Ilaiyaraaja’s latest album, Divya Pasurams, once again proves his impeccable composing skills

The album presents a few selected pasurams, which have been set to different ragas, from Nalayira Divya Prabhandam

Updated - July 12, 2024 05:20 pm IST

Published - July 10, 2024 01:43 pm IST

Maestro Ilaiyaraaja

Maestro Ilaiyaraaja | Photo Credit: R. Ragu

Nineteen years after presenting selected verses of Manickavachakar’s Thiruvachagam in Oratorio format, maestro Ilaiyaraaja has composed music for a few pasurams from Nalayira Divya Prabandham. With the support of Prof. Gnanasundaram, an acclaimed academician, Ilaiyaraaja chose some pasurams (Tiruvoimozhi) by Periyazhwar, Naachiyar, Kulasekara Azhwar, Thondaradipodi Azhwar and Thirumangai Azhwar for his latest album Divya Pasurams, which was released recently.

These pasurams provide a kaleidoscope of Krishna’s life — from birth to Thirumangai Azhwar’s plea for the Lord to reside in Thiruvazhundhur and from surrendering to being liberated from the torment of the five senses.

In an era of Schumpeterian changes, Ilaiyaraaja sticks to the time-tested basics by engaging four main sections in the orchestra: the strings, woodwinds, brass (in a few places), and percussion. His music and orchestration often reflect the meaning and feel of the Azhwar pasurams, providing a divine experience.

The pasurams describe the Lord’s beauty, valour, and the bhakti of the azhwars, as described in the Mahabharata, the Ramayana, and Srimad Bhagavatam.

The album ‘Divya Pasurams’

The album ‘Divya Pasurams’ | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Emphasis on lyrics

The album begins with Periyazhwar’s pasuram sung by Ilaiyaraaja, with the moola mantra ‘Om Namo Narayanaya’ being sung in the background by a group of singers. This pasuram, largely composed in raga Sindhubhairavi, sings paeans to Narayana and emphasises the lyrics with minimal orchestration.

The second piece is based on another Periyazhwar’s pasuram ‘Vanna maadankal’, (sung by Narayanan Ravishankar and V.V. Prasanna) reminding us of ‘Kothumbi’ from Thiruvachagam in Oratorio. The music arrangements capture every single scene in these pasurams such as spraying scented powder and fragrant oil to celebrate the arrival of Krishna. This piece, largely based on raga Abheri, concludes with Yasodha realising that this child is the Supreme being.

Naachiyaar Pasuram “Vaanidai Vaazhum Avvanavarkku”wherein Aandal strongly declares that her body is meant for Sarangan residing in Brindavan and that she will never offer it to any mortal. This short and beautiful composition is sung by Vibhavari in raga Suddha Saveri.

The album progresses through various pasurams, each capturing different aspects of Krishna’s life, with Ilaiyaraaja’s orchestration bringing out the essence of each raga such as Mohanam, Tilang, Suddha Dhanyasi and Mayamalavagowla.

In ‘Puviyil naan’ (sung by Sharreth and Vibhavari), the composition and its orchestration meander along a different rhythm, bringing the string section to the fore while the flute moves to the background. Ilaiyaraaja captures the beauty of the dance of a muster of peacocks with his string section just before the line ‘Karungan thogai mayil peeli anindhu’. From here the strings hop up and down until they reach the crescendo.

The album concludes with Thirumangai Azhwar’s ‘Kulantharum selvam thandhidum’ in raga Hamsanandhi, an intense and poignant composition, in the voice of Hariharan, where the saint expresses his desire to merge with the Lord.

Ilaiyaraaja’s compositions in this album offer a timeless experience.

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