A raga that adorns the classical system of music like a sparkling solitaire is Kiravani. It is unique, meditative, and calming, bringing forth devotion and deep peace. The 21st melakarta, Kiravani is a complete and harmonious raga, symmetric in Aarohana and Avarohana. In Western music, this corresponds to the harmonic minor scale. This scale is also prevalent in the Middle-East. The notes in this raga include Sadja, Chatusruti Rishabha, Sadharana Gandhara, Suddha Madhyama, Pancama, Suddha Dhaivata, and Kakali Nishada.

In classical music, the popular compositions in Kiravani include ‘Kaligiyunde’ of Tyagaraja, ‘Brovu Brovu’ of Shyama Sastri, ‘Devi Neeye Thunai’ of Papanasam Sivan, ‘Varamulosagi’ of Patnam Subramanya Iyer, ‘Ambavani’ of Muthiah Bhagavathar, ‘Innamum Sandeha’ of Gopalakrishna Bharati, and ‘Velava Va’ of Koteeswara Iyer.

Film songs in this raga are mostly scale-oriented rather than bhava-oriented, and this makes classification very difficult. Also the occasional Kaisiki Nishada appearance is very common.

In the film Maragatham, a very attractive song has been composed in this scale by S.M. Subbiah Naidu, and sung by the lively duo Chandrababu and Jamunarani — ‘Kunguma Poove’. The opening guitar sequence itself sets the tone and covers the entire scale, and in the charanam ‘Thandana Thana... Thanthiram Pannathe…’, the Nishada is given a little oscillation that is most apt.

A rich orchestral back-up and a lilting tune give an uplifting effect to the song ‘Oho Endhan Baby’ from the film Thaen Nilavu. Composed and sung by A.M. Rajah, this song opens in Kiravani scale, and in the phrase ‘Kolam Kaanalaam…’, the notes ‘P,D,N,S,S’ take it to a crescendo. In the charanams, the use of the Kaisiki Nishada is evident, and the melody momentarily moves way from Kiravani, as it does with the faint appearance of the Prati Madhyama in ‘.... Kaanalaam’ at the end of the pallavi.

Ilaiyaraaja is one composer who has explored the length and breadth of Kiravani. Here are some of the most well-loved ones. One of his best in this raga is ‘Kaatril Endhan Geetham’ in Johnny. The opening alaap by S. Janaki clearly establishes the raga and the sombre mood of the piece. Note the importance given to the Nishada in the charanam ‘Anbulla Nenjil Kaanaadho...’ The varja notes at the end of the charanam are scintillating — ‘RMMDDNNR… NDMGRMGR’.

‘Chinna Mani Kuyile’ from Amman Koil Kizhakkaale is a lovely example of how this raga flows freely at the hands of this composer. In this song, the Kaisiki Nishada and Chatusruti Dhaivata peep out in a tricky phrase in the charanam — a composer's licence. The song ‘Kiravani’ from Paadum Paravaigal is a classic in this raga. Opening with swaras, the song bears a clear stamp of the raga. The repeated use of the phrase ‘NSR/NDP’ is interesting.

‘Malayoram Veesum Kaathu’ from Paadu Nilave is a refreshing take on this raga, the dhattu swaras (jumping from one note to another) are used liberally in this piece — ‘PDSNDPM,G/ RGDPMGRS’, with the opening itself bringing together harmonic phrases.

In the film Ponnumani, the song ‘Nenjukulle Innaarunnu’ brings out the emotion of sadness in love very effectively. In the phrase ‘Unnal Thavikkum Ponnumaniyin’ — ‘RMDP, MGRSND’ — the raga is addressed affectively. In the charanam, Ilaiyaraaja uses the phrase ‘GMPN’ a few times, and this gives rise to a few doubts that are put to rest as the song progresses and the Dhaivata comes into view.

The song ‘Khajuraho Kanavilo’ (Oru Naal Oru Kanavu) is a more recent work of Ilaiyaraaja in Kiravani. One must remember that in most of his songs, Ilaiyaaraja has used jumping swaras, not necessarily in the order of Aarohana-Avarohana. We must also appreciate that the situational appropriateness of the song is definitely higher in priority than conforming to a raga’s rules.

‘Vetri Kodi Kattu’ from Padayappa is one of A.R. Rahman’s creations in Kiravani scale. In ‘Jillallava’ from En Swaasa Kaatre, Kiravani comes in at the refrain and the finale.

‘Azhagai Pookuthe’ from Ninathale Inikkum in the music of Vijay Antony is a recent compelling melody set in Kiravani.

An attractive janya of Kiravani is Kalyanavasantham (Aarohanam-avarohanam — SGMDNS / SNDPMGRS). ‘Nadaloludai’ of Tyagaraja is a well-known piece in this raga. In film music, the songs ‘Kanchi Pattuduthi’ from Vayasu Ponnu and ‘Nalla Manam Vaazhga’ from Oru Oothapoo… are based in Kalyanavasantham. The phrase ‘GMDP,MGRS’ is the key to this raga, and this is the opening phrase of the stunning thillana in this raga composed by Lalgudi G. Jayaraman who passed away earlier this week.

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