Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Why is he a musical genius?

What is that Raja has done that no other Indian musician has, to qualify for being called a genius? Here are top 10 reasons.

  1. No other Indian music composer has such a solid understanding of Music theory and especially Western Classical Music (WCM) theory.
  2. He is the first true and complete Indian music composer – he does melody composition (all MDs do that), he harmonizes the melody, arranges the instruments, orchestrates and finally mixes and records as well. He is a one-man show. Unlike Bollywood, where one person does melody composition, another does the arrangement, the third one does the orchestration (conducting). Next time when you watch a Bollywood movie, pay attention to the credits.
  3. He is the fastest background music composer in the world.
  4. He is the best interlude composer that I have ever heard in Indian cinema. While most Indian film composers consider an interlude as ‘filler’, he has developed it into a super fine art. I will discuss this later in greater detail with examples.
  5. He experiments with musical ideas from several forms of music all the time. Other composers do this too. However, Raja’s experiments are so varied, that no one qualifies to be even a distant second. I will cover some of his experiments in detail later with examples.
  6. He does not even hum his tune, or play it on a keyboard or piano – just writes his music! This is music by design, not trial and error.
  7. No Indian musician has delivered so much quality despite being so prolific. At his peak, he delivered music for about 51 films in a year – that’s about 250 songs or at the rate of 2 songs a day, work of 125 days. On an average of 3 days for per film BGM, you are already stacking another 150 days. This does not include discussions with directors to understand the script and story line. In that year, he had at least 125 hit songs. His success rate is definitely above 45% of the tunes he sets. Most MDs will be happy at 10%. And most composers can either get quality or quantity, not both. There is nothing called Raja’s top 10 – the best you can get is Raja’s top 200!
  8. He is the only living musician who understands WCM and CCM so well that can effortlessly move from one to the other, without the listener being aware, honoring all the rules of both the systems.
  9. As someone who started off in an industry that was dominated by CCM, musicians who were not score sheet driven, voices not trained in the formal Western way, a system unfamiliar with multi-part music composition, Raja changed it all within a few years. No sound is produced that is not written, even chorus is written and conducted, precision in timing is taken for granted today and singers just end up doing exactly what the composer is expecting. In other words this is a paradigm shift from a chaotic music production process to an orderly well oiled machine.
  10. Raja has given everybody the boldness to use any instrument for whatever the composer wants to create a ‘feel’ for. Shenai is no more for just pathos, veena is no more for just an auspicious situation, flute does not always signify a village, a sax is no more for youth, a guitar is no more for just romance, a violin is no more for just melancholy – he has changed every visualization that we have had about the musical instruments we hear in just less than 3 decades!

Lastly, some of Raja’s counterpoints (do not worry, I will introduce counterpoints later), when separated can serve as great melody phrases themselves! And so are his bass tracks! In the future, there will be several MDs who will steal his melodies from his bass and counterpoint work, that’s for sure. In my view, if Raja was just homophonic (most Indian music is), he could have scored for another 200 movies by now!

There are several other reasons for calling him a musical genius. As I do not want to repeat what others have already said, here is a great summary of his genius by Kavignar Vaali during the ‘Andrum Indrum Endrum’ show held in Oct 2005.


Vijay Venkatraman Janarthanan said...

Hi Ravi!

Splendid observation! I bet most readers will agree with you. Just want to add something again: 'Andrum Indrum Endrum' show was held in October 2005 and not in December 2006.

With thanks & regards,

V said...

"He is the best interlude composer that I have ever heard in Indian cinema."

Perfect !!!!!!!

Unknown said...

perfect. hats off you. he is ''the'' indian film composer of the century.

Unknown said...

Raja the GREAT .

Unknown said...

Hi Ravi,

What you are doing is a commendable job. Raaja is my favorite composer too. You humbly put it as not for expert discussion, but what I see is an expertise on each topic you touch upon. Thanks a lot for such detailed analysis of Raaja's techniques. What's your take on Salil Choudhary?

God bless...



Unknown said...

Really a article fantastic we poor people know about him only as a music director but he was a great composer. A child hides various things in home without the of knowledge mother..similarly he embedded thousands of minute things in various places of bgm and with our poor knowledge if we find anything the wholeday will be bright,,
he never explained his works briefly
but when you understand his whole life thru his bgms ,,,tears will roll out from eyes
As raja sir told in erode book exibition ...,o lived my whole life for music