Will there ever be another Ilayaraja?

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Will there ever be another Ilayaraja?

Post  ravinat on Wed Apr 30, 2014 8:07 pm

The answer to this question is obvious, given that I am raising this in a Raja forum. However, the idea is not to discuss the answer but why such an event is improbable in the next few decades.

The digital music revolution that is underway has changed the rules of the game significantly that music directors/composers have to now play to a different set of rules. I plan to go into detail with some of my thinking on the reasons contributing to this improbability. At a high level, here are some topics I plan to explore:

1. Music apprenticeship and preparation
2. Learning and understanding different musical systems
3. Commitment of promoters of a music composer
4. Ability to risk and experiment
5. Playing by the rules that suit one's best musical beliefs
6. Ability to span multiple languages
7. Ability to hone and develop instrument and singing talent
8. Ability to compose music to fit the emotional requirements of the medium


In short, the environment has changed significantly, that none of the above is entirely possible. Even if we have musical talent that is better than Raja (in theory), there is no way the musician can shine given the environmental factors. All the above factors have contributed to Raja's towering personality and the environment allowed him to shine over the past 5 decades.  There is no composer who can score on all the above factors today and in the immediate future, no matter what their commercial success is.

In a way, we have been lucky to listen to the 'last' (in a way, first) composer who could span five decades and excel in a number of creative areas. Our future generations (at least a few) do not have a shot at this.

I will explore each of these topics with some examples from Raja's long 5 decades of work and methods. Feel free to comment and perhaps add anything I may have missed.

You will notice that I have not included the usual attributes such as speed of composing, number of films composed, or any such obvious items. The environment simply does not lend itself to such things, even if there is such talent.


Last edited by ravinat on Fri May 09, 2014 7:10 pm; edited 2 times in total

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Re: Will there ever be another Ilayaraja?

Post  Drunkenmunk on Wed Apr 30, 2014 8:25 pm

Nice thread. Waiting for your thoughts. I feel this is an important criteria and incidentally this is being beaten about over the last couple of days for the nth time. Qualifying as a composer ticking every box (tune creation, orchestration, arrangement, recording, mixing and re-recording). Like Plum mentioned in the other thread, all Indhiya level la in the history of IFM'laye only Salil da and IR tick this box.

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#1Music apprenticeship and preparation

Post  ravinat on Wed Apr 30, 2014 8:30 pm

#1 Music apprenticeship and preparation

Raja did about 150 films working as an assistant to GKV. The fact was, GKV had a big orchestra to manage and he required an able assistant to conduct and work through the details. That was the trend with most composers from MSV to ARR. Raja continued that tradition and perhaps ARR and a few others are still holding on to that tradition.  Those 150 films, gave him the clear understanding of what not to do and how to change the paradigm of film music. How many new composers get those opportunities in the digital age? Most of today's composers go from playing on TV to films directly. The TV experience is useless as they never create new tunes. They play other composer's compositions. Improvisation is what they learn, not creativity.

Also, the small composers who do music today do all on their own - no assistants. At best, computer software serves as their assistant. There is simply no scope for a long apprenticeship. Today's digital environment creates a bunch of lone wolves who have flashes of brilliance and disappear like mayflies. They neither have the luxury of long apprenticeship, nor do they have the ability to explore music creation under several genres for different film situations. They also do not have the luxury of first hand observation of how new music is created. There is also pressure to perform on their own very early in life. With the exception of folks such as Bharadwaj or Deva (even they are from the 90s) , most of the recent composers are in their teens. Can you ever imagine a fully prepared music composer who will be able to productively compose from age 33 today? Not a chance. Even Bharadwaj and Deva were not wildly successful, though Deva had a run for sometime. Today, the rule is to get out early, prepared or otherwise. Raja went to learn WCM from a formal setting, understand music arrangement from GKV and was fully operational when he sought out to be independent. I doubt even in the case of YSR - he was and is still not fully prepared and he is pushing his luck. It is like computer software, 'working is good enough' - the bugs can be sorted out later...

Raja, not only was single mindedly focused, he was arming himself for the long run for 8 years before throwing himself into the race. Do not expect another Raja who will have such a luxury in the near future...

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Re: Will there ever be another Ilayaraja?

Post  Drunkenmunk on Wed Apr 30, 2014 9:02 pm

ravinat wrote:Raja, not only was single mindedly focused, he was arming himself for the long run for 8 years before throwing himself into the race.

