The unshackling of Tamil film music from the Carnatic idiom happened long before Ilaiyaraaja

Posted on June 8, 2020


The maestro is a talent that comes along once in the bluest of moons. My point is simply that his genius doesn’t need the negation of everyone who came before him.

June 2 came and went. And with the day, Ilaiyaraja’s birthday, a hundred tribute pieces came and went into the Internet’s memory. If someone from fifty years hence read what’s been written about the maestro, they’d think that, before him, there was no Indian film music worth a discussion. Shankar-Jaikishan never made songs with a symphonic sound. Salil Chaudhuri never got inspired by Western classical music, and he never made those fiendishly complex tunes that rose and dipped with all the “predictability” of a drunk weaving his way through a crowded street. RD Burman never employed scale changes in his melodies. And coming to Tamil film music, nobody basically did anything. Every song was set in a pure classical raga, until this great man came and broke those shackles. I’m not talking about blogs and discussion forums. That’s animated chatter, even if it’s often very informed chatter. That’s people talking about art in an adda. I’m talking about the more serious journalistic pieces.

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