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I have all along been a ring-side fan of Illayaraja.

Sort of like the way you deal with the Sun. Never looking at it directly eye-to-eye, but aware of it all the while on the periphery of the conscience, wishing it wasn’t so in-yer-face all the time; refusing to accept its omnipresence, but at the same time enjoying a few flashes of brilliance (ha!) now and then to bits.

But a few seemingly unconnected incidents in the recent past have made me want to change all that, and actually get down on my knees and bow to the man’s greatness.

Let me explain.

I happened to take a renewed rush of interest in Rithi Gowla and the sheer ecstasy of its intricacies of over the last few days. I had first heard Maharajapuram Santanam render it several years ago when I was still in school (maybe early years in college) and that experience is still fresh in my mind and to tell you the truth, the pimples of geese from how that experience moved me, haven’t quite settled yet.

And then of course I was blown over by Madurai Mani’s Tatvamariya Tarama (also Riti Gowla) later after a few years and have been in a daze ever since in life. Here is a TVS version of the raaga to set the context.

So, you will appreciate the range of emotional repercussions of what I am about to share with you. As I was trying to get to dissect and analyze Riti Gowla further, I discovered an incredible version of the raaga that I have heard very often over the past several years – a cinema song composed by none other than Illayaraja, never realizing in all these years that it was based on the very raaga we are discussing. I dug out the Youtube video of the song for your pleasure, however, there is no visual delight you should expect from this.

The reason this particular piece, to me, is exemplary is of course that it is in fact,   Riti Gowla, but cloaked so well in a Tam ‘pop’ form that you just have to salute the Maestro’s brilliance. And when you realize it is Dr.Balamuralikrishna at the vocals, you have to stand up when you do that salute!

Hope you like it as much. Leave a comment if you do!


  • Notice how he sets the raaga in the beginning (with the flute)
  • How he exploits the Flute to do bass work (1:24 – 1:35)
  • Tabla at 2:10 onwards, a sort of Illayaraja trademark if you will.
  • Well, there are more, you figure out 😉 Thats the real joy of music. The one-to-one communication the composer has with the listener!
  • Ok I tried to be funny with the title 😉 you know why.
Thx to Arun for the TVS audio clip.