Raaja Music

Without music, life would be a mistake. Without Ilaiyaraaja, music would be a mistake.

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A SYMPHONY OF SUCCESS – Ilaiyaraaja Interview in 1993

Dear Music Lovers. Ilaiyaraaja! hearing the name itself gives goosebumps, he is also called as “God of Music” by his fans. Now, I am willing to share this wonderful article which was released in the year 1993 , 2 decades old, which I got from some forum few years ago (Sorry, I couldn’t locate the source. Please note that I have not altered the original article.).
I believe most of you are aware that he is the first musician from Asia to write Symphony. But unfortunately this album was not released due to some reason. What ever may be the reason, we , as a music lover and a devote/fan of Raaja sir need to understand how difficult it is to write a symphony and try to get back those wonders of Dr.Ilaiyaraaja and hear it. My wish is to bring in some organizers & convince Dr.Ilaiyaraaja to write a symphony now and release it (Well I know that its very difficult to convince Raaja sir). After listening to Raaja sir’s latest mind-blowing background score from the movie “Onaayum Aattukkuttiyum”, I thought its the right time to let today’s world know about his symphony work and his interview. Who so ever is close to Raaja sir and can start talks about his symphony work, please make him understand that there are millions & billions of people waiting for his symphony, even after 2 decades, and convince him to give us Symphony No.2 and his Symphony No.1

The computer is fine for the finished product, but it is NOT a substitute for the immediacy of inspiration and invention at the point of a pencil on music paper.

Writing a symphony for even a modest sized orchestra, running to a couple of hundred pages of full-score, and lasting thirty or forty minutes is like designing and building a church, castle or country mansion. The computer is fine for the finished product, but it is NOT a substitute for the immediacy of inspiration and invention at the point of a pencil on music paper. Rather is it to be compared with the atomic-energy laboratory worker’s need to be at a safe distance from his lethal materials by using a robot hand and arm to operate for him through the safely of a shielding glass panel. It lacks that split-nano-second immediacy of putting one’s thoughts – the written notes of music – on paper. Read more:http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2009/Nov09/symphony_butterworth.htm#ixzz28yzAxAk0

The Symphony Orchestra of India, created by the NCPA in August 2006, is the country’s first fully-professional symphony orchestra. SOI

Dr.Ilaiyaraaja, to write Symphony No.2 and release both his Symphony No.1 & Symphony No.2 is not just a wish of a fan/devotee, it is a prayer of billion fans of Ilaiyaraaja world wide. Now, Lets take a look into what Ilaiyaraaja has told about his Symphony No.1 in an interview with “The Hindu” after the recording of his Symphony No.1 with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra(RPO) of London under the baton of John Scott in July 1993.

Following is the article from “THE HINDU – International Edition” September 4, 1993


With 3,500-odd songs in 650 films, Ilayaraja now occupies an unrivalled No. 1 spot in Tamil cinema. The ace music director added yet another feather to his cap recently by writing a Western symphony and having it played by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, London, thus becoming the first composer from Asia to do so. How did it all come about? If genius is one per cent inspiration and 99 per cent perspiration, the man who has lived up to it to achieve international fame and fortune through music is Ilayaraja whose name is now synonymous with success in the Tamil film industry. From the obscure village of Pannaipuram in Madurai district, where he was born on June 2, 1943, to the pinnacle in the world of music — writing a symphony and having it played by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, London, recently – it has been for him an arduous climb uphill through adversity. From setting tunes to his brother Pavalar Varadarajan’s songs for stage plays to an unrivalled No. 1 spot in Tamil film music and then on to the latest distinction, Ilayaraja has indeed come a long way. Until ‘Annakili’ (1976) catapulted him to fame, it was no path of roses for him after he came to Madras in 1968 with his two younger brothers, Bhasker and Gangai Amaran, to try his luck in films. But after ‘Annakili’ it was accolades all the way. Ilayaraja attributes it all to the mercy of God. Recently he talked to The Hindu. Excerpts:

Q: How did you get the offer to write a symphony?

