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Rahman Alaways Be a Music King Rahman Alaways Be a Music King

Topic started by Revival_kamal@Rahman Fan (@ on Tue Apr 23 03:37:40 EDT 2002.
All times in EST +10:30 for IST.

A.R. Rahman is on a roll. A Broadway musical about Bollywood? Yes, that's what we are going to see in 2001 thanks to Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber! The music of Bollywood Dreams will be provided by A.R. Rahman. In fact, this coming year we should be seeing a lot more of this hugely talented music composer whose music almost guarantees a box-office hit for a Bollywood movie. Indeed, if there's one single performer who's popularized the sound of Bollywood abroad it's A.R. Rahman.

Last year his four debut concerts across America attracted record crowds: The event in New York drew 16,500 people while over 22,000 turned up at the concert in Toronto, including Japanese fans in T-shirts, which read "Come to Tokyo, Rahman!" In San Francisco there were over 9,000, and in Los Angles 6,000 fans filled the Shrine Auditorium.

This traveling musical extravaganza with a cast and crew of 102 included such well-known names as Udit Narayan, Kavita Krishnamurti, S.P. Balasubramaniam, Hariharan, Sukhwinder Singh, Shankar Mahadevan, Sadhana Sargam and Anupama. A 70 piece orchestra with live chorus, special lighting effects and sophisticated production made the concert a must see, with music from Roja to Taal.

Audiences at the concerts also got to hear a scratch recording from the much-anticipated Bombay Dreams, Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber's stage show. "The Moon Song," a richly melodic song, was sung by Indo-Canadian discovery Karen Shenaz. Says Rahman, "It's a love story based in Bollywood and stars both Asian and English stars." He's already created 18 scratches or early versions of the songs and is trying them out at different shows to gauge the reaction.

"It is the increasing popularity of Indian film music which has forced the west to sit up and take notice of the richness and diversity of the Indian notes," observes Rahman. "There is a whole new movement towards Indian music happening the world over. The fact that Taal entered the Top 20 on the UK charts encouraged Lord Webber to experiment with Indian music too." According to Rahman, the music director of Bombay Dreams will interpret his score and the stage show will open next year in London.

This month Sony Music released Zubeidaa, the music from Shyam Benegal's movie starring Karishma Kapoor, Manoj Bajpai and Rekha. This period film evokes the 50's and the music is slow and symphonic, celebrating Lata's voice. Says Rahman, 'I've been wanting to do that style for almost 8 years; the right time was now." Also soon to be released is the music from the Kamal Hasan starrer Tennali and by November, Lagan, which is Aamir Khan's production.

Indeed, Rahman-mania is on full swing across the Indian Diaspora. Go to the Net and you find scores of websites and homepages devoted totally to the unassuming musician. At concerts and social gatherings he gets the kind of adulation generally reserved for Bollywood hunks.

He's sold more than 100 million albums. His music for the Tamil film Padayappa sold 1.2 million copies in two days, and the same happened with the Hindi film Taal whose very catchy score made it one of the top 20 grossers even in the United States and the United Kingdom. He's received every conceivable music related award in India, and films with music composed by him are near-guaranteed box office hits.

The late great Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan called him a musical genius and he's collaborated with David Byrne, Talvin Singh, L. Shankar, Zakir Husain and Apache Indian. He's won 12 Filmfare awards, the Padmashri, and captured the imagination of Indians everywhere with his patriotic ballads Vande Mataram and Jana Gana Mane.

But who is the man behind the celebrity? And why has success left him unfazed, thoroughly unassuming and really quite cool? Just eight years ago Rahman was a little known musician in Madras. His father, music composer K.A Shekar, died when Rahman was only 9. He quit school early to start working as a musician and supporting his mother and three sisters. He began composing advertising jingles and was fascinated by the synthesizer. He says, "For me, technology and music came together."

He went to the Trinity College of Music in London on a scholarship. After his London sojourn he returned to Madras and established a state of the art recording studio and began experimenting with sound engineering, design and production. He recalls, "I started playing in the studios as a musician and composing commercials. Initially music was a work thing for me; you go and you get money. I started as a player because I didn't know if I had this composing talent. The interest came when I started composing, that was fun. That developed into scoring."

His first film, Mani Ratnam's Roja skyrocketed him to fame, and the blockbusters have rained upon him. His 1995 soundtrack for the film Bombay crossed 5 million units and Rahman had arrived as the King of Indian Pop. Taal, for instance, sold 4 million units by the end of 1999.

Born A.S. Duleep Kumar, he converted to Islam during the days of hardship, and finds that his faith in Allah touches everything he does. He says, "Something happens that is beyond you." For Rahman, religion is a family affair and along with his mother, wife Saira, and two daughters, Kateja, 5, and Rafia, 2, they are an observant family. He believes that Allah creates the magic that happens with his music.

A believer in Sufi mysticism, his music is about universal love and comes out bold and unfettered, attracting listeners to its larger than life sound. Using hi-tech equipment and fusing music of different traditions he celebrates Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, reggae, rock and Carnatic music.

In fact, his joyous music seems to bring in vibrant, diverse rhythms, which create unexpected aural images, cutting across international borders. Yet he remembers hard times as well as good times with calm, accepting them both as the will of God: " When I think I'm doing the action, then I feel the pain. So I get that thought out because we are not in control of anything. You try hard, you pray and that's it. It's much more peaceful than thinking you can control everything, because you can't."

Rahman believes that it's all about letting people have their space and living in harmony. He says, "By putting other people down, you never grow big." That philosophy runs through his music, and is the reason he's been able to bring such magic to the patriotic ballad Vande Mataram, on which he also sang. In fact, singing has always been a passion with Rahman and he has sung on a number of film tracks.

With his faith in his heart, Rahman continues to create music that charms audiences across the Diaspora. His concert in Kuala Lumpur attracted 40,000 people and his performance in Dubai attracted 50,000. Last year alone he was in New York several times, twice to receive Bollywood awards from NRI audiences for his music for Taal.

Rahman believes that Bollywood is going to have a major impact on the West. He says, "Madonna is singing our songs, Michael Jackson is crooning Ekam Satyam. Even Stanley Kubrick incorporated Indian notes on the soundtrack of Eyes Wide Shut."

Bollywood, you've come a long way baby! And of course, some of the credit must go the magic of A.R. Rahman.


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