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His education in music began when his father took him along to live recordings. Initially taught by his father, R. Selvaraj had his first tryst with musical notes on the violin when he was seven. Soon, all the string instruments lined up at the recording studios became his forte. The orchestra player familiarised himself with 17 instruments and played them for 250 music directors in the Indian film industry. He talks to S. Aishwarya about the past and present of film music.
His solo violin pieces have infused pathos while his double bass renderings have intensified the galvanic effect in thrillers. In many shoestring budget films, the instrumentalist has handled the entire string instruments section by himself.
Selvaraj has been part of the orchestra for 1,000-odd films and played for almost every music director in his 40 years' experience.
But numbers do not matter much for the composer-aspirant, who has been nursing the dream of becoming a music director for 10 years.
“But I have not really taken the initiative to hunt for chances as the recordings keep me occupied all the time,” he says, reading out a long list of assignments from his call sheet. It all began when composer Shankar Ganesh offered him the first chance, after observing his interest in string instruments. Though his career took off as a violinist, he soon mastered other instruments such as double bass, cello, violo, trumpet, mandolin, dilruba and pogo.
“After my father's training, I never had any professional training me. I learnt to play other instruments all by myself. Instruments never failed to intrigue me.”
Selvaraj turns nostalgic when the conversation steers towards the recording practices of 1970s.
“The experience of live performances is unmatched. We had top-slot singers performing along with our orchestra. It was like family.”
Yesteryear recordings made instrumentalists feel important and they were perfect learning platforms for amateurs, says Selvaraj.
Drawing parallels between the past and present, he says as the recordings are being done separately nowadays, instrumentalists never get to know the singer or the co-performers.
Having been part of the orchestra in scores of albums of Illayaraja and A.R. Rahman, Selvaraj is all praise for the composers.
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