Infobox musical artist
Name = Ilaiyaraaja
Img_capt =
Img_size =
Background = solo_singer
Born = birth date and age|1943|6|2
Died =
Origin = Tamil Nadu, India
Instrument = Vocals (playback singing), guitar, keyboard/harmonium/piano
Genre =
Occupation = Film composer, music director
Years_active = 1976 – present
Label =
Associated_acts =
URL = []

Current_members =
Past_members =

Audio|Ilaiyaraaja.ogg|Ilaiyaraaja (Tamil: இளையராஜா, IPA2|ɪləjəɹɑːdʒɑː) (born June 2, 1943 as Gnanadesikan) is an Indian film composer, singer, and lyricist. He has composed over 4,000 songs and provided film scores for more than 800 Indian films in various languages in a career spanning more than 30 years. [Allirajan, M. 2004. [ Musical journeys] . The Hindu, Thursday, June 10. Accessed 12 October 2006.] [Behal, S. 2006. [ Melodious music] . The Hindu, July 23. Accessed 12 October 2006.] He is based in Chennai, the fourth largest city in India and the centre of the Tamil film industry (colloquially known as Kollywood).

Ilaiyaraaja was a prominent composer of film music in South Indian cinema during the late 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s.Greene, P.D. 1997. Film music: Southern area. Pp. 542-546 in B. Nettl, R.M. Stone, J. Porter and T. Rice (eds.). "The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music. Volume V: South Asia — The Indian Subcontinent". New York: Garland Pub. (p. 544).] His work integrated Tamil folk lyricism and introduced broader Western musical sensibilities into the South Indian musical mainstream. He has thrice won the Indian National Film Award for best film scoring. [Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, India. 2006. [ Directorate of Film Festivals] . Accessed 22 November 2006.]

In the 2000s, he composed a range of non-film music, including religious and devotional songs, an oratorio, and world music. He is married to Jeeva, and the couple's two sons (Karthik Raja and Yuvan Shankar Raja) and daughter (Bhavatharini) are film composers and singers. [Sangeetha Devi, K. 2007. [ Music from the past] . The Hindu, Saturday, January 13. Accessed 3 March 2007.] [Staff reporter. 2005. [ Ilaiyaraja's daughter gets engaged] . The Hindu, Friday, Aug 05. Accessed 3 March 2007.]


Early life

Ilaiyaraaja was born into a poor rural family in Pannaipuram, Theni district, Tamil Nadu, India, as the third son of Ramaswamy and Chinnathayammal. Growing up in a rural area, Ilaiyaraaja was exposed to a range of Tamil folk music.Mohan, A. 1994. Ilaiyaraja: composer as phenomenon in Tamil film culture. M.A. thesis, Wesleyan University (pp. 106-107).] At the age of 14, he joined a travelling musical troupe headed by his elder step-brother, Pavalar Varadarajan, and spent the next decade performing throughout South India. His brother Varadarajan used the group's music to promote the ideals of the Communist Party of India.Ramnarayanan, G. 1989. [ Matchless in quality and speed!] The Hindu, May 26. Accessed 13 October 2006.] [Ilaiyaraja. 1999. "Sangeetha Kanavugal" (2nd edition). Chennai, India: Kalaignaan Pathipagam.] While working with the troupe, he penned his first composition, a musical setting of an elegy written by the Tamil poet laureate Kannadasan for Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first prime minister. [Rangarajan, M. 2004. [ Memorable evening in many ways] . The Hindu, Friday, July 9. Accessed 19 November 2006.]

