Pannaipuram, Theni district, Tamil Nadu was the birthplace of Indian film composer, singer, songwriter, instrumentalist, conductor-arrange and lyricist, Illaiyaraaja. He was born on June 2nd, 1943. At a young age, he learned to play musical instruments under Dhanraj Master. His actual name was Gnanathesikan which later became Ilaiyaraaaja as he entered the music industry. Ilaiyaraaja is a gold medalist in classical guitar. He completed his guitar course through a distance learning channel from the Trinity College of Music, London. He also received training for Carnatic music from T.V. Gopalakrishnan.

It was the year 1975 when Panchu Arunachalam asked Ilaiyaraaja to compose the songs and film score for a Tamil film Annakkili. This was the first time when Tamil folk poetry was combined with popular western film music. With this Illaiyaraaja started gaining popularity as a film composer and film director down south throughout the 1980s. He worked with some well-known lyricists such as Kannadasan, Vaali, Vairamutthu, O.N.V. Kurup, Udaya Shankar and Gulzar. His associations with ace filmmakers like Bharathiraja, S.P. Muthuraman, J. Mahendran, K. Balachander, Mani Ratnam, Priyadarshan, Bala, Shankar Nag and R. Balki also became popular.

Some of his songs as a music director like Aaj Khoye Se Ho Kyon Yum, Dilbar Aa, Gori Gori Bahon Mein, Hai Pyaar ka Sangam, Mujhse Mile Nain Tere, Yeh Pyaar Ka Mausam are loved by old Hindi music lovers till today.

Ilaiyaraaja’s music is very different and a perfect blend of western and Indian instruments. He uses electronic music technology consisting of electric guitars, keyboards, drum machines, rhythm boxes. He integrates them with a large orchestra of traditional instruments like the veena, venu, nadaswaram, dholak, mridangam and tabla. To this, he adds western instruments, saxophones and flutes.

His songs with melodic structures added to the voices of the playback singers. He has worked with some of India’s best vocalists like P. Susheela, M.G. Sreekumar, S.Janaki, K.J Yesudas, Asha Bhosle, Lata Mangeshkar, Uma Ramanan, Jency, Kavita Krishnamurthy, Hariharan, Udit Narayan, Sadhana Sargam and even the new age sensation Shrey Ghoshal. Ilaiyaraaja himself has sung more than 400 of his compositions. It is profoundly believed that Ilaiyaraaja is the only composer in the world to have composed a song only in ascending notes.

Apart from Cinema, Ilaiyaraaja explored Indian and Western classical music through two non-film albums. The Music Messiah released in 2006 was his most recent album. Ilaiyaraaja has worked in over a thousand films across languages like Tamil. Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, Hindi, English, Marathi, Sanskrit and Punjabi. In 2018, he was awarded the Padma Vibhushan award by the Government of India.

Saregama celebrates the exceptional musical contributions of Ilaiyaraaja to the Indian film industry. You can now listen to all his beautiful compositions on Saregama Carvaan Tamil, a portable digital audio player with preloaded 5000 Evergreen Hindi & Tamil mp3 songs inside.

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