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ILAYARAJA - PROFILE

Born  on 2nd June 1943 in Pannaipuram, a little hamlet at the foot of the Western Ghats in  Madurai district of Tamil Nadu State, South India.

In 1970 appeared for the examinations of the Trinity college of Music, London in Classical Guitar and came out with a Gold Medal.

In 1976 got his first break as Music Director for the Tamil film Annakkili.

Since then , as of October 1994, has composed music for 700 feature films in  Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, Hindi and English.  Apart from background score has composed nearly 3500 songs for the films.

Has won the National Award as the Best Music Director three times for his musical score in Sindu Bairavi(Tamil),  Sahara Sangamam(Telugu) and Rudhra Veena(Telugu).

Has won the State government awards as the Best Music Director many times from the governments of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. Was conferred the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters by the Annamalai University of Chidambaram,  India in April 1994,  by the World University of Arizona, USA in June 1994 and by Madurai Kamaraj University in 1996 for his achievements in and contributions to music.

Has many non-film albums to his credit.  Notable among them is Vedic Chants , a rendition of the Vedas by an eight year old girl.

Has recorded a carnatic classical album, which is scheduled for release in 1994.  This is his first major attempt in composing krithis in carnatic classical music.  This album contains seven krithis composed by him in Tamil and Sanskrit. 

Has two fusion music albums to his credit.  How To Name It? and Nothing But Wind.  The second album features noted flautist Hari Prasad Chaurasia as the solo flautist.

In July 1993 recorded his first major work in western classical music, his Symphony No.1 with the world famous Royal philharmonic Orchestra of London under the baton of John Scott.

With Her Majesty The Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother as its patron and Lord Yehudi Menuhin as its President, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is one of the best in the western classical world.  Ilaiyaraaja is the first Asian whose symphony was performed by the RPO.

And he is also the first Indian who has written a western classical symphony.  Composing a symphony is the ultimate in composing music in the western classical tradition.  That is on the lines of such great composers like Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, et.al. who had given us so much of great music.  The time taken to complete a symphony to be played by a full scale symphony orchestra varies from composer to composer; depending upon his mood, the complexity of music, etc.   If Mozart took a few days to complete a symphony, Brahms took fourteen years to complete one of his symphonies.  And Ilaiyaraaja well known for his speed of composing completed this symphony in just one month's time.

John Scott, who conducted the RPO during the recordings, is one of the leading conductors of England.   He is also well known as a composer.  He won an Emmy Award for Wild Dogs of Africa in 1971 and his music for the film Antony and Cleopatra is much acclaimed.

The recordings were done at the Walthamstow Town Hall in London on 19, 20 and 21 July 1993.

 Ilayaraja was born in 1943 in a  small village  near Madurai, Tamil Nadu (India), Pannaipuram. He was the third son to Ramasamy and Chinnathayi. Althoug he was named as Gnanadesikan he was affectionately called as  Rasaiyya. Later in his life, he began to stick the Raja named by his tutor Dhanraj Master under whom he learnt  a considerable chunk of instrument skills. Finally Ilayaraja name was given to the tamil film director Panju Arunachalam. Ilayaraja has many conferred upon him. Of all the title "Isaignani" given by Karunanidhi(current CM) gained more popularity. Other titles were Nadhabramam (God of music creation), Ragadevan (king of tunes), Maestro, Isai Chakravarthy.

 The Ramaswamy, Chinnaththaayi  couple gave birth to Varadharajan, Kamala, Padma, Baskar, Rasaiyya and Amarsingh.  After Ramaswamy's demise,  Chinnathayi took the realms of the family and struggled hard to raise her kids. Ilayaraja had extreme love and affection towards his mother which could be sensed in his compositions even today.

Eldest son, Varadharajan was a good lyricist , his connections with a communist group helped him to sing on political podia. Ilayaraja was an introvert, constantly exploring his skills in music. Ilayaraja produced  some movies later in his life under the banner --Pavalar productions in rememberance of his brother who died when the family faced exteme poverty.  Chinnasami, who is now well known as Bharathi Raja in Tamil Nadu, was working as health inspector in a nearby town called theni, and used to visit Pannaipuram in those days.

