Hamsanadam literally means ‘call of the swan’. It is a peaceful evening raga exuding divinity, bhakthi rasa. Joy and love brim in one’s heart as one listens to this raga. The notes include Sadja, Chatusruti Rishaba, Prati Madhyama, Pancama, and Kakali Nishada. Traditionally, Hamsanadam is sung with the Shatsruti Dhaivata, and this version of the raga is indeed beautiful and intriguing. Sarangatarangini is an allied raga while Shuddh Sarang in Hindustani music closely resembles Hamsanadam albeit with certain differences (the presence of Chatusruti Dhaivata, Suddha Madhyama appearing in descent). Hamsanadam is best suited to medium- and fast-paced singing, ideally placed at the first half of performance (poorvanga), and enlivens any concert.

Well-known Classical pieces in this scale include ‘Bantureeti’ of Thyagaraja, ‘Kalyanarama’ of Oothukadu Venkatakavi, ‘Kripanidhe Kripajaladhe’ of Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavathar, ‘Neeye Paramugham’ of Papanasam Sivan, and G.N. Balasubramaniam’s ‘Dashashatadala’ (tending more towards Sarangatarangini).

In film music, ‘Iravum Nilavum’ from Karnan is a stimulating piece in this scale, the appearance of the Chatusruti Dhaivata making the melody more romantic. M.S. Viswanathan-Ramamurthy have surpassed themselves in this piece, and special mention should be made of the interludes, involving rich orchestration with live North Indian instruments. P. Susheela and T.M. Soundararajan’s voices are heart-warming. The phrase ‘RMRSN / SRSND, NSNDP / DNDPM...’ is the crowning sangati in ‘...valarattume…’ and elicits applause.

Ilaiyaraaja’s contribution to this raga is invaluable. ‘Thendral Vandhu Ennai Thodum’ from Thendral Ennai Thodu is a fabulous piece with all the essential ingredients for a classic. K.J. Yesudas and S. Janaki have lent their raga expertise to make this memorable. In this piece too, the Chatusruti Dhaivata is used cleverly. In the line ‘Panneerai Thoovi Oyvedu’, the harmonic notes ‘RSNSRN / DPMPDM / RSNSRSN’ are dabbled with in descent, making for interesting listening.

‘Kanni Ponnu’ from Ninaivellam Nithya does justice to the raga and is a folksy approach to the scale. Malaysia Vasudevan’s spirited rendition, sprightly chorus, and festive drum all add colour to this piece. The opening of this song ‘NSNS,,, NSS’ with the background instruments presenting subtle strains of harmonics is very attractive.

‘Om Namaha’ from Idayathai Thirudaadhe is set to a triplet beat pattern. Singer Mano opens the song with ‘Om Namaha...’ with the notes ‘SNNP...’ while S. Janaki replies with ‘PMMR...’ the harmonic counter.

‘Sorgame Endralum’ is one of the finest compositions of the maestro from Ooru Vittu Ooru Vandhu. This song captures the essence of the raga and presents it with aplomb to the lay listener; S. Janaki and Ilaiyaraaja give off their best. In the phrase ‘Tamizh Pol Inithidumaa’, the fast ‘RMPNPM / RMPMRMPNS’ is a stunner.

Ajoy Chakraborthy’s silken vocals cascade this raga in ‘Isaiyil Thodanguthamma’ from Hey Raam. Set in Misra Chapu taal, this piece is unique in structure and quality.

Vidyasagar’s piece in Shuddh Sarang, ‘Poo Vasam’ (Anbe Sivam) sung by Vijay Prakash and Sadhna Sargam, has a charm that is born out of classicism incorporated in a populist piece. In the phrase ‘Nam Kaadhal Varaivome Vaa’ the notes ‘SRNS / PNM,P / RMR / NSRMPN’ bring out the beauty of the scale.