Hits of Ilayaraja,orchestration – part 2

In part 1 of this post (link also at the top of this page), I highlighted some features of Ilayaraja’s orchestration. I will highlight a few more features of his arrangements in this post along with a few of his songs. It is really hard to separate the wonderful combination of creative innovation and inspired orchestration in his songs. However, let me try to focus only on his great orchestration. I am using the terms arrangements and orchestration interchangeably, though there is a technical difference in the two terms. Enjoy 10 more gems of orchestration in the player below.

If you are in the USA or Canada, you can also listen to these 10 songs of Ilayaraja (from Tamil and Telugu films) on the player below. The player automatically shuffles songs and allows you to skip songs, but with limits on skipping. Click the play arrow below to enjoy the wonderful experience of Ilayaraja’s orchestration.

A tip to enhance your listening pleasure: When listening to the songs in the player, if you want to browse further on this site or another one, open a new window for further browsing. The player will continue to play Ilayaraja’s songs in the current window while you are browsing)

Among the 10 songs, following stand out as ‘really special’.

1)   Ilaya nila from Payanangal Mudivithilai – Tamil:

Being a guitar player, Ilayaraja knew how to get the best out of this instrument.  This song features guitar as the main instrument. I am sure you will find that the guitar piece in this song is one of the finest in film music.  As mentioned earlier, his tunes and orchestration are both equally strong without being dominated by the other.  SP Balu’s mellifluous singing is complemented by the sweet sound of the guitar(s). This wonderful composition was the inspiration for the popular Kishore Kumar number Neele neele ambar par from Kalaakar.

Raja with guitar

2)   Abba nee theeyani debba from Jagadeka veerudu athiloka sundari – Telugu:

Dhak dhak karne laga – superhit from Beta is based on this song. Observe the flowing tune, orchestration set to a foot tapping rhythm. Despite the number of instruments in the orchestra, a feature of Ilayaraja’s music is that it is never loud or jarring. In fact, you can hear each and every instrument clearly even though he uses multiple instruments playing simultaneously. This is in sharp contrast to Hindi films of the 60s, 70s and 80s, where composers used orchestras with more than a hundred musicians. However, the net result was often loud or jarring with violins or trumpets. Also, most of the other composers used lots of violins to create fillers in vocal breaks. Ilayaraja made a clean break from this tradition to achieve clarity. Ilayaraja understood how to use multiple instruments to create a pleasing effect, based on his deep insights into western music.music sheets

3) Gali ningi neeru from Sri Ramarajyam – Telugu: This is the sad situation when Rama instructs Lakshmana to leave Sita in the forest based on insinuations of the public. The situation is sad, the timeline of the story is a ‘period’ one, but most of the instruments used are ‘modern’.  This is another distinct feature of his music. Ilayaraja focused mostly on the effect and feel he wanted to create, identified the required instruments to get that feel and wrote the notes. As listeners, we get transported and mesmerized by the effects. Do we really care about the instruments used as long as the feel is wonderful?

4)   Jaanavule nerajanavule from Aditya 369 – Telugu:  In this story, the hero gets into a ‘Time machine’ and gets thrown “back” many years into the era of Vikramaditya. Ilayaraja captured the ‘period’ effect beautifully with the arrangements and also by using Jikki, a singer from yesteryears.  It is appropriate to highlight one more feature of his music. Not only do the vocals stand out as equally strong when compared to the orchestration, his tunes are beautiful melodies by themselves.  You never feel that he orchestrated very well to cover up or gloss over a poor tune.  Try it out. Take any of his tunes and hum it without any accompaniment. They are all beautiful melodies in themselves and will stand out even with no arrangements or poor arrangements. But when you have a combination of a wonderful tune and brilliant orchestration, the result is magical!

5)   Balapam petti from Bobbilli Raja – Telugu: A common feature of his tunes is the beautiful blend of rhythm and melody. He used multiple types of percussion instruments, string instruments, guitars and sometimes, vocals to create beautiful rhythm patterns.  Notice the beautiful rhythm in this song.

Other gems include songs from Paneer Pushpangal, Dharma Durai, Idhayathai Thirudathe.

To sum up, the South Indian film music scene has two eras – before Ilayaraja entered the scene and after. He brought about a refreshing change in arrangements and orchestration that were way ahead of anyone’s comprehension. He broke all established norms about arrangements and orchestration. He showed that you could use any single instrument in many different moods and create different types of effect and feel. For example: he used violins in joyful, romantic, sad and also youthful dance numbers. The flute was not restricted to a rural, classical or folk type of setting – With a flute, he could transport you to many different worlds.  By combining his deep knowledge of western music, folk styles and Indian instruments, he created a world, which was different, magical and unbelievable! Hats off to this creative genius.flutes

I hope you enjoy listening to all the 10 songs and admire this great composer. In my next post on Ilayaraja, I will cover the many innovations he brought about in film music and composing styles. See “Hits of Ilayaraja, innovation

The link to part 1 of this post is here. You can also click the link at the top of this page.

