I was talking yesterday with a couple of my friends about Ilayaraja. One reason was our common admiration for the man and the other was in discussing his style. It is difficult to pinpoint The Maestro to one particular style. Then came a discussion on his private albums, How To Name It? and Nothing But Wind.
Both albums serve as indices on fusion of the classical music styles, Carnatic and Western. How To Name It? is a personal favourite of mine though erudite scholars in music consider Nothing But Wind as the more refined piece. Yes, the latter is more intricate and is undoubtedly a magnum opus but the former gets to my heart easily. That’s pretty difficult considering no woman has managed to do that.
The album has 10 pieces and there were 3 that just took me off guard. Just imagining the concept is goosebumpy. It’s not the east meets west in drums and mridangams and guitars and veenas blaring out cacophony in the name of fusion. It’s a fusion of the eastern and western sensibilities. The result, like a Sachin Tendulkar straight drive, has your breath taken away. What romance in fusing Sri Thyagaraja and Johann Sebastian Bach! There’s a track, I Met Bach at my House… Bach coming all the way to Thyaga Brahmam’s house to meet him and the result is music to the ears. Bach’s Bouree in E Minor and the violin’s carnatic version fusing to produce a counterpoint that’s stunning, bewitching, captivating and all this is just for a minute and a half.
What follows this is more bliss as Thygaraja and Bach settle down in …And We Had A Little Talk. It starts with Hamsadhwani in a violin. Sri Thyagaraja is beginning the conversation. It culminates after two minutes in a stunning mini climax where he’s made his point. Bach follows with the western equivalent of Hamsadhwani, and Thyagaraja joins in and it’s a musical confabulation. They converse and Ilayaraja, a spectator all along bursts immediately into a little musical applause as the raga shifts to Charukesi and back to Hamsadhwani. It’s too much I say for a person like me. Poor Thyagaraja and Bach are in circa 18th century blissfully conversing through music (to God) and this man has given it a romantic spin in the 20th century which they are not lucky enough to see through. Lucky me!
And we Had a Little Talk:
Courtesy demands Thyagaraja to visit Bach. Chamber Welcomes Thyagaraja is a piece where the Thyaga Brahmam visits Bach. Chamber music will have just a few instruments unlike a symphony. It’s typically played in a chamber. The violas welcome Thyagaraja on either side and he goes along the red carpet playing a Kalyani. I think the moment he enters the chamber, there’s the Mridangam that natters “welcome back” to the coversation. What romance! For a layperson like me, it was too much. The Kalyani is a metaphor for representing Thyagaraja and the violas are a metaphor for representing Bach. He’s just fusing the two musical metaphors. How to name it? Nothing but Genius!
Chamber Welcome Thyagaraja:
These are just 3 tracks that have spawned a page here. His music has given me inspiration and has made my worst days better. He has made me laugh and cry through his music and I’m sure I’m not alone.
He is not Ilayaraja. He is Layaraja.
P.S. The youtube links of the two tracks can be misleading because there is no final say on which track is what. I interpreted the tracks based on the list in the site from where I downloaded the album. As you would see, what I wrote on Chamber Welcomes Thyagaraja comes as I met Bach at my House in youtube.