laiyaraaja was born in a rural family in Panayapuram near Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India. Although he did not have any formal
education, he completed a course in classical guitar (higher local) with a gold medal at the Trinity College of Music in London.
His first movie, Annakkili, was instrumental in bringing about a fusion of Tamil folk music and Tamil film music. He won
the national Best Film Music Composer award three times for the Tamil movie Sindhu Bhairavi (1986), and for the Telugu movies
Saagara Sangamam (1984) & Rudhra Veena (1988). He is the first Asian to compose a full symphony for the Royal Philharmonic
Orchestra (RPO). His music is mainly associated with the '80s, the decade during which he was most prolific. After his symphony
he was came to be called by the name Maestro Ilayaraja. Kalaignar M.Karunanidhi christened him Isai Gnani (translates to Musical
Ilaiyaraaja is credited with a truly unique orchestration technique, which involves blending of western and Indian instruments.
He usually comes up with a tune initially and the lyrics are added later on.
Besides scoring music for Tamil, Telugu and other Indian films, Ilaiyaraaja has written two fusion albums, blending western
classical with Carnatic ragas. The first, How To Name It?, was dedicated to Carnatic composer Tyagaraja and Johann Sebastian
Bach. The title of the second, Nothing But Wind, suggests that music is a natural phenomenon akin to wind. Ilayaraja has also
composed a set of classical Carnatic numbers which U. Srinivas has played. Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, one of the doyens of
Carnatic music, acknowledged and appreciated this album for the appropriate selection of Ragas and Sahityams.
While he has developed associations with Carnatic musicians like Mangalampalli BalaMuraliKrishna and T.V. Gopalakrishnan,
he has also come in for some flak from conservative Carnatic music fans for retuning some of Tyagaraja's compositions. He
invented a raga by name Panchamukhi which is looked at by some of the Carnatic purists as faux and by the general crowd as
In 2002, his composition "Rakkama Kaiya Thattu" from the movie Thalapathi stayed at the top of a BBC list of
the best songs. He was the music composer for the Miss World 1996 Pageantry, held in Bangalore. His latest score for the famous
Kamal Hassan's movie is Mumbai Xpress (2005), with several elements that give it a Jazz appeal.
His most recent work is that of the Thiruvasagam in Symphony which is an Oratorio of Thiruvasagam with Symphony orchestration.
This effort received rave reviews from critics and the general public and is a mega success.
Live in concert
First time in his 28 years of musical life, Ilaiyaraja performed before live audience on 16th October 2005, at Nehru indoor
stadium for Tamil audience. The show was a monumental success. Later it was telecasted in Jaya TV much to the joy of his millions
of fans. Previously he performed live in Italy in a music festival.
* More about the concert - Andrum Indrum Yendrum (Yesterday, today and forever) with photos
Ilaiyaraaja's birth name is Gnanadesikan and in school records Rasaiya. His family suffered from poverty after his father
Ramasamy died prematurely. His brother Gangai Amaran (by birth Amarsingh) is also a composer and a song writer.
Ilaiyaraaja is married to Jeeva and the couple have 3 children. Their two sons Karthik Raja and Yuvan Shankar Raja are
both composers, and their daughter Bhavatharini is a singer and composer.
Ilaiyaraaja also loves writing poetry and has written the lyrics for some songs in not only Tamil but also in Hindi! He
also loves Photography. Ilaiyaraaja is a spiritual person and has also composed several Devotional songs on Ramana Maharishi.
Awards and nominations
* Conferred the title 'Isaignani' (wisest in the field of music) in the year 1988, at Karaikudi, Tamil Nadu, India
by Kalingner M Karunanidhi - the chief of Tamil Litrature and Tamil Stage Dramas of the 20th Century - conferred by University
of Madras(constitutes 729 Professors/Lecturers/Authors/Poets) around the world.
Currently University of Madras has selected him as Wisest of Instrumental Music of 20th Century and the function likely
to be held in July 2006(Ref University of Madras)
His awards and nominations for awards include:
* Presented with the Best Film Music Composer Award, an annual award, by the Government of India in the years 1984,
1986 and 1988.
* Presented with 'Kalaimamani Award', an annual award for excellence in the field of arts, by the Government of the
State of Tamil Nadu, India.
* Presented with the Award of Government of the State of Andhra Pradesh, India, for excellence in music.
