Pentatonic Raagam 5 – Suddha Dhanyasi, the sublime

Treading along the environs of pentatonic promenades, we arrive rather zealously at the scene of the sublime Suddha Dhanyasi. The ripple effect achieved by perfoming a tonic shift in turn to each one of Mohanam, Madhyamavati, Hindolam and Suddha Saaveri have brought us eventually to this raagam, Suddha Dhanyasi, a janya ( child ) raagam of the time-honored class of Karaharapriya. The S N2 P M1 G2 S. The scale ( individual notes ) of Suddha Dhanyasi is attained by performing a upward tonic shift ( Shruti Bedam ) of a single note to that of Suddha Saaveri, two notes to that of HindoLam, three notes to that of Madhyamavati and four notes to that of Mohanam. The aadhara shaDjam ( reference sa ) of Suddha Dhanyasi corresponds to the Da of Mohanam, Pa of Madhyamaavati, Ma of HindoLam and the Ri of Suddha Saaveri. In other words you can sing the scale of Suddha Dhanyasi by retaining its Sa as the Da of Mohanam, the Pa of Madhyamaavati, the Ma of Hindolam or the Ga of Suddha Saaveri and traversing their respective scales with the note name changes. I am sure it is not surprising to note that performing a upward tonic shift to the scale of Suddha Dhanyasi yields the scale of Mohanam. Such is the cyclical tonic structural nature of this family of pentatonic raagams.

The excellence of CarnaTic music has indeed been enhanced and embellished by such raagams like Suddha Dhanyasi and the like over the centuries. Esteemed CarnaTic music composers have been attracted to the knockout luminosity of this raagam that they have engaged their think tanks to produce works in the likes of SubramaNyena Rakshitoham, Sri Paarthasaarathe ( Muthuswami Dheekshitar ), Hima giri Tanaye, BherunDaambe, Kaalaateetaaya, Shri Raajamaatangi – taana varNam ( Harikeshanallur Mutthaiya Bhagavatar ), Bhaavamulona ( Annamaachaarya ), Khelati piNDhanDe ( Sadaasiva Bhramendrar ), NaryaNa Ninna, NoDuve KaNNu ( Purandara Daasar ), Sarvam Samasrayeham ( TuLaseevanam ), Sundari Sadaa ( Kovoor Veeraraaghava Sharma ).

The popularity of Suddha Dhanyasi in film music is pretty evident in the sheer number of compositions based on this raagam. Here are some of the productions based on Suddha Dhanyasi from yester years: KaNgal Engey ( Karnan ), Deviyar Iruvar Muruganukku ( Kalikkoyil ), Neeye enakku enDrum nigaraanavan ( Bale Pandiya ), thoTTaal poo malarum ( PadagoTTi ). ILayaraja has composed a multitude of his songs based on Suddha Dhanyasi. I wish to enlist some of them here: Vizhiyil Vizhundu idayam nuzhaindu ( AlaigaL Oivadillai ), Siru PonmaNi ( KallukkuL Eeram ), Raagavane RamaNaa ( ILamaikkaalangaL ), Pudiya Poovidu ( thendrale ennai Thodu ), PoonthaLiraaDa ( panneer pushpangal ), Poomaali Oru Paavai Aagumaa ( Thangamagan ), Poojaikkettha poovidu ( needaana andakkuyil ), punjai unDu nanjai unDu ( Unnaal muDiyum Thambi ), namma ooru singaari ( ninaitthaale inikkum ), nadiyoram naaNal onDru ( annai oar aalayam ), maanjolai kiLi daano ( Kizhakke pogum rayil, partially ), chinna chinna vaNNa kuyil ( mouna raagam ), thenaruviyil ( aagaaya gangai ) to name barely a few.

The pentatonic raagams ( AuDava-AuDava, 5 note–5 Note ) in this family may at first glance seem that the individual notes have been picked at random and strung en masse to constitute the raagam but a conscientious examination of the pentatonic raagam structure will evince the mathematical and musical profundity of this concept.

I was so intrigued by the brain waves initiated by this pentatonic intellection, I am presently working on penning the lyrics and composing a raagamaalika number woven with this family of pentatonic raagams, to be premiered at an upcoming show. With the omnipotent God’s infinite grace and all your best wishes, I believe I would be able to accomplish this.

I am not sure how much this column inspired you in comprehending the greatness of CarnaTic music in general and the profound influence of pentatonic raagams to world music in particular but I absolutely enjoyed writing this column and acknowledge your incessant support and encouragement in keeping aglow my zest for music.

I believe all CarnaTic music rasikaas and each one of you reading this column have a life long responsibility to carry on and nurture the tradition of this form of music and make sure it soars in its popularity and emerge triumphant as the supreme pioneer of world music.

- Gopal Venkatraman, Troy, MI.