A raga that is suitable for singing in the evenings, a raga that ushers in the festive spirit and one that dispels fear and instills hope – it's the raga Vasantha. "Vasantha" means springtime, and this raga has been suitably named since all that is associated with it is hope and positivity.
A vakra raga, the scale assumes colourful zig-zag patterns and has characteristic curves that make it very easy to identify. The notes in the ascent are Sadja, Antara Gandhara, Suddha Madhyama, Chatusruti Dhaivata, and Kakali nishada, not necessarily sung in that order. In the descent the Suddha Rishabha joins the string of notes completing the scale. Vasantha is an ancient raga and has been prevalent for more than a 1000 years.
The classical pieces in this raga are numerous and usually medium- or fast-paced. Thyagaraja's "Sitamma Mayamma" and "Etla Dorikithivo", Dikshitar's "Maragathalingam", "Brihadambikayai" and "Hariharaputram", Papanasam Sivan's "Maal Maruga" and "Maa Dayai" are all outstanding compositions in this refreshing raga. One cannot forgetthe dancers' favourite in this raga – "Natanam adinar" by Gopalakrishna Bharati.
In film music this raga has been used effectively, though in small measure. One of the earlier songs in Vasantha is from the film "Sivakavi" sung tunefully by M. K. Thyagaraja Bhagavatar – "Vasantha ruthu mana mohaname". In the lines "mana mohaname" the notes "M, D, M, D" establish the unique identity of Vasantha. Vasantha is a lively raga and the happiness it exudes is contagious in this bright piece.
The songs of the maestro Ilayaraja in this raga have a charming appeal. The exemplary piece by Ilayaraja in this raga is "Andhi mazhai" from "Raja Paarvai". Sung by S. P. Balasubramaniam and S. Janaki, this song stands out in the minds of music lovers for its classy presentation and the aalaaps that feature in it. The very opening "MMMM/GMDMG.." hits the nail on the head and sets the tone for a Vasantha-raga treat.
"Maan kanden" from "Raja Rishi", sung by Jesudas and Vani Jayaram, explores a sensual facet of Vasantha raga. The song is presented in a grand manner with rich orchestration and brilliant background scores. In the lines "naan ennai kaanen" the Suddha Rishaba touch is pronounced and lends regality.
"Vandanam en vandanam" from "Vaazhve Maayam" is a lesser-known composition in Vasantha. The composer Gangai Amaren brings forth a fresh flavour in the raga and this piece is sung by S.P.B.
The song "Minsara kanna" from the film "Padayappa", with music by A R Rahman, is a mind-blowing piece in Vasantha. The robust voices of Srinivas and Nityasree coupled with tongue twisting jathi-s and massive orchestrations made this song popular. The starting note, the Antara Gandhara in the upper octave is striking and the numerous frills and forays are stunning.
In the film "Pirivom Sandhippom", composer Vidyasagar has come up with a piece in Vasantha that merits mention. The song "Kanden Kanden" is a catchy one, and as with all raga-based songs it forms an instant rapport with the listener.
The Hindustani raag Girija closely resembles Vasantha. Our young readers would relate to Vasantha raga through the varnam "Ninnu Kori". Such pieces are evergreen and well-loved.