Why I listen to Ilayaraja


What is the first picture you take with your new camera? A picture of God or your parents, children, girlfriend, wife or of self. If you got a new mp3 player you would always like it play your favorite song.
Recently I bought Sennheiser HD485. First song I heard was that of Ilayaraja, the maestro. There was always a debate among my friends, who is a better Music Director, Ilayaraja or A.R. Rahman. They routed for Rahman while I stuck with Ilayaraja. They would argue that Rahman used different Instruments, produced some great songs, harnessed the singing talent available across the country(which I agree). Ilayaraja’s music does not appear that rich but It has something which takes you inside it and you are immersed in it. When I listen to Ilayaraja’s song, it is like my whole body is being played as the instrument and it sings along. You feel the mood of the song even if you don’t understand the lyrics. His songs are like the natural flow of the river. The tunes(stream) flow that way for that particular mood(terrain) . The music rains as the first showers of the monsoon and you can,t resist getting drenched unless you have taken an oath of celibacy.

Of course I like the songs of Rahman. He has  won Oscar for India and created some great tunes. He has given life and audience to many young and budding singers. He has been entertaining the country for many years and will for many years to come.

What difference do I feel between the music of Ilayaraja and Rahman?

Both their songs high frequency variations, But Rahman’s music is like a forced vibration, it wakes you up from the sleep and takes you on a wavy ride showing you the terrain of sound beautifully landscaped by the variety of  musical instruments, you have never heard. He makes you stand there in awe and wonder. You can’t believe yourselves. You can’t resist standing up and be part of the wide applause all round. “It’s great, wonderful…”

Ilayaraja’s songs resonate with me , I feel as if my body is being played, it is tickled, touched, drummed. It carries you though the holes of the flute, tossed on the drums, binds you with the vibrating strings.  You are still lost long after the song is over.

You flow in the mood of the song unlike many other songs. Other songs make you  believe that the actor is feeling broken after his love has ditched him by the content of the lyrics or the tone of the singer.

Did you ever try to flow in the music of Ilayaraja? you need not know  how to swim (even I do not).

Please do comment..

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29 thoughts on “Why I listen to Ilayaraja

  1. I highly respect Rahman and very dear to me and have been his defender when people tried to talk him down

    But Raja is my fav and close to my heart. Why? I don’t know. But I can try to answer. I think Raja,s music comes from his heart and very spontaneous. He does not worry too much if people will like it or not. Also do not redo, touch or re-engineer his song. It is just the way it come out to him. You can see his audacity to put some elements that not one else would dare to do, just like a folk singer sing to himself would not care. But still people say he follows the rules in general (I don’t know much about this aspect).

    I can say more/…but some other time.

  2. hmm!

    That was a good one Karteek. Shankar’s comment sure adds to what you said. But I personally did not explore much of Ilayaraja’s work. By the time I started to concentrate on music and took a liking to it, it was Rahman. And it has been a long time, Rahman still surprises with ever fresh tunes, instrumentation and voices to support his innovation. At the same time, I love a few of ol’time Ilayaraja’s tunes. They are soothing and yeah a flowing river is quite a synonym to the way it sounds. Soothing. I wouldn’t really want to compare Rahman to Ilayaraja here. They’re great in their own merit. Ilayaraja claims that he began making music without having a formal education in it. That shows in the intuitiveness in his music. Rahman’s music on the other hand is high technique, a very complex music arrangement and instrumentation. We can talk at lengths on this. Perhaps Karteek could try elaborating on the kind of music that Ilayaraja makes. Some thing like a review of a few of Ilayaraja’s numbers would be a good complement to this post. Game?

  3. I am not an music expert. I am a fan of Isaignani. I would say AR Rehman seems to follow MSV in one aspect. MSV repeat lines two times . AR rehman trend repeat the lines many times in a song. This may be due to his experience composing for ads, which rely on repetition to make the impact. I am not trying to say AR Rehman is not a good music director, but he no where near Isaignani.

    This is humble comment.

  4. I can not tell anything other than thanking you. This is something which I felt and not able to express in words. You did it…. not only for me… for most of the people like me. Feel was really good like maestro’s music. Keep feeling.

