Ilayaraja.! A name synonymous with the Indian Music Industry. An incomparable genius who totally transformed the perception of people towards film music. Ilayaraja’s acumen and knowledge of the aesthetics of music and cinema is what sets him apart from the rest.
1. Because it is not about who did it. What matters is ‘who did it first’.
He was the first Asian to write a symphony for the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, at London in 1993. What is even more remarkable is the fact that he did it in an amazing one-month span. Pandit Ravi Shankar was the only other Indian to do it, besides him.
2. Because he scored for over 1000 feature films in a trivial period of 38 years.
Now, how remarkable is that!
3. He earned a diploma in music from the renowned Trinity College, London.
I guess he has a history with the place, afterall. ?
4. He is a gold medalist in Classical Guitar from the ‘Trinity College of Music’.
Classical and Guitar? Whoa! A true multitasker to his name.
5. He didn’t just make music, he ‘creates’ it.
Ilayaraja is believed to have invented a new Carnatic raga, popularly known as ‘Panchamukhi’.
6. “Give me half an hour and I can finish a film”, his famous lines.
His notable works include his 400th and 500th films, Nayakan (1987) and Anjali (1990), in that order.
7. The prodigy did not just end it with films. He came up with albums too!
His noted musical works include “Nothing But the Wind,” “How to Name It,” and “Singing Skylarks”.8. He is nothing short of a legend. With a whopping 4,500 songs recorded in his career, his entry into films was significant.
9. His contribution in bringing ‘orchestration’ to the Tamil Industry is commendable.
He fused the art of symphonic orchestration with traditional Indian instrumentation, usually performed by the Budapest Symphony Orchestra. The face of the industry changed ever since!
10. “Folk music has been used earlier, but quite functionally through classical music idiom. Ilayaraja brought it with its soul, with its earthy character”, said Theodore Baskaran (a National Award Winner and famous Tamil historian).
He introduced the perfect blend of Indian and Western Classical Music, and also integrated it with the folk music of the Tamils; which is probably what made his music authentic.
11. The authenticity in the instruments he used is astounding.
He used unique instruments like astharai, nadaswaram and thappattai (drums).
12. His command over Carnatic Music has been applauded worldwide.
In many films, he has demonstrated his skill over the genre, handling some extremely difficult ragas.
13. He is particularly acclaimed for his beautiful ‘background scoring’.
He bagged the first National Award constituted for Background Music Score, for the film, ‘Pazhassi Raja’.
His re-recording in films like Uthiripookal, Moodupani, Mullum Malarum, Moondram Pirai, Nayagan, Thalapathi, Hey Ram and Pithamagan has been a stand-out!
14. He was one of the earliest Indian film composers to use Western classical music harmonies and string arrangements in Indian film music.
He composed songs that amalgamated a wide range of international genres into Indian music, some of which are Jazz, Pathos, Pop, Bossa Nova, Funk, Doo-Wop, Flamenco and Afro-Tribal.
15. He has never had a dearth for awards!
Besides A.R.Rahman, he is the only Indian music composer to have won four National Film Awards (the highest honor in the Indian Cinema industry); three for best music direction and one for best background score.
He is also the recipient of the coveted ‘Padma Bhushan’, awarded by the Government of India.
16. He has transcended boundaries.
Telugu, Hindi, Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam – well he surely has proven that music knows no language! Amitabh Bachchan, who sang a couple of songs under his music direction had this to say about the legend –
17. He is a multifaceted artist.
He is an Instrumentalist, Conductor, Singer, Score Composer, Music Director, Lyricist and Film Producer. Why else do you think he’s called the “Music Maestro”?
18. He is a man of the masses.
Also standing testimony to his phenomenally successful career is his record in winning Polls and People’s Awards.In a poll conducted by CNN-IBN celebrating 100 years of Indian cinema in 2013, Ilayaraja was voted the greatest music composer of India with a maximum of 49%.
19. He is TRENDY!
In his career spanning over 30 years, Ilayaraja has composed a diverse variety of songs. His latest films like Yeto Vellipoyindhi Manasu and Shamitabh gave us a modern touch with a native feel.
And no one can do it better than him. Touche! Long Live, the “Maestro”!