I don't seem to want to listen to music other than Ilayaraja's. It might be keeping me away from a lot of other music, that I could regrettably be missing, but I think his music has special appeal to me because it was the music in the time I was growing up as a child. I remember Gharshana's "Rajadhi Raja" playing on radio as I was rushed up to get ready for school in time to catch the bus. The vocals are another reason. S.P.Balasubrahmanyam, S.Janaki, K.S.Chitra and Jesudas are the voices that defined Telugu film music in that age, and they were always at their best when they sung for Ilayaraja. Listening to his music brings back another time, and the feeling that I'm in India.
I am discovering a lot of Ilayaraja music on Youtube, mostly in Tamil and a lot of which I hadn't heard before, and though I don't understand more than a few words, there is a certain delight in listening. A few ones I've been playing are here:
The first one, Ilayaraja composed for one of Mani Rathnam's early films in 1983. It has been used as the jingle for Idea cellular advertisements recently, R.Balakrishnan the director of the ad is a fan of Ilayaraja music. He also made the recent Hindi film "Cheeni Kum", featuring some rehashed versions of Ilayaraja classics. That is probably testimony to the music's lingering quality. That or that Ilayaraja has a way of forming a die-hard fan club.
With many music directors, many voices and many films today, there is somehow a lesser lingering quality to current Telugu music. It is of course not wise to ask for the monopoly of one single music director or vocalist, as countless people have the desire to sing or make music and some will indeed bring a new wave. But, repetition and a lack of experimentation on the part of music directors and vocalists has led to the creation of music that sounds alright but isn't noteworthy. There is a distinctive feel to Ilayaraja's music, and there is great variety making his music memorable.