Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Raaga - A perspective

Good bye to year 2008 and wish you all a very happy new year 2009 :-)

Ever since I started to learn about Raaga, the curiousity has been growing in me to understand why certain Raaga are used for "Happy situation" and why certain Raaga are used for "Pathos". What aspect of the Raaga makes us associate the Raaga with the emotions?

I made an attempt to understand the Raaga a bit deeper. I would like to share my attempt and the results with you.

Each raaga comprises of notes and each note represents a frequency. For the purpose of this experiment, I took 9 Raagas (Melakartha) and tried to plot the frequency that each Raaga represents and this is what I observed:

Without associating with the Raaga, imagine you were shown this graph in an analytical quiz session and asked to mark the odd ones out. What would be your choices of odd ones out? I would vote on "Subhapantuvarali", "Bhavapriya" and "Simmendramadhyamam" purely based on the pattern of the graph. And indeed, they are kinda odd ones because, they are the Raagas usually used in "Pathos".

If you are not convinced with me, I did another work on it. The Swarasthanam string for the above mentioned Raagas are:

Mayamalavagowli: XX00XX0XX00X

Subhapantuvarali: XX0X00XXX00X

Keeravani: X0XX0X0XX00X

Sankarabharanam: X0X0X0XX0X0X0X

Bhavapriya: XX0X00XXX0X0

Simmendramadhyamam: X0XX00XXX00X

Kalyani: X0X0X0XX0X0X

Natabhairavi: X0XX0X0XX0X0

HariKamboji: X0X0XX0X0XX0

If you calculate the number of times "X"s come consecutively - 2 times, you can find that Bhavapriya, Subhapantuvarali and Simmendramadhyamam are the highest with the count as 3.

Also, if you calculate the number of times "X"s appear consecutively 3 times, again, only the above mentioned 3 Raagas have the count as 1 and rest all doesn't have any!!

I am sure, this observeration is not conclusive and needs more research, but, I am pretty much convinced that there is a scientific pattern associated with the Raagas and the emotions that they are associated with.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Believe it or not

Believe it or not, these days the young kids are much much smarter than you would think they would be. Math tuition at 5 AM, tennis class at 6:30 AM and back from school at 5 PM followed by music class is no joke!!

No doubt, they compete in a world that will throw more challenges than opportunities and they are no inferior in any sense. I was just amazed at the immense talent this young boy possesses. The choice of the song itself speaks about the kind of challenge he boy was willing to take!! The breath control, confidence and the way the boy enjoyed the song is simply superb.

He has done a great job, IMHO.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


In one of my earlier posts, I have written my views on rise of Rahman. One of the key factor that I mentioned about was "Rahmanism". For anyone to standout from the crowd, they need to exhibit a unique style and Rahman did it with a style. No doubt.

My opinion is that he very carefully avoided the spheres that were explored and dissected by others, especially Illayaraja when he began the journey. To unseat a person from the crown of Tamil industry who enjoyed only success throughout 2 decades would have been possible only with something special.

If SPB and Janaki were "overused" (I have no problems with that, personally), Rahman brought new voices to the forefront. If violin and Tabla dominated the era of Illayaraja, Rahman brought the techno music to the forefront. If "poor sound/recording quality" was the norm, Rahman changed it. He kept "Vairamuthu" by his side, when he was almost ignored for over 5-6 years. If 30-40 movies were scored by Illayaraja at that time, Rahman chose to limit to 5-6 movies a year. To an extent, even ther timings of work were opposite. He stood out.

One such instance, that I can think of is even usage of Raaga. If "Keeravani", "Mayamalavagowla", "Kalyani", "Sivaranjani" and "Natabhairavi" were predominantly used by Illayaraja, Rahman either chose the Raagas that Raaja scored a very little or moved to the Hindustani paradigm.

Even on the Raagas where both have scored, there is a paradigm shift in the usage. Take for instance - "Sivaranjani". As I had written in my earlier post, this Raaga has been used by many music directors to depict the emotional bonding and that comes out very clearly in the scale - S R2 G2 P D2 S. Various hits in the past set in Sivaranjani scale are: Adi Aaathadi, Kuyil Paattu, Oru Jeevan thaan Un Paadal thaan, Oh Priya Priya, Tere Mere Beech Mein and so on.

All of the above as you can see, depicts the emotional bonding and that is mainly derived by the traversal from P D2 to upper octave's S R2 G2. Try humming a song in the list above and you would easily be able to connect to any other song set in the same Raaga with the same feel. However, now look at "Kannum Kannum Kollai Adithaal" set in the same Raaga featured in the movie "Thiruda Thiruda". Can you believe this song is set in the same Raaga that generates a completely different mood. Though orchestration is one of the possible reasons for the same, this is mainly due to the handling of the Raaga.

I find it difficult to explain in words, however, the way he split the scale into pieces and traversed makes the song feel completely different from other "Sivaranjanis".

For your listening pleasure, here are the two contrasting Sivaranjanis:

Saturday, December 6, 2008


All the 3 clips below are based on the same raga - Revathi. The scale of Revathi raga goes like this: S R1 M1 P N2 S. Illayaraja has mostly used this raga for a gripping situation typically packed with action. Some examples include "Adada Ahangaara Adakka Peigal" (Pithamagan), "Sangeetha Jaathi Mullai" (Kaadhal Oviyam), Amma Azhage (Kaadhal Oviyam).

Same raga Revathi has been brilliantly used by Vijay Anthony in the movie "Naan Avan Illai" for a completely different situation.

And ofcourse, finally a devotional song based on "Revathi" raga by evergreen M.S.Subhalakshmi.

Bottomline: Raga is like a liquid that takes the shape of the container. Polymorphism in the world of music? Yes.