MUSICSCAN: Ilayaraja’s non-film album ‘Nothing But Wind’, performed live recently to a full house in the large concert hall of The Music Academy for a cross-cultural music programme

Chennai does have a hard core of dedicated lovers of Western classical and avant-garde music, but you wouldn't normally expect to see a full house in the large concert hall of The Music Academy for a cross-cultural music programme even if it had a Mozart connection. But that's precisely what materialised last Saturday evening, when a medium-sized local orchestra, drawn mainly from the Tamil cinema world, gave a live performance of music director Ilayaraja's 1988 album titled ‘Nothing But Wind', which features five unusual compositions blending Indian and Western colours, outside the familiar field of his immensely popular film music.

The enthusiastic audience included hundreds of adoring Ilayaraja fans, who weren't likely to have turned up at all for such a programme if it hadn't involved their idol. But it was quite amazing to see how intensely they listened to the unfamiliar music, which they greeted with thundering applause after every number. They seemed to sense instinctively that such unusual experiments must have been a natural extension of Ilayaraja's versatile musical expression, which had drawn inspiration from worldwide musical sources and enriched South Indian film music by adding brilliant new colours to plain rustic shades.

Although readily accepting the maestro's excursions into such uncommon territory, the faithful flock did repeatedly clamour for him to sing something. And the organisers made a gesture of mutual goodwill after the notified programme was over, by adding a vocal element to the ensemble and asking the musicians to render popular film songs!

Flute predominates

The 1988 CD ‘Nothing But Wind' had prominently projected the flute as a solo instrument, accompanied by a large film orchestra in Madras, and the versatile Hindustani musician Hariprasad Chaurasia had played the North Indian flute(s) brilliantly. This time round, the soloist was Navin Iyer, who too performed remarkably well.

This brand of music, which had been inspired mostly by the composer's introspective vision of Nature and life, is highly evocative, with the titles ‘Singing Self', ‘Song of Soul', ‘Composer's Breath' and ‘Nothing But Wind'. But the main appeal of these compositions to the discerning music lover is essentially intellectual rather than sentimental.

But there's one composition among them, ‘Mozart, I love you!', which truly transcends intellectual perceptions, and reaches out straight to your heart and stays there. Obviously inspired by the fourth and last movement (‘Allegro Con Spirito') of Mozart's Symphony No. 29, but richly infused with a distinct Indian flavour, this marvellous piece of music sounds like what Mozart himself might have composed had he been inspired by Indian music!

If you wish to hear it, look online for ‘YouTube - Nothing But Wind I Love You Mozart'. As regards the Mozart piece mentioned above, YouTube has several versions, and perhaps the following sounds best: ‘Mozart's 29th Symphony ARCA XXI - 4 Allegro Con Spirito'.

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