Monday, 21 March 2016

1000 & counting- A fan's perspective on Ilaiyaraaja and the impact of his music- Part 1

Music means a lot to us. There are multiple emotions associated with music and the immense power it has on people. People can feel joy, happiness, pain, angst just by listening to music be it in any form.

Recently  renowned musician & composer 'Isaignani' Ilaiyaraaja  completed his 1000th album as a composer/music director. Yes you read that right, he has over a span of 40 years composed music for 1000 movies across languages such as Tamil, Telegu, Malayalam & Hindi. A feat hard to beat, his music has transcended boundaries, generations and still finds a place close to listeners hearts.

As a tribute to this composer & his achievement, I got the pleasure to collaborate with Chandra Sekar who among others is a huge fan of Ilaiyaaraja. So what better way than to hear it from a fan- a fan's tribute to this legend. In this blog post & the next we will get to know what his music means to people, the emotions associated with the songs he composes and how in his case it has personally shaped up his Carnatic music and the musician within him.

In this blog post, we will get to know about 'Isaignani' Ilaiyaraaja's music journey presented in the words of  Chandra Sekar.

I was chatting with an acquaintance and fellow Raaja fan recently and he was lamenting about how he is not as prolific as he was in the 80’s and early 90’s and that his work is not as good as the stuff back then. I have a very different take on this.

Yes, he has slowed down. But he is still doing about 10-15 films a year, which is a lot by any standard, considering that the industry and the associated technology has changed a lot since the 80’s when it was all live orchestra and everything recorded in unison.

There are a whole lot of music directors and new talents vying for a space under the arc lights. Despite all this, here is a septuagenarian still doing over 10 films a year apart from non-film music like Swappnam - the colossal soundscape conceived and created for the Dance show, conceptualized, directed and choreographed by danseuse Krithika Subrahmanyan .

Another apprehension of longtime fans is that some directors, technicians and stars with whom Raaja has had some of his best works have moved away, like directors Maniratnam, Bharathiraja, lyricist Vairamuthu etc.

Yes, as a fan it is unfortunate that they don’t work together anymore. But I am happy that many GenNext directors/contemporary stars like Gautham Menon, Dhanush, Manikandan, Vijay Sethupathi, Myskkin, Balki, Prakashraj and the likes are collaborating with him which is  adding new dimensions to his musical output and in turn their films.

 Here is a track from the Gautham Menon film ‘Neethaane En Ponvasantham’. I played it to a musician friend from the eastern part of the country few days back and he was stunned by the usage of the 7 beat cycle in this composition.

People who have been following his work closely will know that he has done some absolutely brilliant work for some obscure films, especially in the 90’s when he worked with a lot of debut directors.

 I am not one who will say whatever he has done is great. There are songs that I don’t like. There have also been songs that I have not liked in the audio but have fallen in love with after seeing how they fit the film and its context

The point here is when someone is experimenting and reinventing at some level all the time there are bound to be misses and things that don’t work. The best part is that the experimentation has not diminished one bit. Check out this quirky track from the most recent Shamitabh. Honestly, I would not have believed if someone told me, the composer of this track was a 73 year old man.

 For people who grew up  listening to his music , they often said that  one of the  main reasons for the humongous popularity of movies of actors like Kamal Haasan and Rajnikanth to name a few was because of the tunes this man composed and not to forget the soul stirring background scores he was able to conjure making the scene even more effective & impactful.

In this modern time where there are other music directors who are more popular & work with the bigger stars , I sense a bit of lament when they say he is no longer working with cream of the crop but I also sense optimism & hope that in spite of him  composing tunes for four decades he  gets to work with the new gen directors.

In the next blog post, we will get to hear about the impact  Ilaiyaaraja's music has had on Praveen personally and also get to explore more about his musical style and also what has kept this longevity going as far as Raaja's musical journey goes,  as let's face it, not many music directors can score music for over 1000 albums across many languages and still be popular.


  1. Always loved his music, nice to read this article. Awaiting the next part.

  2. I am sure like you there will be countless people who would have listened to his music and loved listening to it.

    With regards to the second part well that's coming soon!


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