Engeyum Ephodhum - Ilayaraja in Toronto - Event Story

Feb 17, 2013
Engeyum Ephodhum - Ilayaraja in Toronto

It was postponed for over three months to a date in the dead of winter with a temperature below zero and a snowstorm brewing by early evening, but that didn’t keep thousands of Tamil music fans from filling the famous Rogers Centre on the night of Saturday February 16th in Toronto, Canada. With an estimated 25, 000 in attendance Maestro Illaiyaraja made his Canadian debut in a true celebration of Tamil music, films and all that his musical family has contributed to the industry over the past 30 plus years, bringing with him a strong legion of playback singers and a few film personalities to entertain the masses. Originally scheduled for November 3rd of last year, fans generally agreed that the award-winning composer & artists delivered in terms of musical grandeur and richness, but the organizers of the event disappointed crowds with a 2 hour delay in start time, and a failure to deliver many of the advertised stars. But despite the tiring delay, a chanting of “We Want Raja” immediately dissolved into thundering applause and cheers as the orchestra took their places and the “Deva Ragan” appeared approaching his signature position by the harmonium. Here are some quick highlights/an overview of the night:

-          The show opened with a rich musical interlude and after Karthik performed first and earned the cheers of his female fans, Illaiyaraja lined up heavy-hitting legends Hariharan, Chitra and S.P. Balasubramaniam – all clad in white and all singing arguably their most popular solo Illaiyaraja hits.

-          MCs Gobinath of Vijay TV and Actor/Director/Poet Parthiben kept the show moving along with clever wordplay and candid Illaiyaraja stories, as Sadhana Sargam, Madhu Balakrishnan, NSK Ramya and talented backup vocalists (including Anitha & Priya Himesh) continued the performances.

-          The most entertaining MC, comedian Vivek, headlined the real winning portion of the night as he joked about the long delay, classic Illaiyaraja compositions and the Raja family, and also introduced a constant rotation of the legends continuing their hits.

-          To some of the crowd’s dismay Yuvan Shankar Raja, and married actors Sneha & Prasanna were not brought on stage till past halfway through the show, however Yuvan’s performances still got the crowd moving through the night.

-          The true highpoints of the night included the amazingly synchronized orchestra, rich in strings and percussion, and the appropriate rotation of classic older singers with younger performers. And despite being advertised, singers Mano, KJ Yesudas, Vijay Yesudas, Haricharan and Shwetha Mohan were noticeably absent, as was director Gautham Menon, but the heavy use of Hariharan, SPB & Chitra was enough to satisfy crowds.

Most would agree that the repertoire categorized the show as geared towards the older generation, as Illaiyaraja did not perform many recent hits, such as those from Nee Thane En Ponvasantham, but any real disappointment lied in the organization of the show, which included several speeches, certainly not by the Maestro, and the show ended abruptly without proper recognition of the orchestra or singers. Overall the show was enjoyed by true Illaiyaraja fans who were present to hear a rich presentation of live music without much additional production or gimmicks. And after nearly 5 hours of nonstop performance Illaiyaraja ended with a slight rewrite to one of his famous tunes to appreciate all those Tamil fans who “have crossed 7 seas in this life” to make a home for themselves in Canada, for sharing this historic night with him, which was certainly one to remember for all those present.



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