Monday, December 29, 2008
Raja ..Raja in Whatever he Does...
I read aloooot of articles on Raja...
Some speaking about techincal aspects of his compositions
Some speaking about the ecstacy the tunes leave....
but none impressed me more than this article till date...
Guitar Prasanna..Who is another Devotee of Raja..expressed his feelings in such a wonderful way that....he made me trespass my own rules of blogging and made me Copy down others written content into my Blog...as ofcourse even he was thinking aloud about Raja... :)
Here it goes.....
A personal note on the man and his extraordinary musical accomplishments.
By Guitar Prasanna (www.guitarprasanna.com)
em>"Have you written invertible counterpoint up a tenth?"
Raaja (I am taking the liberty to call him affectionately as "Raaja" since he is after all, a "Raaja" in what he does!) has asked me this question a few times– aquestion I don't encounter much, at least in India.
In an age where most musicians (of course only in India!)spend their time reading the latest software manuals rather than reading books on harmony, counterpoint,orchestration or Carnatic ragas or whatever, Raaja is and has always been an anachronism.
I have had several intellectually stimulating musical conversations with Raaja on principles of counterpoint,Bach, Tyagaraja, jazz harmony and much more. (Raaja has often asked me about jazz and I remember howexcited Raaja was when I played him great jazz like Charlie Parker and John Coltrane's 'Giant Steps').Raaja's vast knowledge extends far beyond music.
For instance, I have seen him quote passages from"Tirukkural" effortlessly in casual conversation.In every field of activity, there are a chosen few that transcend their idiom. Let's face it! Film music is notclassical music. By itself, film music as a medium does not have the spiritual depth or artistic dimensions ofsay, a Tyagaraja pancharatna kriti or a Bach "Musical Offering".
It's a medium of popular entertainment just the same way pop music is in the west. That DOES NOT however mean that it CANNOT be artistic. (I thinkreaders will get this 'distinction' that I am making), it's just that its scope and purpose is a little different.Raaja has transcended the idiom and brought elements of 'higher art' into it while still maintaining the'immediate appeal' that characterizes (and should characterize) a mass medium like film music.
It is doubtful if any musician in the world dealing with a popular musical medium (like pop, rock, film musicetc) has ever brought in such an immense and breathtaking array of musical vocabulary and has internalizedand reflected it in so personal a way. (What can we call Raaja's music? – Tamil folk melodies meets Carnaticmusic meets Hindustani music meets 70's disco music meets Bach meets electronic music meets ……….)
What is amazing is that finally it bears a patent/trademark of homegrown Raaja. (It is not Bach, it is notEarth, Wind and Fire, it is not Carnatic music, it is Ilayaraaja.)
In my personal opinion, Steely Dan and thelater albums of Sting come closest to standing rock solid on musical and artistic sophistication, while stillbeing couched in a 'commercial' medium.
I grew up with Raaja's music and I can clearly see how I can revisit his old songs and find such technicalvirtuosity in his writing – his unmatched use of chormaticism in 'Indianish' melodies, his extensive use ofintricate counterpoint, his vast knowledge of Carnatic music, the 'correctness' of every chord in his songsand above all the speed with which he composes clearly show that the man is secure, knows exactly what hewants and delivers.Raaja has raised the standards of us, South Indian listeners so much, that there are many of us who neverbothered to listen to Hindi songs for e.g.. (we never needed to, right?).
He has raised the standards ofmusicianship to such a high level among studio musicians in Chennai (I realized the huge gulf, when Iworked with string players in Bombay for e.g.) that many times I wonder how the musicians even playedsome of the parts that are there in his music.
I have never heard a guitar even remotely out of tune in Raaja's songs for example (believe me, that's veryrare in general).
I have to make a special mention of Raaja's use of the electric bass guitar.
I have neverheard such meticulous written bass parts (its clearly written carefully), as it is in Raaja's - song after songafter song. Mention also to some brilliant acoustic drum work (a lost and ancient art in India) on Raaja'ssongs.
I would like to end this article with what Raaja himself told me once (about the limitations of being in the filmmedium) "Enakku innum niraya ideas irukku. Ithule ellam panna mudiyathu. Ithu Mint Streetille okkanthuJabam panra mathiri!" ("I have lot more ideas. I may not be able to do all of them in this. It's like sitting in themiddle of Mint Street and meditating").
I am sure we'll agree that he has meditated exceptionally well on Mintstreet!Prasanna [www.guitarprasanna.com]