Pyramid International, a recording company based in London, asked me whether I would be interested in writing a symphony. Writing a symphony needs much concentration. I said, “If I agree to write a symphony, how do you propose to market it? The people there who listen to classical music do not know about me. How do you make it possible for them to hear my music?” They said, You leave that part to us.” Only then I agree to it. That made them get in touch with several orchestras and eventually they chose the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO), considered the best in the world, which plays only great Western classical composers. The RPO people said that they did not know about me. They said that I might be a very good composer, but what about my caliber in Western classical music? So complete details about me were sent to them. My two discs, ‘Nothing but Wind’ and ‘How to name it,’ were sent. That convinced them of my capability to write a symphony.

Q: So you started writing the symphony?

No. I asked for a co-ordinator. They sent Michael Townsend. He can conduct, arrange. He is a one-man army as far as music is concerned. He came and saw me work in films. He said, ‘When you were writing the score, you did not struggle for any ideas. You did not take your pen off the script before finishing it. I have never seen such a composer before. Your dedication is remarkable.’ When he saw the re-recorded film, he was moved. He was really stunned to by the synchronisation of the music with the film. He told the RPO that this time they were going to record the work of a composer who was different.

Q: So you agreed to write the symphony for the RPO?

Yes. They laid certain conditions. The foremost was that I must send the score at least three months in advance. I accepted, but my film commitments made me give the score only a month before the recording. In fact, I gave the last piece only 12 days before the recording. But when the recording was over in London, all the musicians broke into a standing ovation. They started tapping the floor with their feet. I was thrilled and thanked the Almighty for giving me this opportunity to write a symphony and have it recorded.

Q: What exactly is a symphony?

It is a form of orchestration. We have in our system of music different elements — geetam, swarajathi, varnam, keerthanam. Film music is also a form, something like keerathanam with pallavi, anupallavi, and charanam. Symphony, which has three main elements, is a form too. What I do in films is also a kind of symphony. For a full-fledged orchestra, symphony is the mainstay.

Q: How did you feel when every member of the RPO congratulated you?

He (God) made it happen. It was unbelievable. There are thousands of people who are practising or composing music. But who got the chance? Who selected me? I did not do anything. He (God) selected me. I prayed to God in gratitude that He made me do it.

Q: What do you think of the computer music coming up in a big way in films?

Conductor John Scott also asked me about computer music. He has a computer and I too have one. Scott and I went to a bookstall and bought some books. To total the prices of the books, the store staff started searching for the calculator. But I calculated the total and told them before the calculator could do it. They asked me how I was able to do it. If you do not know arithmetical calculations, then you need a calculator. This is how I explain computer music. Anybody can buy a computer and make it play ‘C’ major. Anyone can compose music easily with a computer. But this is for the laymen. If you have the skill you do not need a computer … In computer music, after a few songs, one gets fed up because the computer can give only certain variations as programmed. You will never get anything new in moods or emotions.

Q: What are your ‘bests’ in films?

The moment I can say that this is my best song or best music in films, I will stop giving music. I still do not know what music really is and I am trying hard to comprehend it. Once I know it, I will have my fulfilment and I will stop doing what I am doing now.

Q: Six hundred and fifty films in 17 years, 3500-odd songs. If you still say you have not done anything, then …

For you, I am Ilayaraja. But for me, “Who am I?” I have not even started tuning my instrument properly. Then I must synchronise the tampura with the sruti, next practice it, and last comes the singing.

Q: How many days did you take to write the symphony?

One month. Some eminent composers have taken three to 14 years. Some others just three days.

Q: It seems that Pandit Ravishanker and L. Subramanyam have also done a symphony and that was also recorded in London.

I do not know whether they have recorded a symphony or not. But the RPO’s programme executive, Ian Maclay, wrote to me mentioning that I was the first composer from whole of Asia to write a symphony.

