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Ilayaraja controversy: Singers-composers voice concern over royalty issue

Press Trust of India  |  Mumbai 

Bollywood singers and composers feel it's not right to hold a singer liable for singing songs of a composer and there should be more clarity on copyright and royalty issues.

Recently, legendary singer SP Balasubrahmanyam was slapped with a legal notice from music maestro Ilayaraja for singing his compositions without his permission.

National award-winning singer Balasubrahmanyam in his Facebook post claimed that he had received a legal notice from his music director friend Ilayaraaja's attorney for singing the songs composed by him. The ace music director said he was ignorant of such legalities.

Balasubrahmanyam, who is currently on a world tour, has said he would not sing songs composed by Ilayaraja at his other upcoming concerts.

The world tour, SPB50, to commemorate Balasubrahmanyam's 50th year in the film industry, began in August in Toronto after which they performed in Russia, Malaysia, Singapore and Dubai besides numerous shows in India.

Popular singer Armaan Malik, who sang a song for Ilayaraja in "Ki & Ka", says it is the job of the event managers to make sure they have the necessary legal requirements before a performance.

"Singers, performers are merely doing their job. The singers are not liable to seek permission from music composers.

"The event organisers of such tours or shows are supposed to have those legalities sorted out with PPL (Phonographic Performance Limited) or IPRS (The Indian Performing Right Society Limited)," Armaan told PTI.

Singer-composer Sona Mohapatra believes the issue should be looked at from a broader perspective and the state of 'creation' and 'creators' in the country should be brought to notice.

"It is an unfair environment, where, unlike the west, intellectual property is wholly owned and controlled by the producers of content and there is virtually no sharing of residuals and royalties with the original composers, lyricists and even writers of content.

Singer Abhijeet Bhattacharya believes it is the lack of a trusted body which has become problematic as singers, music composers and lyricist never get the royalty they deserve.

The singer says Ilayaraja and AR Rahman may have a royalty system down south, which then makes them owners of their content, something which Bollywood composers can't claim.

"Bollywood music directors, singers and lyricist have no rights over their content. It is sad that just the music companies own everything. There are several associations which collect royalties on behalf of singers and music directors but I doubt it reaches them.

"I sing lots of Kishore Kumar, RD Burman songs. The organiser has to give royalty to such associations but does the money go to their families? It directly goes to the companies and that is a problem," claims Abhijeet.

The way to end this, Sona feels, is by the industry coming forward and taking efforts to make things "balanced."

"What needs to be set right are the fundamentals. Revenue and respect have to go hand in hand and this particular incident is an opportunity for the whole industry to come together and make things more balanced and fair to creators."


Salim Merchant, of music composer duo Salim-Sulaiman, hopes that the issue between the duo is sorted out soon. But he feels happy when singers perform on his songs as it helps the music reach a wider audience.

"Music is a very powerful force to me, it's about people, it connects humans from all different walks of life, it connects countries and traditions, we are happy when singers sing our songs. Both Raja sir and SPB are very respected and loved. I hope they settle it," Salim says.

The composer also says the case is different in Mumbai as "a lot of composers are performers as well and that problem may never occur in Bollywood."

"With others singing our songs it only helps our music reach more people. Like for instance 'Chak De India' was made for the film and composed by us. Now the entire country sings it," Salim adds.

SPB, as he is fondly called, made his singing debut in 1966 for the Telugu film

"Sri Sri Sri Maryada Ramanna" has ruled for over five decades by singing over 40,000 songs in several languages including Tamil, Hindi, Kannada and Telugu.

In 2011, he was also honoured with the Padma Bhushan besides winning multiple national awards.

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First Published: Tue, March 21 2017. 14:43 IST
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