Tag Archives: ilayaraja

My Discovery of Ilaiyaraja’s music

27 Dec

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.

 

My Journey with Ilaiyaraja and A.R.Rahman-I

6 Jun

Tamil music (especially) and Indian music is extremely blessed that these two genius composers have been the pillars of their music. Both these maestros have diametrically opposite styles of working/composing but they have been equally effective. They do not have a fan following but only fanatics! People swear by their music and consider it as a part of their everyday life.

In my teens, quite strangely, I was first introduced to ARR rather than IR though I used to listen and enjoy IR songs much before on radio without bothering about the composer. Just as all music-loving Indians, I was instantly fascinated by the new sound that ARR created for Roja. I remember seeing Roja in a theatre in Coimbatore and I strongly believe the movie was a success also because of its path-breaking music. After that Pudhiya Mugam audio cassette was released and it was definitely as good as Roja, ARR was clearly the pioneer in introducing a refreshing, melodious, techno sound in Indian music.

I had to move to Jamshedpur and I lost touch with Tamil music for a few years. In those days, the only way to listen to music was to buy the original cassette or to get a cassette recorded from the original (which was done only by cassette shops having Tamil music). The advent of ARR popularized Tamil music so much that one or two shops in JSR started stocking pirated cassettes of new Tamil music! The recording quality was tolerable and as a fan I was desperate to listen to the songs irrespective of the mediocre quality.

Just about the same time, we started getting a few Tamil channels in our cable television and it was as if the skies opened up after years of drought. I was so ecstatic and used to wait for all Tamil movie trailers to see who the composer was and if it was ARR, I used to rush to the town centre to get the pirated cassette as I could not afford the original cassette (which was around Rs 45-50, while the pirated one was just Rs 25-30). One more relief was if someone used to come to my place from South, I used to ask them to get all the latest songs recorded and enjoyed listening to them in original quality. I listened to the songs of Thiruda Thiruda, Gentleman, Aasai (Deva) etc. I remember vividly when my sister came from Chennai, she was having the original AVM audio Minsara Kanavu cassette and I loved the songs so much that I asked her to leave it for me. I listened to the songs so many times that the cassette became blank.

Finally, I had a reunion with all songs on a real-time basis when I moved back to South for my college studies. So, my relationship with ARR’s music strangely preceded that of my relationship with IR’s music though I was not new to IR’s music. The most-listened song by me from ARR’s list is Ennavale, I must have listened to it at least 500 times, it was like daily medicine. This was the story of my initiation into ARR’s music and I also admire ARR as a person for his remarkable humility and for starting the KM Conservatory so that many others get the privilege of learning music.

 

UNIQUE songs from Ilaiyaraja

21 Nov

In film music, the opportunity to innovate is quite limited for any composer as the situations for most the songs will be mostly romantic and lucky are those composers who get good directors who challenge them to compose something out-of-the-box for some uncommon situations. Maestro Ilaiyaraja has been extremely luck to have worked with many types of directors with different sensibilities, who have used the genius of the man to get some great music from him. I list down a few songs from Ilaiyaraja which have something different about them.

  1. Enna Samaiyalo-Unnal Mudiyum Thambi-A song having cooking as a situation and Raja uses four raagas in this song viz. Mohanam, Kalyani, Vasantha and Madhyamavathy. The lyrics by Kavingar Vaali are too good where the lyrics match the swara sung in the song exactly. This is a perfect example of two geniuses (Ilaiyaraja and Vaali) working together and complementing each other.
  2. Naan Porandhu Vandhadhu-Maaya Baazar-This is a stupendous song  from the Maestro having only human voices and nothing else. The vocals, interludes and everything in the song is done only by human voices. This concept is quite common in western music but Raja shows that he is the master of almost any genre by composing and orchestrating a song like this. You must hear it to understand the masterly arrangement of human voices making all kinds of sounds including the astounding use of rhythmic laughter! This song came in 1995 when A.R.Rahman was ruling the charts and hence was not noticed by many people. As we say “Class is permanent”, Raja composed such a song even in his supposed “bad days” when people almost forgot him as Rahman was producing some brilliant music.
  3. Om Sivoham-Naan Kadavul-Ilaiyaraja shows again here that he can compose a competent sthotram-like song but only that this is more intense according to the situation in this dark movie. To quote my favourite movie critic Baradwaj Rangan: “This song is six minute detonation of musical fury.” It is composed in Pantuvarali raaga and the best thing about it is the live percussions used which make you almost feel as if Lord Shiva is doing a Shiva Thaandavam. Special mention must be made of Kavignar Vaali who has written wonderful Sanskrit lyrics extolling the various virtues of Lord Shiva. This is the quality of geniuses that they continue to surprise us when we do not expect anything from them.
  4. Aalamadankala Mythavanalle-Pazhassi Raaja-If the previous song was for a devotional situation for Lord Shiva, Raja now cooks up a musical feast for an Islamic devotional song and this is as authentic it can get with all the Islamic chants. When I first heard this song, I forwarded it but when I saw it in the movie, I was stunned as it sounded so perfect in the movie when all the Islamic priests gather together to pray for the well-being of the country. This song will make you imagine the old Arabic tales, it is so haunting, hats off to Ilaiyaraja!!!
  5. Agandhaiyil/Kallil Uyir-Uliyin Osai-I have already written about the music of this movie and these songs are still in my playlist. This is the heights of classical mastery where Ilaiyaraja uses the concept of Gruhabhedham in these songs. Gruhabhedham is the process of shifting the shruthi (scale) to another note in the raaga and arriving at a different raaga. It is not as simple as it sounds and recently eminent violinists Ganesh-Kumaresh had brought out an album using this concept. Ilaiyaraja has used this concept as early as 1985 but I feel these two songs are simply outstanding examples of this concept.

