Musical maestro Ilaiyaraaja recently performed in Toronto to a huge crowd of music fans who were excited to see the legend live. However, there is one thing about his live show that many were surprised by: his request that audience members do not whistle or cheer during his performance.
Musician James Vasanthan took to his personal blog to write an open letter to Ilaiyaraaja, asking him to reconsider his policy. Interestingly, this incident in Toronto isn’t the first of it’s kind; according to James Vasanthan’s post, the composer threatened to leave the stage if people clapped or whistled during a performance in India in 2007.
"If we choose to be a film composer, we are in a commercial entity and we are bound to certain norms and practices even if we do not subscribe to them," he wrote. "We have not heard any star or singer or composer or performer ever complaining on the audience’s whistles. In our composer’s case, not once but several times, in all his concerts and now recently in Toronto where he said this and earned the wrath of scores of Tamils who had longed to see and hear him, paying hundreds of dollars."
It does indeed seem strange of the musician to dictate how the audience is allowed to react, and as James points out in his blog, whilst audience restraint is required at certain music events (operas, classical performances and religious shows), cinema music is a form of commercial music. This type of music is "made to entertain a common man," continues James. "It is he who makes a star out of a man he admires…The whole film industry is dependent on his approval…When it is so, what is wrong in the audience clapping and whistling for the songs they love?"
He goes on to point out that many of the composer’s songs, including "Machaana Paatheengala" and "Yeh Aatha", are upbeat numbers and not "meditation songs". He concluded by saying: "We all love, adore, cherish, enjoy, treasure your music. If only you can reconsider your policy in this one aspect, it would do lot of good to all of us, sir."
The blog post has received a lot of feedback, with many arguing that Ilaiyaraaja has the right to demand the audience to refrain from whistling, adding that it is an insult to class the maestro’s music as nothing more than film music!
What are your thoughts on the issue? Does Ilaiyaraaja have a right to ask his audience not to cheer or whistle whilst he performs?