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. [Panneerselvan, A.S. 1989. [ Ilaiyaraaja — Musical mission (Part 1)] . "Frontline", (date of publication indeterminate). Accessed 5 March 2008.] Ilaiyaraaja specialized in classical guitar and had done a course in it with the Trinity College of Music, London. [ Author unknown. 2005. [ No point in classifying music, says Ilayaraja] . The Hindu, Sunday, June 19. Accessed 1 February 2007. ]

Session musician and film orchestrator

In the 1970s in Chennai, Ilaiyaraaja played guitar in a band-for-hire, and worked as a session guitarist, keyboardist, organist for film music composers and directors such as Salil Chowdhury from West Bengal. [Gautam, S. 2004. [ 'Suhana safar' with Salilda] . The Hindu, Tuesday, November 13. Accessed 13 October 2006.] [Chennai, S. 2005. [ Looking back: flawless harmony in his music] . The Hindu, Sunday, November 20. Accessed 15 November 2006.] [Choudhury, R. 2005. [ The films of Salil Chowdhury: Introduction] . Accessed 16 November 2006.] After his hiring as the musical assistant to Kannada film composer G K Venkatesh, he worked on 200 film projects, mostly in the Kannada language. [Vijayakar, R. 2006. [ The prince in Mumbai] . Screen, July 21. Accessed 6 February 2007.] As G K Venkatesh's assistant, Ilaiyaraaja would orchestrate the melodic outlines developed by Venkatesh. During this period, Ilaiyaraaja also began writing his own scores. To hear his compositions, he would persuade Venkatesh's session musicians to play excerpts from his scores during their break times.

Film composer

In 1976, film producer Panchu Arunachalam commissioned him to compose the songs and film score for a Tamil-language film called "Annakkili" ('The Parrot'). For the soundtrack, Ilaiyaraaja applied the techniques of modern popular film music orchestration to Tamil folk poetry and folk song melodies, which created a fusion of Western and Tamil idioms. [Greene, P.D. 2001. Authoring the Folk: the crafting of a rural popular music in south India. "Journal of Intercultural Studies" 22 (2): 161–172.] [Sivanarayanan, A. 2004. Translating Tamil Dalit poetry. "World Literature Today" 78(2): 56-58.] Ilaiyaraaja's use of Tamil music in his film scores injected new influence into the Indian film score milieu.Baskaran, S.T. 2002. [ Music for the people] . The Hindu, Sunday, January 6. Accessed 15 November 2006.] By the mid-1980s Ilaiyaraaja was gaining increasing stature as a film composer and music director in the South Indian film industry. Besides Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada films, he has scored music for Hindi (or Bollywood) film productions such as "Sadma" (1983), "Mahadev" (1989), "Lajja" (2001) and "Cheeni Kum" (2007). He has worked with Indian poets and lyricists such as Gulzar, Kannadasan, Vairamuthu and T.S. Rangarajan (Vaali), [RaajaNGAHM Online. 2000. [ Discography: Film database — Lyricist list] . Accessed 7 February 2007.] and film directors such as K. Balachander, K. Vishwanath, Singeetham Srinivasa Rao, Balu Mahendra and Mani Ratnam. [ Undated. [ Directors] . Accessed 14 February 2007.]

Impact and musical style

Ilaiyaraaja was one of the early Indian film composers to use Western classical music harmonies and string arrangements in Indian film music.Venkatraman, S. 1995. Film music: the new intercultural idiom of 20th century Indian music. Pp. 107-112 in A. Euba and C.T. Kimberlin (eds.). "Intercultural Music Vol. I". Bayreuth: Breitinger (p. 110).] This allowed him to craft a rich tapestry of sounds for films, and his themes [e.g., the title themes for the films "Sigappu Rojakkal" (1978), "Netrikkan" (1981) and "Mouna Raagam" (1986), and the instrumental themes in "Raja Paarvai" (1981) and "Punnagai Mannan" (1986).] and background score gained notice and appreciation amongst Indian film audiences. [Venkatraman, S. 1995. Film music: the new intercultural idiom of 20th century Indian music. Pp. 107-112 in A. Euba and C.T. Kimberlin (eds.). "Intercultural Music Vol. I". Bayreuth: Breitinger (p. 111).] The range of expressive possibilities in Indian film music was broadened by Ilaiyaraaja's methodical approach to arranging, recording technique, and his drawing of ideas from a diversity of musical styles.

