Ilaiyaraaja, nicknamed “Isaignani” or musical genius, is a composer, singer, lyricist, and conductor-arranger. With over four decades in the Indian film industry, Ilaiyaraaja has composed over 7,000 songs, predominantly in Tamil. The Maestro, as he is known by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, London, is well known for his integration of Indian folk music and traditional Indian instrumentation with western classical music techniques. In 1986, Ilaiyaraaja became the first Indian composer to record movie songs through computers.
Ilaiyaraaja’s music transcends the boundaries of countries and cultures. He is considered to be one of the world’s most prolific composers. He became the first Indian to compose a full symphony, performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, London, in 1993. In 2006, he also composed the first Indian oratorio, Thiruvasagam in Symphony. Here are a few songs by Ilaiyaraaja you need to add to your playlist.
1. Ilaiyaraaja x Stranger Things
Recently, Ilaiyaraaja composed his version of the Stranger Things theme for Netflix and it is mind-blowing. The maestro’s rendition of the theme song turns your world upside down, exactly like the show.
Paruruvaaya is a song from the movie Thaarai Thappattai, Ilaiyaraaja’s 1000th film. The lyrics of the songs are from Thiruvasagam, a volume of Tamil hymns, composed in the 9th century. Thaarai Thappattai also won the National Film Award for the Best Background Score.
3. Am I in Love?
Am I in Love? is a song from the Australian film, Love and Love Only. The film is directed by the Indian-born Australian filmmaker Julian Karikalan. This is the first-ever English-language feature film for which Ilaiyaraaja has composed original songs.
The song is from the movie Shamitabh, directed by R. Balki. Balki and Ilaiyaraaja are frequent collaborators, and a majority of Balki’s movies feature compositions by the maestro. For Shamitabh as well, the background score and the soundtrack album were composed by Ilaiyaraaja.
5. Avani Thumbee
A beautiful track from the 2011 Malayalam movie Snehaveedu, the song is sung by Shreya Ghoshal. The film, directed by Sathyan Anthikad, has a background score composed by Isaignani.
6. Yedhi Yedhi
This is a romantic track from the 2012 Telugu movie Yeto Vellipoyindhi Manasu. Ilaiyaraaja composed the entire soundtrack of the movie. The movie also won him the Nandi Award for Best Music Director.
7. Isaiyil Thodanguthamma
An original track from Kamal Haasan’s superhit movie Hey Ram, the track was composed by Ilaiyaraaja at the end. Hey Ram was the second Indian film whose songs were recorded by Hungary’s Budapest Symphony Orchestra. Initially, the album was composed by violinist L. Subramaniam, but later on, the maestro composed new tunes for the songs that were already shot. The Hindi version of the movie won the Screen Award for Best Background Music.
A track composed and sung by Isaignani, the song is from the movie Ramana released in 2002. This movie is the only collaboration between director A.R. Murugadoss and Ilaiyaraaja. The movie was remade in four languages, including in Hindi as Gabbar is Back.
9. Kannamma Kanavillaiya
The melodious track is from the 2004 Tamil movie Vishwa Thulasi. The soundtrack of the movie was jointly composed by Ilaiyaraaja and M.S. Viswanathan. The maestro also wrote the lyrics for five of the songs in the album, including Kannamma Kanavillaiya. The movie won the Golden Remi Award for Best Music at the WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival.
10. Gumm Summ Gumm
Another fantastic collaboration between R. Balki and Ilaiyaraaja, the song is from the 2009 superhit movie, Paa. While the soundtrack was scored by Isaignani, the lyrics were penned by Swanand Kirkire. The song Gumm Summ Gumm is based on the Malayalam song Thumbi Vaa which was another Ilaiyaraaja composition for the 1982 Malayalam film Olangal.
11. Rakkamma Kaiya Thattu
Rakkamma Kaiya Thattu is from one of the biggest blockbusters of 1991, a Tamil film named Thalapathi. The film starred two top South Indian actors, Rajinikanth and Mammootty. It was based on the Hindu epic, Mahabharata. The movie marked the final collaboration between Mani Ratnam and Isaignani. This song was chosen as the fourth most popular song in a poll conducted by the BBC World Service worldwide in 2002.
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