This exhibit is a strong inspiration of mine who made cinematic music into an artform.

You can realise God as you progress in music
– Ilaiyaraja

As the heat scorched the tar in those summer afternoons in the early-80s the rarefied air carried Tamil movie songs to the streets through small windows on either side. Most of them were inspired by Tamil folk melodies with evocative majestic interludes of orchestral western classical. Ilaiyaraja’s music was an awakening.

For those who do not know: Ilaiyaraaja (born Gnanathesikan) is an Indian film composer who works in the South Indian cinema, predominantly in Tamil since the late 1970s. Regarded as one of the greatest music composers in India, he is also an instrumentalist, conductor, singer, and songwriter. He has composed more than 6000 songs and provided film scores for more than 1000 films, particularly being acclaimed for his background scores. Ilaiyaraja is a gold medalist in classical guitar from Trinity College of Music, London.

When I was used to a simple structure of a typical movie song – melody, rhythm, bass and percussion – here comes a music director who layers strings, woodwind, choir, and percussion into a rather compelling envelope of music influenced by Tamil folk, western classical and jazz. I was overwhelmed by the sheer emotive range of what he had to offer and fell in love with his art. Most of the youngsters then, like me, believed that Raja’s music was the soundtrack of our formative years. His music reflected every emotive state of ours – the angst, the sadness, the love and the enlightenment.

Ilaiyaraaja’s first two non-film albums were explorations in the fusion of Indian and Western classical music. The first, How to Name It? (1986), is dedicated to the Carnatic master Tyāgarāja and to J. S. Bach. It features a fusion of the Carnatic form and ragas like Simhendra Madhyamam, Maya Malava Goulai or Shanmugapriya with Bach partitas, fugues, and Baroque musical textures. The second, Nothing But Wind (1988), was performed by flautist Hariprasad Chaurasia and a 50-piece orchestra.

The video above is one of his compositions called I met Bach in my house from How to Name It? And the video below is a tribute to the Maestro by CNN-IBN.

Parts of the text in this post are from Wikipedia. You can read more about Ilaiyaraja and his discography here.