A RAGA’S JOURNEY A raga that is most suited for classical music, Lathangi is seldom seen in populist devotional tracks or semi-Classical pieces.
Usually the major scale in music gives rise to happiness and joy while minor notes when infused into the scale give rise to pathos and sadness. But the tivra madhyama (prati madhyama), when intoduced in a scale gives rise to enigmatic magnetism, and this spicy flavour is priceless. One such effulgent raga is Lathangi, attractive and sensuous, meditative and mildly melancholic, a sweet-and-sour combination. The notes in Lathangi (also known as Gitapriya) are sadja, chatusruti rishabha, antara gandhara, prati madhyama, pancama, suddha dhaivata and kakali nishada.
A raga that is most suited for classical music, Lathangi is seldom seen in populist devotional tracks or semi-Classical pieces. Patnam Subramania Iyer’s ‘Marivere’ and ‘Aparadhamulanniyu’ are noteworthy pieces in this raga, while Papanasam Sivan’s ‘Venkataramana’ and ‘Pirava Varam Tharum’ are Tamil favourites in this raga.
In the film Nandanar, M.M. Dandapani Desikar’s rendition of Papanasam Sivan’s ‘Pirava Varam Tharum’ as he dons the title role is most endearing.
One of the most memorable songs in Lathangi on the silver screen is ‘Gananathane varuga’ from Avvaiyar sung impeccably by K.B. Sundarambal. The opening phrase takes off at the pancama and progresses to the upper octave gandhara in ‘varuga’, ga being a cleverly woven ‘swarakshara’.
The piece ‘Adatha Manamum Undo’ from the MGR starrer Mannadhi Mannan (music M.S. Viswanathan - T.K. Ramamoorty) is a landmark in Lathangi in film music. In fact, till date no other song matches up in classical purity to this sterling piece. The duet sung mellifluously by TMS and M.L. Vasantakumari begins brightly at the upper sadja and various patterns unfold as the song progresses making for interesting listening. In the phrase ‘nadai alankaramum azhagu singaramum’ the importance given to the rishabha and gandhara is evident. This is a ‘bharatanatyam song’ and Padmini’s deft steps compliment the rich instrumental score in this piece. The veena, flute and tabla patterns leave on mesmerised. In the charanam, faster phrases abound, complexity increases and this song is challenging to perform live for even seasoned artistes.
‘Thogai Ilamayil’ from Payanangal Mudivadillai begins a bit like Hamsadhwani, but moves gradually into Lathangi in ‘kaatrodu kalyanam seigindratho...’ ‘GPGD,D P’. In the charanam, the last line is very attractively tuned – ‘MPDN SRGR S, NDPMG’ traverses the octave and establishes Lathangi fully well — ‘ival nadai asaivinil sangeetham undaagum’. Composed by Ilaiyaraaja and sung by S.P. Balasubrahmanyam, this is a unique melody.
Lathangi has been approached in an entirely different perspective in ‘Chinna Rasave’ from Walter Vetrivel in the music of Ilaiyaraaja sung by S. Janaki. A folksy, feisty composition, this song, I remember made a huge impact on me when I was a child, a student of music. I recall the joy and thrill I experienced as Lathangi unveiled itself as the song progressed. The crescendo in the pallavi and charanam ‘GMPM MPDP’... is a logical progression in Lathangi that culminates at the upper gandhara with ‘rasave!’.
In the song ‘Enge enadhu kavidai’ from Kandukondein Kandukondein the charanam moves into a charming Lathangi. ‘Maalai andhigalil... ketkudhe’ starting at the sadja is a classy depiction of this raga, well suited to the mood of the song, in line with the emotions of a girl who has been let down by her lover. Composed by A.R. Rahman and sung by Chitra, an added attraction to this song is the mridangam accompaniment.