Raaja Hindustani II

Continuing the series of Raaja's Hindustani techniques, in this part we will look at specific Hindustani Raags that he has ventured into.

It is a common knowledge that almost all Raagas of the Carnatic Classical Music (CCM) has a direct or indirect equivalent in the Hindustani Classical Music (HCM). However usually there are miles that separate each of them even though their DNAs match to a fair extent. There aren't many composers who has taken the same set of notes and have given it a both CCM and HCM treatment. Raaja of course in his quest to conquer new musical horizons has consciously ventured into few of those exclusive HCM scales.

To start with we can look at the Raag: Patdeep and its CCM equivalent Gowri Manohari. To make the picture complete, in Western Classical this is same as the scale of Melodic Minor in ascent.
To understand unique applications of Gowri manohari you can listen to a traditional Carnatic piece here.
Guru Lekha

And a traditional Patdeep would sound like this:
Rang Rangeela Banra Mora

As you can see, visibly the Carnatic version does not give the same weight to Nishadam as that of its HCM counterpart. "Ga Ma Pa Ni" is the characteristic Pakad of Patdeep. While the prayogam "Sa Ri Ga Ma" is a strict no no in Patdeep, Its Carnatic counterpart revels on a much fuller set of the first half of the notes (i.e, sa ri ga ma pa); There is a sea of difference in the application of notes. No doubt that Raaja's Gowrimanohari based tunes have won many a hearts in the form of "Dhoorathil naan Kanda" (Same as the song 'Vennello Godari Andahm' in Telugu), "Solai Poovil" or "Muthamizh Kaviye Varuga" (all with their liberal doses of 'Sa Ri Ga'); But its his Patdeep versions that are unquestionably more gripping and surrendering. Here are the most poignant Patdeeps from Raaja :
Kanna Varuvaaya
(The traditional "Krishna kannaiya - Meera" theme of this song accentuates this feel much more)

Oru Kaaviyam

As one can see, in these Patdeeps there is a clear usage of "Ga ma pa ni" usage with not much emphasize on the 'Sa ri ga' patterns; In fact in the song "Kanna Varuvaaya", during the phrase 'Manmadha Mandiram Solli' of second charanam, the song goes as "sa ri ga ma" and suddenly you feel a drop in the intensity. Though the song does sounds a bit out of place there, On the contrary this small deviation helps one appreciate how best Patdeep is handled in the rest of the song.

A similar pair is the Raag: Yaman and its CCM equivalent of Kalyani. Lot of people whom I know consider it 'fashionable' to interchange these two raagas just because they seem to know these two are of same kind. The fact is, Yaman's Aarohan stamps its uniqueness from Kalyani in a way better than the watermarks of world's most sophisticated currencies. See it for yourself:
Tu Jag Mey Sharam

"Ni Ri Ga" or "Ga Ma Dha Ni" are mandatory progressions in Yaman with no scope for "Sa ri ga" or "ga ma pa". And there are no such hard and fast rules in Kalyani although such progressions are considered beautiful. In fact Raaja's favorite pass time appear to be handling Yaman like progressions in pure Kalyani Songs to the point of making it look like Hamsanandhi in Ascent; All though such momentary application of "Yaman" is very common in Raaja's songs (Eg: "Vizhayatta Solli thandha dhaaaaaaaaaaaruuuuuuu" from the song Malayoram mayile, "Paadungal paatu paadungal" etc), there are infact pure gems of yaman from Raaja. I have stitched my favorite yamans of Raaja here:
Raaja's Yaman

It doesn't take one too long to observe the deliberate absence of "Sa ri ga" or "Ga Ma Pa" progressions in these songs. That's Raaja..

