Friday, August 29, 2008

Age Old Hashing Algorithm

In our last post of this series, we learnt how 72 scales formed the Melakartha Scheme. Few other points to note related to Melakartha Raga are:

1. They are also called "Sampoorna Raga" as all the 7 swaras are present in the scale.

2. The aarohanam and avarohanam will contain exactly the same swaras though in reverse order. (Aarohanam is the pattern of ascending notes – frequencies and Avarohanam is the pattern of descending notes)

Well the 72 raaga in Melakartha scheme needed a unique name. It wasn’t as easy as how the roads and districts are named today. VenkaTamakhi of 18th century applied a hashing algorithm called KaTaPaYaaDi to name the raga.

Like how all the encoding is done in today’s world, KaTaPaYaaDi is a simple mechanism to encode a string literal to a number:

Each alphabet in Devanagari script is assigned a number:

1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   0
ka kha ga gha nga ca cha ja jha nya
ṭa ṭha ḍa ḍha ṇa ta tha da dha na
pa pha ba bha ma
ya ra la va śha sha sa ha

So, let us take any Melakartha Raaga in random – (say) ShaNmukhapriya. Take the first 2 consonant – Sha and Mu. Their equivalent values according to the KaTaPaYaadi sankya is: Sha = 6 and Mu = 5. Hence, applying the hashing gives 65. However, we have to reverse the number as we were following little endianness as opposed to big endianness scheme.

So, the equivalent value becomes 56. Hence, ShanmukhaPriya is 56th raga in Melakartha Scheme. Big Deal? How does it help to know just the position of the raga?

Once you know the Mela # of a raga, you can derive its scale by a simple algorithm.

a) Sa and Pa are fixed.

b) If Mela # > 36, Use Ma2, Else Use Ma1

c) If Mela # is > 36, subtract 36 from it

d) Then, Divide the Mela # by 6

  • Ri1 and Ga1 if the quotient is 0
  • Ri1 and Ga2 if the quotient is 1
  • Ri1 and Ga3 if the quotient is 2
  • Ri2 and Ga2 if the quotient is 3
  • Ri2 and Ga3 if the quotient is 4
  • Ri3 and Ga3 if the quotient is 5
  • Da1 and Ni1 if remainder is 0
  • Da1 and Ni2 if remainder is 1
  • Da1 and Ni3 if remainder is 2
  • Da2 and Ni2 if remainder is 3
  • Da2 and Ni3 if remainder is 4
  • Da3 and Ni3 if remainder is 5

    For eg: MechaKalyani (Originally known as Kalyani and was renamed to suit KaTaPaYaadi Sankya) has the Mela # as 65.

    Since 65 > 36, we will use Ma2.
    Also, as Mela # is > 36, we will subtract 36 from it to get 28.
    When we divide by 6, Quotient is 4 and Remainder is 4.

    So, Scale for Kalyani is Sa Ri2 Ga3 Ma2 Pa Da2 Ni3.
    (Remember Sa and Pa are fixed for all Mela Ragas)

    Alternatively, you can also find the Scale using Mukund Chart.

    Bottomline: All the encoding, hashing and mathematical algorithms we use now were used centuries earlier for organizing music for our pleasure! It is even believed that value of Pi could be traced back up to 17 digit precision when you apply KaTaPaYaaDi algorithm to a treatise in “Sadratnamala”. More details found at:

  • Wednesday, August 27, 2008

    Mayilu - II

    The post I had on the clip from "Mayilu" (yet to be released) movie had most number of hits till date in my blog. Here is another clip from the same movie. It is very interesting to hear Raaja teach how to sing with some accent to his daughter/singer Bhavathaarini. I am sure you look forward to hearing this album as much as I do.

    Till the movie/album gets released, this is all we have got to hear!!

    Monday, August 25, 2008

    Dhanam Album

    After the first hearing of Dhanam soundtrack, I did not have any intention of writing a post on it, honestly. I concluded that this will be another "synth-kind" stuff from Raaja, that he is not known for.

    However, something made me hear the album repeatedly and I stand now in a different corner failing to understand how did I even miss writing about this album. It is a different kind of album from Raaja, IMO. You have a pack of everything you look for! Are you a kuthu song fan? Were you longing for another "Kaatril Varum Geethame" kind of song? Were you wondering if there is anyone who commands so much in Bass-line? Were you wondering if anyone who is 65 year old can score like a youth 35 years old?