According to musicologist P. Greene, Ilaiyaraaja's "deep understanding of so many different styles of music allowed him to create syncretic pieces of music combining very different musical idioms in unified, coherent musical statements". Ilaiyaraaja has composed Indian film songs that amalgamated elements of genres such as pop, [e.g., "Antha Naal Nyaabagam" from "Adhu Oru Kana Kaalam" (2005); "Videya Videya" from "Sethu" (1999); "Vaan Engum" from "Moondram Pirai" (1983).] acoustic guitar-propelled Western folk, ["Roja Ondru" and "Ponmane Theduthey" from the soundtrack of the film "Oh Maane Maane" (1984).] jazz, [ e.g., the fusion-jazz/pop sound of "Vikram", from "Vikram" (1986).] rock and roll, dance music (e.g., disco), [e.g., "Solla Solla Enna Perumai" from "Ellam Inba Mayam" (1981); "Ilamai Itho" from "Sakalakalavallavan" (1982); "Paatu Enggey" from "Poovizhi Vasalile" (1987).] psychedelia, [e.g., "Vaanam Keezhe Vandhal Enna" from "Thoongadhey Thambi Thoongadhey" (1983).] funk, [e.g., the comedic funks "Oru Nayagan Uthayamagiraan" from "Dhavani Kanavugal" (1984), and "Ada Machamulla" from "Chinna Veedu" (1985).] doo-wop, ["Pudhu Mappilaiku", "Apoorva Sagodharargal" (1989).] march, ["Raja Kaiya Vecha", "Apoorva Sagodharargal" (1989).] bossa nova, ["Kadhal Oviyam" from "Alaigal Oivathillai" (1981).] flamenco, [refer, for instance, to the musical vignettes/interludes that accompany the rock-lifting scenes in the film "Muthal Mariyathai" (1985).] pathos, [e.g., "Chittukku Chella Chittukku" from "Nallavanukku Nallavan" (1984); "Aarariro" from "Thaaikku Oru Thaalaattu" (1986).] Indian folk/traditional, [e.g., "Poongatru Thirumbuma" from "Muthal Mariyathai" (1985).] Afro-tribal, ["Aasayil Kaatrula" from "Johnny" (1980).] and Indian classical. ["Kalaivaniye" and "Paadariyen Padipariyen" from "Sindhu Bhairavi" (1985).]

By virtue of this variety and his interfusion of Western, Indian folk and Carnatic elements, Ilaiyaraaja's compositions appeal to the Indian rural dweller for its rhythmic folk qualities, the Indian classical music enthusiast for the employment of Carnatic "ragas", [Panneerselvan, A.S. 1993. [ Master of melody, Ilaiyaraaja: Challenging musical frontiers] . "Frontline", September 10. Accessed 5 March 2008.] and the urbanite for its modern, Western-music sound. [Greene, P.D. 1997. Film music: Southern area. Pp. 542-546 in B. Nettl, R.M. Stone, J. Porter and T. Rice (eds.). "The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music. Volume V: South Asia — The Indian Subcontinent". New York: Garland Pub. (p. 545).]

Although Ilaiyaraaja uses a range of complex compositional techniques, he often sketches out the basic melodic ideas for films in a very spontaneous fashion. The Indian filmmaker Mani Ratnam illustrates:

"Ilayaraja ("sic") would look at the [film] scene once, and immediately start giving notes to his assistants, as a bunch of musicians, hovering around him, would collect the notes [(musical parts)] for their instrument [s] and go to their places... A [film] director can be taken by surprise at the speed of events." [Rangaraj, R. 2005. [ Mani Ratnam on Ilayaraja, Rehman] . ChennaiOnline, March 9. Accessed 13 October 2006.]

