Two generations grew up listening to his mellifluous voice crooning the maestro’s melodic numbers in Tamil films during the 70s and 80s. The later generations are also hooked on to them. Music apart they were the best of friends.
And last week, music maestro Ilaiayaraaja and singer S.P. Balasubrahmanyam fell out after Raaja asked his lawyers to restrain the Balasubrahmanyam , popularly known as SPB from singing his songs during a music tour of the USA.
After Raaja’s lawyers conveyed his objection to SPB that singing the composer’s songs without his permission amounted copyright violation, a heart-broken SPB took to his FB page to state that he would not sing them any longer.
“We kick-started this SPB50 concert tour in August in Toronto and then performed in Russia, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore and Dubai. We also did many shows in India. After we had great shows in Seattle iand LA last weekend an attorney representing Ilaiyaraaja sent legal notice to me, singer Chithra, SPB Charan and the organisers of the concerts and managements in different cities saying we are not supposed to perform Raaja’s compositions without his permission as it amounts to breaking copyright laws and we would have to pay huge penalties and also face legal action,” SPB explained.
Here's a video of Ilaiayaraaja and S.P. Balasubrahmanyam performing together:
He said that by God’s grace he had sung other composers’ songs too which he would present during the remainder of the tour. He urged his fans not to have any harsh discussions on the episode, apparently hoping to save his friendship with the legendary composer.
The Raja-SPB duo dominated Tamil cinema music for nearly two decades before the arrival of A. R. Rahman in the 90s. They had together presented many stage shows in India and abroad and their stage camaraderie and friendly banter used to liven up the performances. But the latest bouncer from Raaja has shocked not just SPB but also music lovers. While Raaja has composed songs over a 1,000 films SPB has sung more than 40,000 songs in various Indian languages – a record for both the giants.
In 2015, Raaja had gone to court to restrain four music labels from monetising his songs claiming that he held their copy rights and he was not getting any royalty from them. A similar diktat to FM radio stations saw his songs disappearing from the airwaves nearly two years ago. Strangely TV reality shows still songs by Ilaiyaraaja, but it could be a matter of time before even they are restrained. Thankfully for the Raaja-SPB fans MP3 versions of their songs abound in the internet and sold as pirated CDs and in memory cards.
An angry Illaiyaraaja had quit the Indian Performing Rights Society (IPRS) alleging it had failed to protect his copyright over his compositions. P. Sanjay Gandhi president of IPRS admitted that Raaja had the right to his songs and can issue a legal statement to anyone who sings without his permission. “A performance production right should be incorporated to avoid such hassles,” he said.
“It is sad to see two legends, who had complemented each other for many years, entangled in this issue. This puts singers in a tricky spot. The event organizers should sort this out and keep us out of such battles,” said singer Sunitha Sarathy.
In the past, Vinod Yesudas, son of Yesudas, had demanded royalty from playback singer Unni Menon for singing the songs his father had sung at a concert.