View Full Version : Ilaiyaraaja. Introduction to a Unique Music Genius!!

Jul-26-2005, 10:51
Dear All

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

Jul-26-2005, 11:11
You can all access his website through this link:

www.raaja.com (http://www.raaja.com)


Frederik Magle
Jul-26-2005, 14:14
That's a really interesting article! I must shamefully admit that I did not know of Ilaiyaraaja before, but now I do, and I'll be looking to find out more about him and his music (but your article is a great introduction!). Thanks for writing this and letting us know about the composer/artist Ilaiyaraaja. I've just taken a quick glimpse at his web site but will explore it further as soon as I have a little more time.

Jul-26-2005, 14:33
'I must shamefully admit that I did not know of Ilaiyaraaja before'

If there is one contemporary composer who has been underrated, unrecognised and also completely unknown to the music listeners around the world, that is Maestro.Ilaiyaraaja

http://www.tis-usa.com/ - you may access this site for info on his TIRUVASAKAM in ORATORIO

Jul-26-2005, 17:05
Hmm... I must admit that my knowledge of Indian music in general is very poor, but it is actually on one of my lists to get around to when I get the time... there is generally very little coexistence between the different continents of the world, musically that is.... though the middeleastern influence has a steady rise in todays "westernmusic", owing in no small part to the large immigration to Europe and the US from these parts of the world...

Thank you for this article, it's a welcomed addition to this forum!

Jul-27-2005, 08:53
corno - just give this composer's music a listen and you will understand what I am talking about - I would be glad to share sample MP3s if you (or the others) have no objections - let me know then

Jul-27-2005, 09:02
Indian classical music (ICM) is based on melody - harmony has no place in it - glissandos (known as 'gamakas' or 'brighas' in Indian classical system) literally fill up ICM, while Western Classical Music (WCM) is based on harmony with no room for glissandos (correct me if I am wrong)

can such diverse systems be married ? it has been tried before several times, but Ilaiyaraaja is the only composer who has achieved this to give a wholesome product - harmony is interpreted Indian style and vice versa, and in the end, both forms seamlessly merge with one another, becoming indistinguishable

Jul-27-2005, 15:21
Of the 4 audio samples on the first page of that site, I enjoyed #3. The music is indeed different. Very interesting in fact. Something you just don't hear in the US. Thanks for visiting with us and sharing this information.

You said that millions in India hold him dear. Does this mean that this type of music dominates India in popularity? Or is there an Indian equivelant to western pop music or something that is more popular with the people?

Jul-28-2005, 07:41
Hi Jason - thank you for your feedback! I am glad that you could listen to the samples - I suggest that you go ahead and listen to the entire album (Tiruvasakam in Oratorio) - you will find that it is entirely unique! to highlight how this is a unique effort read below:

TIRUVSAKAM is a set/anthology of verses penned several centuries ago by a saint poet in South India by the name Manickavasagar (MV)

When MV wrote this, it was all exptempore without any proper format of usual poetry

For Ilaiyaraaja to choose some verses of this work, set music to them, make the score in a format that is middle of the line between Indian and Western classical, also accomodate perfectly a score that would involve/require a full-fledged Symphony orchestra, drench it with metaphysical aura and also stamp his own trademark elements - it is some accomplishment !

For Ilaiyaraaja to have come up with a score that goes beyond the limitations imposed by the imprompu format of the verses, needs to be kept in mind while listening to this album!

Indian mysticism, spiritual traditions are centered around the concept of birth and death caught in a continous cycle - and SOUND plays an essential role in Indian metaphysical concepts

Ilaiyaraaja has brought expression to these mystical concepts using music with mind blowing use of Western classical and Indianclassical idioms, straddling a middle path and the result is this album

We live in a world where even modern science says 'Everything is a system, even elementary particles (if you believe string theory)!!'

Throughout his musical career, be it in his film compositions or
non-film albums, Ilaiyaraaja has adventurously explored 'n' number of idioms, genres, and proven time and again that 'music is also a system' and cannot be differentiated into one genre or class and by debunking all existing norms, he has given rise to his own systems approach to music, where the output symbolises the systems approach that 'the whole is greater than the sum of parts!' With this album, he takes his self-created systems approach to music to an all-time high!