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5 Responses to Hits of Ilayaraja,orchestration – part 2

  1. ram says:

    There is big difference between background music and song composition.
    Straightway i admit that IR is an excellent background music director for instrumental orchestration (bgm ).That is why most of IR scored films have good superb bgm

    I also agree that bgm of IR songs are innovative and soothing. My statement is limited to songs scored by IR before 1985 which has more of western influence. Songs scored during the rajkiran era and after that don’t have this western influence.

    But a song is more than the just the bgm and melody (tunes( which IR uses mainly for his song delivery

    Song is more of an emotional delivery and the director has to compose the lyrics and make the singer deliver the lyrics which flows like a fluid.

    This is where IR lacks and many other great MD’s have succeeded.

    example MSV, AR , shanker ganesh, RD Burman, Shankar Jaikishen etc
    most of above md songs don’t have great bgm or great medlody\tunes, but the flow of the song is in such a way it brings out the different emotions that lyrics writer has intended

    In MSV ,AR songs each line automatically flows into the next line without any break. this is what I meant by song composition where as in the IR songs there is break in between the lines and flow is partial /chocked

    Example compare popular IR disco songs like illamai itho itho, asai nooru vagai, raja guja songs
    with engeyum eppothum in ninaithale innikum

    tell me in the above songs which one will automatically make you to dance and which one will just make you to just sit and listen the bgm in awe

    Listen to the songs mentioned below scored by msv\AR where each lyrical line automatically flows into the next line like a fluid.
    1 kannai nambathe unnai yematrum, by msv
    2 thangathil mugam eduthu, by msv
    3 ragagangal 16, by msv
    4 engeyum eppothum by msv
    5 athisiya ragam by msv
    6) mannipaaya by ar from vtv
    7) megame megame by shankar ganesh
    8) beautiful song nadiganin kathali nadagam yennadi by Shankar ganesh

    these songs have long lines of continuous lyrics which don’t break in between. and flows like a water flows in river. Does IR have a comparable song which flows like a water in river ? No

    You have already admitted that some of the brilliant IR songs have poor visuals. Sorry dont put the blame on the choreographer it is the mistake to the music director to emote the song properly through the actors mouth and body language

    Listen to the song my name is billa, naan pollathavan poi sollathavan engeyum eppothum etc. these songs have such an emotional delivery and it is very easy for the actor to emote easily in the film. If IR uses complex western multi layered orchestration as bgm influenced by Beethoven, mozart bach etc, how can our choreographers make the actors emote? No way

    Almost all of IR song lyrics are written to pretunes and repeatedly uses words like maane, meeney, theyney ,pon maane etc just like fill in the blanks

    example maane maane maane unnai thaney, thenpandi seemayilae,, theynee then pandi meeney .etc. most of the song lyrics have poor lyrical substance and disconnected different meanings.It has some meaning each line wise, but there is no meaning in the total content
    of the song. example popular song aiyirum malargale malarungal , naan oru sindu etc
    For me a song has to convey the proper emotion which the lyricist has intended. I give more preferance to song flow but less preference to the bgm and melodies which are secondary to a song.

    Most of the western rocks of 70’s have repeated bgm by drummers and guitarist. Most still the songs conveys the emotion.

    So to conclude IR is a good music director for bgm. but a average/below average song composer. as his songs convey emotion

    • rsbaab says:

      Thanks a lot Ram for sharing your views. Would love to hear what others have to say as well.

    • rsbaab says:

      Ram…..I thought we should clarify some of the terms you are using for everyone to understand easily. When you say bgm (background music), you seem to be referring to the instrumental preludes, interludes that occur before the poetic lines, between the poetic lines in a film song. In other words, instrumental music before the pallavi (mukhda) is prelude. Instrumental music after a pallavi (mukhda) and before the charanam (antra) and between two charanams (antras) is interlude. All of these terms (interludes, preludes, pallavi (mukhda), charanam (antra)) are all used within the context of a single film song which is normally between 3-5 minutes in duration.

      I hope other readers will not confuse your use of the term bgm (background music) with the music scored during re-recording for an entire movie. This bgm (background music) of course, starts with the beginning of a film (normally with titles and credits) and could last anywhere from 120 minutes to 160 minutes or more based on the length of the movie.

      Once again, thanks for your comments Ram. Waiting for others to express their views as well.

    • Anonymous says:

      Did not understand the “fluid” “river flow” part that is missing. Maybe it is because you are so mesmerized with the interlude music and want it continue, that you find it to be disjoint.
      IRs songs flow alright…
      – Harish

    • Sudha says:

      ram, I know this is an old post but just came across this blog out of the blue. To reply to your comment:
      1. From your own admission, IR is great in BGM composing. BGMs are composed AFTER the movie is shot. The music director watches the movie scene by scene and scores the music. So, undoubtedly, he is the best in this process because even if the film or scene is mediocre, he elevates it to another level that makes even the mediocre actors and scenes look great. So, it is concluded that IR has done his job to 100% and many times even MORE.

      2. Songs of IR had Western influence even AFTER 1985 and “rajkiran era”. Classic examples to name a few: songs from Mouna Ragam, Punnagai Mannan, Vikram, Thalapathi, Anjali, Agni Natchathiram, Kalaignan, Kaalapaani, Hey Ram, Mumbai Express and SEVERAL 1000 songs in between 1985 to present.

