Happy birthday to the legendary and reputed artist of Indian cinema Ilaiyaraaja. Born on 2nd June 1943 in Pannaipuram, Tamil Nadu Ilaiyaraaja is an Indian film composer, singer, songwriter, instrumentalist, orchestrator, conductor-arranger and lyricist who works in the Indian Film Industry, predominantly in Tamil. He has composed over 7000 songs, provided film scores for more than 1000 movies and performed in more than 20,000 concerts. He is the recipient of India’s second highest civilian award ” Padma Vibhushan ” and won National award five times besides AR Rehman. US-based world cinema portal “Taste of Cinema” placed Ilaiyaraaja at the 9th position in its list of 25 greatest film composers in the history of cinema and he is the only Indian composer in that list.

Illayaraaja in Rare
Illayaraaja in RareIllayaraaja in Rare

Early exposure to music:- 

Ilaiyaraaja grew up in a rural area, exposed to a range of Tamil folk music. At the age of 14, he joined a traveling musical troupe headed by his elder brother Pavalar Varadarajan and spent the next decade performing throughout South India. While working with the troupe, he penned his first composition, a musical adaptation of an elegy written by the Tamil poet laureate Kannadasan for Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister. In 1968, Ilaiyaraaja began a music course with Professor Dhanraj in Madras (now Chennai), which included an overview of Western classical music, compositional training in techniques such as counterpoint, and study in instrumental performance. Ilaiyaraaja is a gold medalist in classical guitar after completing the course through distance learning channel from Trinity College of Music, London.

Musical characteristics:- 
Ilaiyaraaja’s music is characterized by the use of an orchestration technique that is a synthesis of Western and Indian instruments and musical modes. He uses electronic music technology that integrates synthesizers, electric guitars and keyboards, drum machines, rhythm boxes and MIDI with large orchestras that feature traditional instruments such as the veena, venu, nadaswaram, dholak, mridangam, and tabla as well as Western lead instruments such as saxophones and flutes.
The basslines in his songs tend to be melodically dynamic, rising and falling in a dramatic fashion. Polyrhythms are also apparent, particularly in songs with Indian folk or Carnatic influences. The melodic structure of his songs demand considerable vocal virtuosity and have found expressive platforms. Ilaiyaraaja has sung over 400 of his own compositions for films and is recognizable by his stark, deep voice. He has penned the lyrics for some of his songs in Tamil. He believes he is the only composer in the world to have composed a song only in the ascending notes.

2 June 2019
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