Musings on Brindhavana Saranaga and Madhyamavathi
I trust the first two chapters on Kapi and sindhubhairavi were of some use to you all. In this chapter we will see two closely related ragas namely brindhavan saranga and madhyamavathi.
Recently there was this friend of mine who wanted to know the raga for the song “poongaatre theendaadhe” from kunguma chimizh…the song is a lovely brindhavana saranga based number. Talking of brindhavana saranga, old timers will say "ponnonru kandaen pennangu illai", which too is a very good reference...You can easily see the parallel between "ennendru naan sollalaaguma" with "kallukulle anbin eeram enna"...the similarity in the glide is so much perceptible...Or if the slightly faster tempo of the latter confuses you, you can compare with the slower number 'muthamma muthu muthu" from thandhuvittaen ennai.
Raja's brindhavana sarangas are very simple to figure out, and it does not require musical expertise. That is because raja has this god given ability dilue ragas without losing their native merit. He only enhances the raga beauty.
Some select songs in brindhavana saranga...
Indha Jilla Muzhuka Nalla Theriyum - Priyanka
Kannukullae Anbin Eeram Enna - Unakaagave
Konjum Kuyil Paattu - Kanna Unai Thedugiren
Kovil Mani Kaetene- Kanna Unai Thedugiren
Muthamma Muthu Muthu - Thanthuvitten Ennai
Dheivangal Kan Paarthadhu - Pudhiya Ragam
However, amongst IR's compositions, the best two i would say, for a beginner, would be the Priyanka song and the 'Unakaagave vaazhgiraen" song...Both have the full flavour of the ragam.
The charanams of "Indha jilla muzhukka " song display the core essence of the raga the first four lines...Especially the lines "pasikku udhavaama pannuriyae perum paade" continued with "naalu ennadi naalu, sattunnu sammadham podu"...
And the first line of the charanam of the song "kallukulle anbin eeram" and the first line of the charanam in "jilla muzhukka" show a similar pattern. You are now begining to get a hang right :-)
You shouldnt miss "dheivangal kan paarthadhu" in Pudhiya ragam. One of the nice numbers from Mano. The pallavi by itself gives a good taste of brindhavana saranga.Other orthodox numbers would be "Konjum Kuyil Paattu" and "Kovil Mani Kaetene" - (I think both are from Kanna Unai Thedugiren).
You now have some fair idea of brindhavana saranga, I am sure. See, it is as simple as this. Who wants to know all those detailed grammar? ;-) …What say you? Anyways, just lets get some quick basics here. As said earlier, grammatically, there is a close relative to brindhavana saranga, which is Madhyamavathi.
Brindhavana Saranga is | S R2 M1 P N3 S | S N2 P M1 R2 S
Madhyamavathi is | S R2 M1 P N2 S | S N2 P M1 R2 S
Ilaiyaraaja’s use of Madhyamavathi thus can be summarized as “Thalaatu”…Yes, madhyamavathi usages by IR are (90%) hypnotic lullabies. So why not start off with Thaalattu Pillai Ennai from Achchaani. The entire pallavi is a neat usage of madhyamavathi. See how raja has stressed on the raga flavour right at the start by the way SPB sings “thalaattu”…..Just do this mini exercise…after you sing for yourself the pallavi of the song thalattu, dive to “thunbam endrum aanukkalla” charanam from “thulli thulli”…You would have no problems shifting to back “thalaatu” once you finish “thulli thulli charanams”… another good example would be “Thazham Poovae Vaasam from Kai Kodukum Kai”
There are innumerable madhaymavathis in IR’s isai pattarai (music workshop). The vintage hits include Aagaya Gangai - Dharma Yudham , Anandham Then Sindhum - Mann Vasanai , Kuyile Kuyile - Aan Paavam (see madhyamavathi bubbling with enthusiasm), Adi Pennae Ponoonjal Aadum - Mullum Malarum , Ammamma - Thalaattu Padava, Vanamellam Senbagapoo - Naadodi Pattukaaran, Vennilavu Kodhipadhenna - Chinna Mapillai , Eeramana Rojave - Ilamaikalangal, Ariro Araro - Indiran Chandhiran, Poo Arumbuthu - Kutti, Sembaruthi Penoruthi - Raman Abdulla, Ejamaan Kaaladi Manneduthu - Ejaman, Kumbam Karai Sertha Thangayya - Kumbakarai Thangaiyya, Damakku Damakku Damm - Azagki, Kavithai Paadu Kuyilae - Thendralae Ennai Thodu, Sevanthi Pookalil Seidha Veedu - Mella Pesungal
Madhyamavathi, as said earlier, is S R2 M1 P N2 S and same backwards…. I had mentioned that you can keep remembering the word “lullaby or “thalaattu” while trying to decipher a madhyamavathi based song…If you want to also see some songs that are hardcore madhyamavathis, take En Kalyana Vaibhogam - Azhaghe Unnai Aaradhikiren. One of those rare combination of raja and vani jayaram. Don’t you get a feeling as if vani jayaram was sitting in a oonjal (swing) while she sang it…or even better, don’t you feel that you are yourself are being put in a musical swing (oonjal or thooli). The same swing effect can be seen in the first few lines of Nee Thane Enthan - Ninaivellam Nithya .
The song “thulli thulli nee padamma” starts with a humming and mini alapanai session between SPB and S.Janaki. That vocal prelude bit is the best crash course you will ever get on madhyamavathi in the shortest of all times (roughly 1 and a half minutes). You might do well to listen to that initial humming alone n number of times, until you start to understand madhyamavathi…Because, that’s all you need to know to recognize a madhyamavathi based song. Solaikuyile kaalai kadhire from ponnu Oorukku Pudhusu is another vintage composition, wherein just the pallavi is enough to teach you madhyamavathi. See the how the pallavi lands down to a sweet musical swing (as if you were in a thooli) in the lines, “thullum ragame, thullum raagame”…Ange thullum ragam madhayamavathi thaan….Avvalave dhaan :)
If you asked my personal choice amongst all madhyamavathis, I would say it is Thanga Nilavukkul Nilavondru from Rickshaw Maama. It just does not get better than this. Raja in a thaalaatum mood and his best partner SPB to carry the tune forward. Who wants the heavens, it is here and now, right in your room. Just plug in to raja’s music :)
Lend your ears, I will tell you a simple trick that works 90% of the times in deciphering madhyamavathi in IR’s songs. There would invariably be a scintillating usage of the instrument Shenai. You wont find many madhayamavathi based songs from IR which didn’t have the shenai, used in a mesmerizing fashion.
Madhyamavathi belongs to the same sruthibedham family as mohanam, sudhadhanyasi, sudhasaveri. Shall we take up sudhadhanyasi next then?
For the time being though, are you are now ready for the madhyamavathi lullabies?
JUST SIT BACK AND ENJOY !!