      3. Was there a “rajkiran era”? Nobody including Raj Kiran himself knew this except you! No, it is not the same as time period when Raj Kiran movies were successful. If your term is true, then everybody had an “era” associated with their name, not just Raj Kiran.

      4. “Song is more of an emotional delivery and the director has to compose the lyrics and make the singer deliver the lyrics which flows like a fluid.” WHEN did you see IR songs otherwise?

      5. Ilamai idho, Aasai nooru vagai etc. are AS good a dance number as Engeyum eppodhum, if not better. Add to that, Vaanam keezhe vandhaal enna, Megam kottattum etc. which are terrific, PERFECTLY emoted by Kamal Haasan.

      6. Having said that, the song (tune, melody, orchestration, structure etc.) is the responsibility of the composer. Lyricists listen to the situation and the tune before writing out the lyrics. The choreography/picturization has to be taken care of by the choreographer, director, and actor/actors. Composer has NO JOB there once the song is out of the studio. After all, if Ilayaraja could deliver the BGM without any flaw, isn’t it the duty of the movie team to take care of the acting/choreography part?

      7. Are you saying that if the tune is complex and also has Western orchestration, the choreographers cannot choreograph and make the actors emote?! Then, it shows the INCAPABILITY of the CHOREOGRAPHER, not otherwise. And sometimes, if the choreography is good but the actors have danced awfully, it is the incapability of the ACTOR, not the prowess of the choreographer or the composer. You could only drag horse to the pond, if the horse cannot drink water, BLAME it on the horse.

      8. “some of the brilliant IR songs have poor visuals.” YES. Many songs of IR do. It has been explained in 7. Composer cannot and should not take the blame.

      9. “Sorry don’t put the blame on the choreographer it is the mistake to the music director to emote the song properly through the actors mouth and body language” The MOST preposterous thought ever! IF directors like Balu Mahendra, Mahendran, Mani Ratnam etc. could consistently shoot the songs of Ilayaraja so beautifully, WHY CAN’T others? Again blame it on the director/actor/choreographer.

      10. In the case of the lyrical value, it all depended on the movie, situation, the available lyricists of those times, etc. Even during these times, there are SEVERAL songs of IR that had good to great lyrical value like Kanne Kalaimaane, Poongaatru pudhiraanadhu, Idhu oru pon maalai pozhudhu, Poongadhave, Kaatril endhan geetham, Senthaazham poovil etc. the list is ENDLESS. Also, IR songs based on Philosophy and religious songs were also hits and still unforgettable.

      11. If YOU listen to the “bgm in awe” instead of the song, it is your fault or your preference. I could listen to both in AWE without having ANY feeling of “interruption” in the flow of the song. That is a unique and weirdly absurd “observation”, those were your words. Your opinion cannot be counted as a general fact.

      12. By the way, Aayiram malargale malarungal was penned by KANNADASAN & Thene thenpaandi meene was penned by VAALI, Naanoru sindhu had lyrics by VAIRAMUTHU, . ALL of these songs had EXCELLENT LYRICS, pertaining well to the situation, first song could have been picturized better by Bharathiraja. Oh maane maane was penned by Na.Kamarajan, Thenpaandi cheemaiyile was by Pulamaipithan. DIFFERENT LYRICISTS! So, repetition of some words, may be, was unavoidable. Just because they had a few repetitive words, it does not mean the rest of the lyrics was bad too.

      13. IR songs ALWAYS conveyed the EMOTIONS. The tune, orchestration, the choice of singers, lyrics (many times) have always been perfect.

      14. Speaking of the “river flow”, IR songs FLOWED freely from the prelude to the pallavi to the interludes to the charanams and then came back to pallavi so beautifully UNLIKE ANY OTHER composer you could find in India, who were able to do the same successfully and consistently, for more than a 1000 films. The CONNECTORS in between the parts, were so PERFECT that they fit in like a jigsaw puzzle piece where several other music directors failed miserably.

      15. “Most of the western rocks of 70’s have repeated bgm by drummers and guitarist.” HOW MANY 70’s western rock songs could you mention?!

      16. Most intriguing part of your comment: WHY have you taken the songs only until 1985? Maybe because MSV did not have a single movie hit after Ninaithaale Inikkum. So, that time frame suited you well to showcase his Billa & NN thereby bringing some IR songs under your not-properly-working-radar. It looks like you are a fan of MSV deliberately trying very hard to show IR in poor light in the name of liking his bgms because you just did not have enough points to totally blame his music.

      17. You seem to have concluded your comment CORRECTLY, though! ” as his songs convey emotion” YES, yes and yes. His songs CONVEYED a Tsunami of emotions, it still does!

      18. He is as good a composer of SONGS as he is known for BGMs.

      19. LYRICAL value and TUNE-composing for the lyrics: Shall we talk about THIRUVASAGAM in Symphony?! He can’t change a word there! He cannot add maane, thene, pon maane etc…! Still, it is heart-ripping and divine, that too, a Symphony orchestral composition. That is ILAYARAJA for you!

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