a raga's journey Music

Pious notes

In Carnatic music, vivadi ragas use combinations of notes that give rise to dissonance. Once considered inauspicious, vivadi scales have come to offer a new range of striking colours and beauty. An example of an appealing vivadi raga is Nasikabhushani. The 70th of the 72 melas, this raga is called Nasamani in Dikshitar’s school. The raga’s notes include sadja, shatsruti rishabha, antara gandhara, prati madhyama, pancama, chatusruti dhaivata, and kaisiki nishada. The combination of shatsruti rishabha and antara gandhara notes leads to the vivadi characterisation. The raga evokes piety and devotion.

The classical pieces in Nasikabhushani include ‘Maravairi’, a gem of Thyagaraja, and ‘Sri Ramasaraswati’ of Dikshitar, in which he refers to Devi as ‘Sarasa dhrta Nasamani virajita’, and brings in the raga mudra seamlessly. Koteeswara Iyer’s ‘Thandarul ayya’ is in this raga, as is M. Balamuralikrishna's ‘Ambikam’. In ‘Maravairi Ramani Manjubhashini’, Thyagaraja extols the virtues of the presiding goddess of Thiruvaiyaru, the consort of Panchanadeeswara, ‘Dharmasamvardhani’. He describes her as one with sweet speech, who bestows her grace upon those who work hard without looking for fruits of their labour.

In film music, Vidyasagar has explored Nasikabhushani in depth and composed the song ‘Thendral Enum’ from Paasa Kiligal. It is sung by Madhu Balakrishnan. The song starts off with a reverberating alaap, then proceeds to the flourishes of the thavil after which the melody unravels. The song starts at the top sadja note and the opening phrase SNDPP,PMGMG/ S,R,G,MG, establishes the ideal foundation. The interlude between the pallavi and charanam is in the form of an extraordinary question-answer swara session between the nadaswaram and keyboard. The raga’s name is woven into the charanam — ‘Nasikabhushani Naan Paadum Ragam’.

When the prati madhyama in Nasikabhushani is replaced with a suddha madhyama, the resultant raga is the beautiful Vagadeeshwari. The 34th melakarta, Vagadeeshwari, is dealt with assiduously by Thyagaraja in ‘Paramatmudu Belige’. In this piece, Thyagaraja conveys the quintessence of parabrahman. In the Dikshitar school, this raga was called Bhogachayanatta. ‘Vani Vagadeeshwari’, popularised by Yesudas, is another well-known piece in this raga; ‘Bhogachaya natakapriye’ of Dikshitar is less well known.

The song ‘Narumana Malargalin’ from Urangatha Ninaivugal is Ilaiyaraaja’s matchless offering of Vagadeeshwari to the aam aadmi. The orchestration begins boldly and the song starts off innocently enough, dwelling on the major notes, but the catch comes in the line ‘Kaadhal Kaadhal Pallaviye Kaalam Saranam Thaan’, where the shatsruti rishabha makes a quiet entry and points clearly to Vagadeeshwari. The fusion of Western chords and orchestration in this piece make it stand out. In Ramana, the same composer has created ‘Vennilavin Perai Maatrava’ in Vagadeeshwari. The rishabha and dhaivata notes are mostly eschewed in the vocals, but the appearance of the shatsruti rishabha comes as a delight in the phrase ‘Myna Myna’ and in the interludes.

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Printable version | Oct 15, 2021 9:33:35 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/music/pious-notes/article5585979.ece

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