Maestro Ilayaraja - Great Composer of Tamil Nadu
A Musical Genius in Tamil Film Industry
Ilayaraja a famous musician come singer from Tamil Nadu. 'Raja', as he is commonly known and lovingly called, comes from a family of musicians.
He has composed more than 850 albums in Indian film industry right through his career of more than 25 years. 'Raja', as he is commonly known and lovingly called, comes from a family of musicians.
He is also known as 'Isaingyani' which means a 'Musical Genius' in Tamil Film Industry. He was from a rural family and background. He achieved the highest position in the musical world of Tamil Nadu.
Photo courtesy: Photobucket
Who Is Ilayaraja?
Ilayaraja was born on June 2, 1943 in a countryside family. Born and brought up in a little known village 'Pannaipuram' near Kambam in South part of Tamil Nadu. Ilayaraja's mother, a huge storehouse of Tamil folk songs, seems to be a very strong inspiration in his music.
He was exposed to a span of Tamil folk music. At first he learned to play the harmonium, the typical musical instrument used in street performances. At the age of 14, he joined in a travelling musical group headed by his stepbrother Pavalar Varadarajan, and spent the next decade performing throughout Southern part of India.
Raja picked up most of his intelligence for audience tastes during this period. Raja didn't have good education but after an acknowledgment in Tamil cinema industry he did 'Classical Guitar' course in Trinity College of Music, London. He got a gold medal in this course.
In his first movie he fused Tamil Film Music and Tamil Folk Music. He was one who first to do that attempt and got succeeded. He got National Best Film Music Composer awards and bagged many awards in regional level. His music was of great individuality as he combined Western and Indian instruments.
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His Cinema Career
In the year 1969, Ilayaraja shifted to Chennai, the South Indian Cinema capital. He was 29 years old, looking for a break into film industry. Here he studied playing the guitar and piano in the Western style under Dhanraj Master. Ilayaraja's break into film music came with the famous movie 'Annakili '(1976).
This film was a village story, in which Ilayaraja composed impressive folk melodies. The songs bid simplicity and musicality mainstream of Tamil folk music in a realistic way, and they presented new sounds, rich orchestration typical of Western music.
The songs became hit; the most admired one was the song "Machchana Partheengala" sung by a female singer, S. Janaki. This was keeps on by a series of movies that exposed existing Tamil villages in an accurate way.
For all of these movies Raja composed remarkable songs. Most well-liked songs were "Senthoorappove" and "Aatukkutti Mutaiyittu" from the film 'Pathinaru Vayathinile' (1977).
Ilayaraja's Sensational Hits
He composed 'Thiruvasagam', which is an old Tamil Spiritual Literature, in his symphony for Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO). Ilayaraja composed his symphony with a high-profile squad of musicians and sound engineers and they are from Budapest Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Laszlo kovacs and Oscar winning Lyricist Stephen Schwartz along with five time Grammy-award winner for sound engineer, Richard King.
He did this symphony principally to fascinate younger generations to Tamil Nadu's spiritual traditions. This album was released on June 30, 2005 at the Music Academy in Chennai. The CD of this album was also released in US in the 'Tamizhar Thiruvizha' (Tamil's Festival).
Thiruvasagam - in Rajas Music
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His Music Style
Ilaiyaraaja was one who used Western classical music harmonies and string arrangements in Indian film music. This let him to craft a rich tapestry of sounds for movies he worked, and his themes. His background score obtained notice and admiration along with Indian film audiences.
This range of expressive options in Indian film music was expanded by Ilayaraja's systematic approach to arranging, recording technique. He is familiar for his ideas drawing techniques from a diversity of musical styles. Ilaiyaraaja has composed Indian film songs that fused elements of genres such as Afro-tribal, acoustic guitar-propelled Western folk, bossa nova, jazz, disco music, pop music, flamenco, funk, Indian classical and rock and roll etc.
According to notable Musicologist P. Greene, Ilaiyaraaja's "deep understanding of so many different styles of music allowed him to create syncretic pieces of music combining very different musical idioms in unified, coherent musical statements"