"You said that millions in India hold him dear. Does this mean that this type of music dominates India in popularity? Or is there an Indian equivelant to western pop music or something that is more popular with the people? "

well a very valid and relevant question - much of the pop music culture existing in India today is ripped off from popular albums of the West, or based on borrowed loops and musical software! copyright laws just do not work here

popular music in India has two streams - one is the strictly classical stream, with different schools spread out in the country, which try to uphold traditional stuff - their patronage is dwindling -

the other is the music that comes from Indian movies and private albums

as far as Indian movies are concerned, until the early 80s, much of the music had its strong base in Indian classical system -thereafter, with the advent of satellite television, every tom and harry jumped into the fray capitalising on the urban market, giving out absolute trash, that includes private albums -

the reason being that while talent is the basic prerequisite for anyone to take up music as a profession, it needs to be accompanied by enormous amount of discipline, dedication and hard work - which is what most of the present day composers in India lack - some of them blatantly plagiarise or give repetitive fare

amidst all this ruins, composers like Ilaiyaraaja stood apart and have consistently given top-notch fare - the reason being that besides phenomenal talent, they had groomed themselves to be very very disciplined and spent considerable time understanding classical (both Indian and Western) music in their entirety!

I hope I have answered your questions satisfactorily - if you want to listen to some popular music in India, let me know and I will give you the links for the same

Jul-28-2005, 10:56
THose interested are invited to listen to these two compositions of Ilaiyaraaja, examples of his creativity and versatility


in this composition, he has used Indian Raag MOHANAM (which is purely meant for traditional rituals)in a novel way, kindof hiphop style, in 1988, annoyed the purist pundits, and thrilled and excited kids like me then - with time, the composition was unanimously accepted as topnotch avant-garde stuff - that is just one example


In his homage/tribute to Mozart, Ilaiyaraja re-works Indian Raag Kalyani into a Mozartian framework!! classic crossover!

Let me know what everyone feels about the music!

to access these you will have to register, which is free!

Jul-28-2005, 11:12
Hmm... I myself am not inclined to register on another site in order to be able to download a mp3, so I'm sorry that I won't get to hear it this way.
But if it's cleard in ways of copyright issues as I gather it would be to be on coolgoose.com, why don't you attach it to one of your posts here?

You speak very highly of Ilaiyaraaja, very highly indeed, but aren't there any other composers in India worth mentioning? with over 800 million inhabitants I would assume that he'd not be the only one "breaking the predefined laws"? or is he?

Jul-28-2005, 11:21
corno - thanks for the mail - how do I attach it here ? if you can guide me in this connection, it will be great and I can do it right away

Ok - besides Ilaiyaraaja (IR) , there are other composers as well, such as AR Rehman (ARR) - IR started off in the 1970s and has adapted himself and continues to prove himself

ARR started off in the 1990s and already in spite of his impressive output, he is showing signs of being jaded

there are a few others like Shankar-Ehsan-Loy, Vishal Bharatwaj etc, but their output is minimal and qualitatively average

IR is like John Williams, while ARR is more in the James Horner mould!

There are composers like L.Subramaniam, Bhupen Hazarika, each unique in their own right, but their repertoire is limited!

I hope that helps - pls let me know as to how to attach/upload MP3s

Jul-28-2005, 12:42
This is an edited quote from the Not So Serious Forum:

In order to attach a file to your post first click on the "reply" button (or "post" if you're starting a new thread). Just above the "Continue" button you will see a "I want to preview my post and/or attach a file" - make sure that is checked. Then click Continue.

Next you will see "You may attach a file if you like (no bigger than 8000000 bytes please)." And a button named "Choose file" click on that button, then browse your hard drive for the file you wish to upload. WHen found select it and click choose. Finally click OK and wait for the file to upload.

That's it

Jul-28-2005, 13:14
Thanks for the info - I am attaching the files now - let me know if you could download the same - and give me the feedback after listening to the same!

Jul-28-2005, 13:46
It's downloading fine.
I'll listen to it a bit later.

Thank you for posting it in here.