    Answer is Dhanam. "Kannanukku Enna Thevai" is pick of the album, though, I do like few other songs as well. Maestro has mastered the art of weaving melody, layer by layer! If you are a music fan and haven't picked the album yet, I would be surprised.

    Saturday, August 23, 2008

    Melakartha Schemes

    In the last post of this series, we had discussed about the basic 7 swaras, their associated frequencies and the variation notes like C#, D# etc. constituting 12 notes in total for an
    octave. I have tried to present the western notes and the associated swaras (Indian Classical) in the picture below:

    I generated this with the help of just Excel !! Cool, isn't it?

    Though not accurate, I have portrayed as if C=Sa and C#=Ri1 etc. For now, let us leave at that. So, each note/swara has a place in the keyboard. That is called "Swarasthaanam".
    Please note that there are few swaras that I have marked in blue color. They are called Vivadi Swaras. (It is said that Vivadi swaras were called "Dhosham" - tainted swaras and were avoided for along time and later accepted in the practice. Please refer to: for more details).

    One question that popped up in my mind immediately when I did the mapping was: Ri, Ga, Ma, Da, Ni have variations like R1, R2; Ga2, Ga3 etc. However, Sa and Pa do not have, rather
    they were fixed. Most of the sources I referred to didn't go further deep into why they were fixed. However, only answer I got was even if you were to have B# or E#, they would sound as C and F respectively. (I can accept it as a theorem, still, would love to get a deep dive answer if someone could!)

    So, now that we have 16 swaras (including vivadi swaras), it is pure permutation and combination to come up with tunes! Our ancestors laid some basic rules to form what they called as
    "Mela" later known as "Melakartha" raagams.


    1) Sa and Pa are MUST.
    2) Ma is also MUST and can either take Ma1 or Ma2, but not both.

    3) Only the following {Ri,Ga} variations are allowed:






    It's simple. They have allowed only ascending notes in terms of its frequency. For eg: Ga2,Ri1 is a BIG NO! 4) Same rule applies to {Da,Ni} combination. So, with this four rules above, you can have: 1 Sa, 6 {Ri, Ga}, 2 {Ma}, 1 Pa, 6 {Da, Ni}

    Mathematically, it gives rise to 1 X 6 X 2 X
    1 X 6 = 72 !!

    That's how there are only 72 Melakartha ragas. They are like the backbone of the Indian classical system. There is much more to Melakartha raga system (including a age old hashing
    algorithm that our ancestors had designed) that I will cover in my next post of this series.

    Wednesday, August 20, 2008

    Upcoming Illayaraja's Albums

    Illayaraja has given us his best when he had most number of movies at hand. I think he is getting back to the glory days. I am stunned to see the bubbling energy in this man at 65 !! Just a preview of the upcoming albums of Illayaraja:

    (Thanks & credits to IR fans in TFM Page. I got most of the information from the tfmpage)

    In Tamil

    01. Kangalum Kavipaduthey - Audio released already
    02. Dhanam - Sangeetha lead role - Audio released already
    03. Uliyin Osai - Kalaignar scripted - Audio released already

    04. Mayilu - Duet movies produced - Yet to be released - click here for clips
    05. Anal Katru - Balu mahandra - Yet to be released
    06. Naan Kadavul - Bala movie - Arya & Pooja - Yet to be released (Hopefully it comes before Bala Arya becomes too old to be a hero)
    07. Kannabiran - Ameer movie - Yet to be announced
    08. Nandalala - Myskin movie - Yet to be released
    09. Valmeeki - Yet to be released
    10. Alagar Malai - Sangili Murugan Produced (remember Kaadhalukku Mariyaadhai? - Same producer) - Yet to be released, Raaja is picturized in a song completely
    11. Malaikallan - Rajkiran movie - Yet to be released
    12. Jaganmohgni - Namitha staring - Yet to be released
    13. Chinthamani - Rajkiran movie - Yet to be announced
    14. Mudhalvar Mahatma - Balakrishnan movie -Yet to be released
    15. Padma magan - Yet to be announced
    16. Fazil Movie - Prativiraj & Meera Jasmin staring - Yet to be released
    17. Adumkoothu - Cheran and Navyanayar - Yet to be released
    18. Jayakanthan documentary - Yet to be released

    In Malayalam

    01. SMS - Bala and Navya nayar - Audio released already
    02. Pazhassi Raja - Mamooty & Kanika - Hariharan directed - Mega Budget movie
    03. Kutty Shranku - Mamooty & Meera - Yet to be announced
    04. Swarnamalikka - Mohanlal & Kavya Madhavan - Yet to be announced
    05. Fazil Movie - Fazil movie - Prithiviraj & Mamtha Mohandas

