Have you listened to top Carnatic violinist Embar Kannan and his student Rangappriya Sankaranarayanan’s ‘Practice Session Series’ featuring some of his classics yet?
Did you try popular singer Sathyaprakash’s Acapella cover of ‘Vaazha Vaikkum’ from ‘Aboorva Sagotharargal’ or Indosoul’s version of the iconic ‘Kanmani Anbodu’ from Guna?
That is not all.
Top Carnatic vocalist Sikkil Gurucharan’s ‘Masterclass’ on how film music influenced his style, was largely an ode to his compositions.
Popular TV producer and event Director, Subashree Thanikachalam’s social media series ‘Quarantine from Reality’ was largely filled with his musical gems and many rare ones at that. The same goes for, the raga based posts put out by popular Malayalam composers Sharreth and M.Jayachandran.
Lydian Nadhaswaram the child prodigy who won ‘The World’s Best’ title in 2019 and his family produced and arranged a stunning version of the scintillating ‘Polla Vinayaen’ from his non-film album ‘Thiruvasagam’.
Many other young musicians did cover versions of his compositions and the list goes on.
And all this happened during the last couple of months when the nation was under lockdown following the Covid-19 crisis.
Yes, we are talking about Maestro Ilaiyaraaja who turns 77 on Jun 02, 2020, and the impact of his music.
His path-breaking music has always inspired musicians and music lovers alike over the last 44 years but over the last few weeks, one observed how his music has almost been therapy.
It is rare to find a film music composer being adored by generations of Carnatic musicians. From doyens in the field like Shri.Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, Dr.M.Balamurali Krishna & Shri. T.V.Gopalakrishnan to the current crop of stars like Sanjay Subrahmanyam, T.M.Krishna, Sudha Raghunathan & Bombay Jayashri to internationally acclaimed new age musicians like Guitar Prasanna, Sivamani & Selva Ganesh, the admiration Ilaiyaraaja enjoys is quite unparalleled.
Knowledgeable fans have dissected his usage of raga’s and technical aspects like Shruthi Bedam & Graha Bedam that even established musicians hesitate to touch. But when quizzed about this, the Maestro has always maintained that he never plans any of these and “they just happen”. It is hard not to believe him as one got to experience during his masterclass at IFFI Goa last November, were in the space of a few minutes he composed a leitmotif that was performed to breathtaking effect by his orchestra. But what sets him apart is the divine connection that his music has with the lay listener that does not know of a Shadja and Pizzicato or care about expensive audio equipment either.
The first Asian Composer to write a complete Symphonic score (unreleased) for the London Philharmonic Orchestra, he is one of the very few composers who can ‘write’ music without having the need to play it. Legendary filmmaker Maniratnam who shares his birthday with the Maestro, once remarked how Raaja would watch the raw visuals once write music that when performed will fit exactly to the length of the scene with all the right cues in place.
Ilaiyaraaja has always walked the tight rope between commercial success and experimentation all his career with great aplomb. Whether it is the ‘A cappella’ from the film ‘Maya Bazaar 1995’ or a song composed only with ascending notes (Aarohanam/Aaroh in classical music) or a 3 note composition or a song with only percussion & voices even for the interludes or a Mozart symphony adapted to folk, he has always been a pioneer in innovation staying within the boundaries of the canvas of films.
But what is heartening to see is the man’s zest for reinvention and how he has managed to stay relevant, thereby appealing to the millennials as well. His compositions and score for the recent release ‘Psycho’ and the sweeping anthem for the Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages are proof enough. And as experienced during the lockdown, the treasure trove of over 1000 films and non-film albums he has bestowed upon us continue to enthrall and surprise us in equal measure, endlessly.
The below verses from Vishwakavi Rabindranath Tagore’s celebrated work ‘Gitanjali’ aptly reflect the impact of Ilaiyaraaja’s music on millions of music lovers.
“Thou hast made me endless, such is thy pleasure. This frail vessel thou emptiest again and again, and fillest it ever with fresh life.
This little flute of a reed thou hast carried over hills and dales, and hast breathed through it melodies eternally new.
At the immortal touch of thy hands my little heart loses its limits in joy and gives birth to utterance ineffable.
Thy infinite gifts come to me only on these very small hands of mine. Ages pass, and still thou pourest, and still there is room to fill.”
Here’s wishing the legendary composer a very happy birthday, good health and happiness!