Saturday, January 31, 2004

Ilaiyaraaja's Rithigowlais

RithigowlA is one of those hard-core carnatic rAgas which has been expertly handled by IsaiGnani Ilayaraja. It is the janya (derivative) of of the 22nd melakartha Karaharapriya, and it has this convoluted aarohanam (ascending portion of the raga) S G2 R2 G2 M1 N2 N2 S. This unique aarohanam makes this ragA one of the more easily identifiable ones.

Recently I had a debate with one of my friends about IlayaRaja's first Rithigowla - Chinna Kannan Azhaikiraan from Kavi Kuyil (1977). Well it wasn't really a debate - he claimed that it was composed by Balamuralikrishna (who actually sung one of the versions the song) and I promptly rejected it with such intensity that he went on the defensive and then just backed out of the argument. Anyway I thought "Ilayaraaja's RithigowlAs" would make a good Blog post (I am still getting used to this whole Blogging concept).

Chinna Kannan Azhaikiraan (1) - The year was 1977. A relatively unknown music director from the villages of interior Tamil Nadu had announced his arrival on the Tamil film music (TFM) scene a year ago with the smash hit Annakili. But the critics were questioning his versatility, and dismissed him as capable of composing only folk tunes - carnatic was out of question. And this was the song he composed to prove the critics wrong, and it was in style - sung by none other than Balamuralikrishna.

The stamp of the raga is brought out in the first line of the pallavi - Chinna Kannan [S G2 R2 G2] Azhaikiraan [M1 N2 N2 S], with the notes conforming exactly to the aarohanam of the song. Watch out for the flute bits - especially in the first interlude where you have two flutes playing different melodies parallely (in a contrapuntal fashion I guess). The string sections are also equally amazing that IR
probably decided to reorchestrate the song focusing exclusively on the strings. This second version Chinna Kannan Azhaikiraan (2) is sung by S. Janaki, who along with the other string players do a commendable job - not that I have any credentials to commend Janaki's singing :-).

IR's third RithigowlA was from the movie Oru Odai NathiAgirathu - the song Thalaiyai Kuniyum Thamaraiye sung by "gods own voice" SPB and some other vague singer called Rajeswari. I haven't listened to this song too many times, and I don't know too much about the movie either.

Rama Kanavemira from Swathi Muthyam [1986] (Raman Kathai Kelungal from Sippikul Muthu in Tamil). This song is composed in the harikatha style, narrating the story of Sita's swayamvaram in a little less than 7 minutes, compared to what seemed like eternity on Ramanand Sagar's Ramayan. This is one of those songs which could have been sung only by SPB - he just freaks out. Actually only the first portion of this song is set to RithiGowlA, so this song actually a ragamAlika. 2 min 15 seconds into the song you can hear SPB sing the swaras of ritigowlA [S G R G M N D M N N].

IR's most recent rithigowlA is from the movie Poonthottam [1998]. The song Meetathe Oru Veenai is critically acclaimed as his best rithigowlA to date. This song is different from his previous ventures, in several aspects. It more westernized than the other ones, is at a much slower tempo, and the rhythm appears to be complicated too. This song is actually a very difficult song to sing and Hariharan and Mahalakshmi do a decent job. Wonder how many times they had to record it. Though this movie was released in 1998 I actually listened to this song for the first time only in 2003. Quite shameful. I was actually trapped in the Matrix in from 1994-2000, which is why I missed this song, but that is a different story. I'll just add that I was released from the Matrix in
2000 by Hari and How to Name It.

That brings us to the end of IR's rithigowlAs (till date). This bloG post was sponsored by the IsaiGnani bhaktas @ Duke.

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