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Thursday January 2, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Thursday January 2, 2014 MYT 8:48:07 AM
by sharmilla ganesan
Aural delight: Singers Chithra (left) and Mano performing during the King of Kings Maestro Illaiyaraaja Live In KL 2013 concert at Merdeka Stadium on Dec 28.
Illaiyaraaja may not have been present in person, but his musicians and singers did a fine job of bringing his music
IT is not for nothing that Illaiyaraaja is hailed as a living legend and one of the finest film music composers in India; so many of his songs have gone on to capture a place in the audience’s hearts, even years after they were first released.
For proof of this, one need look no further than the recently-held King of Kings Maestro Illaiyaraaja Live In KL 2013 concert – just the opening strains of a song was enough to elicit excitement from most of the 17,000-strong crowd, as they instantly recognised the maestro’s evergreen hits.
Of course, there was a definite sense of disappointment in the air, as Illaiyaraaja had cancelled his appearance at the eleventh hour after suffering a mild heart attack last week. His three children, however – composers Karthik Raja and Yuvan Shankar Raja, and singer Bhavatharini – were determined to honour their father’s music by going ahead with the concert and giving his fans a night to remember.
Karthik even broke down in tears briefly while talking about the difficult time his family was going through since his father’s admission to hospital, and how the legendary composer had, till the very last moment, been determined to make it to the Kuala Lumpur concert.
The concert kicked off on a touching note, with Illaiyaraaja performing his classic song Janani Janani via a live video feed from Chennai, India, which his fans responded to with thunderous applause. After Illaiyaraaja assured the concert-goers that despite his absence, his thoughts were still with them, the show went on with a hugely varied selection of songs from his 35-year career.
Breathing life into the fantastic compositions were a group of talented Indian singers – a mix of
veterans like S.P. Balasubrah
-manyam (SPB), Mano and Chithra, and upstarts Haricharan, Krish,
Rita and Shalini.
It was a pleasure to hear Illaiyaraaja’s classics performed to perfection by these vocalists. Mano and Chithra, for instance, did an excellent job on O Priya Priya, with the former bringing his usual gusto to the songs he is renowned for, such as Shenbagame.
The newer singers, meanwhile, more than did justice to the numbers previously sung by some of Tamil cinema’s renowned singers. Among the standouts were Haricharan and Haritha, with Nila Kayuthu and Vetti Veru Vaasam by Shalini.
The real highlight of the night, however, was definitely the opportunity to watch vocal giant SPB, an old friend and long-time collaborator of Illaiyaraaja’s, perform the songs that have become synonymous with the duo.
His performance of the romantic Yenna Satham Intha Neram was pitch perfect, while the more playful numbers like Vanitha Vani (with Rita) and Vaa Vaa Pakkam Vaa (with Shalini) were absolutely delightful.
Also deserving of kudos was the excellent 70-member orchestra that flew in from India. With many of the musicians being part of Illaiyaraaja’s regular team, his music was performed with the emotion and energy it deserved.
What let the show down somewhat was its pacing. At almost five hours in length, it would have been a delight if it had been packed solid with Illaiyaraaja’s songs, since there were so many to choose from. Instead, a lot of the show was dedicated to speeches and video tributes that dragged on for a bit too long. With most of the faster, catchier songs reserved for the later half of the show, many audience members had left by the time the show picked up pace.
Nevertheless, the show ended on a high note, after a non-stop barrage of infectious numbers that had many audience members on their feet or clapping. This included an enthusiastic rendition of Pothuvaga En Manasu Thangam by Yugendran and Vechalum Vekkame by Krish and Rita.
Walking out of the concert, one couldn’t help but be impressed by the sheer diversity of Illaiyaraaja’s music, and reminisce the many songs of his that have captured enduring places in Indian film history. Truly, no concert can ever fully capture the magic of his music, but any opportunity to listen to it live is surely not to be missed.
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