Nattai is an auspicious raga, suited for the commencement of a concert. Nattai is the janya (derived from) the 36th melakarta scale Chalanata. An intoxicating group of ragas, Nattai, Chalanata and Gambhiranattai are closely allied, with a few important differences. Chalanata houses all seven notes, namely sadja, shatsruti rishabha, antara gandhara, suddha madhyama, pancama, shatsruti dhaivata and kakali nishada symmetrically in ascent and descent. Nattai in Thyagaraja’s school of music accommodates all the notes in Chalanata excepting the dhaivata, while Dikshitar’s Nattai features the dhaivata in ascent.
The oscillation and importance given to the Nattai rishabha forms the very core of its melodic structure. Gambhiranattai is a pentatonic scale (it excludes the rishabha and dhaivata from the Chalanata scale) and temple ‘mallaris’ are played in this raga. A jazzy twist to Carnatic music is often achieved by experimenting with the Nattai scale. The Tamizh pann Nattapadai is the equivalent of Gambhiranattai and the Tevaram ‘Todudaiya seviyan’ is well known. The Hindustani raga Jog is close to the Nattai scale.
Nattai is resplendent in Thyagaraja’s first Ghanaraga pancharatna ‘Jagadanandakaraka’. Thyagaraja's ‘Ninne Bhajana’ is evocative while Dikshitar’s ‘Mahaganapatim’ and ‘Swaminatha’ are very popular while ‘Pavanatmajagaccha is lesser known. Other noteworthy Nattai kritis include ‘Saraseeruhasana Priye’ of Puliyur Doraiswamy, and ‘Jaya Jaya’ of Purandaradasa. While ‘Edayyagati’ is a fine piece in Chalanata of Koteeswara Iyer, ‘Sri Vigna Rajam’ of Oothukadu Venkatakavi is a happy piece in Gambhiranattai.
In the famous ragamalika ‘Veenai Kodiyudaiya’ from Sampoorna Ramayanam, K. V. Mahadevan has composed a garland of swaras in Gambhiranattai, describing it as a raga for war and victory. SPMP / MGMPM.. is sung beautifully by C. S. Jayaraman.
‘Vendriduven’ in Agathiyar (music by Kunnakudi Vaidyanathan) starts brightly in Gambhiranattai, and the raga mudra finds place in ‘Nattaiyum Nadathal Vendriduven’. Ilaiyaraaja has created several well-loved pieces in the Chalanata-Nattai combination of ragas.
His most striking compostion in this scale is ‘Panivizhum Malarvanam’ from Ninaivellam Nithya.The guitars belt out jazz chords and the main melody brings forth the shatsruti rishabha with élan in this well-crafted piece. The charanam culminates with the phrases PNP/MPM/GMG/RRRR.
Dikshitar’s ‘Mahaganapatim’ finds place in Sindhu Bhairavi, and Ilaiyaraaja gives subtle backing music to the vocals of K. J. Yesudas.
In Mahanadhi, Ilaiyaraaja has composed ‘Peigala Nambaadhey’ in Nattai, and it is sung by Kamal Hassan. In the phrase, ‘Nee Yosi’, he finishes at the shatsruti rishabha. In Veera, Ilaiyaraaja has dealt with this scale differently in ‘Pattu Poo Poo’. Sung by Chitra, this is an intricate song, more Chalanata than Nattai. In Basha, the music for the song ‘Thangamagan Ingu’ is by Deva. K.J. Yesudas and Chitra have sung this piece that features the shatsruti rishabha prominently in the pallavi, while in the charanams the raga gradually changes.
‘Mudhalam Sandhippil’ from Charlie Chaplin in Bharani’s music is a lilting piece in Nattai. Vidyasagar has composed a striking melody ‘Thom Thom Thithithom from Alli Thantha Vaanam in Nattai. It starts off at the upper octave sadja, and gradually descends down the scale. Another melodious song in Gambhiranattai is ‘Innun Ennai Enna Seyya’ from Singaravelan with music by Ilaiyaraaja. A. R. Rahman uses these ragas in ‘Spiderman’ from New and ‘Narumugaye’ and ‘Hello Mister Edhir Katchi’ from Iruvar. The fact that Nattai scale lends itself to jazzy improvisations is well exploited by Rahman, who experiments with this genre.
In Narumugaye, Nattai is featured in its classical splendour in the voices of Bombay Jayashri and Unnikrishnan. In the phrase ‘Poigai Adiyaval Neeya’ the shatsruti rishabha is woven in beautifully. In this piece, the raga Maand comes in too, in the charanams.
Harris Jayaraj has based ‘Iyengar Veettu Azhage’ from Anniyan in Nattai with a prelude of ‘Jagadanandakaraka’.