And he didn't stop with the 8 after entering the industry. He continued going for CCM classes under TV Gopalakrishnan even after becoming a film composer and continued for a few more years. Like Kamal said, "indha peru vaaganathukku namakku theriyAma fuel avar pOttukittu irundhurukkAr. adhunAla dhAn inni varaikkum vandi odikittu irukku."

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Re: Will there ever be another Ilayaraja?

Post  panniapurathar on Wed Apr 30, 2014 10:42 pm

Great thread!  This reminds me of IR's own song from "Guru Ramana Geetham"  -  "Indroru Naal kazhindhadhu en vaazhnaazhil".

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Re: Will there ever be another Ilayaraja?

Post  ravinat on Thu May 01, 2014 3:08 am

#2 Learning and understanding different musical systems
====================================


Most of the young composers today have some training on western music basics. Training is different from mastery. All of them go through the cram like the kids trying to get their MCSE not having seen a real network in their life  Very Happy This type of keyboard based training gets them to play the keyboard well and understand basic scales and I am sure, some site reading. Several years ago, when I visited Chennai, I was trying to get a book of Indian songs to be played on a piano. When I brought that book home, I realized that all the notations were done for single handed playing - in other words, harmonium notes. I am sure, a number of folks get misguided in India and most of the young musicians get their initial euphoria when they are able to play a popular tune with their new toy (with one hand!). Now, that's how Western music get introduced, in my view, to most beginners. This is no doubt an exaggeration, but my point is, getting to understand western classical music is very different from going to just keyboard classes. I doubt how many such keyboard shops teach real western music theory. Like it or not, one has to know western music theory if you want to call yourself a composer of some kind.


Contrast this with a young man from a village, who struggles and understands western music theory the hard way though his English is challenged. (I love his quote from one of his books - 'I am glad most of the WCM terms are in Italian'). To ensure that his friends are not disturbed at night, he learns to write sheet music to the level that he can do it faster than his pace with his native language.   And he does not stop there - he learns to write counterpoints, intricate harmonies staying up all night. It is this solid grounding on music theory that has kept him not just going, but constantly experimenting.


Most young musicians who are keyboard centric are very skilled at that. However, internalizing western music theory is beyond just being skilled. I am sure there is a parallel to all this with CCM as well. As I am no expert in that, I will stay away from it. Internalizing CCM is one thing, but moving to the next level of harmonizing ICM is another. Raja's music theory grounding and his CCM understanding is so strong that he is able to harmonize ICM very casually. He had shown this from the early 80s and has now become  second nature to him. He is a master tunesmith and so are several others. Tune is not the big deal, but just the foundation. When it came to orchestration, this huge mastery over both these systems is what separates him from the boys. Needless to say, he has extended this to folk as well.


Recently, I heard the song, Azhagu by GVP - he stays careful in not navigating to the WCM world. So does AR and all the new composers. A few dare to experiment. I would like to single out Sharath among the younger composers in this regard. Unfortunately, he does not have other things going. His songs in 180 and Meghadootham are a testimony to his understanding of both the systems.


Even if we find someone like a Sharath or Ramesh Vinayagam, how many opportunities do they get to do a song that showcases their skill? They are forced to get into the 'kuthu' song mold.  Soon these guys are tempted to believe that this would take them somewhere.


Most of them try to focus on non Indian music genres, as a result as their keyboard skills that easily lend them to learning genres such as R & B, retro or Latino music. Unfortunately, these genres have short shelf life, especially in India. You can't blame these guys. If the theme is very classical, chances are, the director will try to rope Raja or Vidyasagar and not Vijay Antony or Raghunathan. Vidyasagar has Swarabishekam, Raja has several and even Ousepachchan has 'Ore Kadal'. What do these young composers have for someone to risk them on a musical subject? It is a vicious circle where there are no opportunities and whatever little opportunities exist go to the one that have proved it already.


CCM is TFM will be used less and less in the coming years, as a result. Young composers will unfortunately not have the freedom that Raja had. They will have to go with what they have heard in some samples and be happy when some minor tweaks succeed commercially.

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Re: Will there ever be another Ilayaraja?

Post  ravinat on Thu May 01, 2014 7:27 pm

#3. Commitment of promoters of a music composer


Raja, though he struggled prior to 1976, had great luck with the unwavering commitment of his promoter, Panju Arunachalam. Panju, did not just introduce him and move on. He continued to produce movies and ensured that Raja took care of the musical needs of his project. As a story writer, he had many opportunities to work with other directors, and perhaps dropped Raja’s name wherever possible. Beyond the first 50 movies (perhaps achieved by 1979), Raja did not really need Panju. However, their relationship of mutual admiration and benefit continues to date.