    In Telugu

    01. Sunny - New faces - Audio released already
    02. Mallepoovu - Boomika casted - New director - Album released already
    03. Okkadasunnadu - Kalyanram & Genelia casted - Yet to be announced
    04. Guick gun Murugan - Jagapathi babu casted - Yet to be announced
    05. Teja new movie - Yet to be announced

    In Kannada

    01. NANNAVANU.
    02. Songoli Rayanna

    In Hindi

    01. Paa - Amitabh & Abishek casted - Balki Directed - shooting
    02. Mukhbir - Jackieshroff acted - Yet to be released
    03. Chal chale - Mithun chakravarthy - shooting
    04. Ajoy verma movie - yet not to be titled
    05. Mumbai Cutting


    01. Manikandan (Animation) - Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada, Telugu & Hindi
    02. Namrata Ke Saagar (Bhajan by Gandhiji) - click here to see the clip

    Sunday, August 17, 2008

    Bhavathaarini Wedding Invite

    The best happiness is felt by sharing! I happened to hear the invitation of Bhavathaarini's wedding. Yes, I didn't see the invitation, rather heard.

    Raaja composed a song as an invitation for his daughter Bhavathaarini's wedding couple of years back. I was told that Vaali penned the lyrics. I recall this getting from one of Raaja's fan.

    Please enjoy! (I apologize for the bad quality of recording. This is the best that I got!)

    Thursday, August 14, 2008

    Science of Sound

    Thanks for all your responses for the posts on Carnatic music. As much as it might be interesting and new to you, it is the same here. And hence, I would like to reiterate that I am not an expert in this domain. I am merely trying to learn with you all and this series of posts will help us to get there, I hope.

    Some of you mentioned that there are 12 notes instead of 7 and some said even 16 and so on. True. I was about to discuss this in my next post and your responses prompted me to do little deep dive into this topic.

    In order to understand how many notes are there in the system, we need to understand the science behind the sound.

    Human ears have the capacity to sense variations in air pressure as long as the frequency is in between 15/20 Hz to 20,000 Hz. Any sound below this 15/20 Hz is called infrasonic and any sound above this 20,000 Hz is called ultrasonic. While species like bats, dogs etc. can sense ultrasonic range; snakes, whales etc. can sense infrasonic waves. This could possibly explain why many species sensed TSunami and the loss of such species were minimal compared to human!

    Anyways, coming back to 7 swaras, this range of 20 - 20,000 Hz is broken into 10 segments. (See below)

    S1 S2 S3 S4 S5 S6 S7 S8 S9 S10

    So, S1 is closer to 20 Hz whereas S10 is closer to 20,000 Hz. Now, each segment is divided into 7 sub-segment leading to 7 swaras in each octave. Guys, trust me. I sweated to give you this picture in Excel.

    Due to the limitation of time & resource, please note that the frequencies against each note is not ACCURATE, however, it is very close.

    The point to note here is that the middle A (in C4 segment - highlighted in yellow) has a frequency of 440 Hz. This is like our J2EE specification. Any manufacturer globally has to comply with this requirement. So, Middle A is like a reference point. If you know Middle A's frequency, you can multiply by 2 to get the equivalent frequency of A in the upper octave. And continue divide by 2 to get lower octave's frequency.

    Each instrument has its own frequency range. Please see to know more details about the instruments and the frequency range.

    Anyways, back to our topic. How many notes are there - Theoretically INFINITE. Yes, if and only if our ears are capable of distinguishing such minute levels of frequency changes. Unfortunately, dwelling in this noisy world, we cannot distinguish minor variations. Hence, the notes are divided into 7 in each octaves. However, notes like Ri, Ga, Ma, Da, Ni have a variation. Like how we have even Tylenol coming in Vannila and Strawberry flavor, Ri has two variations - Ri1 and Ri2. Let me give a crude example (though not accurate). You can consider frequency of R1 = (Sa + R2)/2. In other words, R1 is a semi-tone. Similarly, we have variations for Ga, Ma, Da and Ni.

    If you are ever wondering what are those BLACK keys in keyboard, they are these variation keys of the above said swaras.

    Rest in next.

    Wednesday, August 13, 2008

    Namrata Ke Saagar

    This bhajan ‘O Namrata ke Sagar’ was chanced upon by the illustrious Aditya Birla family of India three years ago, who opine it must have been written by the Mahatma during one of his stays with them.

