Qatar(IAMINQATAR): In our eyes, growing up A R Rahman disciples, the art always went hand-in-hand with the artiste, this music maestro seemingly of another world. From his fantastical musical breakthrough in 1990s with Tamil film Roja, to double Grammy, double Oscar, Bafta, Golden Globe, four National Awards and being named as one of the most influential people by Time Magazine, in recognition of his contribution to music, Rahman has scored award-winning soundtracks for over 100 movies, including Slumdog Millionaire, Dil Se, Million Dollar Arm, Highway, to name but a few.
His self-effecing personality just compliments the enigmatic phenomenon he is.
In 1987 Rahman, then still known as Dileep, got his first opportunity to compose jingles for new range of watches being launched by a brand and in 1992, he was approached by film director Mani Ratnam to compose the score and soundtrack for Ratnam’s Tamil film Roja, the rest remains the history.
As well as penning and performing some of history’s best-loved Bollywood songs, the mega music star has also been responsible for placing India on the cultural map of the world, breaking rules of conventional structure of music and pushing boundaries with the orchestral melodies to perfection.
From jazz, fusion, romance, Bollywood sassy or Quwalis, the maestro has given us tonnes of catchy jams to vibe out to with his haunting, earthy element, a quality that has become his signature. Skilled in Carnatic music, Western classical, Hindustani music and the Qawwali style of Pakistani singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Rahman has been noted to write film songs that amalgamate elements of these music systems and other genres, layering instruments from differing music idioms in an improvisatory manner.
As the beat drops in most of his sound tracks, shivers whisking down the spine and goosebumps on the skin is an evidence that his sound tracks are masterpieces to cherish. Rahman continually renews himself by drawing strength from others – not just his collaborators/films, but his audience.
He is here in Doha to give a live performance tomorrow at Khalifa International Stadium, considered as the biggest concert Qatar has ever witnessed.
Just before he starts rehearsing for his show, we have the two-time Oscar and Grammy winner seated cross-legged with us, in a grey embossed jacket, purple kurta shirt and all that calm voice.
A R Rahman talked to Gulf Times about his more than two decade long journey, his inspiration and spirituality with music.
Rahman, who began as a studio musician, is now at home in performing live. He said: “In the beginning, it was very difficult to create a sound. It was hard to change the mindset to create a sound. It might take more than two months to create a sound. Now, we are more comfortable because we have amazing world-class players. The crew is really cherry picked for an amazing performance. I mean when you have good people and amazing musicians, you have to rise up to the level.”
The music magician on his constant inspiration said: “We have to understand that there are many different professions. My father was blessed with music. I took forward the legacy. My mother made me realise that what gift music was. So, being in it is better than being in any other job. I realise that. Every time I get love, I feel like this is worth being in this (music). So far so good, with God’s grace.”
There is no one track of Rahman that he thinks can be said challenging. He said: “Sometime certain things happen very fast. If what state of mind you are in and what they require is same, it is fine.
Sometime your state of mind is different. You are going through some internal turmoil but they need something happy. You have to serve what they are asking for but inside you are not in tuned. That is where it is difficult. You have to take the negative things off.”
When asked about his most significant contribution to music so far, he said: “(laughs) Being in music. There is too much distraction. We are distracted in million ways. But there is the commitment to being in music, to the music education, and the thirst to learn more. There is a lot more. When you realise what you do not know is when you know that you have to learn.”
For the maestro, music and spirituality are two sides of one coin. “Whatever makes you focused and realise the infinite, the power of God, the unknown, it is something special. We are all hardwired in the mind to search for the unknown, search for the answers we do not know. I think music in a way kind of focuses you towards that – good music. So that is what I am always curious about.”
About how different it is for him working in Hollywood and Bollywood, he said: “For me everything is same. These are the commitments. If I get the right team to work with I am lucky.”
He advises the young and aspiring musicians to be passionate and hardworking. “If you are at a surface level and constantly thinking that you have done a right decision to jump into the world of music, first estimate yourself and see where you stand. Can you be the best – if not – find something else. To be the best is not just (having) blessings. It is also hard work – hard work towards refinement and excellence.
“In the end, I would ask the people in Qatar to come and enjoy the concert.”
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