The only parallel to this I have seen is the case of ARR and MR. In the early years, MR was patronizing AR. After 2000, it has been the other way around. MR’s repeated failures does not come in the way of AR doing music for him. With that exception, I do not see any longer great relationships between the producer/director and the composer. Many directors, simply call the shots and forget the boost they got from the composer. Gautam Menon was promising when he introduced and used HJ repeatedly. However, he broke away from HJ and went to other MDs.

The new composers have an uphill task – Venkat Prabhu uses his cousin YSR, and there are a few others who seem to be have some lasting relationships. A talented composer like Sharath is tossed, even though his 180 was a good musical. At least Sharath can go to Kerala and try his luck with his old contacts. The MDs who focus only on languages such as Tamil or Telugu are toast. It is important for a MD to grow, to have a confident sponsor to experiment and flourish. Such an environment simply does not exist today.

A director will call the shots in a movie, no questions about that. However, without lasting relationships with directors/producers, a composer cannot shine. Picture someone like Raja, who will work with anyone who can convince him to do music for his movie, regardless of their past success, stature etc. He treats all of them equally. He does not care when any director deserts him. There is always someone else who want him to do music. Such a luxury is impossible for all new composers, no matter how talented they are.

That’s one of the reasons for about 30 new composers who show up in the TF business alone every year, and at best 1 among the 30 gets a chance to do another film the next year. When the media writes about Anirudh, they use the simple yardstick of “>1 movie/year” – boy, that’s achievement!

Unfortunately, most young composers get squeezed on budgets as well. They have to operate on rented studios and with the shoe string budget, you can only get SS finalists to sing with a synthpad and a keyboard. Kutthu songs come easy with these two instruments. Whether you like it or not, that is the true state of what the new MDs have to deal with. They do not have the luxury of Raja or Vidyasagar (who have multi language clientele). They operate in an environment where their potential is not realized nor are their fears alleviated.

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Re: Will there ever be another Ilayaraja?

Post  ravinat on Fri May 02, 2014 8:34 pm

#4 Ability to experiment and take risks

 

Most of today’s young composers talk about genres and very rarely about any experiment. Even Raja has never spoken about his ‘experiments’. I do not think even Raja approaches music as a way to ‘experiment’ his ideas. He merely reacts to a film situation and finds a solution that best meets the need of the scene and the story. It is listeners like us, who call these things as ‘experiments’. To him, it is a non-standard application of his toolset. In my view, his tool bag is so deep, that the situations have not fully exhausted his options. For the most part, the job gets done with the tools in his top two or three draws.

A CCM enthusiast may speak at length about the choice of Raja’s notes in a ragam; a WCM enthusiast may look at his choice of modulation within scales, or his counter points and so on. What we consider as non-standard application of his toolset may very well be standard application for him. At the end of the day, ‘experiments’ such as what we talk about requires a very deep tool bag that is accumulated with years of hard work and intuition.

The young composers who work on movies today, do not have that depth, hard work or innovative ability. ‘Genres’ is just exposure to other musical types. Doing a composition of music in another genre is just the tip of the iceberg. Raja has always maintained that he wants to add his contribution to any area of music he touches. ‘Contribution’ is something big. Put simply, what the young composers are doing are like talking a course in physics in a university. You will be taught magnetism, optics, motion, electricity and topics such as these.  Now, if your favorite topic in physics is ‘optics’ (a.k.a. genre in music) – it is no big deal. What Raja does is akin to not only doing a PhD in optics, but going on writing his own research publication.

I do not consider his work on disco music in the 80s as a risk as this was the music of those times. However, he had the right tools to do that 'experiment' as he always had an additional Indian musical touch to whatever he did. His experiment with voices in Geetha (Kalade Nimageega) went unnoticed and the common listener took the Jyotheyale song more seriously.

The kid composers have only the ability to brag about their ‘optics’ lessons. It does not sound like good optics to seasoned music listeners, unfortunately. As they are not fully prepared, they can only do as much.

