Monday, January 23, 2017

புறம்போக்கு என்றாலும் புண்ணிய பூமிதானே… TMK’s Porambokku song

In an earlier post on Carnatic music, I had bemoaned the fact that there is very little other than Bhakthi that is sung and there is no representation of contemporary issues in it at all. During December season, I did hear Sanjay coming up with some apt songs on Demonetization.
TMK, who has written a lot about social imbalance, has come up with a song on Poramboke lands. He has come out with a song generally on this topic, with a specific aim to save the Ennore Creek near Chennai. The video of the song was released on Pongal day amidst much fanfare.
The video is released on youtube and can be seen here
Having listened to this a few times, I cannot but be in awe of the talent of R.K.Shriramkumar who has set these lyrics to tune and the capability of TMK in delivering any lyric in a mesmerizing way. But did I like this song? I have to sadly say No. The reason is two fold.
First, the lyrics lack a certain poetic grace, that to me is important when it is going to be performed as a song and that too in a rathered nuanced form of music such Carnatic music. It is difficult to explain this in words but it is a flow of the words that produce a lilting musical feeling that is absent here. Because Shriram and Krishna weaved their magic, this song is sounding the way it is.
It is a novel effort to use colloquial Tamil usage and a mix of English and Tamil words in the lyrics as that is how most of the state speaks today. But words like கத்துட்டது (kaththuttadhu) or concrete dont gel into the tune and are very jarring. Lyrics do play an important part in Carnatic music and it was not up to the standard. This is not a song I will go back to and listen again and again, as I do with a lot of other songs sung by TMK. I understand this is a very personal opinion and everyone need not feel the same.
The second point is on the messaging. Is it a song about how common property is misused and abused? Isn’t that what the title of the program suggests? While the lyrics did start that way, references to the policies of the current government did dilute the message. Does this exonerate the earlier governments? Why pick on only this government?
That in my opinion changed the social agenda of the song, into a political agenda. And this would alienate a section of people who would have otherwise supported the cause. I will support a social agenda but would think twice before I make my political leanings public.
Having said that, I welcome wholeheartedly the effort to introduce contemporary issues using Carnatic music as a medium. Music has been used as a tool to bring causes to the knowledge of public and it is important that Carnatic music plays its role that way as well. Kudos to the team for the effort.
During the release of the video, a concert was held and my dear friend and a disciple of TMK, Vignesh Ishwar had performed there. He had requested me to pen a few lines on the same topic that he wanted to sing in viruttam style. He had done a fabulous job of tuning my lines and singing them in a concert.
அறம் சார்ந்து வாழ்வோர் ஆசையே படமாட்டார்
திறம் சார்ந்து வாழ்வோர் திருடியே தான்ருசிப்பார்
மறம் கொண்டு வாழ்வோர் மயங்கியே விடமாட்டார்
உரம் கொண்டு வாழ்வோர் ஊருக்குச் சொந்தமென்பார்
மரம் சேர்க்கத் தான்வரும் மழையுமே நாம்பிழைக்க
சிரம் ஏற்றி வைத்திடுவோம் சிந்தனையில் தான் இதையே
புறம் போக்கு என்றாலும் புண்ணிய நிலம்தானே
கரம் சேர்ப்போம் காத்திடவே நாம். 

It was a great pleasure to listen to this rendering especially when it was followed by a song of Mahakavi Bharathi, the matchless Tamil poet. It made my Pongal great! Thanks Vignesh for the opportunity.