    • Thanks for reading and the comment. I always feel this is the best I have ever written. May be the songs of Ilayaraja have made me write.

      Keep reading..

  5. It`s correct,Ilayaraja the maestro of music and he had his own style of composing with natural intruments means he uses mostly flute and thabala,with this he became maestro of music.Generally i didn`t listen songs in my school days and intermediate days,after that i listened tunes from Sagara sangamam,sithakoka chiluka and Abhinandana,after i became fan of Ilayaraja.

  6. In my opinion…both raja and rahman have their own way of making music.

    Frankly speaking its impossible to compare between their compositions.

    But if you ask me to choose one, then i will go with rahman. Ask me why.

    Yes rahman is the person who introduced so many versions of music to us by using so many instruments which we doesn’t even know.

    if you go to 70’s-80’s there was no music director competitive to raja, and obviously we will go which his music, because we don’t have any choice.

    Just for a minute think in this way, if rahman’s music was there in raja’s time, what could have been happen?.

    But i am not against karteek comment, i undoubtedly agree with him. Raja’s music has some magic which pulls us to the core level.

    This was not the first time i am debating about this topic, so many times i and my friends use to discuss on this, some say ilayaraja is great , some say rahman is great.

    It’s an human intensity were we always go with NEW.

    Yes everyone wants NEW, and rahman’s know the audience pulse and he goes with it, his music is not stereo type like raja’s.

    For now i will keep comma for this comment, i’ll continue it on some other day.

    But finally i want to say something, rahman can do raja’s music but raja will not be able to do rahman’s way of music. Do you agree with this?????

    Nice post karteek…..keep doing 🙂

  7. Sorry,

    I was wrong in comparing both of them. It was only the anguish that Ilayaraja was not getting his due .
    But Raja ruled the music world once and keeps mesmerizing many of us with his melodies. That’s what matters at the end of the day!

  8. This is really clean portrait on IR music, Karteek keep it going..
    To answer Srinivas.. Do you think IR cannot do ARR? I believe he can easily do it, but IR believes in un-manipulated sounds may it be the voice or the instruments and its emotion apt for the what it is on the screen. If you watch the ARR era no way one can match the singers emotions to the on screen visual but if one want to live in a virtual world so one can.

    • Thanks for reading Sanjay, yes IR can do music like ARR but that would not be him. IR has passed that level, he has graduated from that long back. IR is the first Asian to score a symphony for the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

  9. Thanks Karteek. Lovely blog. I feel the same with IR music. His music got soul. I am trying to understand why I keep listening to his music rather than other music directors. They are also good. But, what is in IR music that attracts me. I keep searching internet, I stumbled upon your blog. I am glad to see you felt the same.

    I read above comments as well. I don’t like to compare IR with anyone else. Everyone is good in some respect that is why they are where they are.

    In my quest I found another blog. He analyses IR music in a structured way. It is a very interesting read. If anyone want to know the complexities of IR music please read this blog. Please start from August 2008 and work towards latest, so you can appreciate what IR music is about. It will change your opinion if you are one of those people who think IR does only folk or uses only violin or flute etc. There are lot of myths but the reality if far from it.

    Here is the link: http://geniusraja.blogspot.co.uk/2008/08/first-things-first.html

    Keep up your good work Karteek.

  10. In fact comparing Illayaraja an Rahman is unnecessary

    Rahman himself told that ,Illayaraja music has no boundaries. It means his own music has boundaries.

    When we realize the exact differences of this two personalities. We find the difference in their Music.

    Recently we are Observing that most of the so called super hits of Rahman is disappearing from the mind space .

    But Illayaraja is still ruling the hearts.
    You can feel a timelessness in Raja’s music In fact the root of Rahman music is very difficul to find out that novelty or mistory is what you find in Rahman music.

    Rahman music is just a creation of “Mind”what is created by mind is more intellectual than spiritual.
    But it is very cear that Illayaraja put his Heart in to his creation ,Aanything coming from heart is more spiritual than intellectual.
    The Illayaraja musc touch our “Heart” but Rahman music will pass through our “Head”It rarely touch your Heart.
    For example there can never be a Michel Jackson again,He himself told that He dancing not with his “leg” but with his “heart”. Like
    There can never be an Illayaraja again ,because he sing with his “Heart”,not with his head.
    You can see number of people who are composing equally or better than Rahman in his own style. But you will nevr see anybody who is creating music like Illayaraja. Because he is unique.