I also talk about ‘risks’ along with experimentation. Music making has little risks, according to Raja. It is the directors, producers, who run the risk of losing money and not him. Having said that,  Raja is always looking for the odd opportunity to use something from draw 5 and use it, as it may rust when not used. Let’s think of a song such as ‘Eriyile Elantha Maram’ from Karaiyellam Shenbagapoo in 1981. The setting that is given to him is a rural setting with kids dancing around someone who shows up from a city. The requirement is just a folk tune. Raja throws his deep WCM, choir, CCM, folk tools from draw 5 with a nice sugar coated melody to deliver what the director wants. All the director heard was the initial pallavi’s tune. This song was hardly appreciated for its genius for decades after that. Raja does not care.  What we say as risk translates to use of his tools from the bottom draws of his tool bag.  The tune will carry it through – the rest is ornamentation that Raja wants to use his deep knowledge. Similarly, ‘Manjal Veyyil’ from Nandu would have got the approval from the director based on the tune – the ornamentation goes back to Bach, which few people notice. Those are risks that Raja boldly takes, though it has the least impact on the general listener.

 It took him years to find a place for an acapella in Indian film music. He used his connection with Panchu to push such an idea (consider it as risky in the Indian context) with his Maya Bazaar song.

Most of his ragam based songs are ones that he floats through several directors (example, Raathiriyil Poothirukkum) and manages to find a taker at last. I am not sure, how many such great rejected tunes he has created. As he says, he has no problem giving as he has an infinite supply of tunes. Imagine a young composer today pushing a raga based composition to a director where he has dancers and main characters jerking around. That’s not going to cut it. Even if they have the ability to mix things that they know very well, say, a jazz and a R&B mix, it is a hard sell. These young composers will be relegated to ‘kuthu’ songs only, as a result.

A case in point is the dance video industry of Mumbai (also called BollywoodJ). A very talented artiste such as Shankar Mahadevan works there. Shantanu Moitra has a decent understanding of Bengali folk and classical music. The best we can get is when Sanjay Leela Bhansali decides to do music for his own home grown production (Ram Leela). The rest of them are relegated to dance video music. There is simply no scope for innovation in music. Unfortunately, the casualty in all this development of digital music is Indian and Western classical music. Bollywood is just a precursor to the state of South Indian Film music in the years to come...

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Re: Will there ever be another Ilayaraja?

Post  ravinat on Sat May 03, 2014 3:48 am

#5 Playing by the rules that suit one's best musical beliefs

While most of the leading composers who have been successful for a long time abide by some rules they set for themselves, the most intriguing rules are the ones that Raja sets for himself. Most of his rules are from the old school that none of the new composers can ever relate to. Some of his rules are so noble, it is unfortunate that none of the new composers seem to follow any of these.

 He does a number of movies where he does not get paid. He does several top class albums for Ramanashramam for nothing. As a commercial film composer, it is hard for someone to figure out the drivers behind such projects. He has worked on several projects (Nasser did mention this in the Dhoni launch) where the payment terms were not decided. He bails out several friends (Kamal in Hey Ram) by not charging for his work.

Regardless of his market position, he keeps helping new directors make their debut lending his name; I wish other composers follow this lead. Most of the new directors have deserted him and he has never lamented about it.

He refuses to be drawn into copying other composers work; nor does he care when others like Anand Milind blatantly use his work. Very little has been written about his professionalism (though most values are from the old school). He will not snatch work from other composers. When he was on the top of his game for the first 17 years of his film career, he never once suppressed anyone’s growth. Many composers went down fighting his talent, not influence.

While 99% of the composers work with directors in constantly improvising what they create, he refuses to change his work, once the director has accepted his work. Having said that, he does give the director enough flexibility during the story and song discussions. This practice reflects more on the finicky nature of the director than Raja.

He is more adventurous than what most people would admit. He has done music for animation films, which calls for a very deep understanding of this new medium. For an aging composer, this is remarkable – even JW did that only late in his career recently.

Regardless of the money that is on the table, you cannot get Raja to dilute his standard. There are stages in his career, in my view, where his boredom has surfaced in his work. However, he has never compromised on his stamp in his work. With the exception of a few WCM classics, which he has imitated/got inspired, he has stayed clean in this matter. Even RD had several detractors crying foul on few of his copycat work.

I am sure, like many gifted artists he is not very good at fiscal management, nor does he care. There is also a negative side to some of his practices, which the new composers have been careful not to imitate. His work is not organized properly. He does not even have a good web presence.  

Most of his work methods are still effective as they have merits in them (with the exception of music organization) and also due to his stature of a musical genius.

Think of such beliefs with new composers – it simply does not fly.  Firstly, they are focused on making money. There is no question of doing stuff for free.  Helping out new directors – there is no chance, as the new composers need someone’s help in the first place to shine – no question of lending their name. Some of them cry foul play when their work is imitated. They quietly copy others as well as directly lift samples.

