There is nothing as annoying as Film songs blaring out in a bus in the early hours of a workday. But, when the songs happen to be that of Ilayaraja, there is hardly a complaint; people are rather happy to begin the day with the mellifluous melodies of Ilayaraja as these melodies are capable of rejuvenating a dull mind and soothing the soul. One of the greatest film composers in India, Ilayaraja has been composing Music to South Indian films from the mid 70s. The songs composed by this extraordinary genius had indeed held captive an entire generation.
Ilaiyaraja brought Western classical music harmonies and string arrangements into Film Music while the core of his compositions remained very native as he drew ideas from local genres like folk songs. Renowned musicologist P. Greene says that Ilaiyaraja’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”.
While the common man enjoyed Ilayaraja’s songs for their mesmerising tune and orchestration, a nuanced listener awed at the genius of the composer which made these three or so minute songs perfect musical compositions without even the slightest flaw. In the 80s and 90s songs kept coming out of him in an unimaginable frequency as if he were a tune machine. But almost all his songs became hit and many films succeeded at the box office because of his music.
The violin piece at beginning of Rakkamma Kaiya Thattu in Rajinikant starrer film Thalapathi is one of Ilaiyaraaja’s composition. This score has been used by radio channels and TV programs as a background for promoting their shows or music hours that features best of the ‘Isaignani Ilayaraja’
Not only the songs but the background scores of Ilayaraja too became the talk of both his fans and music pundits. Maybe he was the first composer who made fans to appreciate background scores. Ilayaraja’s background scores are pure, independent musical compositions on their own. Apart from film music Ilayarja brought forth two albums namely ‘How to Name it’ and ‘Nothing but Wind’. ‘How to Name It’ was dedicated to the Carnatic master Tyagaraja and to J. S. Bach. It features a fusion of the Carnatic form and ragas with Bach instrumental suites. ‘Nothing but Wind’ was performed by flautist Hariprasad Chaurasia.
Image Credit: rajasmusic
In the early 90s, perhaps with Mani Ratnam’s Roja, the entry of AR Rehman as music composer took the South Indian film industry by storm. The ‘Mozart of Madras’ came with new, refreshing tunes which are fusions of Western, Carnatic and local genres. Rehman’s entry was a mark of the ‘inevitable change’ in film music and youngsters found the much needed switch over in his songs. Ilayaraja’s hold in film music began to decline in the early years of the new millennium as his songs were found to be lacking in their usual thrill and vigour. But, there is hardly anything that Ilayaraja hasn’t achieved in film music. The musical works in his four decades long career will be testimony to the Maestro’s incomparable genius.
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