Wednesday, January 19, 2005

People I admire - Ilayaraja

A friend of mine is traveling suddenly to the US on a long term assignment and by his own admission the first thoughts that hit him were very vague

"Oh gawd.. Will I get filter coffee there ?"
"Shittt...I'll lose S by the time I come back"
"Do I have enough pairs of socks ?"
"What about that list of Tamil songs that I wanted to burn in a CD?"

Dunno about the rest but I was contacted for the last request and lazy ol' me wouldn't be bothered to compile a new list. So simply fwded him a few of my reviews at MS. Which led me to think maybe I can put them up here too for the benefit of my blog's Tam audience. So those of you who know me from MS, give the rest of this post a skip.

Disclaimer: I do not claim to be well versed in appreciating all the nuances of music but I can sense a good tune when I hear one. Though Ilayaraja has composed over 600 movies and its difficult choosing ten of his best that will appeal to all, its easier making a list of My Ten Favorites as they are simply my choices. However, I have attempted to look at all his works from the late 70s to the present day before zeroing in on this list. Hope you enjoy this compilation.

Name of song - film - Yr of release - raaga - singers
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Idhu oru pon maalai - Nizhalgal (1980) - Kedharam - SPB
At first hear, what appeals tremendously in this song are undoubtedly the lyrics. But on second hear, one tends to marvel at the masterful composition. Since the song celebrates nature, watch out for Raja's wonderful usage of sounds like birds chirping to create the early morning mood. But the best part of this song is the violin interlude. Simply awesome.

Andhi Mazhai - Rajapaarvai (1981) - Vasantha - SPB
The next time you make plans to go out and find the Rain Gods playing havoc, just go play this song on your music system and believe me your mood will swing. I know this sounds crazy but this is precisely the setting under which I enjoy this song best. The classical orchestration is to be heard to be believed. The chorus in the prelude, the violin pieces before the pallavi, the alaap by TV Gopalkrishnan accompanied by the tabla, then mixing of mridangam in the pallavi...I could go on but let me just say ''This song is a masterpiece''.

Kanne Kalaimane - Moonram Pirai (1982) - Kapi - Yesudas
Quite often, in an inspired move that comes out of sheer genius, Raja decides that voice has to take over completely and instrumentation has to be a bare minimum. This song is one perfect example. A slow and soft lullaby with divine lyrics, Raja's use of flutes is simply mesmerizing. I don’t need to say more, do I? For Hindi music lovers, this is the same song as ''Surmayee akhiyon'' from Sadma.

Poo malaye - Pagal Nilavu (1985) - ?? - Ilayaraja, Janaki
As a singer Raja had his limitations but this was one song, where he did really well. Fast paced and racy, this number had Janaki rendering the higher octaves with flourish. Brilliant violin pieces interspersed with western percussion makes this number one of my favorite Raja compositions for sheer multi layered instrumentation. One singer humming in the background when the other is in song also adds to the charm. Music critics are of the opinion that this was Raja's first attempt to do a breathless ''Mannil Indha kaadhal'' - kind of precursor. Can any one tell me the raga for this song pls ?

Enna satham - Punnagai Mannan (1986) - Sindhu Bhairavi - SPB
A great song needs a memorable start, right? Nopes - Raja has composed so many songs without a prelude and this all time favorite song of mine is the best example. Placed at a critical point in the film, the lyrics fit the mood very well - romantic to the core. The pauses and silence in between are electrifying and Raja's subtle use of synthesizers gels well. Another pet instrument of Raja's - the flute (synthesized though??) - is in full flow here. And well, SPB, what can I say - he is so sensuous in this number. In short, a song for all seasons.

Mandram Vandha - Mouna Ragam (1986) - Keeravani - SPB
Anyone who has ever tried singing this song will tell you how difficult a composition it is (unlike the bland Nilavee Vaa from the same movie). The high pitch is simply impossible to master unless you are well trained. starting deceptively as a soothing number, the song gains momentum and hits an all time high in the first few lines of Saranam1. Watch out for the excellent trumpet bit. I reckon this has to be one of SPBs all time best efforts.

Valai Osai - Sathya (1988) - Sindhu Bhairavi - SPB, Lata
Raja has composed loads of slow and soulful romantic numbers but this selection of mine falls under the breezy romantic genre. This song illustrates how a magical start can make the song a sure fire winner - The flute and the keyboard make for a magical combination here and used throughout the song. And how can any classic be without his favorite Violin - Its there just before the Saranam 1. SPB is in great form but the surprise package is Lata. Her naughty voice and unintentionally funny Tamil pronunciation actually add to the charm. But to be honest, I think I love the song most for Amala(sigh) and the imaginative picturisation.

Om Namaha - Idhayathai Thirudathey (1989) - Hamsanadham - Mano, Janaki
Every time I listen to this song, my heart beats - thump thump - just like the percussion that is consistently heard throughout the song. Other than this the instruments used are minimal be it the haunting flute or the clinking bells. However what makes the song a classic in my opinion is the way Janaki treats the lyrics in the Saranam - Mano is a little nasal but still pulls it off. Another Raja gems this one.

Sorgame Endralum - Ooru vittu ooru vandhu (1990) - Hamsanadham - Ilayaraja, Janaki
How can a hard core Carnatic tune set in a folk setting become popular? Amazing isn’t it ? Well this song is one of my real favorites - The best prelude for any song in my list - the starting drums and the humming simply rock. Raja is wonderful but in the higher octaves he does lose the plot. But Janaki, being the accomplished songstress she is, works her magic effortlessly and makes one wish she could sing forever. The lyrics are devilishly funny and the song is well placed in the movie too. ps: I am not really sure if Raja is the MD or Gangai Amaran - Kindly excuse me if I have made a mistake.

Nalam vaazha - Marupadiyum (1993) - Madhukauns - SPB
Slow is in again. Sensitive lyrics for a song set in a very sombre situation and wonderful rendition earns this song a place in this elite list. If you are looking for some Raja magic with the guitar after Ilaya Nila, check this song's start.

Honorable mentions:
Panivizhum - Ninaivellam Nithya (1982) - Chalanaatai - SPB

Moghum ennum - Sindhu Bhairavi (1985) - Kanakangi - Yesudas

Sundari - Dhalapathi (1990) - Kalyani - SPB, Janaki

Pottu Vaitha - Idhayam (1991) - Harikhambhodhi - Yesudas

Yennai Thalaatta - Kadhalukku mariyaadhai (1997) - Keeravani - Hariharan


1 comment:

sen said...

poo malaye is a very unique song.
It uses what is called in the western classical as counterpoint.one melody counteracting another melody.the male and the female melodies are different but they both join to give a new melody...