All of Raja’s musical beliefs have been with him even before he started his film career. Even if someone gets lucky with a string of hits, there is no way any new composer can match most of Raja’s musical beliefs and practices.

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Re: Will there ever be another Ilayaraja?

Post  fring151 on Sat May 03, 2014 8:31 am

Ravinat, great job. It's clear a lot of thought and work has gone into this series of posts. I might quibble about a few points here and there, but mostly agree, especially with the premise and (expected) conclusion of the thesis. So all's well that ends well Smile

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Re: Will there ever be another Ilayaraja?

Post  ravinat on Sun May 04, 2014 5:00 am

#6. Ability to span multiple languages

Even in the 70s, when he had everything going, Raja kept his language options open. The GKV connection enabled him to speak Kannada very well and he already did a few Malayalam films such as Aalolam. While I am not sure, which was his first Telugu film, his connection with Vamsi started in the early 80s, who was fascinated by his speed and genius. By the early 80s, he had all the four languages in his radar and he continues to work on these four since then. Though he was predominantly a Tamil composer till the early 80s, throughout the 80s, he did a lot of work in Telugu and became a force to reckon with.

No other composer since, has had such a sphere of influence in all the four South Indian languages. He was and continues to be the best pan South Indian composer. Over time, he has been able to decently converse in all the four languages. In the 90s, and the 21st century, he has done a lot of work in Malayalam, more than before. The only other Tamil composer who came after him, who has had some presence outside Tamil has been Vidyasagar, who does a lot of Malayalam films (I have not seen Vidyasagar conversing in Malayalam – he understands the language, and responds in English). Raja’s long association with Sathyan Anthikkad has been discussed elsewhere. Raja’s ability to provide melodies differently for all these four languages is unmatched even today.

There is a theory about Raja’s Kannada films that is not my own, but have come to see merit in it. In the 80s, Raja tried most of his orchestral techniques that were risky, first in Kannada before porting it to Tamil and Telugu. Few of his best melodies in the 80s also started in Kannada (Bhanu Bhoomiya became Etho Ninaivugal, Nanna Jeeva Nenu became Devan thantha Veenai, Jyotheyale became Vizhiyile).

Somehow, few of his Malayalam tunes made it to other languages. There are some outstanding 90s and 20s melodies that Raja left them intact in Malayalam. I think there are several ones that are very portable to other languages including Hindi: a) Poo Kunkumapoo b) Pon Veyilile c) Mandarapoo Mooli d) Varna Vrindhavanam e) Virahamaay Vibhalamaay, are some examples.

New composers continue to struggle with one language as they did not have the GKV type of connection that Raja had. Also, Raja got to the pan South Indian appeal very early on in life. By the time, he hit his first 100 movies (which was under 4 years), he had done work in all the four languages. This was one of his very smart strategies in the early days. He could try a musical idea in one language and if it succeeds, adapt it in another. His ‘Sangathil Paadatha Kavithai’ hence has 6 incarnations in all languages except Kannada. Even his son, YSR, who finished 100 films recently has limited presence outside Tamil.

In the 90s, when most of his big Tamil directors deserted him, he focused more on Malayalam for more than 15 years, before he bounced back. There is always somebody within the 4 languages who wants to use his talent.

With digital music revolution underway, new composers have a disadvantage. Earlier, all the four language music production took place in Madras. Not anymore. The small studios with the right electronic equipment are now present in Hyderabad, Bangalore as well as Cochin. The composers will have to be in these cities competing with the local boys to win projects. Only when these language production requires a big composer like Raja, they will come down to Chennai. But for few exceptions, all new music talent get relegated to become local talent, as a result.

 

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Re: Will there ever be another Ilayaraja?

Post  ravinat on Mon May 05, 2014 2:03 am

#7 Ability to hone and develop instrument and singing talent

Raja has a long instrumental conducting experience before he turned independent. With his SPB band and GKV assignments, he not only conducted sessions, but also closely observed the talented instrument players. When he turned independent, he ensured that the best instrumentalists work for him. It is always a pleasure to work for a composer, who understands the ups and downs of a session musician’s life. However, Raja did not turn out to be the nice guy that he was forced to play, when he worked under other MDs. His demands on total discipline, no-alcohol, strict silence and sheet music based playing put a lot of musicians at unease. However, over time, they have turned out to be some of the best instrumentalists in the business.  Puru, Sada, Sashi, Viji, Prabhakar, Blasco, Balesh, Prasad and later Napolean, have stayed with him for a long time.