    The music for O Namrata ke Sagar is composed by southern maestro Ilayaraja, whereas Hindustani music exponent Pandit Bhimsen Joshi has lent his voice to the thought-provoking number. Sources inform that the Mahatma’s bhajan is more like a prayer or soliloquy without poetic meter.

    Illayaraja, however, has taken care of this aspect.

    Considering that it will be marketed by Aditya's group, hope it gets good marketing treatment like Vande Maataram and not the one like Thiruvaasakam in Symphony ! (This is yet to be released)

    Tuesday, August 12, 2008

    Building Blocks

    Alright. In our last post about the roots of music, we paid our tributes to the "Sangeetha Mummoorthigal".

    We all know that the building blocks of music lies in the 7 swaras. It is believed that originally the hymns in the praise of God were sung in 3 notes and it later evolved into 7 notes. They are:

    Sa - Shadjam - Giving Birth
    Ri - Rishabam - Morality
    Ga - Gaandharam - Fragrant/Light
    Ma - Madhyamam - Middle
    Pa - Panchamam - Fifth
    Da - Dhaivatam - Of Gods
    Ni - Nishaadam - Sit/Lie down

    On the other hand, references to 7 swaras is believed to be found in Silapathikaaram. And according to Tamil literature, the 7 swaras are:

    kural = C (sa)
    thutham = D (ri)
    kaikilai = E (ga)
    uzhai = F (ma)
    iLi = G (pa)
    viLari = A (da)
    tharam = B (ni)

    Even references to scale, grahabedham etc. are believed to be found in the works of Elango Adigal. Let us keep the debate of Sama Veda vs Silapathikaaram aside and move on to what a scale means. Once we learn alphabets (A-Z), don't we try and form words & sentences to convey our emotions? The same way, these alphabets of music (7 Swaras) can be combined to form melody.

    Scale is a group of the notes in ascending and descending order that forms melody. Didn't we hear that Raaga is also group of certain notes in ascending and descending order? So, is Raaga same as scale? Look at the two pictures. Do you find any difference between them?

    Obvious, isn't it? Though both the graph are plotting the same points, the former is more fixed, discrete and rigid. Whereas the latter is more smooth and free-flowing. This is the best I could explain the difference between scale and raaga. Scale is the former, Raaga the latter.

    If both Raaga and Scale are based on the 7 notes, how does Raaga get the smoothness? It has a unique great weapon - Gamakams!! We will see more about this in the coming posts.

    Sunday, August 10, 2008

    Bésame Mucho

    Bésame Mucho is a famous mexican song written in Spanish. Bésame Mucho means "Kiss me a lot". One of the very famous song in Tamil was inspired from this song. Can you guess?

    Look at how MSV presented in a form that was so native to us, yet so foreign!!

    Saturday, August 9, 2008

    யாம் பெற்ற இன்பம் பெருக இவ்வையகம் - I

    Enjoy the small clip from the recording of a song in Mayilu (yet to be released movie) of Illayaraja.

    I am in a state of bliss hearing this !!

    Un isai kku munnal naan kai kooppi nirkiraen..

    Friday, August 8, 2008

    Free for all

    Even though more than half of the things I read about "Classical Music" goes over my head, still the thirst to read and get to know more doesn't end. Having NOT been exposed to "classical music" in any form, where did this thirst originate from? Naan ariyaen..

    I really believe that classical music is not only for "Pattu Veshti" Vidwaans and "Haarathi Edukkum" Maamis. The roots of the fruits that we (as layman) enjoy today lies in the framework that our great ancestors had set. We often appreciate a song as "Soft number", "Very Brisk", "Divine" and so on. All these "Bhaavams" are extracted from the 7 Swaras. What do we actually mean when someone says "Kaatril Endhan Geetham" is set in Keeravani or "Kalaivaaniye Unnai Thaane" is based only on aarohanam? Knowing the roots will only help us to appreciate the music better. I will try my best to explain that I have understood and let us make some of these posts interactive so that we all shall learn together.

    Due to the British invasion and the political system in our country, we have often got a misinterpreted version of History. There is a debate on how the music evolved and a theory says it all originated from "Sama Veda" where it is believed that 3 fundamental notes were used to recite the hymns. Let us reserve this topic for a separate research study and let us first salute "Tri Moorthy" of Carnatic music. Who are these "TriMoorthys"?

    Is it KJY, MS, Balamurali Krishna? It reminds me of a joke - There is a movie where Vivek asks "Who got us the independence?". A boy replies "Puratchi Thalaivar Vijaykant"!! Ada paavi makka !!