Musical characteristics

Ilaiyaraaja's music is characterised by the use of an orchestration technique that is a synthesis of Western and Indian instruments and musical modes. He used electronic music technology that integrated synthesisers, electric guitars and keyboards, rhythm boxes and MIDI with large orchestras that feature traditional instruments such as the "veena", "venu", "nadaswaram", "mridangam" and "tabla" as well as Western lead instruments such as saxophones and flutes. [Balaji, R.S. 2002. [ Lessons from Maestro Ilayaraja: Lesson 10, expressing moods through music — 2] . Accessed 15 November 2006. ]

He uses catchy melodies fleshed out with a variety of chord progressions, beats and timbres. [Subramanian, V. Undated. [ 9th chords in Rajaa's music] . Accessed 13 October 2006.] Subramanian, V. Undated. [ The boss of bass] . Accessed 13 October 2006.] [Balaji, R.S. 2002. [ Lessons from Maestro Ilayaraja: A case study on Maestro Ilayaraja's style of music] . Accessed 13 October 2006.] Ilaiyaraaja's songs typically have a musical form where vocal stanzas and choruses are interspersed with orchestral preludes and interludes.CD Baby. 2006. [ Ilaiyaraaja - The Music Messiah] (with notes in CD sleeve). Accessed 27 February 2007.] They often contain polyphonic melodies, where the lead vocals are interwoven with supporting melody lines sung by another voice or played by instruments. [e.g., "Poo Maalayeh Thol Sera Vaa" from "Pagal Nilavu" (1985).]

The bass lines 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 platform amongst some of India's respected vocalists and playback singers, such as K.J. Yesudas, S.P. Balasubramaniam, S. Janaki, P. Susheela, K.S. Chithra, Malaysia Vasudevan, Asha Bhosle and Lata Mangeshkar. [RaajaNGAHM Online. 2000. [ Discography: Film database — List of singers] . Accessed 13 October 2006.] Ilaiyaraaja has sung over 400 of his own compositions for films, [e.g., "Nila Athu Vaanathu Mele" from "Nayakan" (1987); "Appanendrum Ammayenrum" from "Guna" (1992).] [RaajaNGAHM Online. 2000. [ Discography: Film database — List of singers: Ilaiyaraaja] . Accessed 19 November 2006.] and is recognisable by his stark, nasal voice. He has penned the lyrics for some of his songs in Tamil and other languages. [RaajaNGAHM Online. 2000. [ Discography: Film database — Lyrics by Ilaiyaraaja] . Accessed 7 February 2007.] [ Rangarajan, M. 2004. [ From Texas to tinsel town] . The Hindu, Friday, October 15. Accessed 1 February 2007.] [Ashok Kumar, S.R. 2004. [ Variety fare for Pongal] . The Hindu, Friday, January 9. Accessed 1 February 2007.] Ilaiyaraaja's film scores are known both for the dramatic and evocative melodies, and for the more subtle background music that he uses to provide texture or mood for scenes in films such as "Mouna Raagam" (1986) and "Geethanjali" (1989).

Non-cinematic output

Ilaiyaraaja's first two non-film albums were explorations in the fusion of Indian and Western classical music. The first, "How To Name It?" (1986), [This album was also incidentally used as the score for the Balu Mahendra film, "Veedu" (1988).] is dedicated to the Carnatic master Tyagaraja and to J. S. Bach. It features a fusion of the Carnatic form and "ragas" with Bach partitas, fugues and Baroque musical textures. [Greene, P.D. 1997. Film music: Southern area. Pp. 542-546 in B. Nettl, R.M. Stone, J. Porter and T. Rice (eds.). "The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music. Volume V: South Asia — The Indian Subcontinent". New York: Garland Pub. (pp. 544-545).] The second, "Nothing But Wind" (1988), was performed by flautist Hariprasad Chaurasia and a 50-piece orchestra and takes the conceptual approach suggested in the title — that music is a natural phenomenon akin to various forms of air currents (e.g., the wind, breeze, tempest etc.). [Oriental Records. Undated. [ Nothing But Wind] . Accessed 19 November 2006.]