Most of the session musicians play film music very routinely, as there are not many variations, once you get past a few years playing for a MDs. However, as most of Raja’s musicians have said in interviews, he has kept them sharp and on the edge and keeps pushing them to perform better than the previous session. Now, this requires a lot of talent to keep such talented musicians engaged. Raja not only studies what is possible with an instrument, but also what is possible with the player. There are several occasions, where he has asked Sada to play the veena parts with his guitar. He has pushed percussion artists to their limits and engaged talented musicians who would play for him willingly. Embar Kannan, Ramasubhu, Veena Partha, or Madurai Sreenivasan can go out and play for Carnatic Cutcheris (Balesh could have done the same on Hindustani concerts). Still they prefer playing for Raja as they love the challenge. It is not easy to be seen as a mentor of veteran Carnatic musicians and being a film composer

Perhaps Raja will be the last such composer to show such command over trained Carnatic instrument musicians. RD had musicians such as Vishwa Mohan Bhat playing for him. After that, the only film musician to command such respect has been Raja.

Think of newbie composers who could cultivate such an environment. They fall short in classical musical knowledge which puts them at a disadvantage in attracting serious classical musicians.  The new environment has created a multitude of problems, not just because of knowledge alone: a) firstly, newbie composers  have a hard time keeping a constant set of session musicians, let alone attracting classical musicians b) Some of them consider other instrument players as competition to their keyboard based skills c) They simply do not have the budget to attract such talent, even if they have a requirement.  d) Lastly, their genres of music does not require any Indian/Western classical input. You end up hearing nadaswaram or veenai on keyboard that sounds totally out-of-place.

For most of the new composers, the Raja size orchestra is simply unviable, economically as well as musically. They have a hard time honing themselves, let alone honing instrument talent.

Honing singers is a different ball game. Raja did a lot of that till the early 90s as he could throw several challenges at his staple set of singers. He was in the game of both quality and numbers. While he may have dropped a few singers due to the time they took to grasp his ideas (the most complex in the business), he provided enough runway for those who could turnaround quickly on understanding his composition’s needs. His initial singers were well established ones such as SPB, KJ, MV, PJC or SJ. However, he made each one of them achieve their potential with enough challenges thrown at them. SPB was an upcoming singer and he turned out to be the veteran he is today, after going through the Raja grind. So are newer singers such as Chitra, Mano, Swarnalatha. To a lesser extent, Raja did throw a few curveballs at Madhu, Manjari, MGS. However, they did not get the same grind as the veterans as he had lesser assignments.

Singers generally praise the contributions of the MDs for their breaks and this is the only area where newer MDs seem to have scored well. They do have their preferences and comfort zones and singers do benefit. However, it is hard to say if they really hone singers big time like Raja or MSV did. Honing singers requires intricate compositions that requires deep knowledge.  Case in point is Harini – ARR introduced her and she has sung for a few other composers as well. She is still unable to hit top marks as she has not been challenged enough by most composers. I am sure there are several others, who keep waiting for Raja to push them as that is the true test in their view.

 

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Re: Will there ever be another Ilayaraja?

Post  ravinat on Thu May 08, 2014 7:42 pm

#8 Ability to compose music to fit the emotional requirements of the medium

The biggest achievement of Raja over the last 5 decades is not the number of songs that he has composed, but the fantastic background scores he has written and executed. BGM is the hard part of film composing that slows a composer significantly. In Bollywood, this is relegated to another musician to arrange and execute. This frees up the song composer to do other assignments. Some South Indian composer stick to doing BGM on their own and Raja is one of them. While common filmgoers do not pay attention to BGMs in films, they do complain about loud scores in movies. It is not any exaggeration to say that the word 're-recording' or BGM became film vocabulary in India, only after Raja.

Even the most ordinary film goer can recognize the simple piano notes of ‘Nayagan’ ,as Raja ensured that the viewer is able to emotionally relate that score to the film's visuals. No other composer comes anywhere close to him in getting so close emotionally with a film viewer with his BGM. Most directors who have worked with Raja thank him profusely for the elevating BGMs he has provided for their movies. When the directors talk about ‘elevating’ scores, it is the way Raja scores music to fit the emotional requirement of the scene.

