A joyful raga that inspires enthusiasm and positivity in our hearts is Tilang. Merely mentioning its name gives us a springy feeling! A flexible raga, suited for Classical and Light Classical music, it is very apt for film songs, owing to the simplicity of its tonal patterns and endearing note combinations.

Tilang has its roots in Hindustani music and has carved a niche for itself in Carnatic music too, although one cannot find serious ‘kritis’ in it. The notes in Tilang are Sadja, Antara Gandhara, Suddha Madhyama, Pancama, Kakali Nishada (in ascent, en route to Sadja) and Kaisiki Nishada (in descent). Sometimes in Tilang pieces, there may be a bouquet of phrasings demonstrating the possibilities of the co-existence of the two nishada-s. Often, in film songs Tilang becomes Misra Tilang!

The well-known Classical and semi-Classical pieces in Tilang include ‘Sri Ganesa Charanam’ of Papanasam Sivan; ‘Shanti Nilava Vendum’ of Sethu Madhava Rao, popularised by D.K. Pattammal; ‘Prabo Ganapate’; and Lalgudi G. Jayaraman’s cleverly crafted ‘Thillana’. ‘Kannapuram Sendren’, a popular devotional piece of Seerkazhi Govindarajan is also set in Tilang.

One of the outstanding film pieces in Tilang appears in the film Meera, starring M.S. Subbulakshmi. ‘Yadunandana Gopala’ is a celebration of the glories of Lord Krishna and what is so apt is the selection of this raga for such nama-sankirtana. We feel jubilant as the chorus of Bhaktas sings ‘Jaya Meera Prabhu Giridhari…’ (GMPNMPMG SGMPP...).

C.S. Jayaraman's voice stands out in texture, boldness and unique appeal and he is best remembered for a lovely piece in Tilang ‘Indru Poi Naalai Vaaraai…’ from the film Sampoorna Ramayanam. In the line ‘En Disai Vendraene…’ the phrase ‘PNSG, NSM,G’ gives off the shimmering brightness of true Tilang.

The tempo of this song is rather slow, and in fact the tune, words and bhava of this song make us feel even sorry for Ravana (played by T.K. Bhagavathy) at this point in battle! Poignant refrains are indeed possible in this happy scale, and this song bears ample testimony to this fact. The simple Veena accompaniment to this song is soothing. All credit to the composer K.V. Mahadevan.

The song ‘Azhagan Muruganidam Aasai Vaithen’ from Panjavarnakili (music M.S. Viswanathan-Ramamurthy) is an exemplary melody in this raga. The sangati ‘SGSN/PNPM/GMPNS’ is a frilly lacing on the lustrous raga fabric in the line “...Avan Arulai Peruvadarke Uyir Valarthen...’ and is delivered with stupendous ease by the singer P. Susheela.

M.S. Viswanathan once again composes a charming tune in Tilang in ‘Varumayin Niram Sivappu’ for the Bharatiar poem ‘Nallador Veenai Seidhey’. Sung by S.P. Balasubrahmanyam, the melody opens with the signature phrase of the raga ‘SSNP, NPMGM…’ The dramatic situation in the movie is musically highlighted by this emotional song.

Ilaiyaraaja has given this raga a different dimension in the song ‘Manadil Urudhi Vendum’ from the film Sindhubhairavi. Although the presence of the Shatsruthi Rishabha make it sound a bit like raga Naatai at a few phrases, I would definitely put this one down as a refreshing attempt at Tilang. The opening phrase ‘SNPMGM P, P’ bears the raga's stamp and the tisra nadai (three beat rhythmic structure) make the song more lively. With Yesudas’ full-throated singing and Bharathiar’s powerful outpour of motivating words, this piece is worth listening to and learning for music lovers and singers alike.

In Singaravelan, a breezy romantic number ‘Innum Ennai Enna Seyya’ is set in Tilang (music Ilaiyaraaja). In the words ‘Anbe Anbe’ the phrase “GSGMP, N, MP’ points beautifully to Tilang. The new-age beats, rich orchestration and candid voice modulations paint a whole new landscape on the time-tested Tilang canvas. Although some may argue that this piece could also be classified as Gambheera Naatai, I would stick to Tilang (S. Janaki’s humming that finishes off with the Kaisiki Nishada in descent is a definitive pointer).

A.R. Rahman’s vision of this raga is an effort in fusion music, the song being ‘Thee Thee’ from Thiruda Thiruda. The refrain ‘MGSN S, S S, S S’ is catchy.

In Bollywood, the catchy melody ‘Itna Toh Yaad Hai Mujhe’ from the film Mehboob Ki Mehndi sung by Lata Mangeshkar and Mohammed Rafi in the music of Laxmikant-Pyarelal is a praiseworthy effort in Tilang.