to name it?a classical symphony!!!well!Only the Emperor can name it.

2. the Violin pieces used in the charanams are simply master-strokes. A restricted single stroke on violins,after 1st line of charanam adds beauty and what is restricted to a single stroke in those given a freehand to finish the counter melody in the next lines..thats Killer of an Idea..and these are my fav pieces.

3. Not just the beat(mridangam) but even the Sound of it changes as soon as she takes over the swaras from charanam lyrics. infact, he brings in Tabla also which swaps its place with Mridangam and vice-versa..for very short duration that too.

4.There is no 2nd interlude, as Ravi implied...only vocals play with swaras..backed by mridangam+tabla...and he effortlessly pulls into 2nd charanam.

5.I have heard many Kalyanis(classically sounding ones..) of IR and i have observed that, in majority of them, he has used Sitar/Veena.(this discussion will form another post).As far as i remember,the latest "kaatril Varum Geethame" (oru naal oru kanavu) is the only exception.

6.I think this song is the first song of Mani-IR combo which falls in pure-classical category..i mean..a song which has more traditional instruments like Mridangam etc.,.

The song is definitely a mile-stone among IR songs(among his Raagamaalikas too..) and hence, we are compelled to come up with a post this, Blame it on Maestro.


Random Walker said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Random Walker said...

I realized there is a way of communicating sruthi bhedam to engineers. assume sa = 1, ri=2, ga = 3, ma=4, pa=5, dha=6, ni=7 (assuming all swaras are in kalyani)

If f(1)=Kalyani
f(2) = hari kambhoji
f(3) = nata bhairavi
f(4) = is a null set
f(5) = shankaraabharanam
f(6) = kharaharapriya
f(7) = hanumathodi

if it is of any help!

Gandaragolaka said...

need a keyboard... of course, I can labour for a couple of days with my limited vocal capacity, but I fear by then, the point may be lost.

The other way might be to perfect dhaatu swaras in different melakarthas.

Random Walker said...


My Keyboard died a few weeks ago. I found a downloadable midi piano online which one can use with the comp keyboard. Would you like me to send it?

Gandaragolaka said...

oh sure!! post the link here

yadbhavishya said...

Iam trying real hard to catch up with what ever you said. Some parts still remain a little inaccessible to me, considering my limited music skill, inspite of you feeding everything like cerelac.

Yes! Magical it is. Heard this first time 4 years back. I did not know then that there was so much in it, sigh.

Now I know!

Gandaragolaka said...

"1.The blend of sitar+violins in the 1st interlude and towards the end of 1st interlude..Intermittent Usage..How to name it?a classical symphony!!!well!Only the Emperor can name it."

I actually had this idea in mind since long... of course I am short of (just) an orchestra, but hey, its an idea nevertheless...

I heard a different version of the Khamas Swarajathi "Samba sivayanave" from my mother and it immediately seemed like a western classical tune.. (it seems like that ajantha clock ad from afar)most ragas from 28 and 29 melakarthas can be made as symphonies.... esp ones like kunthalavarali and nagaswaravali...

SVR said...

Awesome analysis!

I love this song. It took me a while to grow into it and start to understand it -- and then everyone around me wished I'd grow out of it asap (thankfully for me, and not so much for them, that didn't happen) -- some people, like my parents, were unfortunate enough to be subjected to my many attempts at it ;)

Sketchy Self said...

aaha....this whole exchange reminds me of the movie the matrix...
After neo is 'liberated' and before the roof-top jump test, cypher talks to neo, says, 'so, did he tell you why you're here?' referring to morpheus. neo nods. cypher says, 'jeez, what a mind job!' and sure enough, neo fails the test.
the last post had me thinking i knew what i was getting into - this one plainly kicked ASphalt! the only way i can be at peace with myself is sitting here dazed everyday listening to this song and reading this analysis for the next twenty years. (It'll probably take that long for me to give up.)

arvindh said...

Dear Random Walker,
What a fantastic analysis! I have often wondered how one can convey the beauty of one art form (eg. music) in another (words).
I love Ilaiyaraaja's music and other great classical masters but I do not have any technical knowledge that would help me analyze the structure of a work of music. I hope to develop a whole new vocabulary by reading your posts.
Keep up the good work.

Ramesh said...

It is a truly interesting composition by IR. He likes to experiment a lot I guess. I think he also changes the shruthi of the percussion too when the shruthi changes. Or is it only change in the percussion instrument (mridangam and tabla)?

I have written a post on the song Kavithai Kelungal from Punnagai Mannan, where again he employs similar technique.

Dunno how to trackback in blogger. Blogger doesn't support it I guess.

Sketchy Self said...

reading had totally thrown me off on the first 3 hearings about how she sings the same note and calls it two different names (eg ga and ma before 2nd charanam) i get it! I thought shruthibhedam meant only that you sing the swara names in one raga but create the feel of a different raga...which she does too, but she also actually goes into the other raga to illustrate what she means..for laymen like me :D...but at that speed!! I need to download this song and play it at at least 1/5 speed to even come close to following!
I'll post more comments here as i keep coming back, kindly bear with me :D

Gandaragolaka said...

chandu... Even I think the same thing, but it may not be that easy to find it out for ourselves...

I think vocalists may find it rather difficult (unless they are BMKs and Sanjay Subs) to do shrutibhedam, though its only a personal opinion...

planning to buy a decent keyboard shortly...