Balleilakka (arranged for earthsongs by Ethan Sperry) is a song from the Tamil film Sivaji, which means “The Boss.” Tamil is the language of the Southern Indian province of Tamil Nadu whose capital, Chennai (Madras under British rule) is India’s third-largest city and A.R. Rahman’s home. An old language dating back to before 300 B.C., Tamil is the native language of Singapore and Sri Lanka as well as tens of millions of Indians (there are almost 2,000 newspapers in print in Tamil today of which about 350 are daily papers). The text of this piece is a tongue-twister lamenting how traditional Indian culture is being subsumed and listing the speaker’s memories of his homeland in increasingly faster syllabic patterns.
Often referred to as “The Indian Mozart”, A.R. Rahman writes at least as fast, having completed over 100 film scores since 1992. His soundtracks have sold more than 300 million copies worldwide, making him one of the best-selling recording artists of all time. He has won fourteen of India’s Filmfare awards (the equivalent of the Oscar) and his first two Academy Awards in 2008, one for “Jai Ho” being the Best Song of the Year.