/ A.R. Rahman The Man Behind the Music

A.R. Rahman The Man Behind the Music

Jul 22, 2013

He talks about his tour, the Oscars and the unwaivering strength of the human spirit

Jai Ho! to the well-deserved recognition that the "Mozart of Madras," A.R. Rahman, received in 2009 when he bagged two Oscars and two Grammys along with a plethora of other awards worldwide. The icon who has mesmerized the globe with his emotion-filled tracks and innovative projects plans to do the same with his current world tour, "Jai Ho: A Journey Home." Rahman, whose music has gained a global audience, told me when I sat down with him in New York City, that he is "open to anybody who wants to come and enjoy and experience something good."

A.R. Rahman is not the one to sit still. He relishes in growing as a musician, with his most recent work on the soundtrack of the blockbuster Hollywood film Couples Retreat. Now he is busy collaborating on his "Jai Ho" tour with Amy Tinkham, a choreographer/director who is also the mastermind behind stage shows for the likes of Britney Spears, Madonna and Paul McCartney. The summer tour that will hit 16 major cities across Canada, U.S. and the U.K., promises to include a global cast of dancers, spectacular special effects and musicians that are inspired by India.

Featuring Rahman's best works in Bollywood films as well as his tracks from the Oscar award-winning soundtrack for Slumdog Millionaire, the "Jai Ho" concert showcases Rahman as the true musical genius that he is. But what about the man behind the music? He sits down with ANOKHI to tell us what really makes him tick.

Your passion for music is obviously what keeps you going, but what fuels your devotion?
I think just the quest of trying something new because that's what keeps you moving. (When) you do the same thng every day, you get bored. (And my) audience, of course. If I listen to it probably 100 times they listen to it 2000 times and it has to still excite them so the question is, what is exciting for everybody. That's what keeps me going.

You have always been globally renowned. However, the track "Jai Ho" got you well-deserved recognition at the Oscars and at the Grammy awards. Did you know that the Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack would take you so far?
I didn't think it was going to win an Oscar but I knew it was right for the movie because the character was under so much turmoil. When a song comes out it feels like, yes! You know when you say "yes"? When you achieve something? "Jai Ho" is like that.

You received even more appreciation from the West after your Oscar and Grammy wins. Do you have plans to change your works to adapt it to a western audience?
I think there is an identity that cannot be changed. I cannot become like Michael Jackson (laughs) but the music becomes different when different people combine. When I collaborate with someone, they would not imagine it's going to come out like that, and I would not imagine it to come out a certain way either.

So that is the great part of collaborations. I am looking forward to those kinds of things."

Speaking about the West, what was it like to work on your very first Hollywood film, Couples Retreat?
There was a Chicano portion (referring to Mexican-American influenced beats) on the (soundtrack) which is really American. They go to this exotic island and there is a mixed culture. Anybody could be there-like a Tamil guy, (they) could be African, and you know, other types of people. So these elements decide on the music and I wanted to bring in Sanskrit because (the film featured) yoga teacher, it was a lot of fun!

Whether it is in the East or the West, what do you think your music does for a global audience aside from entertaining?
Music therapy. I get a lot of mail saying "we fell in love hearing this song." Then there's a couple of people who say they are down and say "I want to commit suicide but I heard this song and now I want to live" so that's good. I also want to do stuff that is more meditative across the board.

When people think of you they often see you as a very spiritual man. Does your faith ever mix into your music?
I think it is definitely foolishness to split anything on caste and religion and everybody should keep their religion at home, or caste at home, because ultimately people respect who wants to contribute to the nation, those who make a change that is positive for humanity. In my life I have realized that quite early. If you do good to people nobody is gonna define you as a Muslim or a Hindu. They will just see you as a human being who is contributing to humanity. We learn those lessons not by teaching, but from life. By hating, as I said at the Oscars, you destroy yourself, it's like an acid in your heart and you just disintegrate. By loving, that way you don't lose anything. This is so simple but very profound.

Besides your music you are very dedicated to the KM conservatory in Chennai, India (a multidisciplinary music education center inaugurated in 2008 by A.R.Rahman). Do you teach at the school as well?
I don't teach there. I am not a good teacher (laughs), but we have great teachers. People have recognized my work and learn from it.

Do you have a message for ANOKHI readers?
Do come to the show and enjoy and spread the love, God bless.

From Bollywood to Hollywood A.R. Rahman has lived up to his iconic status. He stays true to his values. Instead of adapting to the western world he has been accepted by the West for his artistry. Whether it is the KM Conservatory or his collaborations, Rahman's passion creates incredible works.

As he travels on his "Jai Ho" tour, the world continues to anticipate what he is going to offer next.



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