He has composed a set of Carnatic "kritis" that was recorded by electric mandolinist U. Srinivas for the album "Ilayaraaja's Classicals on the Mandolin" (1994). [Chennai Interactive Business Services (P) Ltd. Undated. [ Mandolin U. Srinivas plays Ilaiyaraaja's classics] . Accessed 6 February 2007.] Ilaiyaraaja has also composed albums of religious/devotional songs. His "Guru Ramana Geetam" (2004) is a cycle of prayer songs inspired by the Hindu mystic Ramana Maharishi, [Ayyar, I. and Govindan, H. Undated. [ Ilaiyaraja: Guru Ramana Geetam — notes] . Accessed 19 November 2006.] and his "Thiruvasakam in Symphony" (2005) is an oratorio of ancient Tamil poems transcribed partially in English by American lyricist Stephen Schwartz and performed by the Budapest Symphony Orchestra. [ Viswanathan, S. 2005. [ A cultural crossover] . "Frontline" 22 (15), July 16-29. Accessed 13 October 2006.] [Parthasarathy, D. 2004. [ Thiruvasagam in 'classical crossover'] . The Hindu, Friday, November 26. Accessed 1 March 2007.] Ilaiyaraaja's most recent release is a world music-oriented album called "The Music Messiah" (2006). [ Soman, S. 2006. [ 'The Music Messiah'] . The Hindu, Saturday, December 30. Accessed 27 February 2007.] Its musical concept is based against a mythological narrative.

Notable works

Ilaiyaraaja's composition "Rakkama Kaiya Thattu" from the movie "Thalapathi" (1991) was amongst the songs listed in a BBC World Top Ten music poll. [ BBC World Service. 2002. [ BBC World Service 70th Anniversary Global Music Poll: The World's Top Ten] . Accessed 13 October 2006.] He composed the music for "Nayakan" (1987), an Indian film ranked by TIME Magazine as one of the all-time 100 best movies, [TIME Magazine. 2005. [,23220,nayakan,00.html All-TIME 100 Movies] . Accessed 13 October 2006.] a number of India's official entries to the Oscars, such as "Anjali" (1990) [IMDb (Internet Movie Database). Undated. [ Biography for Mani Ratnam] . Accessed 13 October 2006.] and "Hey Ram" (2000), [Loewenstein, L. 2001. Hey Ram (review). "Variety", January 29. 381 (10): 60.] and for Indian art films such as Adoor Gopalakrishnan's FIPRESCI Prize-winning "Nizhalkkuthu" ('Shadow Kill') (2002). [Press Information Bureau of the Government of India. 2003. [ Feature film: Nizhalkkuthu] . Accessed 17 November 2006.] Ilaiyaraaja has composed music for events such as the 1996 Miss World beauty pageant that was held in Bangalore, India, and for a documentary called "India 24 Hours" (1996). [Dongre, A. and Malik, R. 1997. [ A day in the life of India] . Hinduism Today, February. Accessed 19 November 2006.] [ Undated. [ Albums] . Accessed 19 November 2006.] The pop/hip-hop band Black Eyed Peas sampled an Ilaiyaraaja composition called "Unakkum Ennakum", from the film "Sri Raghavendra" (1985), for their tune "The Elephunk Theme" from their breakout album, "Elephunk" (2003). [Mehar, R. 2007. [ Hip-hopping around the world] . The Hindu, October 17. Accessed 14 March 2008.]

Live performances

Ilaiyaraaja rarely performs his music live, which may be due to the time he devotes to his composing activities.Rangaraj, R. 2005. [ This one for Ilayaraja fans] . ChennaiOnline, October 16. Accessed 7 March 2007.] His last major live performance, the first in 25 years, was a four-hour concert held at the Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium in Chennai, India on October 16 2005. [ Rangarajan, M. 2005. [ The Raja still reigns supreme] . The Hindu. Friday, October 21. Accessed 13 October 2006.] The show was widely televised both in India and abroad. Less well-known was his live 2004 performance in Italy at the Teatro Comunale di Modena, an event-concert presented for the 14th edition of Angelica, Festival Internazionale Di Musica, co-produced with the L'Altro Suono Festival. [Rangaraj, R. 2005. [ Events: Ilayaraja live in Italy] . Chennai Online, August 3. Accessed 13 October 2006.] [Van Ryssen, S. 2005. [ Ilaiyaraaja's Musical Journey] . "Leonardo Digital Review", December. Accessed 7 March 2007.] He had done a few small-scale shows early in his career in Sri Lanka and Malaysia and was involved in a charity concert to raise funds for the construction of a Hindu temple in India.A television retrospective titled "Ithu Ilaiyaraja" ('This is Ilaiyaraja') was produced, chronicling his career. [The Hindu Online. 2005. [ Ithu Ilaiyaraja] . The Hindu, Friday, July 1. Accessed 13 October 2006.]

