Ilayaraja = musIc

Ilayaraja = musIc

By Shreesha BU isn't responsible for the views expressed by the visitor in this column. The visitor claims that this column is his/her own. If the column infringes any copyrights that you hold, please email us at

He is admired in the west, esteemed nationally and revered here in the South.. There is little that’s not been written about this “Genius”.. Stalwarts in music have sung paeans, written reams on this incredibly talented musician.. To the layman his music has been his everything for anything in his life.. Music for all emotions in his life.. To millions of his unflinching fans the letter “I” in the word music represented Ilayaraja..
There is little of the man you would distinguish behind those simple clothes, and his controlled movements. You might have to take a closer look at his face and not miss that enigmatic smile, which obscures more than it reveals. His eyes capitulates it all.. It reflects the brilliance, the honesty and the purity of his music. Just like you yield to his music, you surrender to this prodigy.
Its more than tempting to call him the most “Complete” music composer.. While composers before and after him composed the traditional way creating tunes and orchestrating it later, IR wrote music for his tune. Mystifying is his ability to structure a song in his mind and to write the notes for it to be played by the musicians later. It’s identical to writing a story. He made it sound so effortless. It’s the novices who would call him folk king, for his understanding of western music is very profound. He is undoubtedly the virtuoso recitalist when it came to fusion music. In an era and subsequent as well, where fusion music meant mixing of two genres like oil and water, IR’s blend of Indian and western music was so flawless and sonorous. A rich folk song would be layered with delightfully crafted western pieces that in no way cluttered the nativity of the song. Only in isolation would the pieces be deciphered.. On the whole the song would retain the flavor to its end. He has done it all.. Done all genres. He was no magician, for he by no means believed in tricks.. He never would slip in an instrument as an element of surprise in the ensemble already decided. His signature preludes and interludes will defy time generations to come. His objectivity in composing is very ordered. He never let musicians and singers overlap, his preludes and interludes were for his creative best with instruments and while the singers took centre stage, he let the rhythm play, never for once letting the instruments override the singers. Overall the tenor of the song from the beginning to the end never wavered. The instruments never tried to sing nor did the singers try to sound like an instrument. Violins and flute dominated most of his interludes yet every interlude carried its own characteristics rarely crying attention of a repetition. Imagine this for over 10000 preludes, interludes, themes or BGMS that would take ones breath away. We can easily have over 10000 new tunes with his preludes and interludes alone.. Most of his songs can be simply identified with an interlude or a prelude. Its astonishing considering his music bank has over 6000 songs. He has everything for every sentiment. Each soundtrack of his is a story. That is perhaps the reason why while you remix his song it still doesn’t come close to his original.  For while you listen to the original track you might look at scope for improvements but when you do try improvising the output is unexciting. His songs are best left alone, not to be tweaked.
He never tried to bighead himself in his compositions. He kept it simple, straight and earnest. Soul was never sacrificed for brilliance, intelligence or smartness. He would never compromise anything about the track; he had it all behind his illuminating eyes. He knew the best; improvisations never crept in, be it in singing or the orchestration.

It’s a mystery why this incredibly talented musician just rarely ventured out of his succinct. With his enormous talent coupled with a resonant knowledge of world music it’s surprising to see this genius being swept away by the new generation composers. More startling is to see a subdued image of his former self. For we know what this “Greatness” personified is capable of. As we all wait for the gentle breeze to sweep us back into his kingdom once again, we will have his memorable songs to kindle every emotion within us so long. Forever for our Ilayaraja.
Shreesha BU

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