Jul-28-2005, 14:16
The MP3 that I have uploaded here is the first one mentioned above (Indian Raag MOHANAM in a kindof hiphop style)

The second MP3 is 8.2MB in size - tried zipping it, it still comes to 8.1MB - hence it can be accessed thru coolgoose only

Jul-28-2005, 16:43
Hi Irir
I`ve just visited the website. I didn`t read anything (sorry to lazy) https://www.magle.dk/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/whistling2.gif, but I listen to the music and I liked it, especially Konjam thira konjam (very relaxing listening to) and Muthu Natramam. Normally I don`t listen to this kind of music, but I think I`m starting to broaden my horizon in tast of music, since I joined Magle.dk https://www.magle.dk/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif

Jette https://www.magle.dk/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif

Jul-29-2005, 06:16
Hi Jette - glad to hear that you listened, enjoyed and liked the clippings - did you listen to the attachment I have given above ?

let me get your feedback of the same as well

Jul-29-2005, 13:09
Hi everyone - please go to the Movies scores forum

I have attached a theme score by Ilaiyaraaja for an Indian movie - the guitar theme is based on Indian Raag KEERAVANI, while the entire score has lots of harmonic elements from Western classical music!

would appreciate your feedback

Jul-29-2005, 17:20
Hi Irir
I`ve just listen to the attachment in THIS thread called Ninnukori Varanam https://www.magle.dk/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/wink.gif. I like the violins (I think the are violins) about 30 seconds into the song and the way she is singing 2 minuts/3.45 minuts into the song. But now I`m a little curious, what`s the song about

Jette https://www.magle.dk/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif

Jul-30-2005, 09:38
Hi Jette - it is a trendsetting song of the late 80s, about a young girl wooing a brooding, introverted young man by singing this song on stage - the entire song was shot MTV style with that grungy modern pop look!

Yes, they are indeed violins and that short 30 sec violins/strings that you hear is a creative exploration of Raag Mohanam! you need not know Indian classical music, but still you enjoyed it right ?! such creative usage of violins is a salient trademark of Ilaiyaraaja - there are other pieces

it is from the album AGNI NATCHATIRAM, which you can get from any Indian music store

Give me some time, I will upload a few more pieces, to showcase the composer's versatility - btw, I have attached another score in the MOVIES SCORE thread - would appreciate your feedback to that as well!

Jul-30-2005, 17:26
One more score attached here - it is another theme music written by Ilaiyaraaja - let me know your feedback

Jul-30-2005, 17:48
I like listening to a lot of different music, depending on my mood https://www.magle.dk/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/grin.gif https://www.magle.dk/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/bawling.gif https://www.magle.dk/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/mad.gif https://www.magle.dk/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/banana.gif. I enjoyed the 2 songs I mentioned earlier in this thread and actually I have been listening to Indian music before, but that`s many years ago, when I visited Sri Lanka. I have allways enjoyed listening to music, from countries that I visited (or lived in), it`s like beeing there again (cheap holiday https://www.magle.dk/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/grin.gif)


Jul-31-2005, 17:38
Jette - did you listen to the above attached theme score MP3 ?

Aug-01-2005, 09:04

Aug-01-2005, 14:17

A tribute to Vienna ..........
Edit/Delete Message

Aug-08-2005, 12:28
The score I am attaching here starts with Raag PANTHUVARALI (a Raag meant to bring out melancholy) and then seamlessly changes to baroque style music with some modern elements thrown in as well!

Aug-08-2005, 12:30
And the score is composed by Ilaiyaraaja, year - 1981, available in coolgoose site

Aug-10-2005, 07:18


Aug-27-2005, 02:42
I RE-Discovered Sri Ilaiyaraaja about a decade ago. I can vouch that He is the worlds most underrated artist EVER, in ANY form of art!

I've been "blessed" to have experienced Sri Ilaiyaraaja! I am VERY VERY LUCKY!!

I registered here, not knowing anything about this forum, just so I could reply to this thread.

Aug-30-2005, 15:58
Dear all,

This is AKBAR BASHA S, from Chennai.
I do not know anything about music - technically.
I do not know what is Indian Classical or Westren Classical or any form of music.

Since, This is about Ilaiyaraaja. I do involve.
Indeed, I do not know about RaviShankar or Zubin Metha, etc,.

I was only exposed to film music. Dominant in South India is Ilaiyaraaja.
HE is the only composer who writes scores using pen and paper only. He does not require a key board or any such musical instruments to write the score.
here I would like to higlight one thing - THE SPEED OF WRITING NOTES. THough I do not know ABC of music, I can say that no one can write such great and precise music score at the speed of Ilaiyaraaja. Such a confidence is provided for me, so people with great musical knowledge will very appreciate his highly expressive music.

His music is simple but nice & high-level music. Simple in sense everyone can understand easily.