 Chinnasami's dream was to perform like thespian artist and one of India's finest actors, Sivaji Ganesan, who had  made permanent impressions in the field of thamizh cinema. His interests in cinema tweedled the pAvalar brothers  too. He came to Madras from his native village in 1968 to learn music.  He appeared for the examinations of the Trinity college of Music, London in classical guitar and came out with a gold medal.  Simultaneously he had his grounding in Indian classical music.  During this period he had begun writing experimental music and was trying to form an orchestra of his own to play itThey joined Chinnasami a k a Barathi Raja in Madras, the megalopolis of South India, who was an Assistant  Director then. The trip to Madras did not help the brothers in the beginning. They scored music for some drama  houses, performed on the stages, played choir music in churches, besides hop-skiping VIPs entreating music  openings in the tinsel world. The pAvalar brothers managed  to land in the orchestra of G K Venkatesh. G K Venkatesh who was an assistant in the popular twosome  Viswanathan - Ramamurthy's orchestra, had just then started his own orchestra. Then he accidentally became a film music director.

It was the beginning of a new era in Indian film music.  Since then, in 18 years, he has written music for nearly 700 films, which must be an international record.  With his deft improvisations and constant experiments he has composed more than 3500 songs for the films.  Apart from many titles, he has won the  National awards and State awards many times.

He is an unbelievably fast and indefatigable worker.  A complete music director who does everything-composing, orchestration, arrangement of instruments, writing notations, conducting and even sound recording and balancing of tracks.  He is a master composer and a brilliant orchestrator.

Ilayaraja entered the tamil film industry and composed his first tamil music in 1976 for the movie 'Annakili". The score for this film was a runaway success. It took the audience by surprise as it was totally a different kind of music than the other leading music directors at that time--MSV etc.  Slowly he entered the tamil fim music industry and started to compose. In the early 80's he used to produce music for atleast 40 movies per year. And 99% of those movies were a instant hit and movies ran for 100 days just for the sake of the music alone. Directors were using his name to make profit. Movie banners carried his virtuoso and name everywhere. To be more blunt, just for his name in the movie---there were several movies which ran for more than 100 days like Ithayakoil etc.. He adores his seniors in the tamil music field and has great respect for hindi music composers like Ramachandra, Madan Mohan. J S  Bach is his favorite in the West, and never fails to express his views about him either with the baton or with words, when opportunity strikes. 

 Ilayaraja spontaneously writing the notes for a re-recording at Prasad Studio while the musicians copy their part to be played.Without playing the part  first, he just composes the notes.Amazing isn't it???

 Ilayaraja has scored music for a little over 750 movies, and, he is still the most sought after composer, down south, in terms of quality and creativity. His compositions have been melodious and sweet.time in 1976.  Even today the Maestro adroitly  creates music using notation form and does that before you could bat your eye. It has been observed that he can sit down and write all the notations for an entire song for all the instruements while the musicians stand behind and jot down their part. He has scored music for Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Hindi and one English movie.His on-stage carnatic vocal performance took place in 1994, in Madras, India. He sang his own "Kirthanaas" (songs in carnatic music ) on the stage, then. He created the Raaga "Panchamukhi" explaining the five facets of music that included the colorful aspect of film music. 

 He is the only music director to compose a song in just 3 notes (swaras).Usually a song requires a minimum of 5 notes.

 Ilayaraja has won the Indian National Film Music Award for his scores in the movies sAgara sangamam  (1985), sindhu bhairavi (1987) and rudhra veena (1989). He was awarded in March, 1999, the prestigious Lata   Mangeshkar Award instituted by the State of Madya Pradesh, for the year 1998.

  Besides scoring music for Indian films, Ilayaraja has scored other kinds of music too. His first fusion music album "How To Name It?" set a new trend in the audience who were exposed to this music for the first time. The album has great musical movements that are dedicated to Thiagaraaja, a religious musician composer of South India (1767 - 1847) and propounder of numerous western classical  compositions, J. S. Bach ( 1685 - 1750) of Germany. 

  "How to Name it" was followed by his album "Nothing But Wind" that had more elements of empiricism and a final deduction that suggests music is nothing but wind. HariPrasad Chaurasia Maestro Flautist of North India throws a weighty performance teaming up with ILayaraja in this album only to give some unexampled music to rejoice with. 