    Rahman is a musical “Storm”
    Illayaraja is a musical “Breeze”

    Storm destroy everything in its presence. But the Breeze refresh everything.

    So now the choice is yours . You decide to be destroyed or to be refreshed.

    Atleast use your Head now not Heart.

    I used my Head and choosen the nusic of the “heart”,

    That is Illayaraja ,the one and only Mastro.

    NOTE:
    THE FACE OF CINEMA an international internet community of world cinema listed Illayaraja among the 25 altime best musicians of world cinema,
    Now doubt where is that oscar winning Rahman.

    • If you people doesn’t like ARR, never hear to ARR songs. Why do you comparing both of them and underestimating one. (Now doubt where is that oscar winning Rahman).

  11. thanks RejiPK for such a reply. there is no one in the world to be compared with RAJA.
    He is the soul of south indian music.Sorry ARR fans.You must try to study more about raja.

  12. Hi All, Do compare IR with any one. My job is IT professional, i use to travel more and stay alone away from family. I can’t sleep if i do not listen IR songs! It is like a mother, wife and child, everything for me. Without IR, my day cannot start and end wherever you go listen IR songs you will not feel you are alone.

      • If IR fans need to teach about IR to younger generations, You people are most welcome, But never do that by comparing another one legend and don’t define by letting them down. Everyone has their uniqueness.

      • Hi Narmadha, Thanks for your comments. This is not belittle AR. This is my perception of his music. I love some of his songs which are soulful. May be the current directors do not need soulful numbers which are eternal.

  13. Hi friends, I am from Chennai. I play guitar and Keyboard on stage. It is a good argument if it is intended to make younger generation aware of IR (And what is music’s objective).

    First of all IR is not to be compared with ARR. I have been performing on the stage all kind of songs especially the good ones from most of the MDs from Tollywood and Bollywood.

    During the performance I could notice one thing in common always, the audience and the co-musicians start smiling with joy when we play IR’s numbers. These smiles and their body languages are natural and not for the sake of others. As some one in this blog rightly said, IRs music makes you enjoy naturally. Where as when I play other MDs numbers (including ARRs) I have never seen such phenomenon. Hence IR’s music is natural and it is divine.

    Coming to the technicalities as I could notice as I play different songs, I see IR’s usage of instruments in his compositions such as Bass guitar, Nylon Guitar, Ensemble, Flute (with counterpoints), Sax / Trumpet, Piano (I can give example for each and every instruments that I have mentioned but I neither have time nor people who has time to listen) is a TEXT BOOK. Without loosing the natural timbre, within the format of the genre it is mindboggling. And the person who plays IR’s song in the instrument will have a challenge to get the piece perfect. While getting to perfect one has to listen to the piece again and again, now the beauty is each and every time you listen to the piece you hear another beauty may be the chord progression / bass travel / Rythm guitar strumming / counter points or the style of the play itself. This is called true composition.

    I am sorry with due respect to ARR (from 1992 to 2000 I admired his work), my ears do not become normal if I do not listen to IR songs. IR’s songs have created lot of musicians not only in TN, I have seen many musicians from AP, Karnataka, Kerala. They all say one thing in common “X song from Y movie where IR uses Z, after listening to that I wanted play this instrument”.

    So IR cannot be compared with anyone in this world. Infact IR being declared as 9th in the Internet world of Cimemas itself is a bit less I think.

    If some IR’s fan / ARR/s interested to discuss about any IR numbers in particular we can do that to substantiate the argument.

    Contrarily, what I have seen off late in ARR’s compositions is that he uses too much of electronics which sounds cacaphonic at times. And I am unable to see any natural flow of tunes which gets into you. If some one thinks about ARR and listens to that song and wait for it to grow on you (which most of the ARR fans do) only then you will start liking that song. However from 1992 to 2000, his songs were a bit of an instantaneous hit. But not any more. Not even able to hum his songs because too much of usage of harmonic tones for the mail lead. As a whole his music is not meeting the objective of its purpose (Being felt naturally and enjoy the feeling).

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