Under the sun

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

"Thamizh and western music: A new dimension in Maestro's Songs" - an article by Bass Vicky

Here is an interesting article by Vignesh N (Bass Vicky), a member of the Ilayaraaja Fan Club.
Needless to say, i've put this here with Bass Vicky's "go-ahead" :)

This is the article which I have written purely with
my inherent experience with Maestro's songs and
doesnot refer to anyother poeple or content in
anyform. If any mistakes occur in the article, please
forgive me.

“Zh” occuring in this article is a retroflex L, with
the tongue bent backward and almost up to the roof of the mouth (its akin to an American pronunciation of 'r')

Title: "Thamizh and western music: A new dimension in
Maestro's Songs"

Thamizh Folk songs:

Take any folk song of Thamizh Nadu, it is not
surprising to find a few melody instruments but it is
rather more surprising to find a variety of percussion
instruments which far out numbers the melody
instruments. The reason which I have found out by way
experience is that melody is inherent to Thamizh
language and no instrument is needed to augment it.
Comments the great devotee of music, Thiru
Jayachandran, a great playback singer the South India:
"The natural flow of the Thamizh language gives a
musical touch to Thamizh which makes its songs much

One might have known that Thamizh has a poetic history
for thousands of years but prose is relatively new
(probably a century old). The earliest known
literature describing poetry and melody in Thamizh is
the Sangam literature. Chilappathikaaram and kANalvari
are the beginnings of what we consider as the early
Thamizhisai (the roots of Carnatic music). Also, we
never recite sacred texts like Thirvaasakam, and
Thevaaram; instead we sing it. Even Thamizh dialects
like Madurai Thamizh, Tirunelveli Thamizh, Coimbatore
Thamizh, Eelam Thamizh, Chennai Thamizh, Thanjai
Thamizh, etc. are mainly characterized by the usage of
distinct melodies in these dialects when spoken.

Folk songs in Thamizh can also be called as
Thamizhisai. I don’t see any difference in calling
Thamizh folk music as Thamizhisai or vice-versa.
Considering folk songs, we can find a lot of rhythm
instruments like Thavil (Melam), Pambai, Urumi,
Thaaram, Thampattai, Gatam etc. but only a few melody
instruments like Yaazh and sangu. Also occurrence of a
lot of rhythm instruments means evolution of a variety
of complex rhythm patterns too!

In western music, one can find a lot of melody
instruments like strings, brass, piano, guitar, etc.
but only a few rhythm instruments like drums, congos,
and bass guitar (about 80 years old). Of course, these
melody instruments can also be used to provide rhythm
background by playing specifically in a different
pattern. Western music also incorporates melody by way
of harmonising various voices.

in a language which is inherently poetic accompanied
by instruments from the western world which has
inherent melody in it, we find the song very rich. In
addition to that, complex rhythm patterns in Thamizh
Folk Music played on western rhythm instruments give a
new perspective. Musical Thamizh language blends with
musical nature of melody instruments inherent to
western music to create a totally scintillating
phenomenon. When the uniqueness from all types of
music in the world are combined meticulously then we
can find what we call ILAIYARAAJA MUSIC and we are
gifted to get the world of music in front of us.

Coming to the real examples which I have researched
(observed) using my limited knowledge in music....Say,
a layman’s research (observation) on expert creations.
"Poda Poda Punnakku": Is one simple yet a classic
example of a song featuring instruments only for
rhythm and you guessed it right, the melody is in the
vocals itself.

Raajathi Raaja: Song featuring kaleidoscopic rhythm
patterns inherent to Thamizhisai played on western

Kannan Vanthu Paadukiraan: You should know about the
traits of the great Ilaiyaraaja in this soothing song.
Every instrument is meant only for Melody; even Bass
Guitar, which is a rhythm instrument. It has a
complete western orchestration. Also this song
exemplifies how Bass Guitar is researched by Him to a
greater extent than anyone else.

Roja Poo Aadivanthathu: This song sounds 100% western
except for the Thamizh lyrics. Everything is western;
the western instruments, the harmonizing voices, the
piano runs, etc. and add to that the melody of Thamizh

Ninukkori Varanam: Ok. Take this song. It is similar
to Roja Poo Aadivanthathu; all western instruments.
The twist here is that these instruments are played in
a clearly recognizable Carnatic style.

Oru Poongaavanam: Ya! Also has western orchestration.
So what? What is unique. Try listening to Bass Guitar
and drums - a simplistic yet complex folk rhythm

Thumbi Vaa: Where Bass Guitar takes over from voice,
the prominent place of providing the basic tune of the song.

Nilavu Paatu: When you listen to prelude alone, you
will brand it as a progressive rock song. But it turns
out to be a Thamizh song if you continue listening
after the prelude.

Aayiram Thaamarai Mottukalae: A blend of folk and
carnatic song with some tidbit additions of strings,
rhythm guitar, keys. So the deal here is the Bass
Guitar part.

More to come with more in-depth research.


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