 His latest album "India 24 Hours" a score for the docu-feature film India 24 Hours, reflects the cultural fabric of  India that is painted with capricious colors of religions, languages and customs. Pain, Pleasure, Hope, Despair,  Aspirations of the millions of India , captured in a span of 24 hours, personified by music.His much talked about Symphony No. 1, scored by him in June, 1993, has not yet been released, and millions of his fans are only looking forward to the symphony hitting  the stands any time. 

 Some of his spiritual albums are : Gitanjali, Raajavin Ramana Maalai, Ilayarajavin geethavazhippaadu, Vedic Chants. He was influenced by saints Sri Ramana Maharishi, Saadhu Sri Raam Surat Kumar fondly known as Visiri Saamiyaar. Currently he is planning(Oct, 99) to release a spiritual album on "Thai Mugambikai".

 "His music will be heard through the twenty-first century" predicted Mr. Joseph Eager, Conductor, World Symphony Orchestra, at a function to release the CD of his new album Nothing But Wind in New York in 1988.

  "Your ears will hear music like they never heard before" commented Mr. Victor Rangel Ribeiro, a well-known musicologist and author of Baroque Music-A Practical Guide  to Performers.

 "He is leading us to a very special world of music appreciation and has opened doors of new horizons of new age music" said Mr. Stephen Davis of New Age.

  And the flattering response of the world's toughest critics and musicologists has been unanimous in proclaiming him as a composer of a new kind of music.

 The praise showered is on the phenomenon of Ilaiyaraaja.  In a land of prolific composers he has become a legend.  One of the most original composers India has produced, he is extraordinarily versatile and has an unorthodox approach to music.  A musician with unusual gifts working in the film medium and much ahead of his time.

 Born in 1943, Ilaiyaraaja joined his elder brother's music troupe when he was 15.He came to Madras from his native village in 1968 to learn music.  He appeared for the examinations of the Trinity college of Music, London in classical guitar and came out with a gold medal.  Simultaneously he had his grounding in Indian classical music.  During this period he had begun writing experimental music and was trying to form an orchestra of his own to play it.  Then he accidentally became a film music director.

 It was the beginning of a new era in Indian film music.  Since then, in 18 years, he has written music for nearly 700 films, which must be an international record.  With his deft improvisations and constant experiments he has composed more than 3500 songs for the films.  Apart from many titles, he has won the  National awards and State awards many times.  He is an unbelievably fast and indefatigable worker.  A complete music director who does everything-composing, orchestration, arrangement of instruments, writing notations, conducting and even sound recording and balancing of tracks.  He is a master composer and a brilliant orchestrator.

  Reviewing his works, Prof. Sheryar Ookerjee, a Bombay based musicologist writes: "Bach's influence is deep and all pervasive in his music.  He is adept at using conventional western harmony and standard western techniques.  Uses dialogue and imitation extensively.  He has a competent grasp of the orchestra.  His conspicuous quality is his ability to so integrate the Indian and western idioms that the seams can hardly be noticed and the result is usually pleasant, charming and satisfying.   Ilaiyaraaja's music is enjoyable and worth taking very seriously.  It grows on one with repeated hearings".

 Apart from Nothing But Wind he has another highly acclaimed work How To Name It? to his credit.  In this album, for the first time in the annals of the history of music, fusion has been explored and exposed in depth by Ilaiyaraaja.  Though fusion has been attempted by many others, this is the first successful attempt, where he has altered and shaped the meaning of fusion into its actual interpretation and has given this interpretation not only self-expression but also a correlation of the traditional and modern techniques in music.

  Of course, he is modest and underplays his genius and says "I still have a lot to learn.  All that I do today in the field of music is only a precursor to something much greater that is to follow in the future.  Why did Mozart make music?  He prepared me.   Beethoven prepared me.  Thiagaraja prepared me.  What I compose today is no new creation.  I am only drawing on the ideas provided by them.  And this may prepare somebody in future".

 A philanthropist and a deeply religious, simple man, Ilaiyaraaja has set his mind on writing big orchestral works for western classical orchestras.  And in his musical mission, he is eager to collaborate with any orchestra with an open mind.

 The recording of his Symphony No.1 with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra(RPO) of London under the baton of John Scott in July 1993 is the first step in that direction.

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