A R Rahman returns after years to perform in Dubai

Ahead of his first Sufi concert in the UAE, musician A R Rahman tells us about what inspires him.
Indian singer and composer A R Rahman, centre, performs in a concert organized by Bangladesh Cricket Board in March this year. Andrew Biraj / Reuters
Indian singer and composer A R Rahman, centre, performs in a concert organized by Bangladesh Cricket Board in March this year. Andrew Biraj / Reuters

Two Oscars, two Grammies, a BAFTA, a Golden Globe, four National Film Awards and 15 Filmfare Awards: A R Rahman’s list of successes reads like the wall of fame of not just one person, but a whole bevy of musicians.

Referred to by Time magazine as “the world’s most prominent and prolific film composer”, the 47-year-old Indian musician – who launched his career in the early 1990s with the Tamil film Roja, and is performing at Dubai Sufi Weekend tonight – is one the world’s best-selling recording artists of all time.

When asked what inspires him to create music, he says, “Love, love and love.”

One of the highest-paid composers for film, Rahman is a keen philanthropist, who believes in paying it forward.

“I want to give back to society,” he says. “My K M Music college in Chennai keeps me motivated to do more and I’m also turning creative producer and scriptwriter for my first movie, due to launch next year.”

Born A S Dileep Kumar in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India, Rahman was exposed to music from an early age. His father composed and conducted music for Tamil and Malayalam films, and took Rahman under his musical wing from an early age, but sadly passed away when Rahman was just 9.

Rahman also went on to study western classical music at Trinity College London. At 23, he converted to Islam and changed his name to Allah-Rakha Rahman.

He opened his own recording and mixing studio, Panchathan Record Inn, and worked on advertising jingles and documentary scores before Tamil director Mani Ratnam asked him to write the music for Roja. The score won a national Film Award and set the ball rolling for a musical journey that would change the face of the Indian film music.

Rahman’s training in classical Indian music, his education in western classical music, and his work with contemporary Indian and western music styles gave birth to a unique signature sound. In 1995, he composed the soundtrack for Tamil film Bombay, which sold 12 million copies worldwide. The same year, he made his Bollywood debut with Ram Gopal Verma’s Rangeela.

As well as soundtracks, Rahman has worked on background scores for films, and his non-film projects include albums and orchestrations for athletic and other big events, including the Commonwealth Games and the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in 2010 and the London Olympics opening ceremony in 2012.

His biggest and most widely recognised success is probably his work on the 2008 film Slum Dog Millionaire, for which he won the Golden Globe for Best Original Score, the BAFTA Award for Best Film Music and two Academy Awards (Best Original Score and Best Original Song.

Speaking about the UAE’s film and music scene, and about his upcoming visit, Rahman praises the country for its hospitality and its multiculture.

“I like the UAE for its vision, modernity and the fact that it has become the melting pot of cultures in the Middle East,” he says. “I watched a movie called Jinn, which was made in the UAE. I guess I need to see and hear more before I comment.

“I’m looking forward to my first Sufi concert in Dubai. The philosophy and teachings of Sufis has influenced my music and made me look at my inner self in more depth.

“Songs like Khwaja Mere Khwaja, Maula and Kun Faya Kun have found a deep connect with so many of you. This connect and the love of people has enabled me to embark on a new journey, moving away from my routine of romantic and dance-orientated compositions, and perform for Dubai, the Sufi songs I have composed for films and a few covers of the masters of qawwali.”

Rahman reveals that he will be working on several international projects in the coming year.

“My Movie with Iranian filmmaker Majid Majidi is due for release, and in Hollywood Pele, based on the [Brazilian] football player’s life is also set for release.”


Published: December 17, 2014 04:00 AM


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