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Ilaiyaraaja Biography

Ilaiyaraaja is an Indian musical maestro; a composer, singer and song writer of exceptional repute. He is the most renowned composer of South Indian cinema. He gave a new form to South Indian music by blending Tamil folk lyricism with Western music. Ilaiyaraaja was born in Pannaipuram,Theni district,Tamil Nadu, to Daniel Ramaswamy and Chinnathayammal.

He married Jeeva, and has two sons Karthik Raaja (Composer), and Yuvan Shankar Raaja (Composer) and a daughter Bhavatharini (Composer & Singer). Richard King, the five-time Grammy award winning Sound Engineer was mesmerized by Ilaiyaraaja’s music and he said, “Ilaiyaraaja is the musical face of India, which the western world is really stunned at !!!”

Ilaiyaraaja received his formal education in Carnatic music and Western music under the guidance of various well-known teachers. He won the gold medal during his classical guitar (Higher Local) examination conducted by the Trinity College of Music, London. Since 1976 he has composed music of more than 5000 songs and given background music in over 840 Indian films in many languages. He has received the honor of composing a Symphony (Symphony No. 1) with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) of London and is the first Asian to do so.

Ilaiyaraaja composed the album “Thiruvasagam – A Symphonic Oratorio” with the Budapest Symphony Orchestra. In this album there is an amalgamation of the East and the West and it includes over 200 musicians from India and Hungary. Nothing But Wind is an experimental album in which he fuses the divergent genres of Carnatic and Baroque music.

Ilaiyaraaja received many awards, to name a few:

  • Received the National Film Award for Best Music Direction for the films Saagara Sangamam (1984), Sindhu Bhairavi (1986) and Rudraveena (1989).
  • Honored with Kalaimamani Award(awarded by the State of Tamil Nadu, for expertise in the field of arts)
  • Received the Excellence Award from the State of Andhra Pradesh, for his contribution to music.
  • Was Bestowed the title Isaignani (wisdom in the field of music, in 1988) by Mr. M. Karunanidhi, Chief Minister of TamilNadu.
  • Honored the Degree of Doctor of Letter by the Annamalai University,Tamil Nadu(in March, 1994), and the University of Madurai Kamarajar, Tamil Nadu(in 1996).