ALso I need to mention about the FLOW - the musical notes to flow very fleuntly than any other fliud in nature.

About music recently Ilaiyaraaja said that - music does not belong any place - if you talk about tones, it comes to frequencies and it is above the surface - once it comes to frequencies - you cannot find differences in music. This you can realise if listen for instance "Polla Vinayen" of "Thiruvasagam - a symphonic oratoria - by Ilaiyaraaja".

This I realised very long ago by listening to his film compositions.

I would like add my experience of listening that Polla Vinayen for the first time.
'I was not able to listen to lyrics or verses either in Tamil or English (due to my concentration on the orchestral sounds). I listened only the tune or melody (not technically) along with the orchestral backing. I started moving to music. I given myself completely to the notes. Tears came out of my eyes - they dried by the music itself. This kind of tears coming out and drying up, repeated for througout the song. At one stage I felt I am at very new place. I can only name that palce as eternal world. I felt the presence of God very close to me in the form of light-rays ( I cannot explain completely as this experience is sub-consious - only I write what I could retrive).
Yes, I saw GOD. This is really true feeling not anything else. Later only I heard the feeling of "Balamurali Krishna - a great musician - master of Ilaiyaraaja also", which completely coincided with my feelings.

This kind music is written by this simple Indian born homosapien.

This lfetime will not suffice to listen or explore his musical scores. But he has done all this with very schooling and other facilities.

Thanking You,


Aug-31-2005, 16:56
In my previous mail, I made few typing mistakes as it was my real raw feeling directly came out of my heart.

now, the corrected lines:
Also I need to mention about the FLOW - the musical notes will flow very fleuntly than any other fliud in nature.

This lifetime will not suffice to listen or explore his musical scores. But he has done all this without any schooling (only little) and other facilities.


Sep-01-2005, 18:18
Dear All,

To write about Ilaiyaraaja's music, this lifetime, is not enough.

I do not know anything about music, kindly help me to learn about process of musical communication.

But, only I read about, the analogy between music and painting as Tone-painting, the analogy between music and architecture as "stones in space whereas tones in time" and the analogy between music and literature. And also heard about the metaphors used in music.
Never realised all these things completely.
Only, I may understand a bit while I listen to Ilaiyaraaja. But, I feel much of those elements are there in his music.

Anyhow I do move to music very well and I can realise so many things about the expressive quality of music.

Yes, I am a baby. Without any language of speech or music, the baby can communicate/express its feelings. Of course baby's communication is a kind of music.

Ilaiyaraaja has also said dogs do bark with different ragas (scales) depending on their mood.
Ilaiyaraaja's music is for all life-forms not only for rational beings.
I do feel with music we can communicate to all kind of species in the universe (not only with human beings).


Oct-07-2005, 13:00

www.mfiles.co.uk/composers/Ilaiyaraaja.htm (http://www.mfiles.co.uk/composers/Ilaiyaraaja.htm)

Oct-07-2005, 16:36
Hi irir123,

Could you please elaborate on your links, maybe write why you're posting them, so as not just to "clutter up" the thread with links?


onesuch music
Oct-09-2005, 21:40
so of the issues really brought out, not clarified, I would like to comment on: (just did an ilaiyaraaja google search after a very long time, and found this site!)

1 billion people and only one composer like Ilayaraja per 1000 people or square footage or per century or some benchmark that we can relate to? Actually, there are several Indian geniuses and IR may be equal or lesser in terms of substance, however greater than all of them in style, orchestration, concepts, innovation and complexity. In fact greater than any composer of any period or any place.

One must measure a person' genius not by his wishful thinking or works, but by what he does for a living and that is 99% of his life!!!!

(Thiruvasagam Symphony or other non-film works liek HTNI or NBW do not have any immediate impact of a 25th Symphony or a Four seasons or the intellectual contemplative gait of a Enperor concerto or even the infinite variety of a Ilayaraja film song.)

Here it is, and let me know if I am wrong about the "unparallelable" genius of this man!!!