    Between 1750 and 1850, thousands of compositions were done, new raagas were manifested and performance styles were established. Big three, who contributed towards this massive effort were - Sama Syama Sastry, Tyagaraja and Muthuswamy Dikshitar, called as "Sangeetha Mommoorthigal".

    I heard in an interview recently where Illayaraja said: "I decided to get copyrights enforced strictly for Thiruvaasagam in Symphony unlike all my previous projects where many music directors lifted my tunes...". I only wonder, if the "Sangeetha Trimoorthigal" had met in a conference and decided to "copyright" their work, what would all these composers do? But then, that was 1750 and today is 2008, dynamics have changed and we need "Dabbu" for everything!!

    (This is a new domain for me as well, so I love to be corrected when I am wrong)

    Thursday, August 7, 2008

    Another Day

    I do not remember exactly, but, I was talking about something with my friend.

    I asked him: "What is the guarantee?"

    My friend replied: "Mohan, the only thing one can guarantee in this life is death".

    Words of wisdom, isn't it?

    Again, I recently heard Jaggi Vasudev's speech about life and he mentioned that only thing that our body knows is to walk every day, every year towards the graveyard. Rest all that we do is Maya.

    This is one reason why I am not fond of celebration in the name of Birthdays! But, for sure, we all can hear my favorite song today when I declare to the world that I have crossed the average age of a donkey by 2 years!

    Raagangal Thaalangal Nooru
    Raaja Un Per Sollum Paaru

    Tuesday, August 5, 2008

    Back to Metrics

    One more reason why not to compare ARR and IR is the sheer style of working. IR works on spontaneuity and ARR works on improvisation.

    Look at some metrics here on number of movies that Rahman did by year:

    Let me now overlap the Raaja's metrics against this:

    That means a world of difference in them. That's why I call them apple and oranges.

    Monday, August 4, 2008


    I was listening to one of the evergreen song written by Kavignar Kannadasan today (Song - Unnai Kaanadha Kannum):

    Engu Nee Oru Paadhi Naanoru Paadhi

    Many poets have attempted this "nee paadhi naan paadhi" theory to portray the intimacy between two souls. But, Kannadasan is always different. Look at the next line:

    Edhil Yaar Pirindhaalum Vedhanai Paadhi

    Wondering what is so special about it?

    It is quite common to write about the helplessness of the living soul. But here, Kavignar says that even the soul that passed away from this world would share the pain with the living soul. Isn't this the immortal love?

    Can anyone explain better than this about the essence of immortal love? Do we have any parallel to this genius when it comes to philosophical lyrics?

    Friday, August 1, 2008

    Ilamai Enum Poongaatru

    If you had ever watched this song (Illamai Enum Poongaatru) for just the visuals, you missed a great deal! Kannadasan's lyrics and Illayaraja's music were no-less sexier than Sridevi and that poor hero grazing over her.

    I haven't watched the movie, but, having watched so many of our movies, I can take a rough cut at it. The car that Sridevi must have been driving would have broke down in midst of a scary forest and predictably, hero rescues her from an animal or rowdies...and the hero gets hurt in that process. She tears her skirt and helps the hero back... Now, we have got two young souls in a forest, none of them knew each other. The environment acting a catalyst, the flow goes on.

    I don't want to be hypocritic to dismiss the song and its lyrics. Lets face it. Its practical. Instead of describing heroine as Manga, Thenga etc. , look at how our Kavignar describes.

    Angam Muzhudhum Pongum Illamai
    Edham Padhamai Thondra

    Sridevi couldn't resist and falls for the hero, even though they don't know each other much. Can anyone write a better lyrics than this?

    Ketka Ninaithaal Marandhaal
    Kelvi Ezhum Munn Vizhundhaal

    Kavignar describes the power of sexual urge against all the caste, Khan Dhaan etc.

    Mannan Enamum Mangai Enamum
    Kulam Gunamum Enna?
    Dhegam Thudithaal Kann Edhu?

    I bet, no-one else can bring the substance any better than this. Anyways, coming to 7 swara...

    This song is special because this has 3 charnams against the usual norm of 2 and further all the 3 charanams have the same tune against the norm of Illayaraja to chose a different tune for either the 2nd or 3rd charanam. The guitar usage in the interludes is simply stunning.

    Was Kavignar's lyrics so mesmerising that Raaja kept on repeating the charanam after charanam without a break or was it that Kavignar kept writing charanams for a out-of-world tune of Raaja's. Whatever be, we got a wonderful song as the byproduct.

    Click here to listen