All Credit to God: A.R.Rahman and Ilaiyaraja
I’ve recently been reading quite a few articles, blogs, posts, comparisons between ARR and Ilaiyaraja… using their contrasting styles of composition as a means to compare which of the two is better… but in very crude terms… as if one must rule over the other… Someone actually went so far as to claim that ARR was a genius for POP music compositions, but IRR is a true film music genius. After having recently watched Ilaiyaraja compliment and applaud Rahman’s achievements, and having watched Rahman send an important message to all tamil film music lovers – to not compare in so vile and violent a manner: link.
I was inspired to respond:
Genius pop musicians, genius classical musicians, genius ghazal musicians…. ah yes… if you ask Jagjit singh, he would tell you that IR and ARR are both nothing, one comes from a jingle world, another comes from an equally deprived film music world… and their music lacks the substance and quality of his ghazals…
Need I go on… these vain comparisons are everywhere and abound… but the entirity of these arguements and these comparisons are focused on the very thing that is so aptly put in “Life of Pi.”
“There are always those who take it upon themselves to defend God, as if Ultimate Reality, as if the sustaining frame of existence, were something weak and helpless. These people walk by a widow deformed by leprosy begging for a few paise, walk by children dressed in rags living in the street, and they think, “Business as usual.” But if they percieve a slight against God, it is a different story. Their faces go red, their chests heave mightily, they sputter angry words. The degree of their indignation is astounding. Their resolve is frightening. These people fail to realise that it is on the inside that God must be defended, not on the outside.”
These comparisons are the very same fodder of foolishness.
I have heard often that when, after a sudden spark, Illaiyaraja pens a magnificient composition, writing fluidly in a magical moment where the perfection of all the possibilities for the song – infact, the original composition that Illaiyaraja concieves in his head, as he begins to note it down, to place it on paper… in that very act the composition changes, until he is left with something majestically different. And he cannot say for certain which composition was the better one. The one that was in his head, or the one that is now on paper.
And when, roused by the power of the composition, people have asked Ilaiyaraja the secret to his alchemy… he would most often point upwards onto heaven… for he himself knew not the contours of this divine power.
When Rahman is asked about his genius, he atributes all glory to God.
Harris Jeyaraj once mentioned in an interview that sometimes he gets the uncanny feeling that the most part of concieving a composition is actually within the period of “waiting”… for that moment where a revelation is given onto the composer by a higher force. That it is indeed an act of listening, of recieving. Not creating.
So, the genius that lies in any great composer, is not even his to own.
Yet here you are, like fools, adding thickness to the illusion.
Infact, for the most part if you catch a composer at an honest moment – no matter the manner in which he composes (Illayaraja is reputed to write the entire song through a single insight, and Rahman is reputed for his experimental and embracive nature), any composer will tell you that his gift is something that he cannot take credit for.
That is, until the advent of ego. That part of humanity that wants to own, despite all evidences to the contrary. This is why Illayaraja is also known for having fought with a filmmaker or two over why a film was a mega-blockbuster hit. He insisted that it was his music that made the film what it is, and the director would insist that it was his vision.
The truth is, all such sparks of creativity was not theirs…
And creative people, artists who have truly meditated over their gift will attest to this. They will tell you that the more they try to own it, the more they will lose it. The more they leave themselves open, the greater the sparks of genius.
Ilaiyaraja leaves himself open by different means to ARR, 0ther than that their genius lies only in their surrender onto God. Rahman prays before, during, after every composition, every day. He is acutely aware of what I am speaking of, as is Ilaiyaraja.
An erstwhile film journalist recounted his own experience when he once went to interview Iaiyaraja:
“He invited me into his room at Prasad Recording Studio (in Kodambakkam, in central Madras). It is a bare room, with just one straw mat to sit on and piles of the special, personalised notepaper Raja uses to compose on.
“After sitting cross legged on the floor for a bit, he suddenly got up and switched off the airconditioner – in August, mind you, when it is hottest in Madras. Then he sat, in the lotus posture, eyes closed, while I sweltered in the heat of that enclosed room. Suddenly, he opened his eyes and in his trademark soft voice, said, ‘The best music can be heard in the sounds of silence’, and then closed his eyes again to listen some more…”
A passage, “In his short life, Mozart created over 600 masterpieces. Because he was peerless in his accomplisments, like Michelangelo, many in his time claimed his treasured music to be divinely inspired, the voice of God.
“People make a mistake who think that my art has come easily to me,” he once explained. “Nobody has devoted so much time and thought to composition as I. There is not a famous master whose music I have not studied over and over.”
“Neither a lofty degree of intelligence nor imagination nor both together go to making of genius. Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius. ” – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
So, then, are you arguing and comparing who is more capable of love? Rahman or Raja? This does not seem silly to you?