Tamtana namtana – Puthiya Vaarpukkal – 1979

February 12, 2008 at 3:46 pm Leave a comment

‘Have you heard this shanmukhapriya song in a new film? It is by Illaiyaraja’,  I heard someone say this in a PTC bus back in 1979, I think.

I couldnt wait to hear the song. How would it be? What would it sound like?

Aha! Here was the creator of great non classical songs like ‘ennadi minakshi’ and ‘uchi adadada maamarakkuyile’ and ‘solam vedakkeyile’. What was the connection between him and Carnatic music?

The neyar viruppam on Madras A, one sunny Sunday afternoon at 4PM provided the answer.

First there was the veenai, instroducing the raga, in a brisk tempo; then an irritating interruption from the announcer  ‘puthiya vaarpukkal’, then silence, then a slowly rising crescendo on ‘tamtananam’, a monotonous chant on the pitch pa,  slowly rising in volume.

‘Oho, this is what the bus conversation meant’.

I drew closer to the radio.

‘tamtana nam tana taalam varum’.

The singing was ok, but the melody was gripping. Simple, it stretched across the scale of shanmukhapriya.

Having heard only the high energy operatic shanmukhapriyas from the old time greats such as KB Sundarambal, or jaw breaker tiruppukazhs from TM Soundararajan this was quite a change.

Yes. The underlying basis was the scale of shanmukhapriya and it was very cleverly used.

Now, when I look at it, almost 30 years later, I realize that it was one of the all time greats.

No electronics; no techno beats, no fancy programming, nothing. This song was beautifully orchestrated with a small  chorus, a small set of strings, a veena, a guitar, a good set of percussion players and a powerful flute.

Just go back and listen to the dialogue between the veena and the strings in the 2nd interlude or even the flute solo in the first bgm and even the manner in which the church bells are used.

Tamtananam is clearly an illustration where a rendition bereft of the lavish ornamental gamaka in classical music, still rings powerful. There is just the right amount of ornamentation here and the orchestration is just about perfect.

Illaiyaraja played around with the scale of this raga again in a later movie ‘sollayo vai tirandu’ in ‘moga mull’ but the results were not even close to this song. There was also much of shanmukhapriya scalar stuff in ‘Nothing But Wind’, but nothing to match tamtananam and ‘takita tadhimi’ from salangai oli. More on takita tadhimi in another post.

Note: It is one thing to enjoy a shanmukhapriya  ragam and a tanam with all the melodic intricacies and a pallavi with the rhythmic variations in a concert; it is another to enjoy the pure scalar representation of the backbone of the raga.

You can never compare a concert shanmukhapriya and a film based scalar version of the same. They are different.

They are both enjoyable.

Entry filed under: Tamil Film Music. Tags: , , , , , , , , , .

Takita tadhimi (Salangai oli) – Tamil Film Song (1983) The Music of Panneer Pushpangal – 1981

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