Shubhaniyogamalle: Flashes of brilliance from Ilaiyaraja

19 Jan

Many Ilaiyaraja fans feel that he is not the same composer who used to churn out hit after hit, when he was at his peak. I agree with this point, but I would also like to say that he has achieved so much that he need not do anything now to prove himself. Nowadays a song that elicits a “wow” is quite hard to come by from Ilaiyaraja but sometimes he does display his genius thro’ individual songs. One such song that made me say a big “WOW!!!” is a Malayalam song from a nondescript movie called SMS. If I am right this song is set in Keeravani raaga. It is supposed to be a devotional song but Ilaiyaraja does not make it sound too simple. It has a very melodious, addictive tune with splendid variations (which we have got used to from the maestro). The orchestration is very simple with strings & wonderful flute pieces creating a very soothing effect. Don’t miss this song! Listen to it here.

We Ilaiyaraja fans……………

10 Jan

Baradwaj Rangan in this post has captured the exact feeling of being an Ilaiyaraja fan beautifully. This is writing at its BEST! Even if you are not an Ilaiyaraja fan, you will enjoy reading this. Thanks Baradwaj!

Uliyin Osai—Masterstroke from Maestro Ilaiyaraja

22 Dec

Uliyin Osai has to be one of THE best soundtracks of Maestro Ilaiyaraja at least considering the 2 stunning classical compositions in it. I am now only able to FULLY appreciate the genius of the songs, especially Aganthaiyil, Pulargindra, Kaalathai Vendra and Kallai Irundhen. Instead of writing about these, I would like you to read a brilliantly written post here. After reading it, I am enjoying the songs even more! It will give you a clear idea about the intricacies of the compositions tuned by Maestro Ilaiyaraja and how he THINKS in a different plane altogether. Though I am not so well-versed in classical music, I am still hooked to these songs, just imagine the classical connoisseurs, how much bliss they would be deriving from these songs!

Ilaiyaraja and Background Scores

22 Oct

One of the greatest contributions of Ilaiyaraja (apart from his songs in multiple languages) are his background scores (BGM’s) for movies, whose discussion would need a separate blog for itself! This is no exaggeration because if you see the movies where the maestro has scored music, you would notice that the movie “looks much better” because of the music. I can recount hundreds of scenes from movies where the music has taken the impact of that scene to a different level. You remove the music from the scene and the impact of the scene would not even be half of the original.
Making background music is no easy task. What makes IR special is that he gives equal importance to the background score as he gives to the songs. His BGM’s are not just a patchwork which is very common otherwise. Ilaiyaraja’s BGM’s are characterized by:

  1. Grand string arrangements-He has used 75 violins and an assortment of instruments you can think of.
  2. Unconventional instrument usage for scenes-In Shiva (Telugu) chase scene he used a mindblowing violin piece for the chase which sounded perfect for that scene. Who would think of using violin for a chase, normally we would use some percussion instrument!
  3. Great themes-The theme scores of Ilaiyaraja are so good that they can be released as a separate CD by themselves. The legend has used flutes, guitars, violins beautifully to create some immortal theme pieces. Case in point Mouna Ragam, Nayagan, Punnagai Mannan, Unnakagave Vaazhgiren and many many more.

Here is a totally incomplete, only-indicative list of movies which have some stunning BGM’s by the Legend.

  1. Kadhalukku Mariyadhai
  2. Pithamagan
  3. Mouna Ragam
  4. Anjali
  5. Mahanadhi
  6. Aboorva Sagodharargal
  7. Thalapathy
  8. Kaalapaani (Malayalam)
  9. Azhagi (what a masterpiece!)
  10. Aruvadai Naal

The list is endless and this is just for a reference. Ilaiyaraja’s music is an ocean, there are still so many hundreds of songs which I am discovering every now and then which reaffirm my faith that he is indeed the “composer of this century” as exclaimed by none other than Dr.Balamuralikrishna who himself is a legend! I don’t think there is any other composer who is so COMPLETE as Ilaiyaraja who has proven his mettle thro’ his songs, BGM’s and creating tunes in almost every genre of music!