So, for "corno" here is one of say 2000 hit songs:


a great song for download


P.S.: as regards Ilayaraja' versions of Star Wars themes, there are abundant interludes and preludes that have more originality and thrill factors that are hard to achieve.

onesuch music
Oct-11-2005, 22:50
2 more fascinating https://www.magle.dk/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/blush.gif compositions of ilayaraja - late 70s:

http://as01.cooltoad.com/music/song.php?id=61314 https://www.magle.dk/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/shake.gif

http://as01.cooltoad.com/music/song.php?id=138770 https://www.magle.dk/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/crazy.gif

pls post your impressions https://www.magle.dk/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/tiphat.gif


onesuch music
Jan-19-2006, 07:29

onesuch music
Jan-25-2006, 08:34
Anyone like to learn more about Indian film music pls don't hesitate to write me. I would like to colloborate in mutually beneficial musical ventures in the US. My location is Texas.

Mar-06-2006, 06:31
Hi - i live in Houston ! where do you live in Texas ?

Apr-26-2006, 15:40
Hmmm, this seems very interesting as I like Indian classical music and would like to learn much. Are there any full-length downloads of his compositions?

Jun-15-2006, 23:19
Mannn.....thta a coool link....


Sep-11-2006, 20:24
hi all - i just listened to the recent album of Ilaiyaraaja "Shiva 2006" in Hindi - the song 'Sarah yeh aalam' is a benchmark for fusion/integration of Indian and Western classical idioms of the highest calibre! set in Raag Simhendra Madhyamam, it has an awesome Baroque style strings accompaniment!! the other composition 'dheemi' has brilliant celtic style orchestration accompanying a breezy Indian melody!

Old Monk
Oct-08-2006, 07:06
Hello Everyone
New to this site
For anyone interested in Indo Jazz Fusion I Would Recommend this station www.live365.com/stations/indiabeat01.Iplays (http://www.live365.com/stations/indiabeat01.Iplays) some very intersting fusion music from John Handy to Jan Garbarek.Request your feedback


Oct-27-2006, 00:35
I recently attended a concert by Andrzej Grabiec on violin and Timothy Hester on the Maene fortepiano,
on the occasion of Mozart's Birthday “Happy Birthday Mozart” and they had performed the six Mozart “Kurfurstin”
sonatas, at the Dudley Recital Hall, Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts,University of Houston
yesterday evening - it was a truely fascinating experience!

I was particularly intrigued and taken in by one piece - I think it was the first Sonata played after intermission - I thought it had melodic
components that reminded of Indian folk music!

In fact in one of his instrumental albums, namely "Nothing But Wind", Ilaiyaraaja gives a homage to Mozart
by using Raag Kalyani and Mozartian movements as an orchestral score!

Oct-27-2006, 00:36
Here is a review of "Ilayaraja's Musical Journey"by Duncan Glenday (dglenday@seaoftranquility.org)published on the website of "Sea Of Tranquility"

Review: "Ilayaraja: Ilayarajas Music Journey" - Sea of Tranquility - The Web Destination for Progressive Music! (http://www.seaoftranquility.org/reviews.php?op=showcontent&id=3351)

"This record is different, fun, and as the title suggests, a real musical journey"

Dec-11-2006, 21:36
hi, i am narayanan from chennai. i visited magle thru a google search result. i was really surprised when i read 'irir123' had published just exactly what i had in my mind about maestro ilayaraja.

yes i also grew up listening to IR. golden days of music. a complete music composer, meaning he has composed for almost every possible 'bhava' or emotion or feeling known to human race. i can not think of any other indian composer who has composed for so many comedy sequences with spellbinding humor effect. take for example, punnagai mannan(theme music for chaplin chellapa) or karagattakaran(theme for the karagatta party).

thanks irir123, i have never posted anything online. i would like to know your profile. my email id is naarayanan@yahoo.com (naarayanan@yahoo.com).

Mar-02-2007, 18:45
one of Ilayaraja's recent but very underrated album "Mumbai Xpress" reviewed by a popular progressive music website "Sea of Tranquility"!

here is the link: http://www.seaoftranquility.org/reviews.php?op=showcontent&id=4824

enjoy! way to go Ilayaraja!

Mar-19-2007, 18:31
All that discussion about Ilaiyaraja is well deserved. He is a musical genius. One does not have to be musical buff to enjoy what he renders. I had a chance of listening to his music once and needless to say it touches the heart and hypnotizes the mind.

Feb-16-2008, 04:05
Indian classical music (ICM) is based on melody - harmony has no place in it

Greetings, I am a follower of Sufi Hazrat Inayat Khan's music and I would like to comment on your post above.
I am sure will agree with me when you look at it in this light, whereas raga is physically based upon melody & rhythm the harmony is the harmony of our souls when spiritual music is heard, harmony with God.