I am posting after eons and I have made a resolution to blog regularly hereafter!
I will take off exactly from where I left. I was keenly following Tamil music during my Class X, especially after leaving Coimbatore and living at Jamshedpur (Jsr)in East India. I was kind of homesick to listen to Tamil songs as that was the time when I started appreciating the nuances of orchestration, the depth of a tune etc and my music quotient started becoming mature. Since I was in Jsr, there was only one Tamil channel, which was DD Podhigai and all others were Hindi channels. The Hindi songs of those years were just okay compared to the fantastic stuff that ARR was churning out. I remember those were the years when Kadhal Desam released and whenever the trailer was shown alongwith the songs, I was so happy and excited to listen to that refreshing music.
I had a neighbour who lived next door who was also a music lover and he also used to play many Tamil songs and they were not just the Rahman ones but another composer. We became good friends and when we started discussing about music, I was raving about Rahman and his recent albums. He said that there is another composer who has been composing for over 25 years and he was explaining about the genius of Ilaiyaraja and his achievements and I was very impressed. I asked him for the songs of Ilaiyaraja and he gave me many of his audio cassettes. When I started listening to the songs, I was captivated and realised that many of those songs were ones that I too loved and since I was small that time, I did not bother about who the composer was! Some of those songs were Sangeetha Megam, Rasathi Unna, Nilaave Vaa. I started keeping an eye for new Ilaiyaraja songs from that time and I basically started enjoying good Tamil music, irrespective of the composer. That was the time, Kadhalukku Mariyadhai had released and Ilaiyaraja’s music in it was quite different than his usual stuff. To digress a bit, from the 90’s, Raja had changed his orchestration style as many composers were having “techno” music and he too adapted himself to the changing trend though sometimes his synth sounds were terrible.
Kadhalukku Mariyadhai was refreshingly different because Raja skilfully mixed the synth sounds with his trademeark live music (he was using Saarangi after a very long time) and it was a welcome back to form, considering Rahman was ruling the roost with back-to-back hits.Almost all the songs in the album were very good with special mentions for Ennai Thaalatta and Oru Pattamboochi (which had the fantastic Saarangi interludes). My uncle had been to South and knowing my interest in music, he purchased the cassette and gifted it to me. I started listening to the songs and it became like a daily ritual, I was very happy because here was a hit album from Raja in the midst of hits from other composers. During that time, the songs of Poomani too had released but I found the songs pretty bland and this coming after that was a welcome respite.
Once you become a fan of someone and its pretty much a lifetime relationship with them and a maestro like Ilaiyaraja is no exception to this rule. Over the decades, my love and interest for Raja’s music has increased exponentially and being a voracious reader, I have read innumerable blogs, forums discussing Raja’s music and it has made me appreciate his music even more. All this has led me to one of my permanent hobbies of digging, collecting rare Raja songs and to popularize them. Many of these songs are as good, if not better than the known hits.
One point I would like to stress here is that though I am a Raja fanatic, I am not blind to other’s music and I enjoy listening to music from all composers and some of them are really good and in terms of talent, they can even be compared to Raja. There are no barriers with respect to composers/languages/genres in music and any music that gives us happiness and bliss is always welcome.
On a parting note and at the risk of sounding parochial, I must admit that I consider myself very fortunate to be born a Tamilian as I got introduced to Raja’s music and it has almost been like the centre of my life. Even those who know Raja’s music in other languages are lucky (basically all South Indians) because they have been introduced to the highest standards of music. I will write more about Raja’s music in the ensuing posts and will share more insights and details of his unknown gems.