* Conferred the Degree of Doctor of Letter (Honoris causa) in March, 1994, by the Annamalai University, Tamil Nadu,
* Conferred the Cultural Doctorate in Philosophy of Music, in April, 1994, by the World University Round Table, Arizona,
* Award of Appreciation presented in the year 1994, by the Foundation and Federation of Tamil Sangams of North America.
* Bestowed with the honorary citizenship and presented with the key to the Teanech Township, by Mr. John Abraham,
Mayor of Township of Teanech, New Jersey, U.S.A., in June, 1994.
* Presented with the Award of Government of the State of Kerala, India, in the year 1995, for excellence in music.
* Conferred the Degree of Doctor of Letter, in the year 1996, by the Madurai Kamarajar University, Tamil Nadu, India.
* Presented with the Lata Mangeshkar Award For Excellence in Music, constituted by the Government of Madhya Pradesh,
India, for the year 1998.
Some of his Successful Tamil Film Albums
* 16 Vayathinilae (has National Award winning song "Sendhoora Poove" sung by S. Janaki)
* Agni Natchatram
* Alaigal Oivathillai
* Anjali (500th Film)
* Azhagi (has National Award winning song "Paattu solli pada solli" sung by Sadhana Sargam)
* Bharathi (has National Award winning song "Mayil pola" sung by Bhavatharini Illayaraja)
* Chinna Thambi
* Devar Magan (600th Film - has National Award winning song " Inji Idupazhaga" sung by S. Janaki and Kamal
* Hey Ram
* Mouna Ragam
* Nineivellam Nithya
* Idhaya Koil
* Kadolara Kavithaikal
* Mella Thiranthathu Kathavu (scored music along with M.S.Vishwanathan)
* Moondram Pirai
* Mudhal Mariyathai (has National Award winning song "Poongatru Thirumbuma" lyrics by Vairamuthu)
* Mumbai Xpress
* Nallavanukku Nallavan
* Nayakan (400th film)
* Pudhu Pudhu Arthangal
* Punnagai Mannan
* Salangai Oli (has National Award winning song "Thagida Thathimi" sung by SP Balasubramaniam and National
award for Illayaraaja)
* Sigappu Rojakkal
* Sinthu Bhairavi (winning National Award)
* Udhaya Geetham
* Virumandi (sandiyar)
A Few of his Successful Malayalam Film Albums
* Olangal(1982)-the first song(thumbee vaa)from which bass guitar is been heard
* Sandhyakku virinja poovu(1983)
* Pin nilavu(1983)
* Aa rathri(1983)
* onnanu nammal(1984)
* My dear kuttichathan(1984)
* poomukhapadiyil ninneyum kathu(1986)
* Ente sooryaputhikku(1991)
* Pappayude swantham appoos(1992)
* Oru yathramozhi(1997)
* Moonnam pakkam(1988)
* Kochu kochu santhoshangal(2000)
* Achuvinte amma(2005)
His Other Albums
* How to name it?
* Nothing But Wind (Flute played by Hariprasad Chaurasia)
* Rajavin Ramanamaalai
* Illayaraja's Geethanjali
* India 24 Hours
* A Symphonic suite in five movements with Royal Philharmonic Orchestra(RPO) of London. Conducted by John Scott. Recorded
in 1993. Yet to be released.
His Literary Works
* Sangeetha Kanavugal (Musical Dreams - about European tour)
* Vettaveli thanil kotti kidakkuthu (Poems)
* Gnagna Ganga
* Paal Nila Paathai
* Unmaikku Thirai Yethu?
* Yaarukku Yaar Ezhuthuvathu?
* En Narambu Veenai
* The only web site with complete details about Ilaiyaraja's films
* Ilaiyaraja's profile in nilacharal
* Ilaiyarajaa at the Internet Movie Database
* Website for Official Updates of Thiruvasakam by Ilaiyaraja
* The Official Cyber Site of Maestro Ilaiyaraaja
* Reviews of Ilaiyaraaja's music
* Maestro Ilaiyaraaja Fans Club
* Listen to Ilayaraja's music - Online play station
* Maestro Ilaiyaraaja Films & Songs database, Articles and Links
* Maestro Ilaiyaraja's Online Radio Station
* Thiruvasakam by Ilaiyaraaja USA
* Ilaiyaraaja Fans
* Maestro Ilaiyaraaja