Awards and honours

Ilaiyaraaja has won the National Film Award for Best Music Direction for the films "Saagara Sangamam" (1984), "Sindhu Bhairavi" (1986) and "Rudraveena" (1989). [CD Baby. 2006. [ Ilaiyaraaja - Ilaiyaraaja's Music Journey: Live in Italy (notes in CD sleeve)] . Accessed 8 March 2007.] He won the Gold Remi Award for Best Music Score jointly with film composer M. S. Viswanathan at the WorldFest-Houston Film Festival for the film "Vishwa Thulasi" (2005). [ Undated. [ WorldFest Houston: 2005] . Accessed 8 March 2007.]

He was conferred the title "Isaignani" ('savant of music') in 1988 by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi and received the "Kalaimamani" Award, an annual award for excellence in the field of arts from the Government of the State of Tamil Nadu, India. [Rangarajan, M. 2004. [ Music magic on a rewind] . The Hindu, Monday, April 5. Accessed 19 November 2006.] He also received State Government Awards from the governments of Kerala (1995), Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh (The Lata Mangeshkar Award) (1998) for excellence in music.RaajaNGAHM Online. 2000. [ Awards] . Accessed 8 March 2007.]

He was awarded honorary doctorates by Annamalai University, Tamil Nadu, India (Degree of Doctor of Letter ("Honoris causa")) (March, 1994), the World University Round Table, Arizona, U.S.A. (Cultural Doctorate in Philosophy of Music) (April, 1994), and Madurai Kamarajar University, Tamil Nadu (Degree of Doctor of Letters) (1996). He received an Award of Appreciation from the Foundation and Federation of Tamil Sangams of North America (1994), and later that year was presented with an honorary citizenship and key to the Teaneck township by Mr. John Abraham, Mayor of Teaneck, New Jersey, U.S.A.

Partial discography

Limited lists of some key soundtrack albums (in terms of film-score and song-content values) are provided below, classified by language. For extended discographies, see external links.



References and notes

Further reading

*Prem-Ramesh. 1998. "Ilaiyaraja: Isaiyin Thathuvamum Alagiyalum" (trans.: Ilaiyaraja: The Philosophy and Aesthetics of Music). Chennai: Sembulam.
*Ilaiyaraaja. 1998. "Vettaveli Thanil Kotti Kidakkuthu" (trans.: My Spiritual Experiences) (3rd ed.). Chennai: Kalaignan Pathipagam. → A collection of poems by Ilaiyaraaja.
*Ilaiyaraaja. 1998. "Vazhithunai". Chennai: Saral Veliyeedu.
*Ilaiyaraaja. 1999. "Sangeetha Kanavugal" (trans.: Musical Dreams) (2nd ed.). Chennai: Kalaignan Pathipagam. → An autobiography about Ilaiyaraaja's European tour and other musings.
*Ilaiyaraaja. 2000. "Ilaiyaraajavin Sinthanaigal" (trans.: Ilaiyaraaja's Thoughts). Chennai: Thiruvasu Puthaka Nilayam.

External links

General references
* [ The official Internet website of Ilaiyaraaja]
* [ An interview with Ilaiyaraaja (1989) (primary source: Indian news magazine "Frontline")]
* [ Ilaiyaraaja songs categorised by the type of "raga" employed in them]

* For catalogues of film music albums categorised by film name, song name, singer etc., go to [ Raaja Information Center: Film Music Database] or []
* For a chronological listing of film music albums or a listing of film music albums by film genre (e.g., drama, romance, thriller), go to [ IMDb (by chronology)] and [ IMDb (by film genre)]
* A listing of this musician's [ non-film albums]

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