Sunday, March 31, 2013

Ilaiyaraja live in San Jose

I know this post comes very late - I just didn't have the time to sit and write about it, and moreover, for a while after it was over, I was in a stupor and was unable to put anything of what I felt in words. Nevertheless, I thought I should say something about the concert here for the record, since it was easily one of the most cherished musical experiences I have ever had. On March 1st I witnessed a dream concert: "Maestro" Ilaiyaraja was in San Jose with his entire team of amazing musicians. From Chitra to SPB to Hariharan to the no-name stars in the orchestra, the show was nothing short of magic. Four decades of musical brilliance came alive in the 5-or-so hours. The orchestra was impeccable, the singers masterly and fervent, and the man - Raja - himself, stood there truly like a king, bursting with all the years of well-earned and rightful pride and authority. It was an unforgettable evening and I was so emotionally charged - like all the other die-hard fans I'm sure - that I had a "hangover" for almost a week after the concert. I would be doing injustice to the concert if I start talking about any one or two songs, and it would be impossible for me to write in detail about every song. Still, I'll just go ahead and say that pottu vaiththa kadhal had me at the edge of my seat from start to end and sundari kannal and thenpandi chemmaiyile brought tears. If you closed your eyes, you'd think it was the original casette playing (but with the recording boosted up and digitized to modern standards). The rushing violins in sundari kannal were transfixing and the trumpets just so grandiose. Chitra, my idol was her usual adorable self, and SPB was giving us some glimpses of Raja's genius by narrating some anecdotes during composing and having the orchestra play for us some short, isolated bits to highlight the strength of those particular sections. Mano was jovial and entertaining and was a true sport when Raja pulled his leg about his Thamizh years ago when he was learning Shenbagame (although I wonder who *wouldn't* have been a sport with Raja), and Karthik had a great stage presence. The four women who were part of the chorus and also had some solos/ duets each were amazing too. Unfortunately I don't know their names - except for one of them, NSK Ramya. Overall, wonderful evening and the heart felt heavy as it came to an end. Some people were put off by Raja's quirks - they felt he was being too arrogant and not respectful of the people who had paid a lot to watch him. Well, some of his comments were indeed uncalled for - like when he asked "idhu dhaan neenga vaazhara latchanama" or something to that effect when people were whistling/ loudly cheering to some of the songs. But then he's extraordinary, and for all the years of joy he has given us, I don't think I have anything to grumble about and will take anything from him in return for his out-of-the-world music.
We've always known this man to be superhuman, but seeing him live, listening to him sing, pray, pour his heart out, love, cheer, and also admonish, scold, and rant was truly something else. An evening I'll remember for a long time to come.