Regardless of Yaman or Kalyani, Its a pleasure though listening to any of Raaja's umpteen interludes and melodies that operate around these territories (especially with a liberal addition of Sudha madhyamam his kalyanis usually leave a much more lasting impression):
Such as this collage or
This sample charanam among many such beauties

Of course, among the same lines there is the heavenly "Nee Oru Kaadhal Sangeedham" (As I said in the Part I, Whats it with Mano and Hindustani numbers) or "Oru Devathai Vandhadhu" both of which can be eternally debated as being Des or Tilak Kamod or Shyam Kalyan or.. But as I said, regardless of the tag, these are HCM for dummies and ultimate songs to cherish with.

Another interesting dilemma among the South Indian Intelligentsia is to equate Bageshri with Sri Ranjani; People go at lengths to tag some very popular songs as Bageshri without giving any consideration to what separates the two raagas. While Sri ranjani is a strict Panchama varja raaga based out of karaharapriya, Bageshri does allow the prayog "Ma pa dha ma" in the avarohan; Besides its Aarohan is same as Abogi or in other words the progression "sa ri ga ma" is not allowed here; You can listen to a traditional Bageshri here.
Kanha Giridhari

From a puritan's point of view most of the Tamil songs that are branded as Bageshri in the internet forums are not Bageshri at all; Rather it can at best be defined as a mix of Abogi and Sri Ranjani, if at all one is particular about fitting a raaga to those songs; In fact none of Raaja's songs are Pure Bageshri, even though it could be shocking for some to read this. But if you get down to the work floor and get your palms greasy, you will realize none of these songs have the "Ma pa dha ma" application nor do they abstain from the "Sa ri ga ma" progression; However the handling of lot of Raaja's (and MSV's) so called Bageshri melodies does give due feel of Bageshri where the song revolves around Madhyamam i.e., Some poignant usages of "Sa Ma" and "Ga ma dha" prayogams does in fact evoke the right bhavam of Bageshri and hence its very tempting to call them so; In any case Bageshri per se is perceived to be a very light and liberal raaga and it can't be considered a crime if one maintains his account of certain song as Bageshri; As far me, I consider the following song the best Bageshri of Raaja to date (Even though, this song too doesn't use Panchamam in descent which it should as well as contains some heavy "Sa ri ga" parts):
Ye Jagala

If you see the raaga pairs discussed in this post, they are very very popular scales by HCM standards and yet in the South Indian context they are either not understood or still worse, misunderstood. So gaining control over these gray areas, daring to walk the tight rope and coming out unscathed with both HCM or CCM numbers with these pairs is yet another testimony of Raaja's verstaility. At least for a person like me with no formal education in HCM whatsoever, he has been the gateway to this vast ocean. Since then HCM is a genre which I have come to appreciate very much.

Another area that I wanted to touch upon in this post is about the Ghazal based arrangements of Raaja's songs. Ghazals are a very popular sub genre of HCM; Actually lyrics and poetic beauty are the main allure of a traditional Ghazal and the music's role in a Ghazal is to elevate the lyric and be non-intrusive. Therefore a typical Ghazal is set for minimalistic arrangement with astute beat pattern shifts in accordance to the meter of the lyric. Given this criterion, it is not appropriate to tag tamil film songs into a traditional Ghazal umbrella. However from a musical stand point, Raaja does produce few minimalistic songs now and then which are a pure joy to relish. There is no denial that these songs does create a Ghazal-ish feel. Here is an assortment of such songs although this list is far from being complete given Raaja's repertoire.
Raaja's Ghazals

The scales that are used in these songs are as diverse as one can stretch his imagination, what with unique usage of Hari kaambodhi with hopping swaras (Vaana Mazhai) to the audacious attempt on Madhuvanti (Ennullil Yeno). The arrangement on all such kind of songs is unmistakable with a challenging melody for the singer, minimal to non-existent grandeur in orchestration and some innovative usage of Tabla.

I have already made all the clips that will future in this 3 part series a few months ago. And yet, many of the readers of Part I already connected with this feel and commented in advance of many of the songs that are mentioned in this post. It speaks volumes about how one composer can educate a generation.


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