Some of Raaja's songs are real hieroglyphics. They look attractive and fascinating; But the fact is you don't understand it.. not at least at the first sight. Co-incidentally just a couple of days ago, a fellow Raaja rasigar got in touch exposing me to this maze. Its providential that I was working on launching this blog and he opened up a perfect opportunity and motivation to add some content (Thanks Dileep and CSR !) So here is my lame attempt in cracking open this Ilaiyaraaja code (well, Actually the substitution to Da Vinci doesn't look out of place there I suppose...)

Listen to the song here:
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I will try to repeat the basics even if its redundant and boring to some of you.
Firstly the Declaration.. This song is simple Adhi Talam ..8 count per beat cycle or as in western terms 2 beat cycles of 4/4; (or actually 8/4 then, if you want to make this beat cycle same as that of Aadhi taalam)

Thankfully the prelude chorus starts in proper Aadhi and enables us to keep track of the song.. So if you simply start putting the plain Aadhi Talam during the prelude, you can complete one Aadhi cycle during the line: "Kottun ga Ko ttun ga Ko ttun ga Kummi Kummi"

This would be our base metronome for the song analysis.

And you will notice the claps during the first lines fall on the count 3 and 7..
The overall beat pattern of the song is a bit electronic and is little complex to follow... But for easier visualiztion, you can switch off the Rhythm track of this song in mind, take the rhythm from lets say, "Aalappol Velappol" and super impose it in this song.. Now you see, it perfectly fits and the basic meter of this song is nothing but "Tha ka dhi mi Tha ka ju nu"..

Ok now that we are in same page (is it..?) let me proceed...

The biggest hide and seek that Raaja plays with us in this song is,
1.) Not every line falls within one cycle of Aadhi Taalam. This is a universal rule composers usually don't tend to break, including Raaja. Else the common man cannot follow the song fully and enjoy.. But in this song, a Few portions of the song comfortably stretches along two (or a little more) cycles of Aadhi Taalam. (If you want to be technically correct you can call it 16/4 , but honestly it doesn't matter as long as you follow the song and know where you are... );
2.) And to make it super complex, These lines doesn't start on the samam (i.e., not on count 1 but a bit earlier or later);

So If we identify which are those problematic lines, its rather easy to follow this song. The first 2 lines of the song fall in the above mentioned super duper complext pattern.

The first line (Kummi - Kottunga Kottunga) measures 18 counts but the first count of this line is actually the 8th count of its previous measure (i.e., the first word Kummi already starts on the 8th count of previous cycle).. or in other words if you assume the song starts from the lines Kottunga Kottunga, it runs for 17 more counts..i.e., totally this line is 1 count of Aadhi from previous cycle + 2 full cycles of Aadhi + first samam of Next Cycle of Aadhi... all this still in first line...
The second line (Kaigal Thattunga Thattunga) runs for 19 counts!! The beauty (or the beast :-P !!) of this line is that,it starts at the 2nd count of its Aadhi cycle or oru idam in carnatic music..(Just like "Endharo Mahanubhavulu...").. This line runs through 19 counts .. i.e., 7 counts from its starting Aadhi.. 8 counts from Next Aadhi.. and 4 counts from the Aadhi thereafter.. Due to this odd number of assymetry, you might be tempted to count Roopakam (Especailly the last 8 + 4..) in between... But those are just the woeful game Raaja is playing by making the sandham deviate a bit and sound like Roopakam.. don't loose focus and keep counting Aadhi..

So when Arunmozhi starts (Iru siru Idhayangal) the song appears to be back in the grasp of common man and right fully so.. as it follows 4 full cycles of 8 beats (Mind you I didn't call this phrase Aadhi as its running with first Thrudham of Aadhi as reference note of start of its cycle !!) The lines Kadhai kadhaiyam Kaaranamam.. Kaaranathil kaadhalaraam" is the ultimate beauty as its 4 cycles of pure roopakam.. 4 * 3 = 12 counts which can also be seen as 4 + 8 or 1.5 cycles of Aadhi.. So "Vaazhga" starts at the proper Samam of Aadhi.. but it lasts only for 7 counts.. because as per the theory when we started,
the word "Kummi" starts at the 8th count..

This teasing game doesn't stop here and continues well in to the stanza too... The first 2 lines are ok.. But the 3rd line (Kannal Kaniyum) goes back to stretching itself into 2 cycles of Aadhi..with the split of the Sandham in this lines switching to the "Thaka Thimi Thaka" pattern ("Kannal Kani yum" , "Ella Suvai yum", "Than dhanam ena") and confusing you..

Subsequent phrase returns to normalcy (Thandhane Endru thandhai neeyum) with proper Aadhi... But only briefly.. the maze resumes soon enough at the lines "Thottal Thudikkum Pattam pooochi" and "Vittal Thavikkum Kannam moochi".. as this is pure Roopakam for 8 measures or 24 counts.. (i.e., 8(*3) cycles of Roopakam or simple, 3 (* 8) cycles of Aadhi...) And the "Ooho" ending is pure Aadhi only to remind yourself the Kummi again starts at the last count (8th count) of this Aadhi cycle..

Truly this is one of Raaja's "Thiru Vizhaiyaadal..".. i.e., when he is getting bored, he thinks, ok let me play some games with some lesser mortals out there... But what truly amazes me in this composition is the method to the madness applied.. He conceives an idea and he sticks to it from the beginning to the end even if he completely wanders around in between..

Following is summary of adjustments that he makes so that the song retains its Aadhi structure from end to end and the points that underscore his musical genius...
1.) Always starting the first line at the 8th count of previous cycle, come what may;
Superb offsets to bring back the original rhythm flavour of the song such as the finishing of Pallavi (Vaazhga...) and Charanam (Oooh..)suitable for the pallavi to start back at the 8th count..This is a mind which exactly knew what it was doing...
2.) Timely adjustments then and there to switch the song to roopakam so that the reference of the Aadhi smoothly transitions from Thrudham to Samam..
3.) Beautiful and yet sudden beginning of 2nd Bgm bang on the samam of aadhi by cutting the second line of Pallavi.. (NOte this is the first song that I have noticed from Raaja where Seccond BGM starts after the firstline itself.. normally its after first 2 lines to maintain symmetry... But this is like starting the 2nd BGM after the lines "Raasathi Unna Kaanadha Nenju" itself without singing "Kaathadi pol aadhu" for instance... ); He broke this symmetry because the first 2 lines are anyways assymmetrical (one 18 and other 19 counts..); So assymetry * assymetry = Symmetry !! :-)))
You notice the hurry with which that flute and Tabla starts at the 2nd BGM.. just like an acrobat jumping from one swing in time to catch his other partner.. For me this is a defining moment in the song...Absolute precision like a Swiss Watch...
4.) So is the finishing of the song... no theermanams..not even a brief one.. the song abruptly ends at the phrase "Podungadi" as thats where Samam ends but not where that line finishes (which is still 4 more counts away as per the song's construct...)
This is the Tradionalist within the experimentalist who wants to give a proper ending with no loose ends...

With Love

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