The popular Indian Cine Music Director “Isai Gnani”-Mr.Ilayaraja was born on 2nd June 1943, in a poor rural family at Pannaipuram village, in Theni District of Tamilnadu, India. He was the third son of Mr. Ramaswamy and Mrs. Chinnathayammal. His original name was Gnanadesigan. But he was called “Rasaiya” by his mother and “Raja” by his family members.
Growing up in a farming area, Raja was exposed to Tamil folk music, such as the songs sung by farmers working in the fields. His formative contact with music-making and performance came at the age of 14, when he joined a travelling musical troupe headed by his elder brother, Pavalar Varadarajan, who was a musician.
Mr.Raja came to Chennai in the year 1968 and joined as a student under a music teacher Mr. Dhanaraj through whom he learnt Western Classical Music along with Indian Classical. Also he studied a course offered via Distant Learning Channel by the Trinity College of Music,London and completed the same with a gold medal in Classical Guitar (higher local).
In Chennai, Raja worked in a band performing music for various stage shows and formal occasions. He joined as an assistant to the Kannada film Music composer Mr. G.K.Venkatesh, which happened to be a turning point for his entry into film music composition and direction. He assisted this music director in 200 film projects, mostly in Kannada. During this period, he learned the practical methods of Orchestra, and developed his composing ability.
Mr.G.K.Venkatesh changed his name from Raja to Ilayaraja to distinguish him from the already existing Cinema Play back singer Mr. A.M. Raja. Now Ilayaraja is popularly known as “Isaignani”,meaning “ Wise man of Music”.
Ilaiyaraja’s break as a full-fledged composer came in the year 1974, when film producer Mr. Panchu Arunachalam engaged him to compose the songs in his Tamil film called Annakkili. All the songs in that film were super hits and Ilayaraja became popular in Tamil Cinema Music World. Ilayaraja’s entry into Cinema Music World changed the trend in the field and Music,which was secondary until then, started dominating. Only because of his music, many films became successful.
Ilaiyaraja was the first film composer to extensively employ within the Indian film music framework the harmonies and string arrangements of Western classical music.This enabled him to produce a rich music for films, and his themes and background score gained notice and appreciation amongst Indian film audience.
The range of Indian film music was broadened by Ilayaraja’s methodical approach in recording technique, and his drawing of ideas from a diversity of musical styles. Ilayaraja’s deep understanding of so many different styles of music allowed him to create novel pieces of music combining different musical idioms.
In July 1993, he recorded his first major work in western classical music, “Symphony No.1″ with the world famous Royal philharmonic Orchestra of London. Ilayaraja is the first Asian whose symphony was performed by the prestigious Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, whose patron is Her Majesty The Queen Elizabeth.
As long as Cinema Music exists the name of“ISAI GNANI ILAYARAJA” will find a prominent place because of his unparalleled achievements in the World of Music.