The ability to fill a void with music is not that comes easy. Most directors who work with Raja, take that ability for granted. They introduce gaps in their raw shoot, hoping that Raja will create a score that will somehow keep the audience engaged. Most Indian films require a variety of emotions to be portrayed from longing, love, distress, anger, panic, fear, joy, celebration, mischief, humor, suspense, disappointment, betrayal and so on. While there is a lack of grandeur with Indian film BGM, there is immense scope on the emotional side.  For every type of emotion that has been portrayed in films in the last 5 decades, Raja would have several examples for any new composer. This is a key weapon in the Raja arsenal.

The new composers have serious limitations in this area and have limited exposure, as most new composers are city bred with limited training and apprenticeship. Unlike Raja, they have no way of turning any instrument into an emotional weapon. For a comedy situation, Raja would use a solo violin (normally relegated to sad situations) or even in a tense situation (Mouna Ragam scene where Karthik is desperately crying for Revathi from a police vehicle, who is waiting in the registration office). For a mischievous situation Raja has used whistling (Netri Kann), or saxophone (cheeni kum). There is not an emotion he has not portrayed with his violins. The shehnai, which is a North Indian instrument that has traditionally been used for auspicious situations is used by Raja for joy (My Dear Kuttichatthan) , melancholy (Devar Magan). The trumpet has been bent in a myriad of ways to suit his emotional support requirements. The list is endless…

Needless to say, he has an unfair advantage over the newbie composers. When you have 1,000 such project experiences under your belt over the past 5 decades, it is really hard to beat. This is the area that separates him from the boys. He will always be remembered for such background scores for a very long time. Unfortunately, as many of the films in the first 3 decades of his career were shot with such poor scripts, only select films where the director had done a good job with story, script, shoot and editing will stay the test of time. There are several great scores of Raja that have never surfaced as the film itself bombed. However, that is part of a film musician’s life.

It is impossible to even imagine any new composer in the near future to have such accurate musical and emotional fit to the film medium, however unfair advantage he has in this area.

 

 


Last edited by ravinat on Thu May 08, 2014 11:31 pm; edited 2 times in total

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Re: Will there ever be another Ilayaraja?

Post  Raaga_Suresh on Thu May 08, 2014 7:57 pm

Ravi,

Super. Posted the link on twitter.

I thought I will see a succession of posts in this thread with a single word update, "NO" Smile Instead you have given an elaborate justification. Great work as usual.

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Re: Will there ever be another Ilayaraja?

Post  crimson king on Fri May 09, 2014 4:21 pm

Great posts, sir.  One point I want to mention w.r.t experimentation is that IR himself has said he tries to come up with something new every time because, even if the director wants more of the same, he feels a song with a fresh flavour stands a better chance of becoming a habit.  So it may not be a very conscious attitude of 'experimenting' (besides which, he is compelled to fit his experiments to the requirements of film music) but he does have a yearning to explore different creative directions all the time.  He has never been content to settle down.  He made references to that even recently in the King of Kings show during the discussions; he said he has to keep the fire burning within and the day it's gone, he will retire.  I think that aspect makes him very different from most Indian film music directors who ultimately favoured a comfort zone.

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Re: Will there ever be another Ilayaraja?

Post  ravinat on Fri May 09, 2014 7:14 pm

Thanks Suresh, DM, CK for your comments. I am sure I have left a few topics in this series of posts.

I am not gifted to write HTNI or NBW  during lunch breaks - just these posts  Wink 

I will definitely write the concluding part of this series, as it is just not a 'NO', but a lot of things that need to be summarized.

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Re: Will there ever be another Ilayaraja?

Post  app_engine on Fri May 09, 2014 7:22 pm

Excellent posts, ravinat sir!

the clap

applause

Somewhat related interview by KR here:
http://www.dinamalar.com/news_detail.asp?id=971297


உங்கள் தந்தையைப் போல சாதிக்கும் எண்ணம் உள்ளதா?

ஏன், இல்லை. சாதனை புரிவதற்கான வெறியே உள்ளது. ஆனால், அப்பா மாதிரி சாதிப்பது என்பது நடக்காத காரியம். பல ஆயிரம் ஆண்டுகளுக்கு ஒருவர் தான் அப்பா போல பிறப்பர். இருந்தாலும் எனக்குள் ஆர்வம் இருக்கிறது. நீங்கள் கூறுவதுபோல, இப்படி எத்தனை பேர்தான் சாதித்து இருப்பார்கள்?
...
...
உங்கள் தந்தையின் இசையில், பாடல்கள் என்றும் ரசிக்கும்படி உள்ளது. இன்று இசையின் ஆதிக்கத்தால் பாடலும் புரியாததோடு, நிலைத்து நிற்பதுமில்லையே?

