If anyone were to ask you about Indian music, I am sure that most of you would respond with the names of Pandit Ravi Shankar or Zubin Mehta
But I introduce to you all, the most creative, accomplished, avant-garde, composer from India, Maestro.Ilaiyaraaja
Let me tell you as to why and how millions in India hold him so dear and what makes him so special - Ilaiyaraaja represents the ultimate Renaissance in Indian music - his knowledge of Indian classical and Western classical music is very deep, and gifted with an ability to soak up any genre of music in stunningly short times, he has used diverse forms/genre of music in his compositions with all of them coexisting in harmony, without much of a jarring note - most of his compositions annoyed the purist pundits, and thrilled and excited kids like me - with time, the compositions were unanimously accepted as topnotch avant-garde stuff - I can give at least around 1000 examples og his compositions, in which he has defied all existing
rules and given avant-garde stuff!
In a highly stratified society, where classical music was often considered the possession of the high and the mighty, where the system was on the decline thanks to the heavy 'inbreeding' that was practised in the higher echelons of classical music heirarchy, Ilaiyaraaja stormed in, not just changing the rules, but also brought an entire generation of youngsters back to classical music and made classical music easily accessible to everyone and sundry, from the commoners on the roadside, to the self- righteous connoisseurs ensconced in high citadels of self-indulgence and snobbery
perhaps, what might genuinely interest/impress you is the fact that, in India, if an entire generation got hooked onto Bach, Vivaldi, Mozart,Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin et al, it is only because of Ilaiyaraaja, who gave us the flavor of western classical masters, without plagiarising, and thus drew us and charmed us towards western classical music! Trust me, none of us would have been attracted to and obliged to listen to Bach's "Toccato and Fugue", Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata", Vivaldi's FOUR SEASONs, if Ilaiyaraaja had not graced the music field
That is the reason why Maestro.Ilaiyaraaja is both highly revered and also easily hated!
And more than anything else, the fact that Ilaiyaraaja rose from abject poverty, shunned by society as someone from the backward sections of the society (there were times when he had gone without food for days together), music being his one and only reason for living, his life-story is an example of what perseverence combined with prodigious talent can achieve - he is our very own 'Million Dollar Music baby' ! and a source of inspiration for many kids to do something in life!
Just look at his lifestyle - spends all his time writing music, books,and literally MUSIC is his life, breath and in his own words, his path to salvation!
In a music industry plagued with indiscipline and callousness, he brought in elements of rigorous strict discipline, time management, punctuality and values of commitment, dedication and hard work!
He is a devotee of Bach and baroque music and a big time admirer of John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith - in fact, I have been told by reliable sources that Ilaiyaraaja has composed and recorded his own version of STAR WARS scores and wants to play the same to John Williams sometime in the near future!
In his two instrumental albums namely "HOW TO NAME IT ?" and "NOTHING BUT WIND", he has given brilliant dialogues between Indian and western classical systems, both coexisting harmoniously without one subsuming the other. His latest work "Tiruvasakam in Oratorio" is claimed by many as his best, setting to tune ancient lyrical works written by a saint poet, and using a full-fledged Western Classical Orchestra to embellish the same