Q: Have you named the symphony?

No. Scott told me that he could name it ‘Fantasy.’ I said it was not fantasy. I have a couple of names in mind, but I have not decided on it.

Q: Did any of the Carnatic music exponents congratulate you on your achievement?

T. V. Gopalakrishnan, Mandolin Srinivas were there to receive me at the airport. The ‘Bhishma’ of Carnatic music, Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, came to my place twice to congratulate me.

Q: What do you plan to do after this?

Nothing is in my hands. We plan so many things. But can anyone predict what will happen? So I do not plan. Whatever comes, take it in your stride. If you aim at something and do not get it, you feel dejected … He (God) is planning in His own way.

Q: Does the Carnatic base help you in your chosen field?

Carnatic music and Western classical music are two different cultures, though the sounds are the same. The difference between the two systems is: one is like living with the people and the other like living alone. Carnatic music is like living in solitude and doing meditation like our sages. Western music needs harmony, counterpoints and many accompaniments. It is like living with people.

Q: From Pannaipuram to films — do you think you have achieved what you wanted?

No. I do not think of anything as my achievement. Today’s record may be bettered tomorrow.

About Symphony:


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Gautham’s experience & YVM audio release!

As sources to be believed that much awaited film album from Isaignani Ilaiyaraaja is going to be launched in May. Well, this is only the Telugu version (Yeto Vellipoyindi Manasu) of Needhane En Ponvasandham (Tamil) movie. The film will have 8 songs in all, with two of them being bit songs. Yuvan Shankar Raja, Karthik, Suraj Jagan and others have rendered their voices in the songs.

Gautham Menon told in an interview about his experience with Ilaiyaraaja, When he approached Raaja sir and narrated the story of this movie, Raaja sir has immediately started to give him wonderful tunes in a day. And Gautham was not able to take all in a day as it was too fast for him, well any director these days would feel the same as today’s composers take many days to compose a song or bgm. As we know that Ilaiyaraaja is famous for his spontaneous delivery of tunes & compositions, he did not spare even this movie of Gautham Menon. Padma Bhushan Dr. Ilaiyaraaja has composed & recorded all of the 8 songs for this movie just in 16 days including the recording with help of Symphony Orchestra in London!
He is an amazing music director. Expecting new sounds of music from Raaja sir with his usual melody, hoping that he has used live instruments efficiently as he does always.

Keeping our fingers crossed, waiting for the album.


John Scott (Royal Philharmonic Orchestra for Illaiyaraaja)

There are lots of things to share about “Illaiyaraaja’s Symphony with Royal Philharmonic Orchestra”, below is one of them.
John Scott is a British composer and conductor. Scott has worked with some of the world’s foremost producers and directors including Richard Donner, Norman J. Warren, Mike Hodges, Mark Damon, Hugh Hudson, Norman Jewison, Irvin Kershner, Daniel Petrie, Roger Spottiswoode and Charlton Heston, among others.
Scott has conducted the recording sessions with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, in London, for Illaiyaraaja in the year 1993.

In reply to one of his fan, who is also Illaiyaraaja’s fan asks him about the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra with Illaiyaraaja and the release of the DVD/CD… Scott has replied to his fan in his website. I have taken a part of it and posted here for you…

Ilayaraja and I became very close friends and I have tried to encourage him to get his symphony released. I believe he was hurt by a critics review, and this is the reason it has not been released.
The trouble is that critics are capable of destroying sensitive artists and have done it throughout the history of music. The more one knows a piece of music the more one loves it, and the stupid critics are incapable of judging anything they have never heard before.
There is a wonderful book by Nicolas Slonimsky entitled LEXICON OF MUSICAL INVECTIVE. It is a history of musical criticism since Beethoven’s time. It shows how the critics have crucified every great composer without exception!

Visit John Scott’s webpage for his full reply.

John Scott’s Biography

Illayaraja aka Gnanadesikan, the first Asian composer to score a symphony for the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in July 1993.