எனது தந்தையின் இசையில் கிராமியம், வெஸ்டர்ன் கிளாசிக்கல், ஜாஸ் என பலவும் இருந்தது. இப்போது கம்ப்யூட்டர் வந்துவிட்டதால், நான் உட்பட அனைவரிடமும், இசையின் பரிமாணம் மாறிவிட்டது எனலாம். அதாவது 'பாஸ்ட்புட்' மாதிரி.

Smile

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Re: Will there ever be another Ilayaraja?

Post  ravinat on Fri May 09, 2014 7:37 pm

Conclusion

   Are these just the 8 major reasons why Ilayaraja, the phenomenon is not repeatable? Perhaps, there are a few more. However, what is important is not the number of reasons, but to understand that Ilayaraja is not just a film musician who can be compared with any other. He is an institution. To put it in other words, he is a musical ecosystem. All the 8 factors we talked about are characteristics of that ecosystem.

   There are millions of lakes in the world, but none like the great lakes. As one of the largest fresh water bodies in the world, it is a natural wonder. However, it has an interconnected ecosystem that has no parallel. Most musical arguments about Indian composers end up in bun fights on any one characteristic of the ecosystem, not the entire one. The great lakes is a system of thousands of feeder streams, rivers which feed into the lakes apart from the snow melt. It has been there for millions of years and has never dried up. It has been exploited for commercial shipping. Yes, during the cold Canadian winters, the St. Lawrence seaway is closed. However, you cannot start comparing this to Panama Canal and state that Panama is better as it operates all year around and it can even allow large oil tankers to navigate. Beyond commercial navigation, the Panama canal to great lakes is a silly comparison. Commerce is one small part of the great lakes. Close to 150 million people's livelihood in Canada and the US are dependent one way or the other on the Great Lakes. The endless fertile terrains that it creates, the beautiful vineyards, orchards, countless waterfalls, streams, and parkland around the feeder system is something no other water system in the world can come close.

  Raja is a similar musical ecosystem, that goes beyond commercial success, obvious factors such as speed of composition or creation of great melodies. He has created an ecosystem that has allowed him to perform for five decades when the components of his ecosystem, continued to evolve. Like all ecosystems, even his, has its shortcomings, but has stood the test for 5 decades.

  In my view, this is the key to Raja's continued success in the last 5 decades. New composers must not be contend with a few commercial hits and rewards they win. They need to spend time in creating a musical ecosystem around them, involving factors that can best address their longevity. Until then, there is no question of another Ilayaraja!

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Re: Will there ever be another Ilayaraja?

Post  V_S on Fri May 09, 2014 11:20 pm

Ravi,
This is awesome.  noteworthy  applause One of the best threads in our forum. Enlightening write-ups and accurate analysis with utmost value. Thank you so much for enlightening us with brilliant insights. The conclusion! You touched me deeply by your conclusion as I too live around Great Lakes and know the value Smile Would like to read more and more of yours.

_________________
Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth - Pablo Picasso

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Re: Will there ever be another Ilayaraja?

Post  ravinat on Mon May 12, 2014 7:47 pm

Thanks V_S for your kind words.

I am not sure if this is the right place to include one more thing about Raja that other new composers have to bear in mind.

We all know of 'poetic freedom', a leading lyricist enjoys with their choice of words. Kannadasan enjoyed such a freedom for many years when he was the leading lyricist. The lay man assumed that Kannadasan would take care of simplifying complex literary works and use his power of words to simplify this. I am sure, such freedom has been enjoyed by poets from other languages too. The layperson does not validate if the leading lyricist is truly capable of carrying that weight on his shoulders. However, the lyricist has that responsibility.

With music, Raja earned one of 'musical freedom' that is a rare distinction. The average music listener does not know the technicalities of music making. But, he/she trusted that Raja will navigate all those intricacies of musical systems, orchestration and deliver music that honors the rules of the component systems. When Raja did harmony and managed to interweave Indian classical music into it, the ordinary listener heard a few pundits telling him/her that Raja has navigated complex systems to deliver the soothing melody that was presented to them in 4 minutes. However, the ordinary listener got to somehow know about the mastery of Raja over these various systems and trusted him to take care of the rules. Raja took this responsibility seriously that many Carnatic pundits have validated his work in films.

Every new composer who emerges as a lead in the race in the future, must assume this 'musical freedom' seriously. Otherwise, the scenario will be like the wilderbeast scene of Lion King!

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