A producer duo's new EP pays tribute to Tamil maestro Illaiyaraja, with modern twists
It's always a bit of a tricky prospect reimagining old musical classics, since there's a chance that purists will throw brickbats in the artiste's direction. But producer duo Raka and Malfnktion have nonetheless taken the plunge with Raaja Beats, their new EP where they have given modern twists to Tamil maestro Illaiyaraaja's tunes. The nine-track offering lays down bass lines and beats on songs including Vaa vaa ande, Pothi vecha and Raja rajathi. We catch up with Raka to find out more about their process.
How and why did you come up with the idea of an Illaiyaraaja-inspired EP?
This idea had been in the works for the past two years. But it was only around April in 2019 that Malfnktion and I decided to simply play around with a bunch of Illaiyaraaja classics to see where it would take us. We knocked out Pothi vecha, Raja rajathi and Ninnu kori within the first two days of sitting in the studio together, and that too quite effortlessly. This set the tone for the rest of the EP, and the tracks came together quite naturally after that. While there are a lot of producers out there who might be apprehensive about remixing Illaiyaraaja's work, fearing that they might receive backlash from hardcore fans, we looked at it as a great opportunity to re-imagine the maestro's classics, blurring lines between genres, and we believe we've achieved just that.
Illaiyaraaja has a massive oeuvre. What were some of the factors that you kept in mind while choosing this nine-track EP?
The entire process was quite organic from start to finish. It felt more like the tracks had found us than the other way round. Malfnktion and I instinctively knew from the very beginning that we'll have to retain the original essence of these songs, and let them shine a lot more as opposed to making them sound like a typical 'remix'. These edits were made to appeal to a new generation of kids who may not be familiar with Illaiyaraaja's work, and also to those like us, who have long been fans of the legend.
Can you give us an example of how Illaiyaraaja incorporated Western elements in his music?
Raja rajathi is one track where you can really notice Illaiyaraaja's experimental approach, which is best described as South Indian electronic pop music from the '80s. The original can still rock a party in the club.
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